The Yakuza series is one that I have enjoyed over the years, and it’s been great to see the resurgence of the series, especially in the West. Yakuza 6: Song of Life came out earlier this year and treated players to a more personable story, and dug into the characters in Kazuma Kiryu’s life. Now, Sega has added to their reworkings of Kiryu’s story and released Yakuza 2 as Yakuza Kiwami 2, with all of the polish that they can from the Dragon Engine. If you’ve been catching up on the early days of the Dragon of Dojima, then you don’t want to miss this one.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 takes place in a troubling time for the Tojo Clan. The Fifth Chairman of the Tojo Clan has been murdered and there is a constant struggling happening in Kamurocho, Kiryu sets out to try and form an alliance with one of the rival clans, the Omi Alliance. However, things don’t really go as planned due to the son of the Omi Alliance’s chairman, Ryuji Goda. Ryuji, or the Dragon of Kansai, wants nothing more than to see the world burn, and is dead set on there never being any sort of alliance. He is also responsible for a number of bombings that set the backdrop for some key events in the game.
There’s plenty of gritty crime drama in what most fans regard as one of the best games in the series, and for good reason. Almost every chapter felt incredibly tense, and I needed to play on just to see what would happen in the story. You also meet a number of faces, old and new, and every encounter brings something new to the game. I have to say that I was a bit let down by the addition of Goro Majima’s side-story. It seemed like it would be lengthy, and while it is fun to play as the crazed psychopath, his story is far too short. They definitely could have added more Majima to the game, but hopefully, we will see him again soon.
It wouldn’t be a Yakuza game without there being tons of side distractions, and Yakuza Kiwami 2 is no different. As you work your way through the story in Kamurocho and Sotenbori, there are a plethora of things to do. Fan favorite activities such as karaoke, poker, and blackjack are around, as are driving ranges and my personal favorite, the Sega arcades. This time around you have some classic Virtua Fighter 2 and one of my all-time favorite arcade games, Virtual On. I haven’t had the chance to play Virtual On in years, so as soon as I was able to hit up one of the arcades I spent almost an hour just trying out the different mechs and playing game after game of it.
Another great addition to Yakuza 6 is the gang wars that you can take part in. It’s kind of like a bizarre RTS game, where you are sending various soldiers out onto the streets to fight, triggering moves and abilities in an effort to take out various gang bosses. This time, however, they added wrestling legends from New Japan Pro Wrestling as the main bosses, and it’s completely insane but works so well.
The actual gameplay itself is fantastic. The folks at Sega have gotten used to the Dragon Engine and it shows. The combat is fast and fluid, and the heat system is back in full force. There are also more weapons than before to use, and they’ve added the ability to store weapons. You can now press down on the d-pad to stash knives, golf clubs, etc., and assign them to the other d-pad buttons to use in other fights. You can also equip assorted armor now, to give you some stat buffs.
One of my favorite things, however, is the ability to team up in some fights, especially with those in the environment. For example, you could be fighting some thugs outside of a ramen house, trigger the ramen shop owner, and he’ll throw a bowl of ramen at you to smash an enemy with. Wacky things like that add some hilarity to the fights, but also can do a great deal of damage. The XP system still works well. You can get XP from doing a variety of things in the game, and then unlock stats, moves and so forth. Sega really knows what it’s doing with the Yakuza series and Yakuza Kiwami 2 shows it.
As for the presentation of Yakuza Kiwami 2, once again Sega has just nailed it. I mentioned it earlier, but the Dragon Engine really shines here. The animations of Kiryu, thugs, and random people on the street are so much better overall than was seen in Yakuza 6. Kamurocho and Sotenbori are both gorgeous locations, and while they may not be totally massive open-world environments, they look like they are very much alive, and it feels that way as you run down the street or just saunter around.
The voice work as well is top notch, and the actors are second to none. It’s always a treat to get hit with a solid cutscene that has great performances; it just draws you further into the game and I couldn’t get enough. The music is also well done, and in clubs, cabarets, on the streets, in a story scene, it’s often just the song that the atmosphere needs.
If you haven’t taken a journey into the world of Yakuza, well, you definitely should. You could easily start with Yakuza Kiwami 2, and with the recap at the beginning of the game be able to know what’s going on. However, starting with Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, then diving into Yakuza Kiwami 2 is likely the way to go. If you are up on the Dragon of Dojima’s adventures and are craving more, you need to add Yakuza Kiwami 2 to your library. The story is one of the best in the series, the combat is fun and there is so much to do you’ll be kept busy for dozens of hours. Sega has shown that the Yakuza series is here to stay, and updating the older games is key to fans new and old being able to enjoy and relive the series origins. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a can’t miss action game, and even if you are new to the series, worth checking out for a great story and some of the best combat on the PS4.
A PS4 review copy of Yakuza Kiwami 2 was provided by Sega for the purpose of this review.