The speed that Yakuza games are coming to the PC is astounding. With Yakuza Kiwami coming out this February and Yakuza 0 coming out last August, it’s crazy how fast these ports are coming to Steam. Honestly, it’s a bit overwhelming. These are games known for copious amount of content and longform narratives, so the chance of burnout is high. Even with that risk, it’s always exciting to jump back into Kamurocho. Luckily, Kiwami 2 is a great reminder of what makes the Yakuza series shine as a remake of Yakuza 2.
After the events of Kiwami (which the game lets you recap if you didn’t play it), the Tojo Clan is facing upheaval. This is made worse when Fifth Chairman Yukio Terada is murdered, his dying wish to unite the Tojo Clan with the notorious Omi Alliance. The son of the Omi Alliance’s Chairman, Ryuji Goda, does not want this truce and stages a coup to start an all-out war. Working alongside Detective Kaoru Sayama, Kiryu is forced to juggle the increasing tensions on the street and new threats from old grudges. It’s as fun as previous stories, albeit some parts haven’t aged well. With a story regarding a foreign power (specifically the Korean Mafia) as a main threat, the way “foreigner” is thrown around can be a bit awkward. While concerning, this is not as vital as Kiwami 2’s most unique quality: its love story.
The main dynamic at play here involves the relationship between Kiryu and Sayama, and it’s great to watch. Games have mostly failed at love stories, but there is genuine chemistry in their scenes together. There’s a montage in chapter 10 where they go on a spontaneous date, and it’s probably one of the sweetest I’ve seen in a game. You get a clear idea of why they’d be into each other, and the ways they are treated as a couple rather than one being a prop to dangle over the other is something more games need. It’s not perfect, especially with the odd culmination of their relationship in the finale, but it doesn’t slow down the story.
There is also an unlockable campaign where you play as beloved psycho Goro Majima. Used as an interquel between Kiwami 1 and 2, it gives a reason for his new role in the game proper in three short chapters. However, this is somewhat weak thanks to its lack of exploration and meaningful side content that makes Yakuza so special. It does make up for it with some hilarious moments and an ending that gives closure to a plot point in Yakuza 0, but it is rather superfluous altogehter. These two stories are what you’d expect from a Yakuza game, ones full of betrayals and shocking violence mixed with tenderness and genuine empathy.
Kiwami 2 gameplay-wise takes a lot of its mechanical improvements from Yakuza 6. It hasn’t been released for PC, meaning I haven’t played it. This is a weird place to review a game. It’s not only a chronological sequel to Kiwami 1, but a mechanical sequel to 6. For the sake of simplicity, let’s compare it to the games that have been released for us: Yakuza 0 and Kiwami. If you played Yakuza Kiwami (or read our review), the gameplay loop is basically the same. Half of the game has you fight dudes who want to punch you. The other half has you explore the city to continue the story and find sidequests in Adventure Mode. What makes these two work are still here with some excellent improvements.
For starters, the completion list is now a way to earn experience rather than a system to unlock specific items. This means that there is always a reason to experiment. This is also true with buying food, where its focus on experience over health means there’s a greater purpose to eating foods. Going to a bar is the same way, where drinking is no longer a slow paced ad for a specific brew. Now, you just buy what you want to drink. It makes you want to go to restaurants when you can, and there’s a simple pleasure of finding out a bonus for eating specific foods together.
Combat has been somewhat simplified. No longer focused on multiple fighting styles, there is instead a greater focus on weapons. Now you can take weapons from fallen foes and pocket them, giving you more incentive to bring them out than before with three weapon slots instead of one. The healing bosses from Kiwami 1 have also been removed, allowing for challenging fights without falling into cheap tactics. The only exception is a recurring boss that has a real difficulty spike, but at least you know that he won’t heal in the middle of it. These decisions really refine the systems of Yakuza to make for a breezier and more enjoyable game as a whole.
Coming back from Yakuza 0 is the Cabaret Club minigame, where you help run a cabaret club as manager. It’s not only an excuse to see Kiryu in a tuxedo, but also a wacky simulation of helping hostesses with their customers. The system has been expanded upon, with hostesses having minor quirks and a unique customer type that can come to your club. It’s very easy to sink time into this minigame, and I had to forego it just so I could finish this review in a reasonable time. There’s a lot that can be said about how it humanizes those in the hostess industry, where you learn a lot about your main workers beyond their job. It can fall into pitfalls regarding the ways it rewards heartfelt conversations with extra experience points, but it’s treated with more decency than you’d expect.
The newest minigame, Clan Creator, decides to go an incredibly radical route. If you told me Yakuza would have an RTS where you protect construction equipment, I would think you lied to me. However, it is real and better than it sounds. Since it was made for consoles first (with a version in Yakuza 6), what we have is something very simple. You get up to nine people in a level, and you dictate where they go against increasingly larger hordes. These levels are pretty fun, and collecting more workers from finishing sidequests gives an incentive to explore, but this is completely undermined by the DLC you get for preordering. They automatically give you the best possible fighters for this mode, so recruiting new employees is unnecessary.
All of this isn’t even mentioning things like the recreation of Virtua Fighter 2, a sidequest where you voice act in a yaoi game, or the part where you fight ninjas in a giant gold castle. Kiwami 2 is brimming with content and half the fun is seeing what new things you can do in Sotenbori and Kamurucho. If you couldn’t forgive the problems with Kiwami 1, the second one will treat you a lot better.
Kiwami 2 is a game made with the Dragon Engine: an engine originally made for Yakuza 6. Since it is a more heavy-duty engine compared to the ones used in 0 and Kiwami, there is a lot more graphical polish. The fact that most stores no longer have a seperate screen makes this one of the least segmented Yakuza games. This also means that it will push your system harder than the previous PC ports. It won’t force you to upgrade, but you might need to lower the settings to maintain a smooth framerate if you don’t own the strongest PC.
The more intensive engine also means a greater chance for bugs. Nothing game breaking, but the small yet noticeable types. Twitching clothing, ragdolls that go nuts, glitches like that happens but never to the point of annoyance or frustration. While the port might be as awe-inspiring as the first Kiwami’s, it’s still an excellent way to play a Yakuza game if you don’t have a PS4.
YAKUZA KIWAMI 2 VERDICT
The way you can tell a critic liked a game is whether or not they’ll go back to it on their own accord when their review is finished. That is exactly what I’m doing with Yakuza Kiwami 2. It fixes some of the most glaring problems the first Kiwami had and that gives us one of the best Yakuza games on PC. There’s plenty of games to play, dudes to fight and people to help, and it almost never feels wasteful. If you crave an honest-to-god open world without the obnoxious filler of similar games, Kiwami 2 is wonderful for any sandbox aficionado.
TOP GAME MOMENT
That date between Kiryu and Sayama audibly made me “aw”, and it’s still the sweetest thing I’ve seen all week.
Much needed improvements over its predecessor.
A love story better than the ones we usually get in games.
Tons of wonderful wacky moments.
Being a Hostess Manager could be its own game.
Plenty to do without being exhausting.
Superfluous Majima Campaign
Somewhat disappointing ending
DLC completely negates Clan Creator’s difficulty.
About Gavin Herman
Gavin Herman is a critic with experience in editing, journalism and video game PR. He's still too afraid to ask what this Fortnite thing is all about.