Yakuza Kiwami PS4 Review

October 1, 2017 by  
Filed under PS4, Reviews & Features, PlayStation

Publisher: SEGA, Deep Silver  Developer: SEGA  Genre: Action Adventure  Players: 1  

Age Rating: 18+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Originally released for the PS2 in 2005, Yakuza was a late release for the console – as was Yakuza 2 – released around the dawn of a new wave of powerful consoles. Yakuza became popular in Japan, but failed to garner much interest elsewhere, though that hasn’t stopped 6 games being released, with 5 spin-offs and now two re-releases, one of those including Yakuza Kiwami.

Yakuza Kiwami has noticeably improved graphics.

After 10 billion Yen is stolen, a young woman goes missing, and a close friend becomes an enemy, you take control of Kazuma Kiryu, known as the Dragon of Dojima for his powerful fighting skills, and whose job it is to discover where the stolen money has gone, amongst other mysteries to solve. Along the way he meets allies and foes (of which Goro Majima is probably the most memorable), with everything taking place in the open-world setting of Kamurocho, a fictional district of Tokyo, Japan.

As well as the noticeable enhancement of the graphics, you’ll notice that the language spoken is Japanese, the terrible English voice-acting from the original duly banished, and rightly so. A game as authentic to its setting needn’t bother with English voice acting, and despite not having a clue what the characters are saying (only thanks to the English subtitles), you can still tell it is much better acted, with the Japanese voices sounding expressive rather than flat, as was the case with the English voices. A change definitely made for the better.

I mention that the game is open-world, but that doesn’t exactly mean the area you play in is enormous in the way a lot of current open-world games play; Yakuza Kiwami has a very compact open-world, one which still gives you the freedom to wander around at your own pace and uncover hidden goodies through exploration. Whilst the district never truly ‘opens up’, you’ll still eventually gain access to different shops, bars, clubs and places of amusement, such as a bowling alley, batting cages and arcades, as the story progresses. Located around this area, you’ll also find sub-stories, which mostly consist of people trying to con Kiryu, and which ends up with Kiryu teaching them a lesson using his fists.

Of course, the aim of the game is fighting, and there is a lot of it. Kiryu not only fights main foes, but will be accosted by enemies whilst roaming around the streets of Kamurocho, and he can even help civilians who are being intimidated by gangs of thugs, stepping in and using his fists once again to do the talking.

Kiryu has 4 distinctive fighting styles – Brawler (which I found I used the most), Beast, Rush and Dragon of Dojima. Brawler balances Kiryu’s moves, whilst Brawl focuses on his strength. Rush focuses on speed, and Dragon of Dojima I found to be the least useful of all of the moves, and requires the most patience to upgrade as this can only be upgraded through fighting Goro Majima in the ‘Majima Everywhere’ mini-game. This involves Majima popping up at random times to lure Kiryu into a battle, after which, should you win, you will gain the corresponding ability.

Kiryu doesn’t just use his fists – he can wield objects to pummel enemies, or other weapons, such as guns, baseball bats, knives. Note: weapons can also be used against you.

Kiryu also possesses a special Heat mode and Climax Heat mode, both of which are powerful moves that can knock a lot of health off an enemy’s health bar if used properly. With every punch of an enemy’s face, the Heat gauge increases, and eventually Kiryu will glow the colour of whatever fighting style you are currently using, signalling that a Heat move can be used. Heat mode is activated when you push the triangle button when an enemy is down, or you have grabbed them, and a short scene will show Kiryu pummelling his chosen foe, and if you can move an enemy to a particular part of the environment or another enemy, Kiryu will combine both, lowering his enemies health bar or completely defeating them. As I am not a fighting game fan, I actually got quite far through the game without using this move until I was reminded about it, making for some infuriating (and unnecessary) fighting moments. Thankfully using Heat mode makes some fights much more simple, though admittedly I am a button masher rather than a tactical fighter, and even with using Heat mode, I found some fights to be rather drawn-out.

Fighting is done well, and will only be hindered by your own fighting game capabilities – as a first time player of Yakuza, and as someone who isn’t particularly a fan of fighting games in general, admittedly I found some fights to be overly long, wanting them to finish so I could actually move on to my favourite part of the game; exploring. I found smaller fights encountered throughout the map to be easy enough, though my patience was definitely worn thin with more challenging foes. More experienced fighting players will definitely be able to pull off some smooth moves and hits, though for me, as a novice, I found Kiryu’s moves to be slightly repetitive; some Heat moves I was able to pull off were amusing, such as one in which Kiryu slams a foes head between a car door, but as a player who was only praying that a fight would go my way through button mashing, some of the fighting was definitely clunky, and I also found myself wishing that Kiryu had more of a variety of slick moves in the way his enemies did – he does gain more moves through upgrading, resulting in more spectacular fighting manoeuvres, but I wasn’t always able to pull them off very well, and so fighting started to feel rather repetitive for me.

A new addition includes Goro Majima ambushing you into a fight. This is the only way to upgrade your Dragon of Dojima ability.

It’s not all fighting though; to break up the action, Kiryu has access to an assortment of mini-games. He can go bowling, play a crane game at the arcade, gamble. He can go shopping. As Kiryu wanders around the district, a new addition is the inclusion of locker keys, which he finds randomly on the floor. These keys open lockers (of course) that reward you with items, some you can sell, others that can be used in some manner, such as to assist in enhancing his abilities, weapons, or items that can increase his luck when gambling. Kiryu can also collect playing cards, in which a young boy will teach him a new style of card game at the arcade. There are the aforementioned sub-stories, and my only gripe with these is that some of the decisions Kiryu can make seem at odds with his personality – some require him to suddenly become very naive or ignorant, which is not a personality trait shown in the cutscenes. Kiryu can even visit restaurants and bars, where he can eat and drink, the restaurants serving to increase his health and Heat bars, the drinking serving him to get drunk, which has an effect on his fighting.

What is written here only scratches the surface of what Yakuza Kiwami has to offer. The story is engaging, the characters are likeable, with a varied cast. Exploration is encouraged here and the fighting has a lot of depth, with many skills to unlock. For those not familiar with the Yakuza series, this is a great place to start; it enhances the original, adding extra content to keep it updated and fresh. Yakuza Kiwami is a game that shows how you can still manage to cram a lot of content into a small area, and yet still make the game feel very vast, with there being a lot to see and do.