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Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review – Double Dragon

Originally launched in 2006 in Japan and 2008 in the US and Europe, Yakuza 2 has now received the Kiwami reimaging that Yakuza 1 experienced in 2016. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a revamped retelling of the original game. Now utilizing the Dragon Engine that was designed for Yakuza 6, Kiwami 2 is the ultimate telling of perhaps the best installment in the franchise. There are several new aspects of the game for new and returning players to enjoy as well as a more fleshed out and rewritten storyline, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an amazing return to familiar settings that is more fleshed out than the original with new scenes, a reworked script and additional story chapters not seen in the original game. The overall package is an amazing journey from start to finish.

Yakuza Kiwami 2
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: August 28th, 2018
Players: 1 Player
Price: $49.99

The story of Yakuza 2 takes place almost one year to the day after the conclusion of Yakuza 1. If you have played any of the other Yakuza games, you already know what to expect when embarking on the story line here. The overall story hasn’t changed from the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

There are more cutscenes and the dialogue has been updated to flow better, but that is all in terms of the main game. For those of you who are choosing Yakuza Kiwami 2 as your first foray in to the series, you’re in for a real treat. The Yakuza series is defined by action packed and emotional stories.

It may seem a bit off for a series that revolves around Japanese Mafia to be described as “emotional”, but the Yakuza series has a knack for pulling on your heart strings. Kiryu Kazama, the series main protagonist, is a stoic man of few words but one who has a big heart. His friends and family are the most important things to him and he will go to the lengths of the world to protect them.

Yakuza Kiwami 2 continues this tradition of action packed fight scenes followed by scenes that show Kiryu as a man haunted by many demons he has accrued over his years in the Yakuza organization.

As stated earlier, Kiwami 2 takes place one year after the events of Kiwami 1. If you haven’t played either Yakuza Zero or Kiwami 1, I highly recommend you do so. They are absolutely fantastic. But if you really must skip those games and you want to dive right in to Kiwami 2, no worries.

During the first chapter of the game, you will have the opportunity to view a very in-depth recap of the previous game. Kiryu has now been free of the Tojo clan for a year and has been living a peaceful life with his adopted daughter Haruka. After the events of Kiwami 1, the Tojo clan is in dire straits and still reeling from the betrayals a year ago.

Needless to say, Kiryu is once again dragged in to the Japanese underworld. Players will travel between the familiar cities of Sotenbori and Kamurocho as they attempt to stop a war between the clans and also solve the mystery of the Korean Mafia that has returned to Komurocho in a bid for vengeance that has spanned decades.

The Yakuza series is known for its fantastic story telling and Kiwami 2 is perhaps the strongest installment in the franchise outside of Yakuza 6.

One of biggest and best additions to the story of Yakuza 2 with this Kiwami remake is the addition of the Goro Majima episodes that are unlocked during the normal gameplay. While there are only 3 episodes available, fans of the series will enjoy being able to play again as the fan favorite character.

He still uses his “Mad Dog of Shimano” style of attacks that he is known for, but will play very differently from Kiryu and even from Yakuza Zero. I’ll be honest here, I cried 3 times during my playthrough of Kiwami 2, one of which was during the Majima episodes.

The guy might be insane (or at least, portrays himself as insane), but these 3 episodes bring Majima closure after 2 decades of pain. How could I not get emotional?

For those wondering, Kiwami 2 uses the Dragon engine introduced in Yakuza 6, so Kiryu will play differently from the previous games and even Yakuza 3-5. Gone are the style changes from Zero and Kiwami 1. Kiryu will now gain experience in five different aspects and he can spend that experience in 4 different trees.

Each tree will focus on a general type of experience with the stat tree using all 5. Luckily, Kiwami 2 has an absolute metric ton of side stories and games for you to complete to gain all the experience you could possibly need. Beyond that, you will now be able to gain experience by eating at the different restaurants throughout the game.

There are 2 new main side games for players to enjoy as they complete the story. Since Majima is now back, players will be able to compete in the Majima Construction side game. I will admit that I wasn’t able to delve very far in to this side game during the course of this review, but it is a fairly fun little mini game.

Basically, you will control different characters in a top down game and fend off waves of enemies as they try to attack different construction equipment placed around the stage. You will be able to gain new characters for the mini game by taking down opponents as Kiryu throughout Komurocho.

The Cabaret mini game from Yakuza Zero also makes a come back in Kiwami 2, with familiar locations and characters from the original making a return appearance here. It plays exactly the same as the game from Zero, but there are a few differences when you talk with the girls.

After championship matches, Kiryu and the girls will go out on bonding dates and you will need to choose the correct answer in order to increase the bond between the group. This mini game is also the best way to gather money in the game and is a lot of fun.

While the Dragon engine has allowed all new avenues in exploration and makes combat a lot smoother, the ragdoll physics in the engine can lead to some very hilarious situations during combat where you can be thrown about and land on top of things you wouldn’t normally be allowed to traverse over.

I never had an issue where this lead to getting stuck or other sort of glitches, it can lead to some surprising combat issues that were not present in previous games outside of Yakuza 6. Weapons also now take a much more important role in the game, since you can now pick up and stow away weapons that enemies drop during combat.

You are also able to now enhance the damage done by weapons through experience usage. This alone made the last few fights an absolute cake walk and removed any sort of challenge that they would normally have presented. I didn’t go out of my way to level grind or search out the best and most powerful equipment in the game.

But by the end of the game I had broken the limits of all of my stats and had a few strong weapons. And this was just playing through normally in the storyline and picking up the locker keys that I had come across.

Graphically, Kiwami 2 is just astounding. Each time I venture back into Kamurocho, it feels like coming home again. There has only been other game that has ever done this to me and it is a wonderful experience. With the use of the Dragon Engine, Kamurocho has never felt more alive.

The city is now larger than ever before. Literally, the cities of Sotenbori and Kamurocho are much larger with more areas to explore. You can now climb stairs that were previously unaccesible in earlier games. You are now able to enter a first person mode as well while out of combat and when not speaking to NPCs in the game.

Some of the sights here are just amazing. I reviewed this game on a PlayStation 4 Pro and never once had an issue with lag, slowdown or anything else. Outside of some just wonky ragdoll physics due to the engine, Kiwami 2 ran smooth as butter.

There really is a lot to love about Kiwami 2 and so far I have glossed over the few flaws that are present in this game. Honestly, most of the flaws are very very nitpicky and really don’t detract from the game during normal gameplay. Most of the issues come from just normal gameplay and a few story fights strewn throughout the game.

The biggest issues in the game are that some of the story segments will require you to run to a given location speak to a person and then run immediately back to where you just came from to gather an NPC or speak to someone else, adding in unnecessary backtracking. It only happens a few times through the story, but it is annoying when it happens.

Also, enemies will now sometimes be equipped with automatic weapons and even rocket launchers. These fights are generally the most annoying in the game, because while neither Kiryu nor Majima are as affected by normal bullets as they were in previous games, the automatic weapons and launchers will blow you back and keep you away from objectives with ease.

In a few fights, I lost several bars of health before I could reasonably reach the enemies and complete the fights. That is really the only drawbacks found here. The story is fantastic and the pacing is spot on.

Combat is now smoother and there are several different ways to gain new attacks and techniques for those that hunt them down, but the game can easily be completed with standard leveling and experience use. Graphically and musically the game is just beautiful, even with revisting well known locations.

Whether you are a newcomer to the series or you are a veteran of the Yakuza franchise, there is absolutely no reason what so ever to pass up on this fantastic game. Most players will take anywhere from 30 to 40 hours just making it through the main story with a few hours dedicated to the Majima side story.

But you can easily spend a couple of hundred hours just completing all the side missions, mini games and maxing out stats and techniques. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the first must have game of 2018 for just about style of gamer. By all means, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you pass up this gem.

Yakuza Kiwami 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro using a review copy received by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 9.5


The Good

  • The new Dragon Engine allows for fluid combat in an expanded Komurocho and Sotenbori
  • Fantastic story that continues the tradition of action packed and emotional story telling the series is known for
  • Enhanced and new side quests/stories and mini games not seen in the original game
  • Majima finally receives a measure of closure

The Bad

  • Some story segments are a bit slow while forcing exploration of previously explored areas of each city
  • Wonkyness of the Dragon Engine physics will sometimes cause interesting and unexpected combat experiences as well at times strange collision detection during exploration
  • Some enemies are a bit unbalanced and cause some mission segments to see a strange skew in difficulty and annoyance
Caitlin Harper

About

Born in the south but raised in military bases around the world, Caitlin has been gaming since her father first brought home an NES with Super Mario Bros. and Zelda 2. She's also a lover of all things anime, oppai and adventure.