Earlier this year I had the immense pleasure of taking my first actual spin on the Yakuza side of things in SEGA’s fictional city of Kamurocho with its release of Yakuza 0 for the Xbox One that acts as a prequel to the original. Having just released Yakuza Kiwami 2, and getting to cover it, I figured what better way to review it than by reviewing the original Yakuza Kiwami first.
Going back to the beginning of a series isn’t always the easiest even on a revamp because you can see how certain aspects may not have aged as well as others. While not looking as refined as Yakuza 0, it’s still damned pretty to look at with the revamps through the Kiwami label. That, and it’s just as much damned fun to play for the thirty ish hours that it takes to complete.
Starting off in 1995, you’ll solely be taking control of Kazuma Kiryu in the above named fictional city of Kamurocho. Unlike 0’s double protagonists, the original only had you need to worry about one person’s problems and in this case, Goro Majima has let freaking loose and is a whirlwind of pain that you’ll be glad for later. Taking the fall for murder though, Kiryu will spend the next decade behind bars where his martial prowess will disappear until he’s forced to relearn everything and fast as not only two days out and things have gone to hell in multiple hand baskets.
One may think that going to jail wouldn’t soften one up as much as everyone may be gunning for Kiryu, however after basically the first few days everyone else learns to not mess with him and the ensuing peace and quiet is what makes Kiryu a bit softer around the edges as well as get parole only after ten years behind bars. This was perhaps one of the better ways that I’ve seen in how to remove a character’s skills or toughness. It was a natural decline over time, not some magic or gimmick. Being thrown back into the wild though, it won’t take long to start getting into fights and seeing first hand just how bad it’s gotten.
While not technically an RPG, Kiryu gains experience from fighting… well anyone. Thugs, drunks, punks, Yakuza or gang members, rich boys or people picking on men and women alike for money, dates or just because they can. All of this experience goes into a pool where you can use units in order to unlock what has been lost. Extra health, attack, moves and additions to combos. Brawler, Rush and Beast modes are all available to start off with but until you go through the various trees each won’t be doing much for a little while.
Compared to the three above, the last of your styles is going to be the tougher one to get back as you’ll need to actually fight for it as you can’t buy the moves of the Dragon back with experience points. You can only buy it back by force and it’s a good thing Majima is around because you’ll have to take him to the cleaners. Repeatedly. I loved how integrated they made this into the story as well. Majima is the first person encountered once you’re out and he kicks, your, ass. Hard. So taking it upon himself he tells Kiryu that he’ll still be watching everything and attacks at a moment’s notice.
Like the guy that constantly shakes you down in 0, Majima is EVERYWHERE just looking for a fight. Hell, hearing the Metal Gear Solid “!” Gave me a start and then I just knew, it was go time. Prank Zombie Apocalypses, behind you ordering food because your health was low. From below a manhole cover or jumping from an above balcony. Inside a bar pouring your drinks. Acting as a police officer and frisking you for weapons. Or, just simply walking around looking for you with no pretense. He. Is. Everywhere. And because of this, nowhere is safe so you’ll always want to be stocked up just in case you need to fight him. It’s not a bad thing either as it helps you personally as he gets tougher and tougher and if you’re not leveling up you’ll want to be starting.
All of this, story segments or just plain downtown fight sequences all help to prepare yourself against your once best friend who went from a soft hearted Playboy of sorts into a cold and cruel head of his own family while you were gone. Nishikiyama, Nishiki for short, was actually rather unrecognizable at first both from the cold stare and the slick backed hair. What I truly appreciated was that at the beginning of every chapter, you are shown his descent into madness while Kiryu was imprisoned instead of getting a two hour monologue at the end right before the final fight.
Alongside the main storyline and all of the fighting against Majima there are loads of side stories that make Kamurocho feel alive with the people that you encounter. Dine and dashers, finding a replacement as The Fighter announcer for car racing, someone who’s out of toilet paper, lover’s spat gone wrong which turns into a multi partitioned romp through the city with a Judo Master or finding 2000 Dollar Yen bills for someone. Some are damned random and will just happen while you’re walking by while others you can see coming just by how someone is standing in a crowd. That said, all of these are worth doing for the boosts in experience as well as the money which you’ll need to buy expensive gear and healing supplies.