Yakuza Kiwami is the ultimate remake of the original Yakuza game and the best overall remake available on Playstation 4. The Dragon of Dojima has returned in glorious HD.
The Ryu ga Gotoku series’ – or Yakuza as it’s know in the West – first entry on Playstation 2 back in 2005 was a masterpiece in it’s own league and after 11 long years the time has finally come for a whole new generation of upcoming Yakuza fans to witness this gem in full HD. This rebuilt-from-scratch HD overhaul is called “Yakuza Kiwami“. In the Japanese language “Kiwami” literally translates to “Extreme” and for those who played the game on Playstation 2 when it released in ’05 this remake might look and sound just like that.
Kiwami is Sega’s first full-blown remake in franchise history, with Yakuza Kiwami 2 on its way – hopefully it will come Westward in a later stage. The game uses the PlayStation 4 hardware perfectly to show off new and never before seen details. Character models look better and the game’s iconic Yakuza suits, overall clothing, billboards, shop signs and more have gotten a massive upgrade. However, they still look like they could need a bit of extra love compared to the game’s newly upgraded facial expressions. The game’s multitude of characters truly have never looked so good before and our main man Kiryu looks better than ever.
The game’s real star, Kamurocho has also gotten an upgrade. The city truly shines and has never looked brighter before. Kiwami adds new distractions around the city like Pocket Circuit car racing, MesuKing: Battle Bug Beauties, new hostesses and added side quests. Classic minigames like Mahjong, pool, and karaoke are back as well. As you might know the game’s minigames and side quests are what makes Yakuza special and the best in its genre. I always find myself spending most of my time on these minigames and I enjoy them to the fullest.
The game’s original voice work has been re-recorded for the remake and the English voice language has luckily been replaced with the redone Japanese voice work. The excessive swearing, clumsy voice acting, over acting and other Western nastiness which we were used to from the Playstation 2 version is gone. Giving the game a more authentic feel. Kiwami keeps things more in line with everything the studio has released since Yakuza 2.
Kiwami is fully packed with new features and content beyond just a casual up-rez of the original game. Kiwami adds tons of new story depth over the PS2 original, giving returning fans some extra background story on some of the game’s characters and at the same time gives newcomers a more well rounded story to begin with. The game is one of the few in the series that focusses solely on kiryu and for me that always was one of the most appealing stories in the Yakuza series. The game begins with series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu getting sent to prison for the murder of his family patriarch (which he obviously didn’t commit). To make matters even worse, during the 10 years of his imprisonment, not only does Kiryu’s clan expel him from the yakuza, but ¥10 billion (~$100 million) goes missing from the clan treasury. Worse yet, Kiryu’s childhood sweetheart is also nowhere to be found, and with the entirety of the Japanese underworld on the hunt for the missing cash, Kiryu is all but lost until he finds the orphan girl Haruka, searching for her aunt who shares the same name as Kiryu’s missing love. What follows from there is a web of betrayal, underworld politics, and redemption as nothing will stop Kiryu from regaining his honor.
The most significant improvement is made to the game’s combat. The combat in the original might have felt a bit awkward and goofy. Especially with the horrible camera control you would often find yourself targeting the wrong enemy/victim. Kiwami’s combat is up to date and delivers a more than decent experience to fans familiar with the series latest entries. Kiryu is equipped with four deadly fighting techniques waiting to be unleashed. Educate enemies in the art of fisticuffs with the balanced Brawler, all-powerful Beast, lightning-quick Rush, and unstoppable Dragon styles. You are able to add new and exotic moves to Kiryu’s arsenal on a regular base. These moves will be earned by completing side-missions, and destroying your enemies. Doing so allows you to build up your ultimate moveset and lets you dish out more damage. This is needed to stand your ground in the game’s end when the game puts your combat skills to the ultimate test
Kiwami eliminates the combat encounters loading screens. In the PS2 original, we were forced to sit through an never ending occurrence of loading screens before we could finally start the battle. This became annoying very quickly, especially when dealing with the game’s signature street fights that can break out at any given moment. Thankfully, Kiwami is able to quickly transition in and out of battle without ever breaking the flow of the game. The game never cuts to a black screen, instead it simply whips the camera around before focusing directly on the combat. This has a tremendously beneficial impact on the game’s overall enjoyability, making it a more playable game. Kiwami further improves combat as it operates at a full 60 frames per second during gameplay, while cut-scenes are limited to 30fps. In comparison, the original version of the game runs at just 30fps with plenty of drops.
Completely new to Kiwami is the “Majima Everywhere” system, where Yakuza 0’s most interesting protagonist and also known as the series’ deranged, one-eyed maniac will constantly surprise and challenge Kiryu to combat when you least expect it. You must stay on your toes and be ready to defend yourself from Kiryu’s chief rival. Majima can attack from above, from a manhole below, you can be chased by Majima, he can attack you with his Yakuza 0 signature Breaker, Thug and Slugger fighting styles, he comes dressed as a woman, police officer and even zombie Majima. At some point you will have had more than enough Majima for a lifetime and would want him to stop bothering you.
Yakuza Kiwami is the ultimate remake of an under appreciated masterpiece and offers both newcomers to the series and returning fans a top-notch Yakuza experience on playstation 4. Kiwami should belong in anybody’s collection wether you have played the game back in ’05, are just getting hooked on the series because of Yakuza 0, or never played the game before. A must-have for all Playstation 4 owners and the best remake I have played to date.