SEGA has done it yet again with the Yakuza franchise. That probably gives away my opinion in one line, but it’s true. SEGA has managed to craft, or rather recraft, an engaging experience for fans and casual gamers alike, making a title that’s as entertaining as it is challenging. For those who aren’t familiar, Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original Yakuza, from 2005.
After the release of well-received prequel Yakuza Zero, I was pretty shocked to see Yakuza Kiwami finally announced as well. Not because I thought Zero performed badly or anything of the sort, but more so because Yakuza seems to be one of those franchises that SEGA doesn’t really throw out west all that often. Frankly, the marketing for this series can be tricky at times, especially when you take into account the other long-anticipated western release of Yakuza 6. The fanbase is there, but there needs to be a shorter period between initial release and distribution.
Moving away from SEGA properties and into the actual game itself, I quite enjoyed what Yakuza Kiwami had to offer (if that wasn’t already apparent from the earlier paragraph). From a graphical standpoint, the game looks really detailed. There was obviously a lot of time and effort put into using the PS4 to its full capacity. It’s odd to think, after having also been re-released on the PS3, there was still more that could be done to bring out a crisper and cleaner feel for players. If you have the choice, I’d wholeheartedly recommend buying it for the newer generation console, just to get the fuller experience.
That being said, graphics are nice and all, but how do the mechanics hold up? Pretty well, all things considered. To some, it may have the same issue that the recent Resident Evil 4 remasters have, in that remastering a game from 2004 (or in this case 2005) tends to date a game a little bit. The controls are all finely tweaked, however, so things don’t tend to be too rough in terms of gameplay. I think the biggest problem I found myself having was trying to find the sweet spot to get into certain locations. A nitpick of an issue really, but one I’d thought I’d mention regardless.
One of the things I thoroughly enjoyed about the gameplay was the combat and having a nice selection of styles and combos to use. I went for the brawler more often than not, but I liked the other stances and what they offered in regards to speed or strength. The combos are also simple enough to perform without players getting frustrated, if you just wanted to mash square however, that works just fine. The biggest plus I’ll give to fighting in-game is that hits feel very satisfying. There’s a good sense of impact when landing blows so you know when something is more effective than, say, just using your fists. Yakuza gets big props for that in my book.
Moving away from gameplay and onto a more narrative spectrum, I must say, there weren’t any pressing issues with Yakuza’s story structure. Now, there are certain points when I felt like the plot was being too nonsensical, or that there was an inconsistent tone; in hindsight, however, all that just adds to the game's charm with the story it’s trying to tell. It’s an interesting and dynamic world that feels like it should be serious, but instead, adds splashes of colour and life. There’s nothing wrong with weaving some quirkiness into your title if it benefits the game's overall feel, and Yakuza Kiwami does that almost flawlessly. It creates a well-structured world that, sure, may be fast and loose here or there, but it’s a structure that’s guaranteed to grow on you in the long run.
One of the last things I’ll mention is the variety that Yakuza offers. From multiplayer to in-game elements, the title is basically a toy box. Actually, one of my personal favourite things about this game is the two-player focus that, at least for me, has sort of lost its way in recent AAA titles. Sure, it may only be an assortment of mini-games, but it still allows you and a friend to compete in some really well-designed challenges. Unfortunately, the multiplayer mode doesn’t add any points to help you through single player, but then again, I should hardly expect it to as it would make things way too easy if you could just grind points. As for the in-game elements I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot in terms of “things to do”. Not things to do like wasting X amount of time until you get bored with the game, but things to do that actually benefit your character and help the game expand and grow around you. One example of this is upgrading your attacks and combos to help with in-game fights, as well as increasing your chances for a higher chain combo that builds your super meter faster. It’s just refreshing to see a game that puts a bit more care into certain aspects that other developers might overlook. All in all, it’s very well-appreciated to see that care.
So is Yakuza Kiwami worth your time? Absolutely. Despite my grievances with the somewhat dated controls and the dash of inconsistent storytelling, the Yakuza franchise can add another successful installment to the list of… well, successful installments. Long story short, play it, enjoy the catharsis, and get swept right back into the world of Yakuza.
Yakuza Kiwami (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Yakuza Kiwami does a whole lot right, while only making a few errors. Other than the control scheme being a bit dated, Yakuza Kiwami comes together as a solid remake of the original title.