Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the fourth Yakuza game we are seeing on PS4 after what felt like a period where the franchise had no future in the West. Yakuza 0 is one of the best games this generation and the subsequent two releases in the form of Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 6 have been excellent but the magic from 0 was missing. Fast forward to today and Yakuza Kiwami 2 is nearly available to everyone on PS4 and this is everything I’ve wanted in a Yakuza game since 0 blew me away. I wrote about my initial impressions of the first four chapters here and having completed the game and spent a good amount of time exploring and doing extra side content, I can safely say that this is a game of the year contender.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a full remake of the PlayStation 2 entry that followed the original Yakuza that saw its own remake in the form of Yakuza Kiwami last year on PS4. The difference is Kiwami 2 is a full remake in the stunning new Dragon Engine built for PS4 and Yakuza 6 and not a cross generation one that we saw in 0 and Kiwami. While 6 had some performance and visual issues, I’m glad to see the team has nailed the visuals and performance here. The content additions and enhancements across the board make this the most gorgeous Yakuza game ever that also happens to play brilliantly.
After a nice recap of the events of Kiwami (you can still play this without any prior Yakuza game experience), Kiryu finds himself back in the fray despite wanting out with a war brewing. The Omi Alliance and Tojo Clan are nearing an alliance until the antagonist of Kiwami 2 and one of the best written antagonists in recent times Ryuji Goda makes his presence felt. Even their first encounter together is fantastic. Without getting into any spoilers, the overall pacing and plot are both excellent. The only annoyances in the main story come from a few missions that feel tacked on mechanically. Kamurocho and Sotenbori are beyond stunning with a ton of things to do across various minigames and side activities. Outside of Kiryu’s story, Yakuza 0 fans will have a lot to love with the new Majima story that unlocks as you play the main game. This is a prequel that showcases how Goro Majima ended up where he is in Kiwami 2 and has a few superb moments for fans of his character. I wish there was more of this.
While Yakuza 6 made combat feel a bit more intimate and removed the extra combat styles leading to some disappointment for fans, Kiwami 2 adds a new mechanic that keeps things fresh. Armour and weapons are important here and play a big part in some boss fights. You find weapons scattered across some areas and can now store a few for easy access with the dpad in combat. Some boss battles got over much faster thanks to me having a few good weapons stocked up for when I needed them. There are now heat actions with weapons that are triggered through NPCs which are hilarious. Majima has his own brilliant heat action and animation with his weapon in his story. When you’re fighting alongside someone else as Kiryu, the dual heat actions are a sight to behold.
As Kiryu, you raise stats through missions and side activities but can still enjoy gaining various points through beverages and food across both locales. Walking seamlessly into a restaurant to eat and then exiting after gaining some stats never gets old. Exploration feels so much better here with a more stable frame rate and no screen tearing. Locker keys scattered around help you with some good armour, weapons, or items you can sell.
Minigames and substories are always a highlight for me in Yakuza games. Kiwami 2 goes above and beyond here. While I will never stop lamenting the disco minigame going away (I know time periods and all), you will never be board of stuff to do outside the main story. There are 76 substories going by the completion list and after 43 hours of game time I’ve only managed doing 30 of them. The one where you get photographed in an office room will never stop being funny. One substory had someone get beat up over a car while another had a guitarist on a bridge who wanted tissues for his cold. There’s just too much good stuff in these side quests that make exploring and interacting work worth your time.
Visually, the dragon engine has never looked this good before. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the best looking SEGA game by far and the attention to detail in the various narrow streets, food joints, and minigame locations is amazing. Gone are the screen tearing and minor stutter seen in some areas on both PS4 consoles in Yakuza 6. Kiwami 2 is a super polished experience when it comes to visuals and character modes. Watching some PS2 gameplay footage after playing this has been crazy. Kiwami 2 feels like the Shadow of the Colossus PS4 remake but with a lot more new content and enhancements.
I usually discuss how good the battle themes and karaoke songs are here but the highlight for me with Kiwami 2 is SEGA finally licensing the main theme and ending credits music for a Yakuza game. “Bubble” being removed from 0 and “Atom no Ko” being removed from Yakuza 6 were disappointing. I’m glad to see SiM’s songs present as the main theme and the ending credits music for Kiwami 2. I bought the single on iTunes almost instantly after seeing the credits roll. Without going into spoilers, the final boss theme is emotional and it reminded me of a moment from Metal Gear Solid 3.
The one thing I didn’t like here is the design for a few of the missions. Yakuza 6 had the annoying baby mission and Kiwami 2 has a few missions where you have to either walk wounded or carry someone with the health bar depleting and basically try and avoid people and enemies. These few missions are the only real blemish on this superlative game.
Overall Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a stunning game with an unforgettable story. If you’ve been waiting for a game to live up to your high expectations from Yakuza 0, this is it. It is still beyond crazy that this is the fourth Yakuza game in less than 2 years and we have a fifth game from the same developers in Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise coming to PS4 in October. With Kiwami 2 SEGA gets everything right and they have definitely learned from the last few games in the franchise for this gorgeous remake.