Yakuza: Kiwami (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 21.08.2017

Review for Yakuza: Kiwami on PlayStation 4

While Western fans are anxiously awaiting next year's localisation of Yakuza 6, at least they have had two major releases this year to tide them over. The prequel story of Yakuza 0 delivered a memorable trip through the 80s with series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and fan favourite psychopath Goro Majima. What better way to follow on from that than the next part of the story, the inception of the franchise, in Yakuza: Kiwami - the subtitle being Japanese for "extreme" - a remaster of the story that started it all.

This first instalment of the now long-running PlayStation franchise introduced the audience to a world of honour and humanity. A world of finger cutting and hostess bars, of street brawling and slot car racing. Opening in a Japan of the 90s - 1995, in particular - the series follows Kazuma Kiryu, a man of 27 who is progressing fast through the yakuza ranks. Known as the "Dragon of Dojima" for his devastating fighting ability and the awesome tattoo piece that graces his back, he has become well known, and is even about to be granted his own clan. He's got a girl he likes in a hostess named Yumi, a fellow yakuza best friend named Nishikiyama (or Nishiki), and the respect of his fellow yakuza - even the one-eyed psychopath who seems desperate to throw down with him. These halcyon days are, of course, brought to a crashing halt.

Kiryu hears that his lady is in danger. His boss Dojima has his eye on her, and he's a man that doesn't take no for an answer... Stuck between his loyalty to his boss and his love for Yumi, Kiryu finds he can't abandon her and rushes over to confront and stop Dojima. He arrives too late, and the resulting fallout lands Kiryu a prison sentence of over a decade. The story then jumps to his release a full ten years later, and Kiryu finds that Nishiki took the role of clan head in his absence and that the world he knew has vastly changed.

Screenshot for Yakuza: Kiwami on PlayStation 4

He soon finds himself at the centre of gang wars and targeted by the huge yakuza group to which he once belonged. There's an orphaned little girl, an alcoholic old police detective, a shadowy organisation, 10 billion yen, old friends becoming enemies, and old enemies becoming friends in this tale of honour and humanity. The plot is a hardboiled yakuza tale that feels like it would fit as a movie from Takashi Miike - and he actually directed a live action movie adaptation! Entitled Like a Dragon (the translation of its Japanese title, Ryu ga Gotoku), while it's not quite as good as it should have been, anyone who enjoys the Yakuza games should give it a watch.

As engrossing as Kiryu's story is, Yakuza: Kiwami ensures that it's almost impossible to focus on it by stuffing this world to bursting with side quests to complete and so many side activities that are addictive enough to make the hours disappear. Within Kamurocho there are plenty of thugs walking the streets desperate to start fights at the slightest provocation.

The simple, but fluid battle system that bundles up a few different fighting styles with special "Heat Action" finishing moves that are filled with bone shattering impacts makes these random encounters actually enjoyable. Finding out all the different finishers based on the environments and the items within them is addictive and helps contribute to the game's massive list of side activities. These run the gambit from the frustrating to the addictive. Taking out 200 thugs in each combat style, finding 40 different finishers, and the like - but they're not all dedicated to combat, as this world is filled with other activities a young man in Tokyo would love to take part in.

Screenshot for Yakuza: Kiwami on PlayStation 4

Kamurocho has the same attractions as its real world counterpart, Kabukicho, with SEGA arcade centres, hostess bars, a batting centre, bowling, and plenty of bars. Within these there are minigames to be played for a whole host of activities. The karaoke joints present rhythm games to tap along with (and also give a different perspective of Kiryu as he wails out J-pop hits and Engrish); the arcade has UFO catchers, purikura and a strange Pokémon meets Dead or Alive meets Janken game; and the pubs have darts and billiards. That's not to mention underground gambling with Baccarat, and even an underground fight club.

There is a mammoth amount of side activities to take part in, which can easily triple the lifespan of this 15-20 hour or so game. They're not all winners, but there's enough quality here to keep anyone engaged. These attractions aren't the only thing pulled from Kabukicho, though, as those lucky enough to have visited Shinjuku will immediately recognise the backdrop to this tale. The fictional town of Kamurocho is easily identifiable as Kabukicho, even if the area has changed considerably in the last three years, with major landmarks like Don Quixote, the Taito Building, and the arch above Ichibangai all standing proud.

Screenshot for Yakuza: Kiwami on PlayStation 4

Yakuza: Kiwami is a heavy ground-up rebuild, and the visuals feel on par with the recent Yakuza 0, with both the environments and the characters getting a great updated look. No crazy Mark Hamill voice this time, though; the star-studded cast that filled the original release are completely absent, and instead the original Japanese audio takes centre stage.

The best things about this new version, however, are the new features, with one of the biggest being a huge update for the best one-eyed psychopathic yakuza of all time, Goro Majima. There is a new "Majima Everywhere" system, which sees the nutter turning up regularly to throw down with Kiryu in some genuinely hilarious moments, each rewarding new skills and abilities to Kiryu's signature "Dragon" fighting style.

There are some additions to the story compared to the original, too, which help explain some of the confusing aspects, along with some brand-new side activities. The new content keeps on coming, as four DLC packs are planned to drop through September, with a bunch of new items to play with. Rock through the streets showing off Kiryu's ink with a new topless skin, defeat the Pocket Circuits without throwing the controller through the TV with some new parts, or even try on Majima's iconic snakeskin jacket. Best of all, they're all free!

Screenshot for Yakuza: Kiwami on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

An absurdly good game. The story, the world, the characters, and the distractions all add up to one thing: immersion. This is the type of game to invest tons of time in, and for those new to the franchise, it's all the better because there are so many other Yakuza titles waiting to be played! For returning fans, Yakuza: Kiwami gives the inaugural game new life. It's been long enough removed from the original release to feel special again, and, even better, it is released at a budget price. In fact, it's a shame that only the first title has received this remaster, but with some "big announcements" coming this month, hopefully, the others in the series will see similar rereleases on PlayStation 4. Until then, dig out those PlayStation 2s and 3s and get cracking on the rest of Kiryu's story. There may just be time to catch up before Yakuza 6 - billed the finale of Kiryu's story - arrives next March in the West.

Also known as

Ryu ga Gotoku: Kiwami

Developer

SEGA

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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