Yakuza Kiwami 2
Yakuza fans have never had it so good. In less than two year’s time, we have been given two new titles (Yakuza 0 and Yakuza 6: The Song of Life) and two remastered PS2 games (Yakuza Kiwami 1 & 2), all with current-gen engine enhancements. The original PS2 versions released in the United States had been considered misfires by some, as much of the original Japanese content had either been censored or removed altogether due to content that was deemed “culturally specific” and/or “not suitable” for western audiences. The ‘Kiwami’ remakes have promised to correct many of these shortcomings while updating the entire game for modern-day technology. The summer of 2017 saw the first Yakuza Kiwami and now, in the summer of 2018, it is the ‘Kiwami’ remaster of Yakuza 2 on the table. Fans will be delighted to hear that it earns its place at the table alongside the highest ranking chairmen of the Tojo Clan.
On the technical side, this version of Japan looks and sounds gorgeous. The game has been rebuilt inside the new Dragon Engine (designed for Yakuza 6), which brings stunning visuals and seamless load times between locations and scenarios. All of the immersion breaking pauses whenever a gang of street toughs would harass our hero into fighting are gone (although there is still an introductory segue), as well as any lengthy waits when entering or leaving buildings. Once again, Kamurocho and Sotenbori are dripping with neon colored seduction, and make one pine for a tourist trip to Japan. Anyone who has played through the original titles will also find the city to not only look far better than they remember, but all of the landmarks will ring true. On several occasions (when Kiryu gets his first safehouse, for example), the memories of what was located where will come flooding back. It’s like a return visit to an old vacation spot after many years.
The trusty Yakuza diversions are also back, so when you’ve decided that you need a break from curb-stomping street toughs you can relax with a few classic games at Club Sega (Virtua Fighter 2, On Rush 2, or a crane game that will waste your entire day in the pursuit of various stuffed toys), karaoke, darts, golf, baseball or hostess clubs. There’s also a fine game to play at the urinals (Toylets) where your pissing pressure nets you rewards. No, that’s not a joke. The clan creator has also made a return and can provide fun for hours once you have invested yourself.
The combat is a sheer joy. Considering almost the entire game is based around lollygagging your way through town as you are assaulted from all sides by various ne’er do wells, this is an aspect that has to be an absolute pleasure or the whole experience falls apart. Those familiar with the system inside Yakuza 6 will be in familiar territory here, utilizing Kiryu’s singular, upgradable fighting style throughout the whole title. Once players get some upgrades under their belt and unlock some brutality, they will find themselves giggling the night away at the absurdly satisfying over-the-top takedowns they will be dishing out to any thug that dares to flap their lips. Toward the mid-point of the game it becomes so silly that it almost feels like Looney Tunes levels of mayhem, even before Goro makes his first appearance.
The game centers itself between main storyline activities and sub-stories. The sub-stories are the elaborate diversions Kiryu picks up while walking around town and meeting new people who always seem to be having the worst day of their life. You will end up stockpiling a number of these side stories and then revisiting the progress of these people later on. The Yakuza level of weirdness, fetishism and absurdity is also in full force here, so when players are faced with a task of going to buy new underwear for a stranger who is locked in a toilet after volcanically crapping himself, they should take it seriously. Wrapping up that particular side story, believe it or not, has a very specific benefit to your combat later on.
The Kiwami reissues of the older titles are exactly what fans have wanted all of these years. The fact that we’re getting them on a fast and furious basis is testament to the fact that there was a considerable market just waiting for this to happen. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is one of the best entries yet, and let us all hope that the trend of releasing these quality remasters continues on through the ones that remain. Despite Kiryu’s swan song having been sung with Yakuza 6, I would personally look forward to a few more outings through Japan in his white Travolta-esque disco suit.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
This review is based on a digital copy of Yakuza Kiwami 2 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sega.