Reviews August 25, 2017

Yakuza Kiwami

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Reviewed By: Andre Thomas
System: PS4
Genre: Action
Rated: M
Players: 1
Cost: $29.99
Release Date: 08/29/2017
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA

The beauty in writing for UFG for me, has to do with how often I get to review installments of popular video game series. As a person whose parents couldn’t afford to buy multiple consoles or import titles released in Japan, it’s great to be able to “catch up” on older games. Take the Yakuza series for example. Thanks to UFG, I was able to review Yakuza 0 and literally start things from the beginning. And while I didn’t absolutely love that title (certain mechanics didn’t seem to age as well as others), I enjoyed experiencing this franchise for the first time. Yakuza 0 didn’t play like the open world/GTA-like game’s I’m used to. The cultural differences, intriguing offbeat story, crazy characters – I found all of it so fascinating. This is why I was excited when I got the chance to review Yakuza Kiwami!

Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the first Yakuza game. Players will again don the shoes of our favorite Dojima family member, Kiryu. Set in the early 90’s, this is where we get to witness Kiryu start building is own family name. That is until his childhood friend Yumi turns up missing; fresh out of jail and still can’t get a break. There’s also the ten billion yen that was stolen from the Tojo clan. I won’t go too deep into the story as it’s the main reason I enjoyed this title. Just know that things go from crazy to insane, resulting in Kiryu hitting the streets (and an assortment of Yakuza along the way) to set things right.

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Like every remake, Yakuza Kiwami looks great on the PS4. We’re talking 1080p at 60fps. It’s surprising how the detailed facial expressions make every moment of dialogue significantly more enjoyable; with the story being serious but riddled with comical elements, I can’t imagine playing this game before being able to see these things as clearly as I do now. What’s interesting is that the game also boosts 30 mins of extra cutscenes that provide new insight into the plot – that is, it would be interesting for those of you who remember playing the first Yakuza game. The environments aren’t as detailed when you’re running about Kamurocho (Tokyo’s Kabukicho in real life). Not a big deal considering. It would have been nice if Kiwami had the same visual fidelity seen in its cutscenes when you’re controlling Kiryu.

The other extras include re-recorded voice audio by the series’ cast along with other bells and whistles. Speaking of the cast, they do more than just sell the plot. Within the first hour of the game, you’ll meet some of the corkiest characters in gaming history and are immediately sucked in. The acting is top notch and felt as if I was in an anime drama; they are somehow able to play it serious even when things have clearly gone off the rails. Heck, there is a character who literally can pop up from anywhere at any moment and start a fight with you. Not because he doesn’t like you, but because he is trying to find ways to force Kiryu to forgo his “I only fight when it’s worth it” attitude.

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The story is entertaining, the cast is full of colorful characters, and visually the game looks good. While all of that is fine and good, I still can’t get into the combat. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but there isn’t anything more annoying than playing a game built around Japanese gang combat that’s been reduced to the swinging of arms and button mashing. I understand that this is the style SEGA has gone with for each Yakuza game, but the fighting is way too outdated for me to really enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like I am using martial arts. I don’t want to sound stereotypical – as if every Asian character in gaming can do Kung-Fu – but when I look at the history of the Yakuza, it shows that most of them were outstanding fighters who used martial arts instead of guns to make their points around the city. So, when I start the game and it feels like I am just swinging my fists and weapons randomly, it just feels like a huge missed opportunity.

It’s also boring. The fighting isn’t over-the-top enough to be like what’s seen in popular anime and it isn’t realistic enough for the current setting. It’s just me mashing buttons and sometimes, getting cool moves. Yes, I know that there are combos/moves to learn. Everything still boils down to button mashing. Here’s hoping that if future iterations exist, namely the upcoming Yakuza 6, that maybe we can get combat more similar to what we’ve seen in Sleeping Dogs. I mean, that game didn’t have the most realistic fighting ever but it was better than this.

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Regardless of the combat being annoying, Yakuza Kiwami is very entertaining. The story is where it’s at of course. There are also cool distractions/mini-games like bug battling, karaoke, and pocket circuit car racing. If you can get pass the fighting, there is a world of enjoyment available at a budget price. Fan of Yakuza or not, that’s a deal I wouldn’t want to pass on!

Gameplay: 7
I latterly enjoyed everything except the fighting. Unfortunately, that’s the one thing you do the most in Yakuza Kiwami.

Graphics: 9
The game looks great.

Sound: 8
The re-recorded audio and music is awesome!

Replay Value: 6
Once you finish the story, unless you have friends to play mini-games with, there isn’t much replay left. That said, I’m eager to play another Yakuza title.

Final Score:

7.5

Editor’s Note: Feel free to check out how our Editor-in-Chief and I felt about Yakuza 5 and Yakuza 0 respectively. Here is a hint: he enjoyed the combat way more than I did!