by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
The Yakuza franchise is one I found a little late – during the release of Yakuza 4. But by now, I think I’ve played through Yakuza Kiwami something like four times. I wasn’t really upset when my save file got destroyed, because it meant I could go through the game again with a clean slate! It’s definitely worth it. Now PC fans no longer have an excuse to get into what is, to me, the best sandbox franchise that exists. Another positive is that it will still be 19 dollars, the same price PS4 users can get it for.
This release of Yakuza 4 is a port, but it does have 4k capability for those with the power to do so. I do, but alas, my monitor does not, so I’m missing out. On that note, PC players have been missing out on this series, but that ended last year with the arrival of Yakuza 0 on PC, with thanks to SEGA. Yakuza Kiwami is definitely a game that feels better with a controller, but you can play with keyboard and mouse if that’s more your thing. You can also adjust the buttons in the config, something you can’t do on PS4.
Yakuza Kiwami is a solid entry point to the franchise since it’s a re-release of the original Yakuza, which debuted in December of 2006. Somehow this escaped me, despite owning and regularly using my PS2 during this time. Yakuza 0 is a prequel to Kiwami, and while I do definitely recommend playing it, if for no other reason than to control the super-cool Goro Majima, Kiwami is where the main story begins. The only thing I’ll say about the main story of Yakuza Kiwami is that it is known as the “Ten Billion Yen Incident”, and Kiryu Kazuma, the Dragon of Dojima inevitably gets involved. This game sets a precedent, where each Yakuza title is a wild, unstoppable, emotional rollercoaster.
Each time I load this game up, despite knowing what’s going to happen next, I still feel a little thrill down in my belly about it. It looks just as good, if not a tiny bit better than the PS4 release. Both are certainly gorgeous. However, on the note of loading the game, one of my complaints comes here – The game does not seem to recognize that I have settings that need to be saved. It does not keep my “Fullscreen (Borderless)” setting in graphics and rarely keeps my audio settings. It’s not a big deal to set those before I play, but it is something that is a little annoying.
While the main story of Yakuza Kiwami is an emotional beatdown, there’s lots of laughs and tears to be had in the side missions, which are fantastic palate cleansers, for when you need to take a deep breath. The story for Yakuza can sometimes be a bit emotional, so having side missions where you play the Crane Game for a guy, or play a high-fanservice card game featuring large-breasted women dressed as bugs, who hit wild wrestling moves, or get offered a job at a “Banana Bar”, there’s plenty in Yakuza that is less serious. Kiryu Kazuma’s journey is an unforgettable one.
The first couple of chapters are mostly straight forward and story-based, with little-to-no side-missions or side content to tackle. That changes in Chapter 4, when most of the game opens up. Chapter 4 has so many side missions that open up, that I tend to spend about 10 hours in that chapter alone. Sometimes more! These missions might be hard to find without a guide, that’s why Kiwami Bob Utsonomiya exists.
Tenkaichi Street is where the game sort of begins, and there’s a taxi cab there to take you to other destinations. This is where the weird clown Kiwami Bob Utsonomiya stands and waits for you. For those who will ultimately be new to the game, he’s where you get all of your DLC items, and where you trade in your CP. Your Collection Points can be seen on the character menu (pressing Options on the PS4 controller), and as you complete things in the game, you’ll earn a point here and a point there.
You can keep track of them under “Completion List”. The reason I point all of this out is Kiwami Bob has an item you will need to make Side Missions a lot easier to find. Once you’ve farmed up 12 points, go back to him and go through the first tab to see “Trouble Finder”. Equipping it will display an Exclamation Mark on your map for each Side Mission you have access to. Get this, keep it on, and love it. You’re welcome.
The meat and potatoes for Yakuza, besides the story, is the combat. Kiryu Kazuma is known as the “Dragon of Dojima”, and due to events, he’s lost a lot of the power that came from his unique “Dragon” style. So instead of only relying on it, he has three other styles – a Brawler Style (Blue), a Speed Style (Purple), a Beast Style (Yellow), which can be swapped between at will. You can also equip a weapon, and double tapping one of the styles will swap to that weapon. Combat is easy to get into, and the tutorial will give you all of the knowledge you need.
The fun part of combat though is building up your Heat Meter, grabbing an opponent, and using Heat Actions as you unlock them. They’re brutal, violent, and do a lot of damage. One of my personal favorites is Kiryu vertical suplexing some poor thug onto a guard rail. You can unlock heat actions for weapons too, and though you can buy weapons, there are lots of things you can violate your foes with on the streets. Bicycles, syringes, chairs, storefront signs, swords, traffic cones…The world is your violent oyster. This does lead to one of the big changes from the original Yakuza – Majima is Everywhere. Goro Majima’s a little mad, has a cool eyepatch, and loves to fight.
Goro Majima is out to help Kiryu get back to his former self, by kicking his ass at any opportunity. The game says Majima is Everywhere, and that’s not a lie, that’s not a rib. From the sewers, as a cop, inside of hidden items, he even interrupts fights you’re in to join in and start bashing you with a baseball bat. Defeating him repeatedly will give you a Majima Sense ( you can see where he is on the map and seek him out). Each of these victories leads to new powers in your Dragon Style. This is the only way you can learn these techniques, mind. Your Majima Everywhere grade starts at G, and goes all the way to SSS.
I was unable to hit SSS in the first playthrough and had to go back for it in a second. He gets progressively more difficult, but the rewards in terms of damage and technique are worth it. He will also occasionally have one of his flunkies send you a text message, hinting at a place where you can encounter Majima. Eating food, completing side missions, and beating up thugs will give you experience, and those exp points can be used in the other traits, exempting of course, Dragon Style. You can spend exp on Soul (Heat Actions), Tech (Battle Style moves) and Body (HP/Power). Going into the Dragon Style in this menu will show you what you have earned, and how to earn the other powers.
Wholesome but Violent: 4.5/5:
Kiryu Kazuma is what heroic-style protagonists aspire to be. He’s such a wholesome, but violently powerful character. He supports his friends, doesn’t bring other people down regardless of race, gender, religion. But if you’re a bad guy and you’re hurting people, he’s not afraid to put those people into a hurt locker. Yakuza Kiwami has so much stuff to do in terms of side content too. Baseball, Bowling, Arcades, Karaoke, Cabaret Clubs, RC Cars, you name it. On a personal level, I’m not a fan of sandbox games. Most of them try to offer too much in too large of an area. They wind up feeling empty, and I get overwhelmed. But the city of Kamurocho is just the perfect size. It’s not a massive city that takes a half hour to run across, but every single square inch of it has something to see, something to do. It’s a pretty faithful recreation of Kabukicho, to boot. Yakuza Kiwami is one of the best sandbox games I’ve played, and it’s a great entry point into the series. I’d also recommend 0, and if this trend keeps up, perhaps we’ll see Kiwami 2 on PC before too long. Sometimes ridiculous, most of the time serious, always unforgettable – that’s Yakuza Kiwami.
A code was provided for purposes of this review.