Since the popularity of Yakuza 5's Western release back in 2015, we've all been blessed with a huge number of Yakuza localisations in recent years. SEGA's latest offering is Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of the PlayStation 2 sequel. This is no simple graphical upgrade, as Yakuza Kiwami 2 completely redesigns Yakuza 2 from the ground up. There are new cutscenes, graphics, stats and fighting systems, as well as mini-games and sub-stories. Even those who are lucky enough to still own the original Yakuza 2 will find a lot more on offer here.
The story in Yakuza Kiwami 2 is more simple than the complex storylines of later entries like Yakuza 4 and 5. Taking place one year after the events of Yakuza Kiwami, the fifth chairman of the Yakuza clan the Tojo, Terada, asks our series protagonist, Kiryu, for a favor. As he is asking Kiryu if he can unite the Tojo clan and the Omi Alliance, a rival Yakuza gang, as equals, Terada is assassinated, presumably by the Omi themselves. Carrying out his late successors wishes Kiryu travels to Osaka in order to speak with Jin Godo the head of the Omi Alliance.
However, while Godo is keen on the idea of avoiding war between the clans by forming a peace pact, his son has other ideas. Ryuji Godo stages a coup to kidnap and overthrow his father. War is his goal, and he soon throws Kamurocho in chaos hoping to take down the Tojo. As Kiryu is presumed to be the only one who can bring peace to the rival gangs, he is taken into police protection under Osaka's top female police inspector Sayama. The two then travel between Osaka and Tokyo trying to solve the case and figure out how the Jingweon Mafia, a crime syndicate which was supposedly wiped out 26 years ago, fits into this story.
While the ending is a little lost on me with all the testosterone and honor being waved right in the face of common sense, I am deeply invested in Yakuza Kiwami 2's story. It's easy to follow with clear motivations, and core values that most people can at least relate to, despite all the gang based rivalries.
Unlike Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2 gives you a little more space to explore. The world opens up here as not only do you have series staple, Kamurocho, based on Tokyo's Kabukicho, to explore, but now you can also run wild in Sotenbori, a play on Osaka's Dotonbori. True to Yakuza's usual standard, these two areas are jam-packed with side quests and collectibles. This means that the main campaign is fairly short, and it should take you no longer than 15 hours to complete. Still, with all the goofy side quests and curious oddities to see, you'll likely spend a lot more time wandering the city.
Alongside the main story, there are two meaty side quests to complete. Firstly, there is the improved Clan Creator from Yakuza 6. It now plays more like a standard strategy game, where you decide where troops move around the map. This time you are taking charge of fan-favorite character Goro Majima and his newly opened construction crew as they try and defend their building site from a rival construction company.
The second main side quest in the Cabaret side quest from Yakuza 0. Here, popular hostess Yuki opens up her own cabaret club. She finds her newly hired foreman sniped out from under her. Finding Kiryu on the street, she asks him to manage her club for her. During the activity, you decide which customer each girl sits with and rotate them regularly to make sure that they avoid fatigue. Both these activities are fun additions to the gameplay and help to break up all the shirtless man fighting. I did not get too into this but can certainly see the appeal and can see myself trying to get to the top of the hostess circuit another time.
Speaking of, how does all the shirtless man fighting play out? Unfortunately, the developers chose to go with Yakuza 6's stats management system rather than the much more varied gameplay of Yakuza Kiwami. There, you had four different fighting styles to switch between freely as you adapted to your opponent's style. In Yakuza 6 and Yakuza Kiwami 2, Kiryu only has his signature Dragon fighting style, which can make battles feel repetitive. Everything from his running distance to his fighting moves and basic stats upgrades from the same pool of EXP you build. There are so many options here that I find myself not leveling up very mindfully. I'm sure this led me to miss out on some fun heat moves.
Heat moves are a Yakuza staple. As Kiryu fights he builds up 'heat'. When he has enough heat he can pull of a heat move which comes with a flashy often hilarious cutscene and a big chunk of your opponent's health. The developers obviously put in a lot of effort into creating new heat moves for Yakuza Kiwami 2. The one where you throw your opponent off a bridge and he lands groin first onto the bow of a boat is a personal favorite. If that sounds as hilarious to you as it did to me, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is probably the game for you.
Within the Yakuza community, there is often talk of how the heat system makes Yakuza games too easy, compared to other open world brawlers. SEGA have seemed to taken this to heart and have made the Extreme Heat mode, a mode which slowly drains your heat in exchange for a boost to your attack, defense, and speed, much harder to unlock. Unlike the other games where it is available from the get-go, you now have to learn it from your old teacher in a sub-story, and then unlock it through the stat management system.
Even as a Yakuza fan, I admit this change puzzled me for a long time. Hints kept telling me to push R2 to enter Extreme Heat mode, and with it failing every time I even considered that I had broken the controller. I eventually got some help from a superfan on Twitter who pointed me to the correct side quest. As for other gameplay-altering changes, the devs have also removed the overpowered boss slaying heat move from Yakuza 6.
The voice acting, localization, and soundtrack have also seen a complete overhaul. Great vocals and translation have always been a staple of Yakuza games and Yakuza Kiwami 2 is no exception. Whether it is the crazy rolling r's of Goro Majima or the deep, smooth tones of Kiryu, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a pleasure to listen to. The translation is also top, getting the nuance of the Japanese just right rather than a direct translation, and without watering down aspects of Japanese culture for a Western audience. However, for the first time, this is also my favorite soundtrack of any Yakuza game with a great choice of Japanese songs and new arrangements that fit the mood of each scene perfectly.
Aside from Virtua Fighter 1 and 2 being playable in multiplayer from the title screen, Yakuza Kiwami 2 also offers players the chance to take part in an all-new side story featuring Majima. This side story is much shorter at only around 1 1/2 hours until completion, however, I reveled in the chance to learn how Majima went from head of his own Yakuza subsidiary in Yakuza Kiwami, to the head of his own construction company in Yakuza Kiwami 2.
I loved having the chance to play as Majima as his face paced fighting style suits me much more than Kiryu's adaptable technique. He has a limited range of heat moves, although one in particular obviously had a lot of heart poured into it. Overall, it's a fun to play side quest which gives you closure of things from Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza 0 and a chance to play as one of the series most popular characters.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review | Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed my time with Yakuza Kiwami 2. While the choice to use Yakuza 6's leveling and fighting systems is disappointing, there is not much else I can fault. SEGA have created a flawless remake of an old favorite, with gorgeous graphics, a revitalizing soundtrack, and even more sub-stories and playable curiosities to explore. Everything they have done has improved upon the original and had modernized this title to the point where you would have never known it was originally on the PlayStation 2. The Majima side story will scratch that fan itch and is a perfect addition to the package as a whole. With only one protagonist and just two areas to explore, it does not hold the range and versatility of play that a later title like Yakuza 5 has, but it has not stopped Yakuza Kiwami 2 from standing out as an outstanding title.
Our Yakuza Kiwami 2 review was conducted on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher.
- Remade From The Ground Up
- Majima Side Story
- Gripping Narrative
- Lack of Fighting Styles
- Convoluted Stat Levelling