Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Open World Action RPG Mega Review: Yakuza (Kiwami) 2

The second Yakuza game was bigger than the first, with the addition of a new district, Shinseicho, based on the real-life Shinsekai, as well as including the usual Yakuza series hangout spot, Kamurocho, based on the real-life Kabukicho. In the Yakuza Kawami remake, the second district was replaced by Sotenbori from Yakuza 0, which is based on the real-life Dotenbori. In the case of both Yakuza 2 and the Yakuza Kiwami 2 remake, in many ways, bigger does indeed mean better.

In this game, Kiryu Kazuma is approached by the fifth chairman of the Tojo Clan, Yukio Terada, who wishes to broker an alliance between the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance. After Terada is murdered, Kiryu decides to take on this goal himself, as he was the one who appointed Terada as the fifth chairman. Thus, he places his adopted daughter, Haruka, in the care of the orphanage where they both grew up, and sets out on the dangerous task to broker peace between the two biggest yakuza organizations in Japan.

The story of Yakuza 2, which takes place a year after the events of Yakuza, is often praised as being among the best in the series and within the top two with Yakuza 0. That praise is well deserved, as it is an exciting murder mystery with a lot of twists and turns thrown in. On top of that, the female detective, Kaoru Sayama, whom Kiryu first meets in this game is written superbly. The writers are good at writing for interesting female characters, but they usually are relegated to the women at the cabaret clubs. It is fun to interact with these women, who range from ultra-feminine to tomboyish. However, they rarely have a tough, yet feminine woman who can hold their own in a fight. That's a shame because Yakuza 2 showed that they could do it well. It took over a half a decade, with the release of Yakuza 5, for another tough, feminine woman to appear in a Yakuza game, and over another half a decade for a playable strong, feminine female character to become playable with the release of Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Another awesome character is the Kansai dragon, Ryuji Goda, who is one of the main villains of the game, as he wants to defeat Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, to stake the claim as the only dragon in the yakuza. He is written and performed so well that he became popular with the fans enough to become a playable character in Yakuza: Dead Souls.

As for gameplay, this game is the one that shows its Shenmue lineage the most. Yakuza showed it with quick-time events, fetch quests, and a puzzle near the beginning of the game where Kiryu had to infiltrate the funeral of the third chairman of the Tojo clan. Yakuza 2 has these as well, but it has an actual adventure puzzle near the middle of the game where Kiryu has to interpret clues to open a safe. The puzzle is done very well, and, as a fan of adventure games, I'm happy that it was kept intact in the Yakuza Kiwami 2 remake.

Speaking of the remake, compared to Yakuza Kiwami, the controls are still a bit stiff and there is only one fighting style for Kiryu. In addition, some locations with mini-games are no longer accessible in Yakuza Kiwami 2, such as bowling, pool, and the Club Adam host organization. In addition, with the replacement of Shinseicho for Sotenbori, the Shinseicho minigames have been moved to Kamurocho and Sotenbori or removed entirely. Making up for it, however, some mini-games have been added to the Kiwami remake, including the Majima Construction clan creator and cabaret club management. 

Yakuza 2 is an excellent game with multiple locations to visit, well-written and excellently voiced new and returning characters, and a superb plot. Any version is worth playing, from the PlayStation 2 original, the Japanese-only high-definition versions on PlayStation 3 and Wii U, or the Kiwami remake, although I wholeheartedly recommend playing the Yakuza Kiwami 2 remake. Yakuza 2 absolutely deserves its praise as one of the best games in the series, and the remake cements it there, even when compared to later games in the series.

Final verdict:

5 out of 5

Streets of Kamurocho ReviewYakuza Kiwami 2: Majima Saga review

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