Posted on 09 Apr 2019 by L Coulsen

Yakuza Kiwami

The Defence

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 19 Feb 2019

The Prosecution

Minimum
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 3470 @3.2 GHz
AMD FX 6300 @3.5 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 560
AMD Radeon HD 6870
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 22 GB
DirectX: 10
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Twelve years ago, the Yakuza series first arrived in the west, introducing an entire generation of nascent weebs to the dark, digital underbelly of Tokyo. Offering up a rich, thoughtful, and in places very odd crime drama that many still insist the medium of video-games simply cannot pull off. More recently the game was completely remade from the ground up and now has made its way to our beloved PC. So, let’s dive right in and see how it holds up.

The Trial

It’s worth pointing out, this is not my first time around with Kiwami. I’ve gone through the entire story, including a rough and tumble with good ole Amon, on the PlayStation 4. I mention this, because I noticed a few differences with my experience on the PC. I can’t be entirely certain if it’s due to the port, or just my greater familiarity with the game and its systems, but the combat seems to be far better balanced now. We can talk more on that later though.

The basic premise is that Kiryu Kazama, a mid-ranking yakuza, is arrested for murdering the boss of his family. Spoiler (but not really): he takes the fall for a friend who shoots the boss after he attempts to force himself on their mutual friend, Yumi. Ten years later, Kiryu is released from prison to find things radically different from when he left. His friend, Nishikiyama, is now head of his own family and has become a very ruthless, self-serving career criminal. Meanwhile, Yumi has not been seen for ten years. Thus leaving Kiryu to effectively fend for himself.

Luckily, Kiryu Kazama is an absolute beast of a man who can effectively and nigh effortlessly solve any problem that comes his way by repeatedly punching it in the dick. Thus, of course, being the main focus of the gameplay. The story plays out over a series of chapters, mostly consisting of going to a new location and punching everything until it stops moving. Though there are side quests to do along the way, most of which also consist of drop-kicking people into orbit. If that makes the game sound kind of boring, believe me, it really isn’t.

This is just my way of saying 'hello'.

There is a rather hefty roster of different skills and four fighting styles to choose between, allowing each match of fisticuffs to be a lot more varied than might first appear. On paper at least, see, this is what I was talking about with the balancing issue; Kiwami uses a similar system to that found in Yakuza 0, also running on the same engine. However, where that was built with the combat switching as a core mechanic, Kiwami seems to have been developed with returning players in mind, ramping up the difficulty to keep things challenging.

Unfortunately, rather than playing to the strengths of what was already a solid, if a little clunky, fighting system. The approach this time has just been to make enemies faster and throw more of them at you at once. Those two elements working against each other to almost entirely negate three of the fighting styles from being of any use, apart from during very specific moments. Because everyone is just so damned fast, if you’re not using Rush (your own fastest fighting style) you are playing it wrong.

This became most apparent to me, during a drag out brawl in a Chinese restaurant. In the kitchen area there are just so damned many enemies, with even the largest and slowest of them seeming to move like lightning. Leading to several minutes of being stuck in a corner, bounced around from one enemy to another without any chance to escape. Because being hit also now negates your ability to dodge…almost. The worst part of this is that the amount of damage being done, by this stage, was so negligible to make it feel like I was fighting against a swarm of ants.

It's just a flesh wound.

The final boss fight of the stage, which should have been the real challenge, was then a complete breeze. Despite the fact it was multi-stage, and for a while he was spinning around like a madman with a pair of massive swords. Not having to worry about someone slapping me on the arse, however, made it far easier to bait him into a big swing which gave me time to chip away his health quite dramatically. It’s a really fun fight actually, it’s just such a huge grind to get to and is only one of several examples.

Now, as said previously, this does not seem to be as large of a problem for the PC port. Though there are still multiple instances I can point to where something similar happened. However, there is one more piece to the puzzle; Rush style has two, very specific, skills that make pretty much every fight a breeze. One allows you to, about 60% of the time, slip away from an enemy even when they’re punching you in the dick, and another allows you to duck and weave to avoid being hit in the first place. They’re nice additions, but the fact they’re tied to one, very specific, playstyle leads back to my initial point. If you aren’t using Rush, you are playing the game wrong.

The very frustrating part of this all, is that the first and last quarters of the game don’t suffer from these issues. The various scripted action set pieces seem to have been specifically built with experimentation and style switching in mind. Run in with Rush to take out a few of the ranged enemies, switch to Beast to deal with the crowd, then mix it up with Brawler or Dragon to finish off the leader. It’s such a noticeable shift in pace that it feels very much, like either the middle section simply was not playtested, or was developed by a different team. After all, the game has already been made once, and everything worked fine there. Never mind the fact that the different combat styles are a new addition, they weren’t in the original.

'Nope' mode activated.

Anyhoo, having said all of that, Kiwami is still a solid game worth enduring for the quality of the writing. Because that is where the series really shines. So much so real life yakuza have praised the series for how accurate it is to their lived experiences. Well, mostly. They do have two complaints of note. Firstly, it’s odd that Kiryu would punch people so much, when a real yakuza would just blow everyone the fuck away. But more importantly, his shirt is utterly revolting, and he’d probably be exiled from his family for ever daring to wear it in public. Good fashion sense is important, yo.

Now, combat is not the only thing on offer. Some side quests are more heavily conversation based, and there are a smattering of mini-games to break up the flow if you want to relax for a wee while. All of them are returning games from Yakuza 0, such as the gambling games and the UFO catcher claw machine. The only ‘new’ game is an arcade machine called Mesu King, which is about anthropomorphized insect women wrestling in the wilderness. But even this is just a reskin of the catfight club from the previous title. It’s a rock/paper/scissors system, but it adds power-up cards that make it, at least a little, less tedious. Thankfully, the best game of them all also makes a return. And it wasn’t broken at launch this time. The Pocket Circuit is back in full force; offering more parts, tracks and more of everything really. It’s just as amazing as ever, and will eat up a huge chunk of your time just for the fun of playing it. Especially after you unlock the custom track editor.

There aren’t really many complaints to be made other than those covered above. The only thing left to mention is that it’s not what one would call a great looking game. It does look quite nice, but it’s very much at the bottom end of acceptable by current standards. Lighting effects are especially impressive and the textures are very crisp, however. Environments are also highly detailed, feeling vibrant and alive, but it’s not going to really win any awards for pushing the envelope.

A winner is you.

Kiwami is extremely well optimised too, though it still feels a bit limp when it comes to graphical customisation options. There are a couple of features added over its predecessor, but I wouldn’t really go any further than calling the list acceptable. There’s also a minor, though irritating, bug which returns; The game does not seem to like remembering your preference for borderless windowed resolutions. Every single time I’ve started the game it’s gone to fullscreen and I’ve had to change, or just deal with. But hey, when that’s the worst complaint, you know you have a technically sound game on your hands.

Lastly, the sound balance is very well done. Music and sound effects never drown out dialogue, though given most people will be playing with subtitles (Japanese voices only) that wouldn’t be a huge issue even if it did. It’s a little more difficult to judge acting chops in a foreign language, perhaps, but there were no performances that fell flat. With several (Majima) really standing out. The scenes expanding on Nishki’s change over the years Kiryu is in prison were acted especially well, really tugging at the heartstrings.

Okay, one final thing, saving the best for the very last. Yakuza Kiwami includes a new feature called ‘Majima Everywhere’. This was not part of the original game, and it sees you, well, finding Majima everywhere. At which point he, of course, wants to beat your face into the ground. So that he can teach Kiryu to be a better fighter and get back on form, because why not? It can feel a little irritating at times, since he will sometimes launch himself out of nowhere, but if you get to grips with the various fighting styles, the fights with Majima (Baejima, more like) are some of the best moments in the entire game. Not to mention, Goromi. ‘Nuff said.

The Verdict

All in all, Yakuza Kiwami is a good game. It’s not a great game, and it’s not as good as its predecessor, or sequel for that matter (Yakuza Kiwami 2 really needs to come to PC guys!) but it is certainly good enough to get a full recommendation from us. The few niggles it does have are not enough to ruin the experience and I would even go so far to recommend buying at full price. Just be prepared to put some time into learning the systems, it makes things a lot less frustrating.

 

Case Review

  • Majima: He’s Majima.

  • Narrative: This is a very mature game telling a surprisingly deep story, especially considering the age of the original.

  • Mini-games: The games on offer are not insignificant, but the lack of classic SEGA arcade games is a little disappointing.

  • Majima Everywhere: One can never have too much Majima…though having him hound you constantly seems determined to change your mind on that.

  • Balancing: Many fights have too many enemies that are too fast, making several of them quite irritating.

4 Score: 4/5
A little unbalanced in places, but a damned fine game all the same.

Evidence

  • Audio: Default sound balance is fine, but you have all the options you need to tweak it to your liking all the same.
  • Controls: Real Yakuza do play with a controller. Though you can fully customise the mouse and keyboard all the same. Yes, that does include the secondary keys for the mini-games too.
  • Graphics Settings: A little bit more in depth than Yakuza 0, there's still nothing of particular note. Enough to allow optimising for your system, but very little beside.

Appeal

4 Score: 4/5

Yakuza Kiwami continues the story of 0 protagonist Kiryu, the freakishly strong Yakuza of Kamurocho, who gets into all kinds of bizarre scenarios like showing real-life retired Judoka, Shinichi Shinohara a good time. Some of the crazy of 0 has been smoothed over but there’s still plenty to go around in the wide variety of side stories. Majima also makes a return, not as a playable character this time but as a kind of antagonist who pops up time and again to challenge Kiryu to battles which unlock more parts of your fourth fighting style. It’s a nice reward for his hassling you, but for fans of 0 his sudden change in personality can be very jarring. He’s gone from being a gentlemanly, impeccably dressed cabaret owner to an almost comical psychopath hell bent on having a decent punch-up.

Kiwami suffers a little in the AI department though, regular battles against groups of enemies on normal difficulty can often devolve into them just wailing on you as a group and stun locking you. Dropping the game to easy mode helps alleviate this behaviour but makes fights on the street totally trivial. The arena and boss battles still provide a challenge though, and having some room to play with the many heat actions is also welcome. Thankfully, the strong story about murdered patriarchs, old friends, and a gigantic pile of money is pure Yakuza through and through and won’t disappoint if you’re looking for more of that classic slow-burn, high-stakes drama.

Distractions however feel a little flatter than 0. Kiwami offers some of the same; batting cages, pool, etc. but replaces the few arcade machines with a single game that’s basically just a collectible card version of the cat fights from 0. If watching scantily clad CG ladies dressed (nominally) like bugs putting on an amateur wrestling match while you play rock-paper-scissors is your thing then it’s a real treat but I was left very disappointed, especially when Virtua Fighter machines sit 20 feet away, unplayable. There’s a lot to recommend in Yakuza Kiwami despite its shortcomings; it has more polish than 0 and sits an in interesting point between classic Yakuza and the rapid evolution of the series found in more recent titles.

Tags
Labels
    No labels.

Comments (0)