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Yakuza Kiwami 2

Yakuza Kiwami 2 Review: The Yakuza Formula, Perfected

As it now stands, I’ve played (and completed) four Yakuza games in less than two years.

If I’d played that many entries of most other franchises in a similar time-frame, I expect that I’d have been somewhat fatigued. With Yakuza though, I’m still just left wanting more. And you know why? Because even though its environments change very little, there’s always an engaging story pushing you forward, a wide variety of meaningful and entertaining side activities to fill up your downtime, and gameplay tweaks here and there just to keep everything feeling fresh. Every Yakuza game feels familiar, yet they each have something new to offer. And they all have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them hard to put down.

Powered by a dragon

Yakuza Kiwami 2 gives the original Yakuza 2 the makeover treatment. Utilising the Dragon Engine that Yakuza 6 was the first title to make use of, it’s undoubtedly the most stunning looking Yakuza game yet. In this game the streets of Kamurocho and Sotenbori are brought to life like never before. Neon lights drench pavements in colour, textures are crisp, and there’s notably less aliasing than there was in Yakuza 6. Add the fact that the streets appear to be more densely packed with civilians, thugs and yakuza than previously seen, and you have a game that truly feels alive. Every journey you make seems to offer an opportunity; whether it’s battling a group of delinquents, chowing down on some nutritional food, or picking up a side story. A moment in Yakuza Kiwami 2 never feels wasted.

Clocking in at around 15 hours if you head straight through it, Yakuza Kiwami 2‘s story is the backbone of the experience. It has many threads that weave in and out of each other, successfully capturing your attention and keeping you on the edge of your seat. Ther are moments of violence, moments of comedy, and moments of sincerity; shocking and surprising you when you least expect it to. The highlight of Yakuza Kiwami 2‘s story, however, has to be the rivalry between Kazuma Kiryu and Ryuji Goda. Determined to take over Kamurocho and become the only dragon, Ryuji Goda is perhaps the fiercest opponent Kazuma Kiryu has dealt with. Although of course, there are always other machinations being put into action behind the scenes.

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Refined to perfection

In terms of gameplay, there’s little here that will truly surprise, but there are enough tweaks to the formula to keep everything feeling fresh. Combat, for instance, feels better than ever. It’s more robust, and while there’s only one fighting style like in Yakuza 6, there are more techniques to master to keep the action feeling interesting and organic. Many of Kazuma Kiryu’s best skills are obtained by completing sub-stories, such as the ability to enter Extreme Heat mode. Increasing the power of your blows, it also allows you to end combos with painful-looking heat attacks. Extreme Heat mode can even be upgraded to allow you to shirk off enemy attacks, momentarily making you a formidable force.

Yakuza Kiwami 2‘s sub-stories and side activities are as plentiful as ever, padding out the time you can spend with the game by tens of hours. You can become the manager of a hostess club, leading it to victory through a Grand Prix, and Yakuza 6‘s clan creator makes a return, this time with a dash of Goro Majima to make it even more appealing. Each and every sub-story you complete will reward you in one way or another. Sometimes you’ll simply earn experience or an item, and other times your reward is a bit more peculiar. One sub-story, for instance, concluded with an eager granny joining the hostess club I managed. Another allowed me to call upon the help of a dominatrix when fighting near her. Seeing her throw me a whip so I could spank an opponent before she moved in to stomp on their groin with her heel really did raise a chuckle – and a wince.

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A digital playground

Activities are also just as entertaining as ever. While bowling is once again absent (why, SEGA? Why?), being able to enjoy a spot of golf nearly makes up for it. And of course, you can still visit the Yoshida Batting Centre, partake in some karaoke, or play games such as mahjong and shogi. Some players will be glad to hear that UFO catchers make a return, and that Virtual-On and Virtua Fighter 2.1 are both playable in SEGA centres. You’re never more than 30 seconds away from something to amuse yourself with in Yakuza Kiwami 2, which makes every time you sit down to play the game an absolute hoot. Its world just feels so rich, drawing you in for hours at a time.

Even once you’re done with Yakuza Kiwami 2‘s story you’ll find yourself going back for more time and time again, and not always to play as Kiryu. A separate mini-campaign in which you get to take control of Goro Majima is also included, fleshing out the story while giving you more of an insight into Majima’s motivations. New chapters of Majima’s story are unlocked as you progress through the main game. You can also access Virtua Fighter 2 straight from the game’s main menu to partake in a bout or two when you have a friend around.

Honestly, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the best Yakuza game to date. Its story is gripping and has a brilliant pace, its combat is tighter and more engaging, and there’s such a varied range of sub-stories and side activities to absorb yourself in that it offers great longevity. Yakuza Kiwami 2 has the Yakuza formula perfected, making it an absolute must for fans of the series, and a jolly good ride for those who haven’t even tangoed with the charming Kazuma Kiryu before. If this truly is the last Yakuza game starring Kiryu to be on the receiving end of the remake treatment, at least he’s going out with a mighty bang.

Yakuza Kiwami 2 is available on PS4.

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