After SEGA started the year off strong with Yakuza 0, we now have Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of the first game with some perks. After spending around 30 hours with the game over the past week, I can firmly say that Yakuza Kiwami has become one of my favorite games of 2017.
When you start up Yakuza Kiwami it doesn't come across as a very strong remaster due to reusing some of the PlayStation cutscene, but from there things take off. The soundtrack has been replaced with remixes, and the open world is now completely seamless without the loading times that affected the original. As a longtime fan of the series, it was a treat.
A Classic Reborn
The story of the original Yakuza is here and fully intact. Though, the voice acting has been completely redone and some cutscenes have been extended to connect the story with the newer Yakuza entries. The only problem with these extensions, however, is that it’s very jarring to see the much higher quality animation work.
A few problems remain, however. The plot is padded out in the middle with inconsequential progress. During this portion of the time it's often that you'll be introduced to side characters that are brought into the story only to never be seen again. It’s a shame because these characters are well-designed, but aren't fully utilized. Sandwiching this are the early and later hours that adhere to a main plot that serves its job well.
The combat styles from Yakuza 0 are back, and are changed for better or worse. When you start the game you'll have everything in the skill trees unlocked, but after the first chapter you lose all your abilities and must unlock all the skills again. The way you do this is different from Yakuza 0, with being able to level up with money being replaced with a normal experience bar. You can gain more experience by defeating enemies, eating, drinking, or doing substories. Though, there’s only one way you can upgrade the Dragon of Dojima style, and that’s with Majima Everywhere.
Majima Everywhere is a side-feature of Kiwami. It introduces Majima in random parts of the environment, with him hiding in places such as a trash can, a cone, car, sewer, etc. He will be hiding and waiting for you, and it’s required to make the Dragon of Dojima style useful in combat. At first, it’s quite easy to level up the rank for it, but the farther you progress, the harder and more annoying it gets. You constantly go out onto the streets to find certain kinds of Majima to achieve the next skill, and if you can’t find him roaming around the map, you’ll have to inspect certain areas for a while. It’s a neat feature, but it’s just plagued by repetition, dragging down the enjoyment of feeling like you’re becoming more powerful.
Compared to the original Yakuza, the combat in Kiwami is a much needed upgrade. It feels incredibly fluid and fun to control, but to compensate for the multiple fighting styles, bosses have been reworked and enemies now have unnecessarily aggressive A.I. The farther you get along in the game, the more you’ll get stunned, shot at, flinch, or get countered. It doesn’t really get frustrating until you’re at the end of the game, but if you’re just trying to focus on the main story instead of grinding yourself out, Kiwami is incredibly difficult.
Another thing that should be mentioned is the soundtrack. Each song is either new or a remix of old ones from the original. While some of the remixes do feel energetic during gameplay, I still wish it retained the original mix of funk and rock from the original. One weird thing that I noticed is that one of the most well known songs from the original, Receive You, isn’t in the localized version of Kiwami.
I enjoyed my time with Kiwami despite its flaws. The story kept me up for hours on end, the sub-stories were interesting with hilarious characters and great writing, and the combat felt incredible to master by the end. It can’t be ignored that they had a chance to massively improve the story, but chose to just try and maintain the status quo, but the package is fantastic nonetheless
Yakuza Kiwami may not be as good as Yakuza 0, but it shows that it tried to be. For a budget title at $30, it’s a great value.
Jared Tracton is a Contributing Editor at GameRevolution.
A PS4 copy of Yakuza Kiwami was provided by its publisher. Yakuza Kiwami is exclusive to PS4 in North America and Europe.