The Yakuza series has been a favourite of mine since the original on PS2, but it seemed like it never really caught a major audience until the 4th and 5th titles in the series, meaning there is a large amount of potential fans that Sega was missing out on in North America that never got to experience the story of Kiryu Kazuma and his time in the Yakuza, or how this walking definition of badass got to where he is in the later titles.
Yakuza Kiwami is that story. The one that started it all while adding more content for the modern Yakuza fans and fixing the plotholes caused by Yakuza 0 making it the definitive version of the story that made people love the franchise to begin with.
The story takes place about 7 years after the events of Yakuza 0, Kiryu is about to become the head of his own family in the Tojo clan, allowing him to have control of his own men. While he and his friends, Yumi and Nishiki, celebrate the massive accomplishment, something goes wrong. The Head Chairman of the Tojo clan captured Yumi and Nishiki runs off to save her. Kiryu runs off after them but it’s too late, Nishiki killed the chairman in self-defence. Kiryu took the blame to save his friends and took a 10 year stint in prison for it.
Coming back from 10 years, Kiryu learns that the new chairman has been murdered, Yumi has run away, 10 Billion Yen is missing and his former friend that he went to prison for is placing hits on him. All of the events seem to centre around a little girl name Hakura, which Kiryu must fight to protect, while solving the mystery at hand.
Yakuza Kiwami brings back many of the mechanics found in Yakuza 0, including the new style-based combat system allowing Kiryu to switch from Brawler, Rush, Beast and Dragon mode, and like all good sequels with a RPG style upgrade system, Kiwami finds a simple way of making you lose all your progress at the beginning of the game with one simple line – “Prison made you soft!”
What is gone from Yakuza 0 is using your wealth as the currency to upgrade your characters, in exchange players are reverted back to the classic experience gaining. Players can gain experience via multiple ways, including eating food, going on dates with Hostess, completing side-stories, playing mini-games and of course, fighting.
A fun new feature for Kiwami is the “Majima Everywhere” mechanic which brings on new fights between fan favourite Goro Majima and Kiryu, which can happen almost randomly. One moment you’ll be in Club Sega taking snapshots with Majima poking his head in the booth, to being given alcohol so he can see how well you can fight while drunk. These battles are how you’re able to unlock more techniques in the Dragon Style, Kiryu’s original fighting style from the previous games.
Aside from the obvious graphic update, Yakuza Kiwami adds more side-missions, activities and more importantly, some additional story that explains how Nishiki went from being the lovable best friend in Yakuza 0, to being the stone cold villain of the first game, something that is wonderful to see as someone who played the original as Yakuza 0 left us with several questions that went unanswered at that time. These small cutscenes gives us a more in-depth look at the jealousy and hatred Nishikiexperienced during Kiryu’s prison time.
Yakuza Kiwami is a great place to jump into if your new to the series as it sets the story and characters for the titles to come (let’s not forget that the price is right at $39.99 CDN). Yakuza Kiwami can easily take up 50-60 hours of your time for a solid Action-RPG that I can’t recommend enough.