Continuing the path of steady releases, Sega has once again exceeded all expectations by remaking one of the most beloved sequels in gaming history. Kazuma Kiryu, our beloved protagonist, has finally put his violent ways behind him, or so he thought, as he finds himself once again at the center of conflict with dire ramifications. The Tojo Clan’s Fifth Chairman is murdered by the Omi Alliance, a rival yakuza organization based in Osaka, Kiryu must defend his home and prevent a war from engulfing his beloved Kamurocho.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 has been completely recreated using the powerful Dragon Engine, the same engine that was used in the fantastic Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. Along with the visual overhaul, the developers have re-recorded all dialogue in cutscenes and pivotal moments in the narrative. The combat system has been overhauled from the original release, using the same seamless transitions that were found in Yakuza 6. However, some saw the new combat mechanics be slightly lacking, missing the oomph that made the series so famous, especially with the lack of combat stances. While the sheer number of thugs and gang members on-screen at once were impressive, I missed the variety of heat centric moves from the previous entries into the series. Sega has brought back some of the original mechanics, helping to provide a more well-rounded, and smoother experience.
For starters, Kiryu can once again charge up his attacks, unleashing more powerful and flashier punches/kicks than ever before. Not only that, but equipable weapons has finally made their weapon, something that I severely missed from The Song of Life. Even if you don’t use them often, there is no denying that they come in handy when things get ugly and believe me; they will. There is also a new slew of new heat-based maneuvers, especially flashy finishers that genuinely highlight the intensity and power behind all of Kiryu’s attacks. All of the things come in handy as you do battle against a new rival, Ryuji Goda, also known as the “Dragon of Kansai.” If you played the prequel title, Yakuza 0, his name would instantly be familiar as a towering teenager. In Kiwami 2, we experience some of the best antagonist character development the series has seen, offering an almost sympathetic view into his life. It is indeed a much different approach when compared to the villains that Kiryu has faced previously.
Historically, there has always been so much content and things to do in the Yakuza series outside of the main narrative. Kiwami 2 is no different, especially since playing through with Kiryu unlocks chapters in a new story centered around everyone’s favorite; “The Mad Dog of Shimano” Goro Majima. While it's not a lengthy adventure, only lasting a handful of hours, I enjoyed being able to take on the role of my favorite recurring character in the series (I was disappointed when he only had a very brief cameo in Yakuza 6.). It’s a neat side-story to the game and is indeed treated as such, as you can’t unlock new heat maneuvers, skills, or earn any XP or progression. Using his trusty blade, his fighting prowess is undoubtedly mesmerizing; however, his move set is entirely too limiting, and doing the same maneuvers throughout can feel stale.
The strategy focused Clan Creator mini-game from Yakuza 6 makes its return; however, it is now a very defensive oriented affair, similar to a tower defense title. You are given the freedom to select and place your units in the most strategical sound positions, which is way better than what it was in The Song of Life. Unlike last time, where you battled against a group led by current wrestlers in NJPW, this time you are pitted against Japanese wrestling legends, such as The Great Muta, Tatsumi Fujinami, and Genichiro Tenryu. The fan-favorite Cabaret Club management mini-game from Yakuza 0 has returned, letting Kiryu be in charge of his own club and make decisions to generate a higher revenue stream. The rest of the side quests, or substories, have been mostly unchanged, but there are a few that have been removed/changed from the original release. You’ll want to finish the substories in Yakuza Kiwami 2, as some of the more brutal animations are tied to your friends assist you in combat. I won’t spoil any of the interactions, as they are quite thrilling and entertaining to see in action.
Once again Sega has reinvented the Yakuza series, by overhauling every aspect of a beloved title, and simply making it that much better. The Dragon Engine is truly impressive, not only visually, but boasts some nifty animations that surpass Yakuza 6. Adding weapon loadouts, and some sweet new heat maneuvers certainly provide much more flexibility and creativity to the combat. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is without a doubt the definitive Yakuza experience.Note: Yakuza Kiwami 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.