Sega Delivers Another Underworld Masterpiece With Yakuza Kiwami 2
Over the past few years, Sega has gone all-out when it comes to the Yakuza series. Yakuza Kiwami 2 marks the fourth game in the franchise to find its way to the PlayStation 4 since 2017. That said, players looking for a dose of Japanese underworld intrigue haven’t had to look far to get their fix. Following in the footsteps of last summer’s Yakuza Kiwami, this sequel is an enhanced remake of 2006’s PlayStation 2 classic Yakuza 2. The game has been fully rebuilt from the ground up to take advantage of Sega’s powerful Dragon engine — the same tech that powered Yakuza 6: The Song of Life — bringing the vibrant streets of Kamurocho and Sotenbori to life like never before.
Sure, the overhauled visuals and smoother, more refined gameplay the beefier tech offers are great. But let’s face it, looks aren’t everything. Does Yakuza Kiwami 2 do enough warrant a purchase by those who’re starting to suffer from Yakuza fatigue? Read on and find out!
This Dragon Roars
Yakuza Kiwami 2‘s story takes place in Kamurocho and Sotenbori, two fictional locales based on Tokyo’s red light district and Osaka, respectively. After the Tojo clan’s fifth chairman is murdered, retired gangster Kazuma Kiryu finds himself pulled back into the world of organized crime in order to prevent an all-out war between his former clan and the Omi Alliance.
Of course, there’s plenty more than meets the eye to keep players engaged. Despite being a remake of one of the earlier games in the series, Sega’s Ryū ga Gotoku studio’s knack for storytelling is still some of the most elaborate and cinematic that you’ll find this side of Hideo Kojima production. It’s a complex tale full of double-crosses and heart-wrenching moments that are brought to life with the same outstanding Japanese voice talent you’d expect from the series.
Further fleshing out the narrative is the addition of a new three-chapter scenario that unlocks over the course of the main story. Starring “The Mad Dog of Shimano” Goro Majima, it details his personal journey between the events of Kiwami 1 & 2. While it’s a bit limited in terms of what you can do (Majima can’t earn experience or undertake substories), it feels great to take control of the dagger-wielding madman again and crack some skulls. Not only that, despite its fast burn, Majima’s story is top-notch, and at one point is all but guaranteed to bring those who enjoyed Yakuza 0’s poignant narrative running for the Kleenex.
I think I’m Turning Japanese
While the story is sure to grab you by the throat in Yakuza Kiwami 2, it can be hard to focus with so many shiny distractions vying for your attention. The series has never been one to skimp on the side content, and this game is no exception. Series staples, like karaoke, mahjong, game centers, and fine dining return. However, this time around they’re joined with a few new additions like the endlessly addicting golf bingo and the super racy “Gravure Photo Studio”. In this minigame you play as a cameraman as pre-recorded footage of a model is displayed on the screen. Periodically, you’ll need to match sentence fragments to complete a phrase that will excite an actual video idol. Get it right, and she’ll show more and more skin.
Is it raunchy? Sure is! More than a little bit ridiculous? Absolutely. But it’s a riot, nonetheless. And it’s nice to see Sega continue the franchise’s trend of pushing the envelope to see just what it can get away with.
Oh, about those game centers that I mentioned. This time around you’ll find excellent ports of Sega’s Model 2 arcade hits Virtua Fighter 2 (first seen in Yakuza 5) and Virtual-On. And, as you’d expect, both games are emulated wonderfully. Though I have to admit Virtual-On’s controls leave a bit to be desired when using the DualShock 4. Still, it’s perfectly playable, and it feels absolutely awesome to hop back into the cockpit and turn enemy mechs into scrap metal all over again.
If you’ve played Yakuza 6, you should probably already be familiar with the Clan Creator mini-game. Well, it’s back. This time around, you’re building up Majima’s construction empire to topple an evil construction triumvirate known as The Three Musketeers. Battles unfold in RTS-lite fashion. The goal is to beat back waves of enemies hell-bent on sabotaging Majima’s equipment. As you progress through the story, you’ll discover more and more people who will be eager to join your ranks. While it doesn’t have a whole lot of depth, it’s a fun distraction. And it’s really satisfying to watch Majima’s gang of burly builders evolve into a bonafide wrecking crew.
Whether you’re knocking heads in the neon-lit streets or soaking up the Japanese nightlife, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an absolute blast. With so much to see and do, you’ll probably find it hard to stick to the main story. This is a good thing, as much like its predecessor, the game’s story can be completed in less than 20 hours if you’re simply moving from objective to objective. If you want to see everything the game has to offer then you can easily squeeze another dozen or more hours out of the experience.
Hot, Hot, Heat
Are you looking for a fight? Well, if you are then you’re in luck. Yakuza Kiwami 2 takes the rock-solid fighting system of the previous games and adds a few welcome tweaks to make it more satisfying than ever. Firstly, you’re now able to charge your light and strong attacks which, when unleashed, deliver satisfying guard-crushing strikes. You can also collect the weapons enemies drop and send them straight for your inventory for later – a handy trick that saves you the trouble of hitting the store between major missions.
Of course, a Yakuza game is only as good as its Heat Actions. And this time around they’re more explosive than ever. These devastating moves can bring the biggest baddies to their knees, and they’re done with an insane amount of flourish this time around. For example, once I was fighting a band of assassins on a bridge in Sotenbori. I meant to pick one of the punks up and hurl him over the edge and into the drink for an instant kill. However, I was instead treated to a Rube Goldberg-esque spectacle as the tumbling tough guy landed crotch-first on the stern of an oncoming ship. The impact was met with a gut-wrenching “pop” before the dazed hoodlum slid from the ship into the murky river below.
Simply put, the game packs some incredibly entertaining combat. With more Heat Actions than ever, new charge attacks, and the welcome inclusion of Yakuza 6‘s Extreme Heat Mode, Yakuza Kiwami 2 easily delivers the franchise’s finest street fights to date.
Black Belt Theater
If you’re a fan of the series and eager for more underworld action, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a must-own title. Though the story is on the shorter side, it’s a hell of a tale that’s well worth experiencing, and the new mini-games and substories are more entertaining than ever. Even if you’ve already played Yakuza 2, Sega’s improved localization, along with the excellent Majima episode, more than warrant a return trip to the mean streets of Kamurocho and Sotenbori. If you’ve had your fill of Yakuza games over the past year (trust me, I’m not judging) then Yakuza Kiwami 2 probably isn’t going to change your mind. However, if you can’t get enough of the series, this is arguably one of the best entries to date. Now bring on Kiwami 3 and 4!
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed); Publisher: Sega ; Developer: Sega; Players: 1 ; Released: August 28, 2018 ; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Yakuza Kiwami 2 given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.