Yakuza Kiwami – Review

There was a point in time where the Yakuza franchise seemed dead in the west. Years past after the release of Yakuza 4 with nothing but rumors. Thankfully SEGA was able to give the franchise another chance by not only bringing out 5 and 0 but even Kiwami, a remake of Yakuza 1. Taking place where it all began, players will be able to replay this underrated PS2 gem with enhanced gameplay and of course updated current gen visuals.

The story kicks off a few years after Yakuza 0. Nishiki, Kiryu’s longtime friend, has killed the leader of the Dojima family—the Yakuza organization they represent. Kiryu decides to take the fall for the murder and ends up spending 10 years in jail. Upon his return a lot has changed including his friend Nishki who has become a corrupted leader of his own organization who seeks nothing more than dominance. As Kiryu you’ll need to investigate what happened and figure a way to clear your name in the Yakuza organization for good. There’s obviously a lot more to the story than that including Haruka, a mysterious orphan girl Kiryu finds that becomes an iconic character throughout the series.


Coming from Yakuza 0 you’ll notice that not a lot has changed. Setting wise, Kamurocho is mostly the same with just a few tweaks to make it look more modern. Animations, battles, and a lot of other assets are clearly reused here. In fact one mission which involves Kiryu escaping from the Yakuza HQ plays out almost exactly the same way from Yakuza 0. It comes off feeling a bit cheap but I suppose for the asking price for $30 it’s alright.

Yakuza 1 also feels like a step back when compared to 0. Since it’s the first entry in the franchise, the plot and writing can feel a bit rough. There’s also not much to do as you’re only limited to Kamurocho and dealing with Kiryu’s story alone. It’s definitely a shorter game than Yakuza 0 but don’t let that fool you though, there’s still a lot to do especially when it comes to minigames and sidequests. But again they lack the same flair and originality from Yakuza 0.

Another gripe I have has to do with the game’s combat. Previously you would gain XP and unlock abilities using money but here you’ll need to do a set of tasks that feel somewhat forced. For example the only proper way to level up your Dragon style is by fighting Majima. Sometimes you might get caught up with the story and forget about it leaving the Dragon style the weakest in the bunch.


Boss fights are also different here. When their health reaches a certain point they begin to recharge forcing the player to switch styles and execute a finisher. The problem is that it totally breaks the rhythm of the combat. If you also happen to miss your chance the boss ends up recharging their health and become more aggressive resulting into what feels like hitting a brick wall. One fight almost lasted me 10 minutes because I could only land two hits before getting grabbed. It was annoying and just wanted it to be over.

While I can’t really fault them for being faithful to the original I just wish this remake offered more. Majima was a big character in Yakuza 0 and could have used more development in Kiwami. The combat system is a copy paste that takes a few steps back thanks to a convoluting leveling system.


Despite that Yakuza Kiwami still manages to deliver. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t captivated in the game’s plot’s narrative and characters. Despite it being more than 10 years old the writing, characters, and pacing still hold up even if it’s not as good as the ones that came after. For $30 Yakuza Kiwami is a decent entry into the franchise. As a Yakuza fan it merely serves as a small appetizer for the long awaited Yakuza 6.



Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Gets a Release Date

It’s been non-stop Yakuza from early 2017’s Yakuza 0, Yakuza 1 launching in about a week, and Yakuza 6 coming March 20, 2018.

This Yakuza will be the most up to date in terms of the timeline and will take place in a more present setting where smartphones and selfies rule. But don’t worry, they’ll be a hefty amount of ass kicking as well.

A collector’s edition has also been announced known as the After Hours Premium Edition which includes 2 custom made glasses with 2 coasters, 2 cold stones, and a hard cover art book. If that’s a bit too much you can also opt for the launch edition which just includes the art book.



SEGA’s Future Video Gives Us Hope

Amidst the onslaught of news from last week’s E3, SEGA decided to play it a bit low-key and release the following video well after the event has concluded.

It’s filled with inspiring words narrated by none other than Toshihiro Nagoshi best know for the Yakuza series (which is probably the only high quality series to come from the studio in the past decade). More importantly thought it gives us hope that perhaps SEGA is finally listening and wishes to make amends to its less than stellar post-Dreamcast phase.

SEGA has also been doing retro Tweets from its SEGA Forever Twitter account. Could this be a hint of a retro console revival? Maybe. But on thing’s for sure: if there’s one studio that definitely needs to make a comeback it’s SEGA.


The Yakuza Remake is Coming This August Exclusively on PS4

If you loved Yakuza 0 like I did you’d be happy to know the remake dubbed Yakuza Kiwami is coming August 22nd exclusively on PS4 for just $30. Making the news even sweeter is the announcement of a SteelBook edition.


As with 0, Yakuza Kiwami will support full HD and 60 FPS.

And if that wasn’t enough, SEGA launched a Yakuza Experience website which includes a break down of the plot and characters. It also includes an exclusive comic series that will work as a great reference point and build up for Yakuza 6 which is scheduled to be released next year.


Yakuza 0 is a Hard Boiled Thriller That Doesn’t Let Go – Review

The Yakuza franchise is a series that I adore and love though I will admit I didn’t expect it to last this long. Plenty of its design choices and limited exploration can be seen quite archaic by today’s standards. So I honestly wasn’t expecting much going in, but thankfully I was wrong.

Yakuza 0 takes place in 1988 Tokyo and is a prequel that shows us the beginning of Kazmua Kiryu, a hot headed guy looking to make his way into becoming a Yakuza (a Japanese mobster). Since this takes place before the events of the main series, we get to see a younger more agitated Kiryu  who’s still learning to become the character fans are familiar with. Its opening sequences alone shows us Kiryu collecting debt and beating the shit out of someone. It’s a side of him that I honestly haven’t seen and really gives us a more sinister view of the character. Not long after that things become more complicated for Kiryu as he gets framed for killing the man causing a lot of heat to his family and his chances of becoming a full-fledged Yakuza member. I won’t spoil more than that but if it’s one thing this game gets right is narrative pacing. At times I felt I was watching a crime drama thanks to a script that really brings these characters to life.


But this could also be a turn off to some players. For some reason Yakuza is considered the Japanese equivalent to GTA which I honestly have no idea where it came from. Short answer: it isn’t. Yakuza 0 is FILLED with cutscenes and dialogue that rival Metal Gear Solid 4. Even during gameplay you sometimes follow a character around and need to pay attention to the subtittles. Gamers who are used to watching anime will not find this annoying but those expecting to jump in and have fun will have to deal with a lot of story.

Let’s face it though story is the core selling point for the Yakuza series. It plays out a lot like an RPG with characters and their narrative taking center stage. Each chapter seems to introduce new mysteries and keeps you hooked until the very end. The cutscenes themselves are pretty crazy and many will go down and some of the best “did that just happen” moments in gaming.


Of course outside of the RPG aspects, Yakuza is pretty much a brawler. Similar to arcade classics like Spikeout, Yakuza 0 lets players experience an open battle system allowing you to beat your opponent silly with your fists or the environment. Emphasis on silly as some of these moves are pretty insane and totally break the realism aspect. But fun tops realism in this case and just like most SEGA arcade brawlers, Yakuza 0 plays like a dream. Combos feel smooth and seeing your opponents money come out like confetti is extremely satisfying. New here is also the ability to switch between various fight styles. Brawler for instance is the classic approach that lets you use environmental objects through your stamina gauge while rush gives Kiryu an extra speed boost that gets faster the more you build up your stamina. These skills can also further be expanded by spending money. Not sure how money = experience points but there you go.


Despite its silliness, Yakuza 0 is very atmospheric. The streets of Tokyo light up with people and noise (bonus points for playing this game in surround sound) and lots of activities to do. Bowling, Karaoke, and even visiting the 80’s arcade have their own identity and feel. Heck even the beeper has its own language code with the use of numbers. While its environment may not be as large as any other open world game, Yakuza 0 certainly makes up for it with depth.

In terms of visuals it can be a hit or miss. Facial models and animations details look stunning but some environments look drab and shallow, this could possibly be related to how Yakuza 0 was also launched on the PS3 in Japan and was then ported to the PS4. The benefit to this however is getting a steady 60 FPS but some larger areas show screen tearing.


Action adventure games have changed a lot through the years. Most borrowing from each other with its regen health and autosave, Yakuza 0 is at its heart still clinging out to that old classic Japanese game design. It does bring out a sense of nostalgia as the game doesn’t try to deviate and fragment its plot in order to extend playtime, it focuses mainly on a compelling narrative that will you keep you coming back. Its replay value may be lacking but Yakuza 0 is still an amazing entry into the franchise and a perfect time to start for newcomers.



Get a Load of This Yakuza 0 Business Edition

Despite it’s somewhat lackluster popularity outside Japan, SEGA is keen on pushing Yakuza down our throats and we’re not complaining.


Yakuza 0, the prequel to the series, is getting the special edition treatment. It will include your typical steel case plus a business card holder filled with replicas from the game including a hostess club card. I’m assuming this is what Yakuza’s carry all the time so you can bet your ass I’ll keep this with me for business purposes of course.

This chapter to the series will focus on the rise of our main hero, Kazuma Kiryu, and how he became a well known Yakuza member. This is also the moment when we get introduced to fan favorite Majima. One thing I do also have to point out is that Yakuza 0 takes place in the 80’s and seeing as how this game is a somewhat distant cousin to Shenmue (which also took place in the 80’s) I honestly can’t wait to draw parallels.