Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review

The flying dragon kicks just keep coming for Yakuza fans this side of the Pacific, with Yakuza Kiwami 2 exploding onto PS4 hot on the heels of Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 6, all released within the last year. In addition to the usual huge gangster opera we’ve come to expect from the Yakuza series, SEGA once again delivers heaping helpings of visceral, satisfying street combat, tons of urban mini-game diversions and some truly crazy side quests to satisfy veterans and new recruits alike. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is another brutal fun time, even if it doesn’t offer many new surprises.

After an epic ending to previous episode Yakuza Kiwami, stoic enforcer Kazuma Kiryu looks to settle down to quietly raise adopted daughter Haruka – but (surprise!) his best laid plans are literally blown to smithereens when the headquarters of the Tojo Clan is bombed and Fifth Chairman Terada is killed by rival Omi Alliance foot-soldiers. Even worse, Kiryu himself is revealed as the real target, as the legendary Osaka strongman Ryuji Goda, “The Dragon of Kansai” looks to wipe out not just the Tojo Clan but Kiryu himself.

Brutal Violence Never Looked So Good

It’s Dragon versus Dragon in a fun and genuinely engrossing tale – even if, as usual, the crowded cast and dry verbal exposition made me give up on trying to keep track of everything after a while. The main quest really shines when it’s just Goda and Kiryu face to face and the testosterone-fueled tension ramps up, released only when the two finally face off. We also see a return of fan favorite Goro Majma, who gets his own all-new sub-story explaining his reasons for leaving the Tojo Clan. Much of the story, like Majima’s part, has been beefed up with new cutscenes, helping to make the original plot a little less confusing – as long as you’re paying close attention.

Let’s face it, Yakuza has always been about violent melee street combat, and Yakuza Kiwami 2 brings the usual fire with plenty of chances to beat those annoying street punks to a pulp. Just as it did in Yakuza 6, the Dragon Engine not only allows for better detail and more fluid movement, but also destructible environments that encourage you to pick up signs as weapons or simply toss your enemies into a plate glass window (a truly satisfying option that never gets boring). Again, you can also take some brawls into a local restaurant, and trash some poor sushi chef’s establishment in the process.

Yakuza Kiwami 2

With the exception of some new additional options for over-the-top (and sometimes hilarious) finishing moves, street combat is solid but can become repetitive and doesn’t push the series in a new direction. You still earn EXP to spend on upgrading your Stats and Skills, and every encounter helps to improve Kiryu’s abilities. In the early part of the game, you’ll be thankful for every bit of EXP and cash brought by random encounters, but later on you’ll wish, as I did, that you had the option to just turn off those tedious impromptu beat-downs that seem to trigger on every street corner. I’m not complaining about having to engage in combat – hell, it’s a fighting game after all – but after literally years fighting off the same street-punks I just wish Yakuza Kiwami 2 changed up the characters and situations a bit more.

Urban Diversions

In Yakuza Kiwami, the new game engine meant for some reduction in the depth of the game world from what fans were used to; whereas Yakuza 0 boasted 100 side-quests, for example, Yakuza Kiwami had only 78. That trade-off seems to be the case in this title as well, as only 76 side-quests are available this time around. As always, though, it’s quality over quantity, with Yakuza Kiwami 2 populating the streets of Kamurocho and Satenbori with all the of the quirky substories that give a real slice of modern Japanese life and culture, from red-light district seediness to heartwarming instances of Kiryu helping ordinary folks fix their crazy problems. Granted, a lot of these boil down to Kiryu simply tracking someone down and beating their ass, but the well-localized dialogue and story writing makes these smaller vignettes a highlight of the game.

What Yakuza Kiwami 2 might lack in other areas, it makes up for in the return of the Cabaret Czar (yay!) and Clan Creator mini-games, which are not-so-mini and kept me diverted for hours in themselves. It was particularly awesome to return to the Club Czar as Kiryu, competing to be the IchibanCabaret Club in Sotenbori, bringing back lots of great memories I had from Yakuza 0. Again, it’s more of the same but it’s hard to complain about the inclusion of such a fun and well-designed layer to the game; Club Czar in particular just never seems to get old and I think SEGA should seriously consider releasing it as a spin-off at some point.

Yakuza Kiwami 2

SEGA consistently packs so much content into Yakuza games that you sometimes forget just how much there is, especially if you play the series regularly. Yakuza Kiwami 2 offers two huge urban environments – Kamurocho in Tokyo and Sotenbori in Osaka – that despite being a bit more closed off than Yakuza 0, are both chock full of interactive locations like restaurants, backroom gambling rooms, Hostess Clubs, a golf range, and even a full SEGA video arcade featuring real playable games like Virtua Fighter 2, and a weirdly-charming game called ToyLets (you’ll see what I mean). Yakuza Kiwami 2 is once again like getting many games for the price of one, and that’s pretty impressive.

More of What We Love

After playing and reviewing a string of recent Yakuza games, I feel like I am repeating myself since so much is carried over from one title to the next. For those of us who have been-there-done-that many times already, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is more of what you expect and you won’t find any shocking new changes or major gameplay wrinkles added this time around that you didn’t see in Yakuza Kiwami or Yakuza 6. The battle of the Two Dragons is one of the better stories of the series, though, and you won’t be disappointed with all the upgrades that make this essentially a new game from the original Yakuza 2 in 2006 – including tons of new content and cut-scenes. If you’ve never played a Yakuza game, however, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a great place to start, as the game offers an option to catch up on the story so far. If you have a Yen for more classic Yakuza fighting action, Kiryu’s latest saga has all the right moves.

** A PS4 code was provided by the publisher **