The “Yakuza” franchise is a mystery for us. For years we have heard about the ways of the Yakuza in the news and most of the time the reports seem to focus on their criminal activities. This beloved game developed by Sega appears to focus on the abilities of one Yakuza into doing good.
A lot of sites make the mistake of comparing this game with the Batman Arkham franchise. We can tell you right away: There is not even a single shred of action handled in the game that could lead to such comparison.
This time around we are talking about Yakuza Kiwami. The game is essentially a remake of the first Yakuza game released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2004. Your character is a guy named Kiryu, a Yakuza who doesn’t kill and spends a rather odd amount of time helping out his fellow man.
The Settings of an Old Classic
As many Japanese antiheroes, Kiryu looks rugged, old fashion and straight up badass. You wouldn’t want to mess with this guy if you crossed paths with him, and yet that’s what everyone does in the game; sometimes with good reason, but most of it seems to happen because you bumped into the wrong guy.
If you have played any Yakuza game before, you already know the mechanics, and you are familiar with the actions you have to perform to advance. If you haven’t, let’s summarize what you have to do for an infinite number of hours of the game: you need to beat the living crap out of a lot of people in Tokyo, so things go your way. It’s not a complicated premise, but don’t expect it to be easy by any means
The open world setting follows a main storyline, but there is so much to do in the fictional district of Kamurocho that you could spend months doing side missions alone without the story moving. Given the unique take of Japanese storytelling, each side mission has a story by itself, even if most of it it’s solved y beating someone or retrieving something of importance.
The Old Adventures of a New Kiryu
The main story begins when Kiryu takes the blame for a murder he didn’t do and takes a ten-year sentence in the slump. When he finally gets out the figureheads that would have been their protectors are gone, and a guy named Majima is running the show now, and he seems to have it out for you. You need to get to Kamurocho and set things right with him.
The fighting method of Yakuza remains untouched in this remake. If something has changed at all is the visuals and the scenery that is now very detailed and more in line with times. The mechanics of the game demand you to be quick on reflexes and have some button mashing skills to survive any fight. There is no lock key here, and most enemies don’t wait it out until you finish beating someone up to engage you.
The rush style is the best way to face melee combat, but you can also use anything in your surroundings to beat whoever is messing with you. That’s right. Every single thing you see on the streets is your arsenal. We found ourselves beating people with a bicycle just for kicks at some point. The freedom experienced with the four fighting modes and the flashiness of some knockout moves it’s just too good, and it brings joy no matter how many times you get to see it.
The Shortcomings of an Old-fashioned Game
If there is one complaint to this remake is the fact that the camera angles weren’t improved at all. We still get the weird angles and the distant views of characters on certain locations that could have improved the experienced, such as when you enter a store or a bar for a drink. The map is also a tad difficult to figure out. While it leads to our target with efficiency, it can be very narrow at times to offer proper guidance.
It may be pointless to argue about these nuances, the game, after all, it’ supposed to be a representation of old ways for Japanese customs, even if they are centered on the portrayal of a criminal. Yakuza Kiwami as a game feels a lot like revisiting an old friend to find out that he has changed very little, even if his presence feels fresh to you.
Yakuza Kiwami is coming back home in a time when old favorites are rearing their head too. It’s a welcome experience and one that we look forward to repeating soon enough. It’s the purest beat-em’ up you will enjoy, one that plays an honorable side and leaves a sense of fulfillment, even if you are playing a bad guy for kicks.