Monday, July 11, 2022

Open World Action RPG Mega Review: Yakuza (Kiwami)

Before the release of Yakuza 0, Yakuza was the beginning of Kazuma Kiryu's story. Yakuza 0 proved to be one of the best games in the whole series. With the release of Yakuza Kiwami, which brought the game up to modern standards yet kept the core story intact, the original Yakuza actually holds up quite well.

The game begins in 1995, seven years after the events in Yakuza 0. Kazuma Kiryu, a twenty-seven-year-old member of the Dojima family within the Tojo Clan, has climbed the ranks within the clan. He is just about to become the patriarch of his own family when he takes the blame for the murder of Patriarch Shimano, although he was not the one that killed him.

Ten years later, Kiryu is paroled and he is released from prison. He now has to deal with members of the Tojo clan that want him dead, as well as the usual violent thugs that wander around Tokyo's Kamurocho district. A decade in prison has made his skills rusty, so he has to gain experience so that he can regain his former strength.

In the Kiwami remake of the game, Goro Majima, the Mad Dog of Shimano, vows to help him restore his strength so that he can battle him properly. This is called "Majima Everywhere", and the name is apt since the battles take place all around the city. This is simultaneously both the funniest and the most frustrating part of the remake since Majima will pop up from just about anywhere at any time. The best way to handle this is to keep leveling up, especially health and beast style moves. Defeating Majima will add moves to Kiryu's dragon style. and other than learning moves from Master Komaki, is the only way to do so. Like Yakuza 0, Kiryu can use the aforementioned beast and dragon style move set. Kiryu can also use moves in his brawler and rush styles. Each of these styles can be accessed by pressing a direction on the directional pad.

Kiryu's story picks up steam when he comes across a young girl, Haruka, that is somehow tied to the one billion yen that has been stolen from the Tojo clan. The Kiryu saga of the Yakuza franchise has always been about family, and that is true here as well. Yakuza 0 had Kiryu protecting his adopted father, Shintaro Kazama, and his sworn brother, Akira Nishiyama. Yakuza picks up that trend, as Kiryu does everything he can to protect Haruka, the little girl that ended up in his custody.

In Yakuza Kiwami, the Japanese voices are left in the western versions, but in the original western release of Yakuza for PlayStation 2, the English voices were dubbed by famous voice actors. It pains me to recommend the Japanese voices, as the English cast was amazing. Among others, it included Mark Hamill giving Joker vibes as Majima and Bill Farmer doing his best Sam the Canine Shamus as Detective Date. The English voices are actually really good. It's just the janky script that let them down. Not only is the dialog in the original English PlayStation 2 version clunky. but names of places and people have been shortened or even changed for little reason. To this day, no one but the translator knows why the Florist of Sai was given the name of Kage in English. He certainly never received a given name in the original Japanese version. Thankfully, Yakuza Kiwami has a much less awkward translation with the original names intact.

In the original Yakuza, the minigames were regulated to the UFO catcher, visiting with cabaret club hostesses, hitting baseballs at the batting center, blackjack, pachinko slot, and roulette. Yakuza Kiwami keeps the UFO catcher, batting center, blackjack, and roulette and removes the pachinko slots as well as four of the six hostesses. However, it adds minigames from Yakuza 0, including billiards, bowling. cee-lo, cho-han, darts, a karaoke button-based rhythm game, koi-koi, mahjong, oicho-kabu, Pocket Circuit slot car racing, poker, roulette, and shogi. The Sega game centers in Yakuza Kiwami also contain Battle Bug Beauties: MesuKing,  based on the Catfight Arena from Yakuza 0.

All of the minigames are fun diversions, but the best part of any Yakuza game outside of the main story is the side missions. There are many sidequests, and Yakuza Kiwami thankfully doesn't remove any sidequests from the original. Kiwami also adds a few new ones to tie the game back to Yakuza 0. Like any Yakuza game, some of them can be quite off-the-wall hilarious. There's nothing like the adult baby gangsters seen in later games, but the wackiness the series is known for definitely started here. As with any Yakuza game, the last side mission is an extremely hard fight with a member of the Amon family.

Yakuza is a great game regardless of which game you are playing, even if it is the PlayStation 2 version or the Japan-only Wii U and PlayStation 3 high-definition versions. However, the best way to play is definitely the Kiwami remake. It does remove 2 out of 6 hostesses and the pachislot games, however, it adds 12 minigames, adds three fighting styles, and brings the presentation up to modern standards. In doing so, it restored the original game's status as one of the best games in the series.

Final verdict:

4 out of 5

Yakuza 0 reviewYakuza (Kiwami) 2 review

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