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Review

Review: Yakuza Kiwami 2

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The release of Yaku­za 0 on Steam last year mar­ked the rene­wal of SEGA’s sup­port for the PC mar­ket. Yaku­za Kiwa­mi 2 not only shows that their dedi­ca­ti­on to brin­ging the­se games to PC is in full force, but also that the Yaku­za series is still as gre­at as it’s ever been.

After the events of Yaku­za 1, Kazu­ma Kiryu is living his life free from the trou­bles that he had to deal with as a yaku­za, though this does not last for long. One year later, the fifth chair­man of the Tojo Clan is mur­de­red while Kiryu visits the gra­ve of his fos­ter father, right befo­re he was set to decla­re an alli­an­ce with their rivals the Omi rami­ly. The chairman’s last wish is for Kiryu to tra­vel to Kan­sai and finish pre­pa­ra­ti­ons for the alli­an­ce in his stead, which ine­vi­ta­b­ly drags him into ano­t­her series of con­flic­ts.

Kiwa­mi 2’s sto­ry is near iden­ti­cal to the ori­gi­nal game’s, though pre­sen­ta­ti­on wise it’s a mas­si­ve step up. The over­all sto­ry is a mixed bag, though for most Yaku­za fans it should be enjoy­a­ble. Ryu­ji Goda, the main ant­ago­nist of the game, makes for a gre­at cha­rac­ter and sce­nes invol­ving him are usual­ly the most enter­tai­ning. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, by the mid­way point the sto­ry starts to sta­gna­te a litt­le, with the usu­al errand run­ning and back­ground sche­ming pre­sent in other Yaku­za games often not being of much inte­rest. Things do start to impro­ve great­ly near the end though, lea­ding to a final con­fron­ta­ti­on that may be the series’ best. One wel­co­me expan­si­on to the sto­ry comes in the form of a few short chap­ters invol­ving series favou­rite Maji­ma befo­re the events of the main game. They add some extra con­text to the plot, and it’s nice to play as ano­t­her cha­rac­ter even if it’s only for a short while. As with Kiwa­mi, the­se sce­nes also con­tain some links to Yaku­za 0 that tie the loo­se ends from Majima’s sto­ry.

Out­si­de of the addi­tio­nal sto­ry sce­nes, the big­gest dif­fe­rence bet­ween Kiwa­mi 2 and the ori­gi­nal game is the dra­gon engi­ne. This was ori­gi­nal­ly used in Yaku­za 6, after many years of using the same engi­ne, and chan­ges up how the game feels com­pa­red to the older Yaku­za games. The most noti­ce­ab­le chan­ge from the moment you start the game is how much nicer Kiwa­mi 2 looks. Cha­rac­ter models are the most detail­ed and expres­si­ve they’ve ever been and, unli­ke Yaku­za Kiwa­mi, far more work has been done to cuts­ce­nes so the­re are no more stiff ani­ma­ti­ons that look out of place with the nicer visu­als. Kamu­ro­cho and Soten­bo­ri have also seen a lar­ge impro­ve­ment, with far den­ser crowds of pede­stri­ans and bright neon signs making each district seem more ali­ve.

It’s not just the visu­als that are noti­ce­ab­ly dif­fe­rent though, most are­as of the game have been chan­ged in some way. Kiryu can climb over rai­lings and other obsta­cles, and the majo­ri­ty of buil­dings can be ent­e­red with no load times. The­se seem like small addi­ti­ons, but they make explo­ring less tedious com­pa­red to ear­lier games. Even the act of impro­ving Kiryu abi­li­ties has seen some chan­ges, thanks to the new upgrade sys­tem. Ins­tead of the gene­ric leve­ling sys­tem used in most other Yaku­za games, Kiryu ins­tead gains various types of skill points after figh­t­ing enemies, com­ple­ting side activi­ties and even eating. The­se can be spent on stat upgrades and new moves to add to your reper­toire. The money sys­tem in Yaku­za 0 did a gre­at job at tying the game’s set­ting to a new way of powering up your cha­rac­ters, but ended up making most activi­ties useless when it came to unlo­cking new moves. Here this isn’t a pro­blem, sin­ce no mat­ter what you do in game you’ll be gai­ning skill points at a decent rate.

Unsur­pri­sin­gly, as a Yaku­za game the main focus of Kiwa­mi 2 is on com­bat which uses an updated ver­si­on of the batt­le sys­tem found in Yaku­za 6. For the most part, figh­t­ing your way through the various trou­ble­ma­kers in each city should feel fami­li­ar to series vete­rans. The basic sys­tem of strin­ging light attack and finis­hing with a hea­vy one is still pre­sent, and Kiryu’s signa­tu­re heat moves make a return. Howe­ver, his move­set feels like an amal­ga­ma­ti­on of the dif­fe­rent styles from Yaku­za 0, taking the best parts and com­bing them into one fun set of attacks and skills. The use of phy­sics when thro­wing pun­ches or thro­wing enemies real­ly adds some extra impact to each attack, though some­ti­mes enemies can boun­ce around comi­c­al­ly when col­li­ding with walls and objec­ts.

This new batt­le sys­tem does have a few pro­blems though. For star­ters, the phy­sics engi­ne makes throws extre­me­ly power­ful, sin­ce Kiryu swings enemies in a wide arc and cau­ses them to be laun­ched back­ward with litt­le effort. It also some­ti­mes beco­me tedious to cha­se after enemies you’ve laun­ched across the street. As for boss batt­les, it can be hard to pull off com­bos lon­ger than a few hits due to bos­ses blo­cking fre­quent­ly. While this was some­what of an issue with the old batt­le sys­tem, here blo­cked attacks will stop your com­bo ent­i­re­ly and can make fights against tougher enemies more tedious than dif­fi­cult.

Out­si­de of batt­les, the­re is still a lot to do in Kamu­ro­cho and Soten­bo­ri. Some fami­li­ar miniga­mes like mah­jong and cra­ne machi­nes make a return, along with a new duo of arca­de games. Many of the best moments in each Yaku­za game come from the side activi­ties and the sto­ries that are tied to them, and it’s no dif­fe­rent here. Kiwa­mi 2 also rein­tro­du­ces the host club manage­ment activi­ty from Yaku­za 0, along­si­de a some­what rewor­ked ver­si­on of the clan crea­tor from Yaku­za 6, fea­turing our favou­rite goof­ball Maji­ma and his new­ly estab­lished con­struc­tion com­pa­ny. Mana­ging a host club hasn’t chan­ged much bet­ween games, with only a few extra mecha­nics to try and add a litt­le varie­ty. It’s still an addic­tive way to spend a lar­ge amount of time away from the main game, and it even mana­ges to tie its­elf to the host club sto­ry from Yaku­za 0. On the other hand, the clan crea­tor is a rather bland real-time stra­te­gy game, whe­re you have to defend Maji­ma Construction’s equip­ment from rival com­pa­nies. Some stra­te­gy is requi­red to beat the har­der mis­si­ons, but they never beco­me very inte­res­ting due to the smal­ler scope of each batt­le com­pa­red to more trad­tio­nal stra­te­gy games.

When it comes to the qua­li­ty of the PC port its­elf, this is yet ano­t­her solid release with a few caveats. For star­ters, it’s worth men­tio­ning that on a base PS4 Kiwa­mi 2 only ran at 900p, and even with a PS4 Pro the frame­ra­te was cap­ped at 30fps. Run­ning the game at set­tings com­pa­ra­ble to a PS4 Pro should be fea­si­ble for most midd­le-of-the-road sys­tems, and it’s pos­si­ble to play with uncap­ped frame­ra­tes and up to 4K reso­lu­ti­ons, though get­ting the game to run at a con­sis­tent 60 fps on high or grea­ter set­tings will take a bee­fy sys­tem. As with the other 2 PC ports, it’s also recom­men­ded to use a con­trol­ler as, while it’s cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble to play with a mou­se and key­board, the ent­i­re game is built around ana­lo­gue move­ment and but­ton lay­outs can beco­me awk­ward. This is espe­ci­al­ly true for some miniga­mes, whe­re mou­se move­ment doesn’t qui­te work as it should.

Conclusion

Yaku­za Kiwa­mi 2 is both an excel­lent remake and the best PC port yet for the series. Most of the issu­es pre­sent in Yaku­za 6 have been impro­ved upon, and the new sto­ry sce­nes make this the defi­ni­ti­ve way to play Yaku­za 2. Here’s hoping the rest of the series makes its way to PC over the next few years, though after play­ing Kiwa­mi 2 it might be hard to go back to the older games.

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