Yakuza Kiwami Review – PC

Yakuza as a series has always held a spot of curiosity for me as I enjoy mob/mafia related media in their various forms. Back in 2005, I gave the original Yakuza for PS2 a try and for the most part enjoyed it for a while. For one reason or another I never completed it but I’ve been given a second chance to see the story to the end with the release of Yakuza Kiwami for PC.

This isn’t just any console port though as Yakuza has been remastered from the ground up in its most “Extreme” version yet. Kiwami, which means extreme, definitely earns its name but the real question is how it stands up after 14 years. It doesn’t take long so see the graphical improvements with the character models and the world itself but that is only a fraction of the whole package. One of my biggest concerns is with the way that Kiwami handles as the original was rather stiff and unyielding once attacks were started.

Of course Yakuza Kiwami isn’t just about pounding people into the pavement as the Dragon of Dojima, Kazama Kiryu. The series is known for its fighting but its intense crime drama narrative and its characters are what really pull me into this series. In this remake the story once again follows the events of lifelong childhood friends Akira Nishikiyama, Kiryu and Yumi as a fateful night sends each on different paths in 1995. For Kiryu, the man on track to lead his own family takes the fall for the murder of his own boss instead of his friend Nishiki.

Fast-forward to 2005 and granted parole Kiryu finds his way back to the streets of Kamurocho to finds things have changed drastically in his absence. He also finds out after a fight with crazy rival Goro Majima that prison has weakened the once feared lieutenant. To make matters worse Yumi, Kiryu’s love interest, has gone missing and a new war is starting after the death of the Third Chairman Sera and disappearance of 10 Billion Yen.

As the ex-yakuza makes his mission to find Yumi and the money he comes across a mysterious young orphan girl by the name of Haruka. He soon realizes that this girl may be the key to everything as he also tries to help her find her mother Mizuki in the process. As stories go, Haruka is such a big part of this tale that you can’t help but fall for this clever and strong willed 9 year old. The interaction between her and Kiryu as a reluctant father figure is easily one of my favorite things about Yakuza Kiwami.

When you are not getting hit with the feels, you are most definitely getting hit everywhere else. As you navigate the streets of Kamurocho you’ll find yourself getting in fights with everyone from drunks to Yakuzas just looking to rough someone up. This is one of the areas that Yakuza Kiwami does get an upgrade in the form of new fighting styles. Added to his Dragon style are the balanced Brawler, nimble Rush and the brutal crowd controlling Beast styles. Each has their respected uses in combat given the situation and the beauty of Kiwami’s combat is that you can switch between them at any time with the press of a button.

One of my favorite parts of combat is utilizing Heat Actions which serve as special moves. These various brutal moves are available in each fight style and can destroy an enemy’s health bar. The best part is choosing how to ruin their day with objects in your vicinity. Not going to lie taking out the trash with a burning garbage can was awesome. This game doesn’t shy from violence but it’s not quite MK violent.

Given its console roots, Yakuza Kiwami is best played with a controller and it definitely shows in its combat. I have to say that Kiwami does actually fair better than its original with more polished animations based upon the work done in Yakuza 0. The PC version also benefits from uncapped framerates which adds to the fluidity of combat which is important for when you’re faced with multiple enemies at one time. There are times where the limited camera views and tight locations still make the game feel sluggish but not nearly as much as before.

This has other benefits outside of combat as well as the streets of Kamurocho are bustling with pedestrian traffic like never before. The neighborhood feels more flushed out and lived in than I remember. This also helps to integrate the new Majima Everywhere system where this Mad Dog Yakuza can literally show up in the most asinine places with a few I’d love to scrub from my memory just to fight you. These fights do actually serve a purpose so they are a new and welcome addition.

While other stats including your fighting prowess are improved by gaining experience from normal fights, your fabled Dragon fighting style can only be upgraded by defeating Majima in combat. This means you will be seeing a LOT of Majima throughout Kiwami, instead of just crucial moments like before. This, guys is seriously crazy in a Joker kind of way so it’s fun to watch his interactions with the all too serious Kiryu.

Then again Mark Hamill did play Majima in the original English dub. Here you will get to hear everything in a completely re-recorded audio track by the original series cast instead. It’s a small loss but the Japanese track does still pack a lot of emotion so it’s a compromise to hear the game as the developers intended. The game doesn’t compromise on looks though as the visuals are night and day from the original especially if you can tap into the 4K visuals. Now you can marvel at the water puddles on the ground or the crisp folds and textures of Kiryu’s signature look amongst the flashy environments and dark seedy alleyways.

If you need a little break from the serious or the crazy there are several mini-games and side quests that you can do. Some of the side quests are quite bizarre but they fit right in with the Kamurocho neighborhood which is essentially a red light district. The original featured mini-games as well but some new ones such as RC Car Racing and MesuKing: Battle Bug Beauties have been added to the roster of things to keep you busy. Even Bowling, Pool and Darts are three activities that can actually be played with 2 players from the main menu if you want.

Yakuza Kiwami may have easily just revitalized my interest in the series as much as it did by bringing the original to a whole new audience and generation. Kiwami contains the same heart, intensity and crime grit that the original did all in a much nicer package. So if you love the Yakuza series and want to deliver some extreme beat downs then you got to check out Yakuza Kiwami for PC today via Steam.

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