Yakuza Kiwami Review: Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Of A Good Thing?

  • Playstation 4
  • Action
  • Beat 'Em Up
Yakuza Kiwami is a great game, but it could have trimmed the fat a bit better Sony

Yakuza Kiwami is a great game, but one that brings a problem to the table that no other game has managed to do: there’s just too much of it. While that may sound like the worst complaint ever, you’ll know what I mean when you’re rounding out your 50th side mission, only to realize you aren’t even two thirds of the way done with all of the side missions. That said, I wish every game getting remade was done with the same care and attention to detail that Yakuza Kiwami has.

Set in Kamurocho, a neighborhood in Tokyo, Yakuza Kiwami retells the story of the original Yakuza, but with updated graphics, some new game mechanics and a few extra scenes tying the game to prequel Yakuza 0. Crime is king in Kamurocho, and protagonist Kazuma Kiryu finds himself working with both sides of the law to locate and protect an old friend.

For gamers that have played Yakuza 0, the plot of Kiwami feels very much like a retread. Kiryu is once again kicked out of his crime family after taking the blame for a murder he didn’t commit. You’d think that seeing as how the last time Kiryu didn’t commit a crime and fought his way back into being a Yakuza, people wouldn’t be so quick to point the finger again at the same person. Seriously Kiryu, you need to stop being in wrong places at wrong times.

Like Yakuza 0, the story (however repetitive it may be) is presented wonderfully, with top-notch cutscenes and voice acting. Even though the entire game is in Japanese and reading subtitles are a must, the performers breathe so much life into the characters that each cutscene felt urgent and important to the overall story. That is, unless it isn’t.

Yakuza Kiwami, with all its achievements in storytelling, has a major problem with pacing. A perfect example comes early on, when your goal is to buy a present and give it to a friend. Instead of simply going to the store and coming back, the order of events is as follows: get the gift, the gift gets stolen, go to a pawn shop, realize you don’t have the money to buy it back, track down a friend and borrow the cash, go back to find the pawn shop has raised the price, return to the same friend to borrow more money, go back to the pawn shop, the owner gives you the gift for free anyway and give the gift to your friend. Oh yeah, and if you thought borrowing money from a friend might be important later in the story, it isn’t.

That’s an exhausting and cheap way to lengthen what is already an incredibly long game. This may be how the original Yakuza was, but remakes should smooth out these unnecessary wrinkles. Games like Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD took the time to reduce clutter like this by reorganizing goals and adding extra features to speed up the grindy parts. Unfortunately Yakuza Kiwami couldn’t follow suit.

On top of a long, involved story complete with big twists and unexpected turns, there are over 75 side missions and about a billion additional activities. While this sounds awesome, all these extras make the story more difficult to follow than it already was. You can play for hours without touching a main story mission, instead diving into the world of Pocket Circuit racing, helping people around town, singing karaoke and even playing arcade crane games. It doesn’t take long to forget an important name or two, and have to scramble to a wiki to put names to faces again.

As for gameplay, Yakuza Kiwami has some fun hand-to-hand combat mechanics, complete with absolutely brutal-looking finishing moves. Fighting feels great and pulling off a combo or beating an enemy over the head with a way-too-big weapon is very satisfying. Experimenting with the different fighting styles (Beast style FTW!) provides knowledge of how to best take on any situation.

The majority of combat is done with fists or melee weapons, with Kiryu able to jump between four different fighting styles on the fly. Some of these styles have advantages against certain enemy types, but pretty much any style can be used to defeat any enemy. Players can unlock new moves and combos for each fighting style, but these largely don’t get used unless you can remember the specific button combos to use for each new move. Also, why bother to add new moves when the basic combos available from the start work perfectly fine, if not a little better than the unlocked moves?

That said, fights can get repetitive very, very quickly. You get in fights so often, fighting becomes mundane. While missions feature fights with major characters and big bosses, you’ll also get into fights just by walking down the street. These basic fights happen so frequently, you can often get caught up in a fight on every street corner. What’s worse is these fights are so easy and identical, I can clear them without even looking at the screen. By the end of my time with Yakuza Kiwami, I was going out of my way to avoid these fights because they just weren’t worth the time or effort.

There is one big break in the melee combat – one main mission features Kiryu in a car, driving by shooting enemies. While I appreciate the mix-up to break the monotony of doing the same fighting moves over and over, this mission just wasn’t very good. The section didn’t try to be much harder than a basic shooting gallery filled with too many rocket launcher guys that can blow you up.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment with Yakuza Kiwami is likely due to my ignorance of the franchise. Yakuza 0 was my first foray into the Yakuza games and it managed to pair a hard crime drama alongside goofy, weird and genuinely funny side missions to break up all the seriousness. Yakuza Kiwami doesn’t have this silly side to it, which just makes everything serious all the time. If I were to play all of the Yakuza games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this silly side creep in over time, similar to the Saints Row games. Unfortunately, there was very little humor to be found in this remake of the original.

If you haven’t played a Yakuza game before, Yakuza Kiwami is a great place to start. You don’t need any prior knowledge of characters, mechanics or anything else to be able to settle in for a compelling story. Throw in the mountains of side-content and you have a game that you can easily spend 30 or more hours on without even seeing everything there is to offer. However, all the updated graphics and bonus content can only do so much to hide unnecessary game padding and repetitive combat.

Yakuza Kiwami will be available for PS4 on Aug. 29.

So what do you think? Are you excited to see the original Yakuza brought into the modern world with Yakuza Kiwami? Are you excited to see what’s new with the Yakuza franchise when Yakuza 6 releases? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Yakuza Kiwami
Yakuza Kiwami Review: Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Of A Good Thing?
Yakuza Kiwami is great, then keeps being great, then continues being great to the point where you’re tired of it.
  • Fantastic voice acting
  • The amount of content is truly staggering!
  • Repetitive combat
  • The amount of content is truly staggering...
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