Yakuza Kiwami 2 Preview
After a long time of wishing for Western localization of originally Japanese-only titles, Yakuza fans are experiencing an embarrassment of riches of late; Yakuza Kiwami brought a remastered first episode in 2017 followed by Yakuza 0 in the same year. Now Yakuza Kiwami 2 keeps the dragon-kicks coming with an August release coming quick on the heels of Yakuza 6.
With all of the Yakuza titles coming within the last few years, even the most die-hard fan can be forgiven for being confused. To set the record straight, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is officially the third title in the series, since Yakuza 0 was a prequel and Yakuza Kiwami is officially the next title after that. After saving the infant Haruka in the original Yakuza, series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu is pulled in once again into the Tojo Clan succession wars.
This time, Kiryu finds himself reluctantly delving back into the life he left behind when Tojo Clan Chairman Terada is murdered by rival Omi Alliance hitmen. In his attempt to bring stability back to the clan and the Yakuza underworld, Kiryu finds himself up against Ryuji Goda, the “Dragon of Kansai.” The clash of Dragons is an epic tale, with the series’ trademark mix of compelling characters and shocking plot twists that will feel like you’re playing a classic Japanese Yakuza gangster flick.
A World to Explore
For you noobs, I’ll say what I say whenever I discuss a Yakuza game: no, It’s not GTA in Japan. Well ok, it kind of is; you’re a gangster in a big open world, but in the case of Yakuza Kiwami 2 there’s two – Kamurocho, which is the fictionalized version of Tokyo’s Red-Light district that fans have come to expect in every Yakuza game, and Sōtenbori and Shinseicho in Osaka. Unlike GTA however, the urban open worlds in Yakuza are smaller, but they are full of life. In addition to the main quest storyline, which usually runs in the 20-plus hour range, there are the many side-quests that players can uncover by wandering around the streets of Yakuza’s urban environments.
If you tire of the main or side quests, there are also lots of diversions sprinkled around Yakuza KIwami 2’s streets, as always. Unfortunately, the visual upgrade of the new Dragon engine seems to demand a reduced number of extras in the game world, but there is still lots to keep you entertained. The mini games, which include fully-playable arcade games, are back in full and also feature Cabaret hostess club management (a standout from Yakuza 0) and the well-received Clan Creator from Yakuza 6. Word is that the Clan Creator has been improved from Yakuza 6, but I have yet to delve fully into it.
Like Yakuza 6, released earlier in 2018, Yakuza Kiwami 2 uses the brand-new Dragon Engine to deliver a new level of visual polish to a beloved classic. Everything has been upgraded to bring it up to the standards of current-get consoles, including additional cut-scenes added to better explain Yakuza 2’s originally confusing plot. Goro Majima, a fan favorite, is also given his own new extended side story – The Truth of Goro Majima – explaining his departure from the Tojo clan, and we also see the welcome return of Yakuza 0’s Makoto in a narrative addition that really promises to make this a deeper experience than the original Yakuza 2. From what I’ve seen so far, combat in Majima’s scenes is more raw than in Kiryu’s, with the Mad Dog of Shimano displaying a penchant for knife attacks over the elegance of kicks and punches.
Walk The Streets of Kamurocho
The aforementioned graphical enhancement includes load-screen-free interactions with restaurants, convenience stores and the other businesses Kiryu comes into contact with over the course of his time in Yakuza Kiwami 2. That’s a major improvement over the original, and makes it so that you can stop into any of the tons of businesses that feature in Kamurocho or Sotenburi without fear of a long wait. But that also means that fights started on the street can spill into store-fronts, so don’t expect to escape a conflict by hiding in Smile Burger.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is shaping up to be another excellent addition to the Yakuza series, and I am enjoying my time back in Kamurocho and Sotenburi so far. I’m really pleased with the increased Majima content, and the new cut-scenes make this a worthwhile playing experience, even for those of us who enjoyed the original all those years ago. Add to that, the Clan Creator mini-game and other side-content, and you’re once again getting the massive game experience that Yakuza games are famous for. Look for my full review of Yakuza Kiwami 2 on August 23rd.
** A PS4 code was provided by the publisher **