A Dragon’s Prime

It has been 12 years since the original PS2 version was released in 2005. Many were reeling from the lack of another Shenmue game and wonder if we will ever experience something like it again.  Yakuza was called the spiritual successor to Shenmue, keeping the sandbox style gameplay with a beat em’ up twist. It was this and so much more. It became a series that would be known for its great visceral combat, multiple activities are interwoven masterfully, and a Yakuza story that any Japanese or Film aficionado can appreciate. Now remade for the current generation, newcomers can experience the game that started the series. First, we had Yakuza 0. Now we have Yakuza Kiwami.

This is the prime of the Dragon of Dojima, and a must-a-have in any PS4 user’s library.

Game Name: Yakuza Kiwami
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): SEGA
Release Date: August 29, 2017 
Price: $29.99
 
Just want to see the review score? Click here!
 
Well chronologically Yakuza 0 is the beginning, but this is the one that birthed the series and let the series get enough praise to continue on. When it first came on the Ps2 in 2005 in Japan and then a year later for the West, Sega decided to go and provide an English dub for the game, in a sense of an old cheesy dubbing of overseas/martial arts films. While it was a great effort on their part, in my opinion, it doesn’t compare to the original Japanese voice cast and original form of the game (and no, I’m not starting the old Sub vs. Dub debate).

The only thing I love about the English dub is the performance of Mark Hamill for Goro Majima.  It’s also worth pointing out that Sega was able to get the original  Japanese voice cast completely redid the voice-overs lines to match the games new story cutscenes and dialogue in between story. To compare the PS2 performance to the PS4, the difference is night and day and I applaud their performance. Thanks to this, it’s like night and day when you compare the PS2 version with this new updated version.

In translation, Kiwami means “Extreme” and SEGA and the team wanted to bring that original PS2 game to the current gen in a way that matters.  Sure, the game was impressive when it was released previously, but now we’re on the PlayStation 4.  With the power of the current-gen, you can see Kiryu’s furrowed brow, Majima’s pores and the deeper emotional cues that simply wasn’t possible back then.

Oh how far we have come since then…

While some may argue that the engine is dated, you have to respect that it has held up for all these years and still looks great when compared others games this generation. Nevertheless, the game has stood through time, and a new facelift only makes it look better. And for those that still want more, you’ll be happy to know the next Yakuza will have a new engine build exclusively for the PS4.

For the uninitiated, the story is about the Dragon of Dojima and the series’ protagonist, Kiryu Kazuma. The drama begins with him looming over the body of his dead boss, Souhei Dojima and going to jail for the murder for 10 years. The truth, however, is that his sworn brother and childhood friend in the same Sunflower Orphanage, Araki Nishikiyama, was the one who killed Dojima in order to protect their childhood friend and Kiryu’s love, Yumi Sawamura, from being taken advantage of. In order to protect the ones he loves, Kiryu decided to take the fall for Nishiki and let him and Yumi escape at the cost of his future.

After serving his 10 year sentence, he is informed that Yumi had disappeared since the incident, the Tojo Clan is in disarray due to the death of the 3rd Tojo Clan Charmian and disappearance of 10 billion yen, and that the one who was the catalyst and traitor who started the chaos was none other than his sworn brother, Nishiki. Kiryu embarks on his journey to find Yumi, unravel the mystery that grips the Tojo clan, and find out what caused his sworn brother to change after these many years.  He then finds a mysterious girl named Haruka, who may be the key to unraveling this mystery. Needless to say, there are many twists and turns in the story and that will get you invested.

While it may not be the grandest or original story in hindsight, it this kind of drama you just can’t help but love in Asian, gangster, martial arts films of yore. The motivation of the characters actions, the causes that drive one to act, this is what will push you to know more as you progress through the game. Without going into spoilers, in the end as the credits roll, you will feel that you had just gone on a roller coaster of emotions, and a feeling of satisfaction like after you watched a great movie.  The Yakuza series pride themselves in a great cinematic experience and has carved that niche for itself. From its array of fleshed out characters that you can sympathize to the sub-stories in the hub world of Kamurocho, this tale is worthy to be retold again. 

Yakuza is a prime example of a beat em’ up done right. All the tools needed are your simple fists and boy does it feel good to pummel your opponents and beat them to a bloody pulp. You string combos with your light and heavy attacks while bobbing and weaving through. Though if you are like me, you just go for pure offense instead of defense.  If you have played the Yakuza 0, what they added to Kiwami is the option to change your battle style from four categories. 

Brawler is your default offense stance which radiates you blue. Nothing fancy as it balances both speed and power. Rush style pink, which trades your power for speed and allows quick attacks and weaves through at the cost of blocking.  Beast style yellow, which you become a tank and allow you to pick up heavy objects as you plow through enemies at the cost of speed and finesse. Finally is your Dragon style red. This is the style that allows you to harness moves only the Dragon of Dojima is only capable of doing.

Notice the colors, because there is one addition added to the combat system. Whenever you face opponents or bosses, there will be a chance that they will Dragon style and become vulnerable. They then glow in a certain color and as well try to regenerate their, especially so in hard mode. The only way to stop it is either trigger your heat moves or being in the correlating color style and trigger you climax move there. This particular heat move is mostly satisfying as it only happens as the opponent is on the last bits of health. To finish a  fight in this fashion is always a satisfying moment.  From the great camera control, a variety of weapons from swords, tonfa, and bowling balls, to the myriad of heat moves.

Speaking of the Dragon style, there is only one way to upgrade it. It’s by beating your eternal rival and senior, Majima Goro. Here is one new feature that deserves focus.  Majima states that he yearns to fight with Kiryu. To the point & willingness to stalk him everywhere and anywhere. He is not kidding. There will be many times when you walk around Kamurocho, minding your own business and taking in the town, when suddenly Majima will on your path, hiding in trash cans, coming up from manholes to being in drag and ambushing you at a hostess club. This is made clear right from the start when you first meet with him. He will stalk you to the point in which you have no rest, like a crazed, battle-obsessed yandere. This is all for the sake of him wanting to battle the Dragon while improving Kiryu in a surreal tough love mentality.

1…2…He’s coming for you…

In the beginning, he’s an easy encounter, but as you go on, he will be one adversary you will dread to face.  With multiple lines of health and his different forms, he will make your life a living hell. However, the reward of upgrading your Dragon style will be worth it in the end. Worry not as you won’t get a game over screen if you lose. Just make sure you have enough healing items with you at all times and stay on your toes as you walk around town.

He will never rest, and neither will you.

Lastly, is the city of Kamurocho itself.  The town itself is a near replication of the real-life location of Shinjuku, Japan. The city itself brims with life and activity and does a great job recreating the style of the mid-late 1990’s. Make no doubt about it, you will lose yourself and get sidetracked from the many activities you can do. naturally, there are sub-stories that you can encounter which will net you experience or some pretty useful items and weapons.  

But what is intriguing about these side quests is that the characters and the situations involved will range from the normal to simply crazy. From taking out scammers, to teaching friendship to kids via a card game, to finding a successor for a mini kart MC, all these stories add to the overall experience to Kamurocho and give you the sense of what the city is about. Plus it also rewards veterans and those who played Zero with nods and cameos of the previous game.

There are also a plethora of mini-games as well. Wanna go to a batting cage? Do some Karaoke? Play Mahjong? Partake in a Fight Club? Do some mini kart racing? You can do all of that and more. That is one of the major selling points of Yakuza Kiwami. All these games could’ve been their own game, but the way it merges all together to reinforce the environment is just genius.

Want to get your drink on? Have Sushi? Or simply be a tourist and learn about the culture? By all means, do so.  If you don’t have the funds to go to Japan for real, the Yakuza games are the next best thing. All these activities,  you just may forget to play the main game. I know I have spent so much time in Mahjong  before I progressed through the story

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Yakuza game without the Hostess Clubs and Fan Service.

*NSFW Warning*

The Hostess aspect, however, is smaller compared to the original Ps2 version. The PS2 version had six cabaret girls you can woo as well. Yakuza Kiwami has only two girls you can date from what I played. The hostesses are a great focus in Yakuza Kiwami as it taught a cultural aspect that is distinctly Japan. What’s more interesting are that they are the real hostess that SEGA recruited to be included in the game. When you meet with them, you go into a dating sim and choose the right answers to increase their affection meters.

You get to learn about her story and personality as your reach to an S rank. Once you hit S, you partake in her specific sub-story and once completed, you are rewarded with a nice Gravure session of your girl, though it subtly suggests something else.

Not kidding, these shots are in the game.
 
Like Dead or Alive Xtreme, enough to set your heart ablaze, but not going over the line. And remember earlier about teaching kids friendship via a card game? Well, it’s a take on bug battles, but instead of bugs, its women in bug costumes. You choose a bug lady and equip it with three cards that will serve as your rock, paper or scissor specials. Then it’s off to play Roshambo. Yeah, it’s as crazy as it sounds and I love it.
Never change Japan.
 
To finish off, Yakuza Kiwami is a remake done right. They brought the extreme in many aspects. From the graphical improvements, the added story scenes and brilliant cast performance, and the many activities in between. From the mini-games, Kamurocho, and the excellent battle system there is just so much to love and more. If there is anything that I have to critique about is perhaps the story or the features that were left out from the original game, but all that is minor when you have a great package such as this. Whether you are a veteran coming back since the Ps2 days or a newcomer being introduced to Kiryu for the first time, you will have a great time with one the one that started it all.
 
 
Review Disclosure StatementYakuza Kiwami was provided to us by SEGA for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
 
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A Dragons Prime

This is what a remake should be. Keeping the main core of the first iteration, while adding and improving to an already amazing experience. Though it may not be up to par with the stories of this current generation, this drama is a classic tale that any gangster, Asian film aficionado can appreciate. Be it the amazing combat system or the myriad of activities to partake, get lost in Kamurocho and enjoy your stay. This game that started series and the Legend of the Dragon of Dojima is simply essential for any PS4 owner.

Pros:

  • Satisfying Combat System and Added Features of the Recent Entries
  • Many Substories and Minigames to Get Lost In
  • Redone Voice Acting is Superb
  • A Japanese Tour of Shinjuku
  • Majima Everywhere system

Cons:

  • Story Can Be Predictable At Times
  • Number of Hostess Has Been Lowered
  • No SEGA License Games in Club Sega (I.E Virtual Fighter)
  • Random Battles occur on The Frequent Side
  • No Mark Hamill as Majima
Overall
4.5

About The Author

William

Philsophical, Gaming, Otaku, at your service! Born in Nintendo’s golden age, his blood runs on Mario and Nintendo. With his philosophical degree, he learns to see the big picture, other points of views and tries to make unbiased thinking and judgments. Part time Substance Abuse Case Manager, Full time gamer, otaku and student of life.