Played on Windows
Also Available on PlayStation 4. Original version (Yakuza 2) on PlayStation 2.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the third game chronologically in the Yakuza Series. It is also is the third Yakuza game released on PC in under 12 months. With the rate that Sega is releasing these titles players are getting a wealth of Yakuza content, but can Yakuza Kiwami 2 stand up to the two games that already came before it?
I’ll start by saying that the second game, Yakuza Kiwami, made me question the entire series. However Yakuza Kiwami 2 has made me a believer again, and I’ve been just amazed at how this series changed over the three released games, so I may reference both my Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami reviews or pieces of the games in this review, as this game has many references to both of those games.
Where Yakuza 0 stood out for graphics, it seemed that Yakuza Kiwami took a step back. While the graphical quality was on par in most ways, there was a number of stiff animations and a few scenes felt that the game left some PlayStation 2 animations in the game.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 seems to swipe that away. There are a number of times that Yakuza Kiwami 2 made me take notice of the graphic. Every scene whether it be in-engine or a video is well designed and the game feels like a quality product. Beyond that though, the graphics of the game are crisp and clear, and so many locations are beautifully detailed.
There are a couple of scenes in Yakuza Kiwami 2 that stand out though. An early scene really showed the detail in a character model in the opening, to the point where most players will be forced to take note. I was surprised at how I could see even minor details in the character, but oddly enough this was one of the only scenes that really hit that level of visual quality. Most pre-rendered scenes in Yakuza Kiwami 2 look good, but this took it to another level, one the game almost never returned to.
This scene and shot just looks stunning.
At the same time, so much of the game is well designed and looks amazing. This series constantly returns to Kamurocho, the district, and it looks amazing yet again and the game really shows it off. Fans have seen this area two times already, but Yakuza Kiwami 2 still manages to make the city shine, even as it becomes more familiar.
One big change to the city is the reduction of loading screens. When walking into the Serena bar, Kiryu, the main character just opens the door. Similarly, most shops allow Kiryu to just open the door or walk through an automatic sliding door as if they are a single world. Rather than scripted or forced animation, Kiryu does this in a natural motion from whichever direction he arrived, and the game seamlessly moves from the exterior to the interior or vice versa without a break.
Not every interior is done in this way, but the majority of locations you’ll enter has no noticeable transition and it’s a huge improvement for the series. Even walking into the lot above Purgatory can be done in a fluid shot and it’s an impressive feat.
You can drag a fight with enemies into buildings.
Part of what allows this is what feels like an all new animation system. At the same time, Yakuza Kiwami 2 also added in a ragdoll physics system to the combat in the game. Yakuza Kiwami 2 does feel quite a bit better for both of these changes as it allows a more natural style to the animation and gameplay rather than the game playing what feels like canned animations for everything.
Though I will say the animation system and ragdolls both could use a little more work. They work fine for how Yakuza Kiwami 2 plays, but both systems can tend towards over reaction than the natural motion they are striving toward. Kiryu often seems to bounce off walls or take a huge leap when he runs into small objects. They’re moments of excessive movement for minor inconveniences.
Similarly, ragdoll movement seems to fling opponents around the arena. If the player kicks a downed enemy, their body will sometimes go flying in many cases. Objects in the world usually shatter in seconds while Kiryu or other combatants run into them. It’s a bit extreme, but in a game filled with other excesses it’s less noticeable, and while it may not work exactly as expected, it doesn’t detract as much in the grand scope of Yakuza Kiwami 2.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 starts one year after Yakuza Kiwami. It starts by setting up the world and finding its place in the franchise, with a series of scenes of characters we’ve known in Yakuza Kiwami. Most of the characters refer to the incident a year ago, the same incident that was covered in the previous game. After seeing a couple of these, we are introduced to Kiryu, our main character, as he has a nightmare, and wakes up with Haruka, who has aged quite a bit in the game. In the previous game, she seemed young, but here she seems to become a young teenager over a single year.
It appears since it’s the one year anniversary of the end of Yakuza Kiwami, they are going to a graveyard to give their condolences. Once you are there, the game offers a “do you want to remember the incidents of one year ago”. That scene does a great job at recapping the original game, but it also spoils a few major moments, and the game itself will show three major moments which are also spoilers.
There’s tons of characters, both returning and new, like Daigo Dojima.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 does a great job at telling its story, but at its heart, I feel like much of the best parts of Yakuza Kiwami 2 is part of the continuity of the franchise. Which means Yakuza Kiwami 2 is best if played after the first two games (Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami). The good news is that all three games should be available at a budget price and provide a great deal of entertainment. But it can still be played as a standalone game as it does have a full recap for the previous game.
Much of the story of Yakuza Kiwami 2 focuses on the Yakuza group, the Tojo Clan, that Kiryu was a leader of, if just for a day. It also focuses on the current state of the Tojo Clan after the events of Yakuza Kiwami. The Tojo Clan has fallen on hard times, and Kiryu ends up trying to work with the Omi Alliance, another Yakuza group to merge the two groups and find peace between them.
Things don’t go that easily for this alliance, first Kamurocho is attacked with a bombing of the Millenium Tower (again), in addition there’s a faction of the Omi Alliance opposed to the alliance between the two groups and a large conspiracy is set into motion involving multiple groups and people, including the police.
Much of Yakuza Kiwami 2’s drama is based on Yakuza lore, and how these groups operate in Japan, but at the same time, Yakuza Kiwami 2 feels accessible, it’s easy to follow the story if the player pays attention, and it plays out very well.
Where Yakuza Kiwami seems to be focused on Kiryu’s life without the Yakuza even while he’s constantly surrounded by them, Yakuza Kiwami 2 puts Kiryu back in the middle of the major events, and this time, Kiryu constantly feels pulled by a number of important storylines, each one pulling him back into his Yakuza lifestyle.
Kiryu spends about half of the Yakuza Kiwami 2 in the district of Sotenbori, which was the second district that was seen in Yakuza 0, where Majima stayed for most of the game. The ability to move between Sotenbori and Kamurocho as desired makes the world feel bigger and better, even though these are two areas we’ve already seen closely. The reuse of the districts works because the player is able to see the minor changes of the world, and there is still a great amount of exploration allowed with both districts.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 keeps many of the characters from Yakuza Kiwami around, though introduces new ones. My personal favorite was Sayaka, a police officer charged with keeping an eye on Kiryu and keeping him out of trouble. She becomes a new favorite for me, but that’s in addition to many of these characters that have been in this franchise since the beginning and I’ve grown fond of.
Allow me to introduce Ryuji Goda, I think it’s obvious he’s our new antagonist.
The other major addition to Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the antagonist, Ryuji Goda. He’s introduced within the first hour of gameplay but stands as a major obstacle. Rather than just a repetitive fight such as Kuze, Ryuji Goda becomes a major obstacle, and is one of the pieces of Yakuza Kiwami 2 that kept me interested from beginning to end, even when I was doing a minor piece of the story, the knowledge that there were still these enemies waiting for me kept me pushing towards the conclusion. Kiryu and Ryuji get set on a collision course, and the expectation of how important that fight would be for both of these characters made the story have that much more meaning, even if they fight a couple of minor battles, the final fight continues to loom over everything Kiryu does.
As with each of the Yakuza games, the story is very large, with 16 chapters in Yakuza Kiwami 2. Each chapter takes quite a while, and major events will happen all the time. The story kept me very intrigued even when it would take what felt like a diversionary side path. There are a couple of odd moments with the story where our main character, Kiryu, just seems to help random people. While this is common for the sidequests, the pieces of the main story that diverge from the main storylines seem to add more life and lore to the game and they work well, as well as being minor diversions.
Of course, the main story isn’t everything in Yakuza Kiwami. Kiryu still has the problem where he’s unable to hear something going on in the streets without getting involved and helping people out. This means sidestories return and they have returned to the Yakuza 0 style of completely, bizarreness and strange stories that are unbelievable and exciting. There’s a side story where Kiryu is talked into posing for photos, which then turns into him posing topless, for a muscular also topless photographer, and it just becomes stranger from there.
In this sidestory, this is our photographer Poison, and dear god this gets stranger.
There’s a scene where you have to run around and try to save a random person’s child, however, once you’re finished, you find out that it was, in fact, a cat. There’s a great story with a fake Kiryu that you have to chase down. There’s a “baby” scene, that needs to be seen to be believed. My personal favorite was the video game company that needed Kiryu to do some voice acting which just is one of the funniest scenes in the game.
So many of the side stories in Yakuza Kiwami 2 are worth playing just because the writing is well done, and the premise is ludicrous, but I enjoyed every single side story that I did, and want to go back and see the few I missed.
There’s even more content beyond all this, there are points where Kiryu can just walk around town with Haruka, as she asks for different things and the cabaret club returns, which I’ll mention in the gameplay, but each major character in the club has their own side story, where Kiryu can go out to eat with them and learn more about them.
Then there’s Majima. Yes, Majima is, of course, back yet again, and this time he’s running his own construction company because that’s Majima. Majima has a decent amount of story in the Yakuza Kiwami 2 main story dedicated to him. He is a minor character in the grand scheme of things and he’s still as crazy and enjoyable as ever. Similar to the cabaret club he has his own mini game which I’ll touch on in the gameplay, but his story is important.
Of course Majima’s back, and better than ever.
However, in addition, Majima gets a special story that unlocks over the course of the game. There is a 3 chapter arc that the player can play and see a prequel to Yakuza Kiwami 2, learning how Majima got to where he is in Yakuza Kiwami 2 and what happened to him in between Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2.
At first, I loved the fact I got to play as Majima a second time, though, without upgrades or sidequests, the gameplay is somewhat average at best. Majima’s story is straight forward and can be completed in about three hours. While many developers would leave this to simple in-game cutscenes without voice overs. Yakuza Kiwami 2 gives Majima fully animated cutscenes which are on par with the main story as well as three new characters that were created for this story specifically.
Majima’s storyline has one of the best scenes in the franchise so far, and it still affects me at a deep level as I write about it. In fact, where Majima’s story could have just been fanservice piece, but instead, Majima gets his own full experience with a fleshed out story that I’m amazed at. It is a bit short in run time, but it also still has a few important moments that I was thrilled to experience.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 returns to the same formula that the Yakuza series has used successfully in two games, though with changes that have vastly improved the formula.
Kiryu again runs into combat at every turn. Yakuza Kiwami 2 has allowed a similar seamless transition to combat and return to the exploration system, similar to how it’s handled interiors. While a simple screen transition shows you who you’re fighting, the game moves to combat in one motion.
It’s strange but in addition, the game has an unspoken story about Kiryu’s fighting style. Kiryu’s fighting style has now evolved away from the three or four fighting styles in previous games into the pure “Dragon of Dojima Style” that he developed in Yakuza Kiwami over the course of the game and he’s extremely effective with it. Kiryu seems to have full use of it from the beginning of the game. There is a skill purchase system, most of the purchases seem to be focused on minor enhancements, such as improving damage, defense, health or his heat bar. In addition, Kiryu can learn multiple heat abilities, but overall Kiryu’s fighting style has solidified into a fearsome setup.
The leaping kick looks amazing if you can pull it off and hit someone.
Combat in Yakuza Kiwami 2 is relatively simple but fun. Most enemies barely block so Kiryu can repeat a series of combos ad nauseum until the enemy takes enough damage. Kiryu also can charge up the light or heavy attack to break through enemies who block but overall it’s usually not as necessary. Most combat in the game is more just a quick diversion from whatever the player was doing, rather than a skill test.
There are a few sections of the game with long chains of combat or adventure style areas, which work well, but mostly feel like the same combat multiple times in a row. However, these usually are attached to the story for them, so they make sense from the narrative standpoint.
Finally, there are the boss battles. Where Yakuza Kiwami’s boss fights were some of the worst parts of the game, especially with the multiple “finishers” necessary, Yakuza Kiwami 2’s boss fights are a blessing. Most bosses will gain a “Strengthened” form where they no longer can be easily stunned or flinch from attacks, but Kiryu’s charged attacks seem to break this and it’s a more interesting fight for it.
The essence of Finishing Blow is back, but this time it’s automatic and well designed.
I didn’t have any problems with any of the combat, though I did indulge in a few health and heat drinks when necessary, those become plentiful enough that it was not a big problem. There are not really many hard fights in Yakuza Kiwami 2, and that’s fine, it’s the story that kept me going, and the combat just assists with that. Kiryu is known to be a particularly adept fighter and shows that off in the fights he tackles. The major fights themselves are amazing, from the presentation, the characters, and the gameplay, the entire experience works well together.
This is really the same combat we’ve seen for three games and even a reduced set of the styles, but the entire system works as well as it has in the previous two games, and that’s a good sign that they’ve hit on something that works well for the series.
There is also a new ability to store weapons instead of using them in a battle, which is welcomed as it allows Kiryu to find weapons but doesn’t force him to go buy weapons in the game to use later. It’s a small change, but one that makes a lot of sense in the world, and allows Kiryu to save better weapons for harder fights.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 also mixes up how the skill system works yet again, and there’s an all new level system. This time around the skills are based on five categories of skill points. Skill points can be earned by almost any activity. Progressing in the story delivers a decent amount of points, but fighting random enemies, eating when the character is “hungry”, or just completing side stories throws even more of these skill points at the player.
My personal favorite ability, but almost everything is worth purchasing in the skill list.
Skill points allow the player to buy new skills, and there’s no longer an unlock progression. If Kiryu can unlock a skill (some need side quest progression to unlock), he can buy it when he has enough skill points. Similarly, Kiryu’s stats can be advanced in the same way using the same points.
There are a ton of skills to pick up, but it can be anything from a side quest locator, to allowing Kiryu to dodge twice in a row, to all new heat actions. As mentioned above, Kiryu doesn’t learn all new moves often, but the new heat actions are fun to see, though some of them are of marginal use.
There’s a new system where Kiryu can gain allies from sidequests, like a guitarist who has a cold. Once Kiryu has this ally, he can unlock a skill where the guitarist will assist him, but even after buying all these skills, I never had them activate in the game, likely because I wasn’t close enough to one of my allies. It’s a shame because I’ve seen people use them and the cutscenes are hilarious, but from my experience, they are marginally useful in the game itself.
But this is exactly how RPG systems should be used in video games. There are a series of currencies to chase, but they are given at a fair rate, and there are no microtransactions to be seen. It’s just a progression system in the game, designed to allow players to create their own Kiryu, rather than have something they feel they need to chase. It also allows you to feel that Kiryu is becoming more powerful over the course of the game.
Of course, when Kiryu isn’t fighting or chasing skill points, the entire game becomes about exploration. Walking around either of the game’s two districts, Sotenbori, or Kamurocho, gives Kiryu hundreds of little things to interact with, whether it be minigames, video games (Virtual Fighter and Virtual on appearing in the Sega arcades), or just side quests, Kiryu will constantly have distractions thrust upon him. However almost everything will be optional, and even require Kiryu to manually get involved with events. A few side quests appear unavoidable, but mostly because they open up parts of the game.
This also happens. There’s a urinal based minigame, because of course there is.
There’s a point where the player is walking around town and runs into an event which forces him to run a cabaret club for a night, this works as a piece of the story but also starts the optional mini game where Kiryu runs the cabaret club, similar to the cabaret club that Majima Goro ran in Yakuza 0, with a special returning character, but a different main character.
Similarly, Majima Goro has Kiryu play “Clan Creator” which is an odd name but is essentially a version of an RTS, where characters have to be stationed to protect construction equipment from waves of attacking thugs and bosses.
These two minigames are major parts of Yakuza 2’s mini games, they both are a lot of fun. The cabaret club is still a high point of the series. This time Kiryu’s in charge, but it plays very similarly to the Yakuza 0’s version. There is a great amount of content in the club, whether it be the normal battles, the over the top “Championship matches”, the management of the club, or the dating sim style conversations with the hostess when you go out to eat with them.
Cabaret club is still highly stylized and well executed.
The entire Cabaret Club is just a wonderful experience which I found that I was spending a lot of time with. It’s perfect for when you want to do something different. There is even an announcer who narrates each night, mostly pointing out major milestones or if someone needs help.
Even the cabaret club has its own deep diversions, Kiryu can eat out with the hostesses, but in one instance Kiryu ends up eating with a hostess who has trouble with a panty thief and has to help her out, and it just finds its own way to be both strange and wonderful. The fact that the diversion, cabaret club, has a diversion, eating out, which has its own storyline is incredible, but it’s a fact that shows a strange depth to the game, which perfectly exemplifies why I’ve become a fan of Yakuza.
On the other hand, the Clan Creator didn’t grab me in the same way. I found the experience to be a little too easy, and I think it is because of two reasons. The first is the gameplay is a little straight forward for anyone who has played an RTS with a lot of action, moving characters around is a little slow, at times, and most of the characters feel similar.
The bigger problem I had with the Clan Creator is that I had the DLC. I preordered Yakuza Kiwami 2 and got the Clan Creator DLC for free, this gives some of the best characters in the game, which is nice, but they are all over powered. In addition, there are a ton of other items as part of the DLC. While it did give a couple of good characters for the Cabaret Club, they were not as unbalanced. On the other hand, the Clan Creator characters will always be the strongest. You also get 300 of the “Currency” of Clan Creator, which allows you to power up your characters earlier, and ultimately it made the mode a little easy.
I would have loved to try Clan Creator without the DLC but there was no way to remove the DLC and since Clan Creator is at least 10 hours into the game, reaching it again without the DLC would take a huge commitment, but it doesn’t affect my score. It’s still an interesting mode, and the villains of both Clan Creator and Cabaret Club kept me coming back to see what would happen next with their stories.
Baseball even has an all new style that works well.
While the Cabaret Club and Clan Creator are the major mini-games, Yakuza Kiwami 2 still is jam-packed with more. The baseball minigame has been vastly revamped to be a little more like baseball games with two modes more focused on hitting rather than timing. The golfing mini-game is extremely enjoyable with a focus on either accuracy or a bingo-style mini-game. Darts has been changed and made a bit more difficult, but a solid game. And many other games have returned with all sorts of gambling, with a number of different games, from Mahjong to just underground casinos, and more. All the mini games are extremely good, which means that players will find themselves spending more time just playing these minor diversions.
But, this is what I’ve come to expect from the Yakuza franchise, a serious and well-executed story, with the ability to go off and explore the city outside of that area and lose yourself in some minor experience. In addition, this is the newest and the best Yakuza game yet, due to the fact that so much has been improved from both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami. Though, there’s still a little oddness.
The Karaoke minigame is back, which is still enjoyable, however, there aren’t always cutscenes for the songs. which is disappointing as those were highlights in Yakuza 0. When a cutscene does appear, it only seems to appear for half the video and it seems to be random scenes from the series so far, such as the first meeting between Kiryu and Majima in Yakuza Kiwami. I’m not exactly sure why. In addition, there’s no song that can compete with 24 hour Cinderella from what I have seen, but that shows how great the karaoke was in Yakuza 0.
Yeah that’s a real person/video. Yakuza still finds ways of making me confused.
There is also a mini-game which I can’t decide if I love or hate. It starts with Kiryu paying to be a photographer of women. This sounds strange but it’s odder than that The entire mini-game is about one of two women who talk to Kiryu while he tries to have normal conversations with them as they move around in skimpy outfits. However, the entire game is actually live actors. I don’t even mean it’s Full Motion Video, but an actual video of a real person. Just when I feel like I understand this franchise, it throws something like that at me and I lose my grasp of understanding of the series, but I also admit again, this is the level of strangeness that compels me to see what is coming next.
I’ve mentioned a few negatives in the review, and there are a couple of others. The save system only has around 13 slots. It would be nice to have 1 save per chapter of the game. There are a few side quests that just don’t live up to the pattern that the game has made, and, admittedly, if someone was to only play the main story, the pacing can be a little off.
Overall though, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is exactly what I was hoping to see. It’s a continuation of a storyline that has already spanned two expansive games, and yet that story takes a huge step forward in the graphics, the systems surrounding it, and the narrative. Yakuza Kiwami 2 took my favorite parts of both previous titles and worked on them until they felt both comfortable and fresh, and that’s why I fell head over heels in love with Yakuza Kiwami.
I award Yakuza Kiwami 2 a
This score is given with one caveat. Yakuza Kiwami 2’s experience does rely on the previous two games narratives. While someone can enjoy Yakuza Kiwami 2, it’s far better once the player has experienced both Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami. Those two games form the foundation of relationships that guide minor pieces of this game. Yakuza Kiwami 2 may be a weaker experience without that foundation.
Finally, I have to end with the same request as the previous two reviews. Sega. I need more Kiryu, I know you have more games. I’d love to see Yakuza 3 on PC, even if it’s the simple remaster. I don’t want to stop with this series, and even after reviewing 3 of them in under 12 months, I’m somehow not sick of this series yet.
Final Thoughts: One of the best games yet in the Yakuza series which in turn is a fantastic series. I adored every minute of the Yakuza Kiwami 2, and it’s an experience that should be had by all.
Stats: Around 50 hours actively played. 34 hours playing the main campaign, 4 hours playing Majima’s story. 34/59 achievements earned.