This is a review of Yakuza Kiwami on the Playstation 4. It’s a remake of the very first game in the Yakuza series that was released in 2005 for the PS2. In the game you play Yakuza with a conscience Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima. The game takes place in fictional part of Tokyo called Kamurocho which is based on the real Tokyo red-light district of Kabukicho. In this review I’m going to briefly go over what I consider to be the three main parts of the game: story, combat, and mini-games. Those three things pretty much combine to make the sum total that is Yakuza Kiwami.
Yakuza has built its brand on story. You can sort of think of it as Grand Theft Auto: Yakuza in so far that you have a great deal of flexibility in how you progress and the cavalier attitude towards violence, but that’s about as far as the comparison goes. In Yakuza the story is very strong and pulls you through the game. I’ve played plenty of other offerings, (I’m looking at you Skyrim,) where the main story takes a distant second place to the side quests. Yakuza is not that. Yakuza’s story is fantastic and I wish games would get back to this era.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but the basic overview is that your character gets sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit in order to help out someone dear to him. When you get out, Kazuma’s skills have atrophied greatly and he starts out from square one. It’s only through progressing the story, and a great deal of combat, that you can eventually earn your way back up to where you were physically before prison. The development makes sense even though some of the skills you are forced to purchase while progressing through the ability tree are kind of pointless.
Overall, story is great and I highly recommend the game if no other reason that experiencing the kind of story line you really don’t find in games too much anymore.
This is the section of the review where I feel your mileage may vary the most from my own. Combat in the game is your traditional, action brawler style game. It’s not as simplistic as something like Dynasty Warriors, but it’s not terribly more advanced. Your character has 4 styles of combat to choose from and can switch them on the fly. There’s the balanced Brawler style which I most often find myself in, the Beast mode which is a heavy hitting, grappling style, Rush style which is a lot of quick attacks and dodging, then, finally, Dragon style which is considered your “personal” style that is a bit of a mash up of all the styles.
All of the styles except Dragon you can improve through the game’s level up system. Dragon requires you to complete a sort of combat mini-game which I’ll go over in the next section. You get ability points to level up skills from all the scrubs you beat up on the streets. And there are A LOT OF THEM. The various abilities have to be unlocked in order and there are several “tiers” of abilities. As you get to more advanced abilities you need to have the pre-requisite skills as well as an ever increasing number of ability points. Tier 1 skills require 1 ability point. Top tier skills require 85. It can be quite a grind to get some of those. That’s why I only give combat a 3/5. The system is fairly well built, but it can get very heavy on the grind if you want to max out your skills.
There are an absolute ton of mini-games in Yakuza. Anything from racing Pocket Bikes, to a hostess club simulator, to gambling, to playing darts are all in this game. You can easily lose yourself in these games. That’s one of the reasons I’m so impressed with the main story. It keeps you involved even in the face of all the other things there are to do in the game. Some of the mini-games are more compelling than others. The Pocket Bike league is where you collect parts to modify your bike and race the circuit. It’s a great bit of fun. I’m not going to go in depth on all of these as I could write pages on all of them, but needless to say they add a lot to the game.
There is only one mini-game I feel I really need to devote some time to as it’s so ingrained in the fabric of the main game that it needs to be touched on. That is “Majima Everywhere.” Majima is a boss from a rival gang. He is totally psychotic and he follows Kazuma around to satisfy a personal rivalry / obsession. He can, and will, pop up anywhere and everywhere to challenge you to fights. It’s by engaging in these fights that you improve your Dragon style of combat. It can be funny, annoying, and challenging all at the same time.
I absolutely love this game. Story is fantastic and the mechanics are tight. The combat can sometimes get tedious as you get towards the high end of the skill tree and try to finish it off, but it’s a fairly small quibble in my opinion. I can’t recommend the game enough if you like old school action adventure games with a more adult narrative. Not a game to play with the kids, but very good for a mature audience. My only warning is you will lose a lot of time playing this game!
*Review by Mike Hughes