Yakuza Kiwami Review-in-Progress: A Classic Brought Up to Today’s Standards

Even as a fan of the Yakuza series, I had trouble enjoying Yakuza a few years after its release. With its outdated graphics, rough gameplay, and horrible loading times, trying to play it now feels like a chore. SEGA has listened, though, and for the series' 10th anniversary, we have been graced with Yakuza Kiwami, a complete remake done in Yakuza 0’s engine.

Below are my impressions with the first five chapters of the game.

The story is better than ever. To link and familiarize newcomers who jumped in with Yakuza 0, there are new cutscenes added, and others have been extended. These fit in well with the original story, fleshing it out and expanding it. I had my gripes with the original narrative, but Kiwami has cleared up a majority of the confusion that I had making it easier to follow what's going on.

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Kamurocho is beautiful. While the general layout is the same from Yakuza 0, Kamurocho is brought up to a modern standard and looks great. The neon lit streets, crowded streets filled with people, and rain create amazing atmosphere. All of this runs at a reliable 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution.

The soundtrack is disappointing. The original had a very strong soundtrack, bringing a nice blend of suspense, rock, and even funk. Kiwami has rebuilt it from the ground up with mostly positive results, though the remixed versions of classic songs sound grating and didn’t make combat as suspenseful and energetic as before.

Combat is a strong point. Gone are the loading screens to get into a battle. Combat is massively improved compared to the original. All 4 fighting styles from Yakuza 0 are back, and they’ve been balanced out for Kiwami. All of them are unlocked straight from the beginning, but the way you improve the styles are different this time around. The main three styles, which include Brawler, Rush, and Beast, are grouped together into three different categories that have a specific focus on how you upgrade, but for the Dragon style, there’s only one way you can upgrade it, and that’s with Majima Everywhere.

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Side content is plentiful. The Yakuza series is known for having an incredible amount of side content, one of which this time around is Majima Everywhere. Majima will appear in random parts of the map, and the only way you can upgrade the Dragon style is by fighting Majima. I haven’t met many Majima so far, but the first time you meet him, he pounds you to the dirt and inspires you to train harder.

Don’t expect an easy ride. The main thing that might ruin the experience for some is that the game gets increasingly difficult. I’ve had to lower the difficulty due to dying so much, which I wasn't expecting. Enemy placement can feel unfair and the AI can be very aggressive if you get yourself in a tight spot.

Yakuza Kiwami will release on August 29th for the PS4. You can expect our review on the 21st.