A game series about Japanese organised crime is now complete on PS4. In August 2017 we got Yakuza Kiwami, which was a remade version of the original Yakuza game, and now we get Yakuza Kiwami 2, itself a remade version of the original Yakuza 2. What we get is a polished remake that offers zero surprises, both technically and in terms of story.
Kiwami 2 continues where Yakuza Kiwami ended. Occasionally there is some reference to Yakuza 0, which was released back in January 2017. Characters and events are mostly assumed to be familiar, so it is pretty mandatory to know what happened in Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami. If you don't understand what's going on, you won't be able to make the most of your time with the game.
The plot is a traditional Yakuza drama, and it is being told in traditional ways. The game starts with a 45-minute cutscene, and the gameplay is mostly about you running around the city and punching people. The action is being interrupted by regular cutscenes and silent dialogue boxes - if you know the series you already know exactly what to expect.
The story itself isn't anything particularly special, but what makes it interesting is a handful of new characters that are introduced in this entry. The Japanese Yakuza has to battle against the Korean Jingweon mafia, another criminal organisation which aims to conquer and/or destroy everything. The reason behind their move is a mixture of old grudges and a simple lust for power. This soap opera is interesting since almost all of the key characters are somehow related to each other.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an exceptional Yakuza game in two ways. First, it's very short, and it takes less than 15 hours to reach the end. The second thing is that women have a more active role than ever before. The acting chairman of Tojo clan is the wife of the deceased ex-chairman, which must be a pretty big thing considering how traditional this part of Japanese society is. The second is a police officer called Kaoru Sayama, who of course gets tangled up with some yakuza guys, both romantically and professionally.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a short game, but there's still a lot of filler content. The dialogue sometimes drags on and on for ages without actually going anywhere, and on more than one occasion the game just asks you to roam around the city doing side activities before letting the story move forward. An interesting bonus is a side story called Majima Saga, which happens at the same time as the main story. It focuses on Goro Majima, who was one of the main characters in Yakuza 0. Majima Saga is over in less than an hour, but it's still a nice bonus. Even with these shortcomings, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an enjoyable experience to work through, especially if you've already played Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a remake, and you can clearly see its roots on occasion. Loading screens are frequent, even if they last only for a second or two. The enemy AI is very simplistic: usually, bad guys just stand around waiting to get their butts kicked. We haven't paid attention to this in any other Yakuza game, and so enemy AI is a strange thing to pick up on like this. It's also worth noting that the third-person camera sometimes points in all the wrong directions, but this can be tuned a little in the options menu.
Speaking of menus, all of the different elements are divided into different categories, and character progression is simple enough, and yet it has just the right amount of depth as well. Usually, in Yakuza games, the menus are browsed only when it is absolutely necessary, but in Yakuza Kiwami 2 that's actually a little different and you'll find yourself dipping in and out of them more often. Also, in the old Yakuza games you could only save in a phone booth, but now you can save pretty anywhere and anytime.
You once again roam around a fictional section of Tokyo called Kamurocho, and to a lesser extent, a fictional Osaka named Sotenbori. The map is the same as in previous Yakuza games. This may seem weird, but you have to remember that a real city doesn't change that much in just a few years. There are once again a bunch of side missions and activities to keep yourself busy, and they are for the most part short and hilarious. You need to defend female honour on the streets, pose as a model, and even urinate better than your competitors. The most disturbing side mission, however, is one where you need to take pictures of real Japanese women when a cutscene is playing. You can easily double the time it takes to complete the game if you decide to do all the side missions and activities.
Graphically the game will feel familiar to anyone who has experience with earlier Yakuza games. The streets and the map itself feel small, but there are a lot of details to be noted everywhere you look. Invisible walls are always present, and the time of day and weather only change when it is appropriate in the story. On the other hand, we didn't notice any bugs or glitches, and as such Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a very polished game indeed.
The soundtrack is actually a mixed bag. Usually, music enhances the mood of a scene, and in particular the fight sections are complemented by an energetic heavy metal soundtrack. But then the music changes and goes all j-pop, and personal taste is very much going to come into play. If anything, the music makes it even more crystal clear that this is a Japanese game through and through.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the final game in the series that's coming to the modern era of consoles, although these titles are all slowly migrating over to PC too. While this remaster doesn't really offer much in the way of surprises it does stick to the script and it should please existing fans. If you enjoyed Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, you should probably check this one out as well.