Remakes of video games have become quite common practice in the gaming landscape over the past 10 years or so. They provide a way for a new audience to experience what many already perceive to be a great product but do it in a way that meets today’s standards of visuals and gameplay.
While most remakes often just focus on increasing the visual fidelity of a game or eliminating old bugs or exploits found, the one’s that truly shine brightest are those that aren’t scared to change aspects of the game that are overly dated by today’s standards or introduce completely new systems or features. Thankfully Yakuza Kiwami 2 has taken what the team have learned in the 12 years since Yakuza 2’s original launch and injected it into Yakuza 6’s Dragon Engine resulting in what will be the definitive way for current day gamers to experience Yakuza 2.
The story of Kiwami 2 picks up in the year following after the events that went down in the first title. If you didn’t catch last year’s Yakuza Kiwami, the remake of the first Yakuza game I would highly recommend checking it out. It’s likely the most accessible way for you to jump into the Yakuza games if you haven’t done so before.
Luckily if you don’t have the 20 hours to sink into the original game and you want to start things off here, the folks at SEGA have you covered. In the opening moments of Kiwami 2 you’re given the option to view the events that occurred in the year prior, presented as a multi-part recap of the original game’s key story cutscenes with voice over dialogue from Kiryu. While you will be missing out on much of the story and smaller moments from the first game, this recap does a ‘good enough’ job at bringing new players up to speed with the characters and sets the scene for the current state of events that will kick off Kiwami 2. But even for someone like myself that hasn’t played the game since last year it was still a good refresher to re-familiarise myself with what went on.
The technology of the Dragon Engine has allowed the team to go back and produce a modern retelling of Yakuza 2 while not having to deal with the limitations of the PlayStation 2 hardware. This remake features more detailed character models and environments, a seamless open world that no longer requires loading screens in between each change of location and the implementation of mechanics and systems from the more recent Yakuza games to provide an all-round better feeling gameplay experience.
The lighting of the dragon engine is fantastic! It really helps the cities of Kamurocho and Sotenbori pop and come to life. With the neon lit streets looking especially vibrant during the nighttime segments of the game and streetlights that bounce of puddles in the street. When it comes to the visual fidelity of the open world I can’t praise Yakuza Kiwami 2 enough.
The character models look great with the Dragon Engine rendering an incredible amount of detail, right down to the pores in the characters faces. Although the models slip right into the uncanny valley as soon as they begin to speak as the lip sync is rarely accurate to what is being spoken and the mouth animations making unrealistic movements on the face.
The open explorable area’s of the game aren’t the largest you’ve seen in games. In fact Yakuza Kiwami 2 doesn’t even come close to them. But they are packed with detail and things to do that make the cities feel like real lived in places. The icons on the map point out all the places of interest you can visit and each have their own in-game use. I found myself trying to visit every point at least once just to see what items its vendors sold, the mini games it housed or what side quests or allies I could pick up there.
And speaking of side quests and activities, there’s tons to do outside of the main story to keep you entertained for hours. And in true Yakuza fashion they vary from seemingly regular additions such as golfing, playing black jack or participating in underground cage match fighting brawls to the absolute zany and insane Toylet mini game. This is a real interactive urinal game that SEGA made for Japan. Check it out if you don’t believe me.
Completing side quests in Kiwami 2 earns you more than just experience and cash to spend. Helping out various people in town will grant you the ability to use them as an assist finisher for brawls that take place in their area of the map later on. They will actively help Kiryu take down enemies with some extremely creative and brutal take-downs if you have proven your loyalty to them first.
The fighting system in Kiwami 2 does away with the stance based mechanic used in Yakuza 0 and Kiwami 1 in favour of weapons based combat and special moves. Its a system that is easy to grasp but is difficult to master. Being a combo based combat system that can fluidly integrate nearby items or the environment itself into the battle. It’s fast paced and keeps you on your toes at pretty much all times. You’ll need to decide the right times to run in blasting punches and kicks at your foes or take a more methodical approach, expertly timing your blocks and dodges.
Kiwami 2 also features an additional Majima mode that sits separate to the main game. In this mode players play as fan favourite character Goro Majima and fills in what he’s been up to between the first Kiwami game and this one. It offers a new way to play which is refreshing after spending so much time brawling on the streets as Kiryu. With Majima fighting with a more fluid and snake like style, sporting his iconic blade. The Majima mode is unlocked by progressing through Kiwami 2’s main story and provides some great back story for Majima’s character and further fleshes out his place in the Yakuza series lore. But it is short lived as you’ll get through his story chapters in just a couple of hours. And with no way to level up and earn new skills with Majima it feels more like a short tacked on component added purely for fanservice.
With a story full of well written characters and a plot that is packed full of drama and numerous twists and turns it easy to see why Yakuza 2 is still classed by many of the series’ fans as the best entry in the franchise. This remake treats the original source material with a lot of respect and retains the core of what made it so great while injecting new systems in to better suit a 2018 audience. The visual fidelity and open world traversal have been vastly improved thanks to the Dragon Engine and it has me excited to see what’s to come in the future as the other PS3 Yakuza games have been confirmed to be getting re-releases in the future.
A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.