Yakuza Kiwami kicks its way onto our computers, demanding your cache and taking no hot air from gamers. Set as a follow-up to the extremely popular Yakuza 0, Kiwami is a totally remade version of the original Yakuza back in 2005, using most of the content created for Y0. Seemingly designed as a sort of expansion to Y0, Kiwami tries to stay true to the original to the point where cutscenes are one-to-one renditions of their 14-year-old counterparts. Releasing within 7 months of one another may put some at unease, but was the final product better than the short gap leads on.
Continuing on where Y0 left off, Kiwami starts us 10 years after the ending of Y0, with Kiryu having worked his way back into the Yakuza and even becoming a Lieutenant of the Dojima family. With the option of starting his own family put at his feet, Kiryu is conflicted with the choices before him, taking advice from long-term friend Nishiki. While both characters are impulsive, often making decisions that bite them harshly, it is Nishiki this time who causes trouble for Kiryu.
After saving their childhood friend Yumi from their Patriarch, Kiryu takes the blame on Nishiki’s behalf and is sent to prison for another 10 years. A total of 20 years since Y0 and we find ourselves in Kiwami proper, as we yet again work our way back into the Yakuza after an expulsion, alongside solving the mystery of our friend Yumi disappearing, Nishiki becoming diabolical and the missing 10 billion yen from the Yakuza’s safe.
The main story of Kiwami will last you between 15-20 hours depending on how much content you ignore along the way. Side-content, collectables and conversations will easily rack those hours up to 80+, similar to Yakuza 0. Some players may feel off-put at the total story time, as Y0 had around 25-30 hours of story and upwards of 130 for full completion. Sitting at the same price for both games, the mere difference in game time could be 1 factor that detracts gamers.
If you have played any Yakuza game, then Kiwami will be incredibly similar. If you’re new to the series, in which case I suggest Y0 first, Kiwami plays very similar to games like Shenmue or beat ‘em up games. You control Kiryu with the left Thumbstick, have a light attack on X and heavy attack on Y, with a grab on Circle. Mixing up light and heavy attacks will initiate several types of combos, though they generally go in the form of a light attack then several heavies. During combat, you can make use of weapons like baseball bats or guns and even drink drugs to increase your health and heat gauges.
As you land hits on opponents you will build up your heat gauge, which in turn increases your damage output as well as your defence accordingly to your unlocked abilities. When you reach a high enough heat gauge you can enact heat actions like smashing an opponent’s face into a wall or head-butting them into submission. Heat actions deal a good deal of damage, with each having their own cutscene that makes you invulnerable for a short time. However, you will lose heat as you get hit in combat.
As you defeat enemies you will gain EXP and Yen, EXP being used to gain skill points to spend on abilities and Yen for purchasing new items or equipment. Kiryu keeps his 4 styles from Yakuza 0, including the Dragon style that was unlocked via the real estate segment, though many of its abilities are now locked behind a new mechanic. You can use skill points in Tech, Soul and Body, increasing your overall stats, circumstantial buffs, weapon attacks, heat actions and combos.
A new mechanic that was introduced in this remake is the Majima Everywhere system, where Majima can attack Kiryu in seemingly any spot within Kamurocho. Hiding in cars, jumping out inside of a store or even forcing his way into other battles, Majima will test the player’s skill at all corners. In defeating Majima you will gain higher Ranks, unlocking the combos and abilities of Dragon style as you continue to defeat him. This is an interesting replacement to the Shakedown mechanic of Y0 and can be very comedic at times, a welcome sight amongst the streets.
Aside from combat, purchasing of equipment and general exploration, Yakuza is full to the brim of side-content. There are the 78 substories, ranging from casual conversations or straight up combat to long-lasting storylines and item retrieval. Collectables in the form of keys and MesuKing cards, gear hunting from specific areas, eating all the food in restaurants, several minigames, challenges and more. The extra 60+ hours from side-content is mostly fun and engaging, with a wide variety at hand. Though it does seemingly remove some content from the original, it more than makes up for it with all the Y0 minigames and additions.
One of the major faults of Kiwami is its soundtrack, while it pays homage to the original it doesn’t meet the expectations of players from Y0. Through my playtime I only heard 2 or 3 memorable tracks, with the rest sounding muffled, restrained and unenthusiastic. Compared to Y0 that is action-packed, metal-infused and memorable for a vast majority of the OST. If you’re coming into Kiwami as the first game you may not feel as disappointed as me, but even without the quality of Y0 in your mind, the soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired.
Difficulty throughout Kiwami is solid, with only a jump here and there. The biggest turnoff to difficulty may be in the first Majima fight, as he is stronger than he ever is in the rest of the game. This fight is a challenge that rewards you with 100 skill points that seemingly makes up for the early hurdle, thankfully this is an optional win. Sadly the game does start to give enemies more dodging, guarding and health towards the end, to the point where a battle can last several minutes as you try to hit the target.
If you have played Yakuza 0 you will be able to see the blatant copying and reuse of material from that entry inside of Kiwami. From the battle system, combos, character models, areas, minigames and more, Kiwami is almost just an expansion to Y0. Since so much is reused it will be up to the player if they care at all about that, Y0 was an amazing game so redoing it won’t be too distracting for some fans whereas other gamers might have wanted an entirely new experience.
Overall, Yakuza Kiwami gets an 8/10, it is a beautiful rendition of the original game but when stacked up against 0 it falls a bit far from greatness. The story can feel slightly disjointed at times, with the ending feeling too rushed. Some original content was removed in place of Yakuza 0 mechanics or minigames which could be great for fans of Y0 or bad for fans of the original. The difficulty is consistent and fair, though the game lacks an endless upgrade like in Y0. If you’re a fan of the series then this is a must-buy, even just to see a great entry in higher quality with slight story changes.