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Yakuza Kiwami – Review

Yakuza Kiwami – Review

Originally released in 2005, Yakuza Kiwami is the HD remake of the first game in the Yakuza series, and sets the stage for everything that is to come after. However, it’s much more than just a remake, since Yakuza Kiwami uses new assets, gameplay mechanics, and even makes changes to the story to smoothen out some of the design flaws and inconsistencies in the original title, and makes this a much more enjoyable experience in 2017.

One of the first changes you notice is that the game does take into consideration Yakuza Zero, which is the prequel to the series and was released earlier this year. After his time in Yakuza Zero and then in prison, Kiryu Kazuma returns having to relearn many of his skills and also what’s happened to those around him. Things have changed since the 90’s, and the game reflects them perfectly. The music, the setting, the culture and the people are all embroiled in the times, and Yakuza Kiwami paints a beautiful picture. The visual upgrade is easily the most notable, with the city being dazzlingly lit during night, and the buzz of people and activities all around you. Yakuza beautifully showcases Tokyo’s bustling nightlife, and is easily one of its strongest appeals.

Similar tweaks have been added to the gameplay as well, taking inspirations from the combat in Yakuza Zero, and adding a little bit more here and there. The fighting styles from Zero are carried over – Brawler, Rush and Beast –  and a new style, Dragon of Dojima, has been added. Kiwami also retains the branching skill tree from Zero, and is better for it. Combat experience from Zero also comes in handy, though it’s not absolutely necessary if you are new to the series. It’s easy to switch between styles, however, I preferred mastering them one at a time, and unlocking new abilities that suited my style of play. Unlocking upgrades in Dragon of Dojima requires you to fight Majima regularly, as he sneaks up on you from time to time, via the Majima Everywhere feature in the game. This seems a bit goofy at first, but the combat encounters were always fun.

The story is another highlight here, with a lengthy campaign that has way more highs than lows. The only aspect it falls short is when it tries to get away with inconsistencies in comparison to Zero, but for the most part cutscenes and cinematics are presented and delivered really well. There are also additional story bits that are new to Kiwami, and some of them are absolutely standout. Even if you played Yakuza when it first released on the Playstation 2, I would highly recommend playing it again on the PS4 just to see these moments.

Even with the over-the-top action and many ridiculously hilarious encounters, at the core of it all are characters that are emotionally driven and a story that is able to hold it all together. It’s hard to imagine that I never really got into the series back when it was first released, but I am so happy that I now have two Yakuza games to play in just one year, with another release scheduled in 6 months.

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