This article will assume that you’ve played “Yakuza Kiwami” and will feature major spoilers from that game while keeping “Yakuza Kiwami 2” as spoiler-free as possible and only talking about the opening chapter. Following the success of the first “Yakuza” game in Japan in 2005, morale was high all-around SEGA, and the team issued itself a new challenge. To release a bigger and better sequel and ship it out in the next 18 months. An ambitious undertaking, with members of the team citing reasons like striking the iron when it’s hot, meaning putting another game out there before the steam dies down. The problem was that no one knew where the story would go as they put all their eggs in one basket with the first game and, at that time, had no plans to do a second. They started working, writing, and re-writing a script while others worked on re-building the world, adding and removing elements from it while also improving combat and gameplay features. There was a lot to do, and after pouring their hearts and souls into the project for nearly 18 months, in 2006, the team presented to the world “Yakuza 2,” a continuation of the tale of Kazuma Kiryu back in the streets of Kamurocho alongside a new location, Sotenbori.
“Yakuza 2” was an even bigger hit in Japan, and the team decided to do a limited release in the West this time around, dropping the English dub completely. While the first “Yakuza” was a special and popular game, “Yakuza 2” cemented a foothold in the market and showed everyone that the Yakuza IP is here to stay and is something not to be trifled with.
In 2017, 11 years later, SEGA and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio released a remake of the original “Yakuza 2” and called it “Yakuza Kiwami 2,” much like they did with the first game and its Kiwami remake. Kiwami, for those of you wondering, is Japanese for extreme/ultimate. The game was brought up to modern standards and featured improvements and additional content across the board, but among all the new and cool things that were added, the biggest and most eye-catching improvement of them all was the use of the new and improved Dragon Engine powering this game. This new engine was introduced with “Yakuza 6: The Song of Life” and was improved upon here, and it truly brought the streets of Kamurocho to life. Amazing textures, incredible lighting, nearly photorealistic character models, and rendering that allowed the player to seamlessly enter and exit buildings and combat were some of the major and most impressive things the Dragon Engine delivered. With so much added and all of it looking as beautiful as it does, let’s see if “Yakuza Kiwami 2” is truly the ultimate “Yakuza 2” experience.
‘Yakuza Kiwami 2’ Premise
The game opens with a cinematic taking place sometime in the 80s and what looks like a detective infiltrating a building where a massacre is taking place. We see Kazama-san here, shooting members of another gang or outfit, maybe. The detective walks up to a wounded man as he points his finger upstairs and asks him in Korean to save his wife and son. The detective goes upstairs while the building is lit ablaze, slaps some sense into the woman in shock, and saves her and her infant.
Fast-forward to 2006, and you see Kiryu having a nightmare and still haunted by the events that happened a year ago. The loss of Nishikiyama, Yumi, and Kazama-san weighs heavily on him, as he lost everyone he considered family. He wakes up in shock and is greeted by Haruka, whom Kiryu has now adopted. Kiryu and Haruka get ready to visit the cemetery to pay their respects to his family on their one-year death anniversary. The player can get a recap of the events of the first game here if they choose, or they can simply continue the story forward if they already know what happened or played the first game. Kiryu doesn’t get much time to lament his loss as he is interrupted by Yukio Terada, the 5th chairman of the Tojo Clan, seeking his advice and help. Kiryu is happy to see Terada but doesn’t want to involve himself in the Yakuza business anymore as he is a civilian now and wishes to leave this life behind. Terada insists on talking to Kiryu, as he was the 4th chairman and handed the chair to Terada, and wishes to know what he would have done if he were still chairman. Their conversation is cut short as they are attacked by men from the Omi Alliance, and Terada jumps in front of a bullet to save Kiryu’s life. With his dying breath, Terada hands Kiryu a letter and makes him promise to deliver it to the Omi Alliance so these two factions can forget their rivalry and join forces.
With the letter in hand, Kiryu goes back to the Tojo Clan HQ and has a meeting with Kashiwagi-san and Yayoi Dojima, wife of Sohei Dojima and acting chairwoman of the Tojo Clan. They warn him that by going to Omi HQ, he’ll be signing his death sentence, but Kiryu being Kiryu, pays it no mind and wishes to fulfill Terada’s dying wish. Before leaving, Kiryu asks about the whereabouts of Daigo Dojima, son of Sohei and Yayoi Dojima, as he believes he’ll be the perfect 6th chairman. Yayoi informs him that Daigo spent a few years in prison and is not the same charismatic boy he used to be. He spends most of his time in Kamurocho, getting drunk and picking fights. Kiryu leaves for Kamurocho to look for Daigo and follows the trail of troubles that leads him there. After beating some sense into Daigo, Kiryu tells him about the letter from Terada, and Daigo tells him that he’ll be joining him. Kiryu asks him not to, but Daigo is adamant as he wishes to settle a score with Ryuji Goda, the man who landed him in prison and is perhaps the BEST villain this series has seen so far. With that out of the way, our heroes head for Sotenbori, Osaka, and the game truly begins. I won’t be saying anything about the story or the characters you’ll meet from this point on, so let’s move on to gameplay.
‘Yakuza Kiwami 2’ Gameplay
“Yakuza Kiwami 2” is a major upgrade from the previous entries in the series while also being a major downgrade in some areas. Gone are the different fighting styles, and the game builds on top of the new singular fighting system that was introduced with “Yakuza 6.” Because of that, the combat lost some depth but, at the same time, gained more flair and, with proper upgrades, could pack a real punch. The skill system is completely reworked, too, with Kiryu now gaining skill points by eating and drinking and the skills being divided into five different groups, each of which is required to get certain unlocks. As mentioned before, with the Dragon Engine, the world truly comes to life, with you being able to enter and exit stores without a loading screen and combat taking place in real-time. “Yakuza Kiwami 2” is a beat ’em up just like the other games in the series, with fast combat and the series’ signature heat moves.
While some things, like the combat styles, have been cut, the game is still incredibly fun to play. The minigames also see major improvements this time, with a lot of them becoming even more in-depth and fun to play, thanks to the Dragon Engine once again. You can now also store weapons in your inventory that you can pick up from the ground or buy in stores, assign three of them at any time, and pull them out in combat. Kamurocho again feels like a lived-in place with some changes made to it, as is the case with every game, and looks as beautiful as ever. The series’ famous substories also return, and some of them are really goofy and fun to tackle. You can also make friends with shopkeepers and bystanders by completing their substories, and if you are in combat near them, they’ll aid you by throwing an object your way that comes with its own heat move.
The addition of two new intricate and massive minigames in the form of “Majima Construction,” which is an improved or changed version of the RTS game mode “Kiryu Clan” from “Yakuza 6,” and the Cabaret Club minigame plucked straight out of “Yakuza 0” with no changes, are also fun and welcome additions. While I am not a fan of Majima Construction, as I find it boring and tedious, I must say running your own Cabaret Club and raking in millions of yen for yourself is a jolly good time. These minigames also come with their own story arcs that are nothing to write home about but do add to the world-building. Another sort of minigame is the bouncer missions, which are basically a series of combat challenges with varying difficulty. These get rather boring rather quickly but are somewhat fun nonetheless. Whether you like them or not, the offerings here are truly a bang for your buck, and with how much fun I personally had with the Cabaret Club, I won’t be surprised if people find Majima Construction or the Bouncer missions their favorites.
Overall, there’s not a lot that can be said when it comes to the gameplay front of “Yakuza Kiwami 2,” as it’s pretty much the same, but better in some regards and worse in a few. You can read our “Yakuza Kiwami” review here on the site to learn more about Yakuza’s gameplay, but know this: the game is incredibly fun to play whether you’ve played the other games or not.
We covered the world section briefly in our “Yakuza Kiwami,” review, so technically, there’s no need for it here; however, “Yakuza Kiwami 2” also comes with a new city that you can explore, so I wanted to touch on it briefly. While Kamurocho is back and better than ever, the city of Sotenbori is a different beast altogether. It’s much smaller than Kamurocho, with two long stretches connected by two sets of bridges, but the charm, attention to detail, and love put into building it really show. Sotenbori is full of restaurants serving the finest meals across Japan and is drenched with color and neon signs. You can also partake in other activities like mahjong and shogi, for instance, just like you could in Kamurocho, but Sotenbori also has a couple of minigames that you can play exclusively there, like the Cabaret Club. Overall, Sotenbori comes with its own look, feel, and vibe and is well worth visiting. If you want a detailed look at it, don’t worry; I plan to cover the world of Yakuza in detail rather soon.
The Technical Stuff
The game is gorgeous through and through, with stunning visuals, crazy particle effects, and nice color grading as well. The drawback to all of that is that the game runs at 1080p at 30 fps no matter what console platform you play on, which is not ideal. The sound design and voice acting are still top-notch and phenomenal, as always. The only thing I can complain about is the weird green filter they have on top of the game, which doesn’t take away from its look but definitely stands out and is a choice I don’t understand. The music for this game is also amazing for the most part, with “Outlaw’s Lullaby” being a standout for me personally. While the package does come with some shortcomings, it makes up for them with an incredible level of detail, amazing sound and voice work, and smooth gameplay with no hitches despite being at 30 fps.
“Yakuza Kiwami 2” is a wonderous game, especially when it’s firing on all cylinders but some weird choices and decisions sprinkled throughout do drag the experience down a bit. An incredible story with the best villain the series has ever seen. An open world that is better than ever and is really fun to get lost in. Combat that is dumbed down but fun to mess around with. Characters that are as loveable as they are memorable. Visuals that are truly stunning. And a crapton of stuff to do, learn and master all make “Yakuza Kiwami 2” a game that I’d recommend to you to play. This series as a whole is truly special and deserves all the love it can get.