Yakuza Kiwami offers a modernized peek at the PS2 era

Time is a cruel mistress. You wake up one morning and you discover The Rock depicting Jack Burton. You wander into an online conversation and find a generation of kids who don’t know what The X Files is. We can never recapture the true novelty of youth. However, we can tackle media new and old with our experiences in mind. You start to see patterns that weren’t there before, and tropes start to make that much more sense. Playing Yakuza Kiwami brings about this special brand of nostalgic thinking. It has all the bells and whistles of a modern release but retains the telltale structure of its PlayStation 2 origins and it’s a fascinating study of how far we’ve all come since 2005.

Yakuza Kiwami PC | Back to the past

Yakuza Kiwami

Newly arriving on PC this month, Yakuza Kiwami is a full remake of the original game in the long-running franchise. Following Kazuma Kiryu as he tumbles from the highest ranks of Japanese organized crime, Kiwami offers an engaging mix of authentic storytelling and over the top action. Before all that, we get an amazing opening cutscene that could be straight out of Daytona USA. It is the most “Sega” part of the package, showcasing all the important things with a backing of wailing guitars. It’s the first hint that Kiwami will send you delving into the past.

Both halves of Kiwami‘s design see great enhancements from modern technologies. However, they end up presenting in drastically different ways. The cutscenes and dialogue have a new layer of polish, reintroducing players to the original’s dramatic saga. Comparing the scenes in Kiwami to the originals is less of a jump than you might imagine. In some ways, the PS2 Yakuza game was ahead of its time, introducing characters in the same way that Borderlands would popularize years later. While Kiwami isn’t pushing graphical capabilities nowadays, it still looks sharp, and it goes to show how impressive it was way back when.

Yakuza Kiwami PC | Streets of Kamurocho

Yakuza Kiwami

Gameplay is a whole other beast. Importing the combat styles from Yakuza 0, the brawling action has been greatly improved. Who knew that the next step in brawlers was hiding in this spiritual successor to Shenmue all this time? Even if some of the bigger enemies can be repetitive to take down, playing a 3D brawler with nuanced mechanics is always a blast. Despite the new animations and varied weapons added to Kiwami, it’s here where you feel the most influence from the PlayStation 2 days.

Games just don’t have this kind of simple mission structure anymore. You can see the linearity of main missions, and the open world sections are similarly restrictive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for someone who played games back in 2005 and brings in the proper context. It’s just that everything very much feels of the era even in the remake. That might even be a boon to a first-time player because this old school design might be considered fresh when compared to all the open worlds of 2019.

Yakuza Kiwami PC | True Yakuza use gamepads

Yakuza Kiwami

This will probably be the case for a lot of players this month. After all, Kiwami is only the second Yakuza to arrive on PC, after Yakuza 0 in August of last year. Those coming to this game fresh will have nothing to fear, as Kiwami is an excellent port all around. Outside of some already patched sound issues, the game runs smoothly and as expected. It is odd that you can’t exit out to Windows once you’re in-game. It is a console port, but at least Kiwami handles tabbing out like a champ.

Kiwami also seems to really want you to use a controller to play. A special screen says as much when you start up with mouse and keyboard, and there’s a reason for that. While the controls are workable and fully customizable, it doesn’t feel right without a gamepad. Thankfully, gamepad controls are equally as customizable, and there are plenty of the types of settings that PC gamers expect.

Even if you’re a Yakuza Kiwami veteran looking to play again, this is the type of port that may tempt you to double dip. It’s not only still a great game, but it also offers a decent look at games from a different era that has long since evaporated. But instead of being lost to the sands of time, it still looks good and has stood the test of time, much like the many tattoos that decorate the members of the Yakuza.