Picking up one year after the original, Yakuza Kiwami 2 resumes the story of Kazuma Kiryu as trouble once again erupts in the fictional city of Kamurocho. Again not having the choice but to sharpen his skills, Kiryu dusts himself off from recently being a father to his ward to once again get down and dirty with everyone that lays in the way.
Having gone straight through Yakuza Kiwami and right onto Yakuza Kiwami 2, there’s a lot that was obviously fresh. For those that haven’t though, or like me who were only starting the series off, I was impressed with the four part summary of the original with enough details that anyone starting off would not be lost. Actually, there was part of the flashback that must have been a side story that I hadn’t seen because I watched it and wondered huh, that’s a neat addition that I wish I had seen. The only thing it was missing was more Majima craziness.
If there was perhaps one issue that was apparent from the beginning it was the performance on the Xbox One. While the very beginning fight within a cemetery is smooth and the graphic enhancements are clear to see, the performance of these new visuals really chugged at the system once you get the chance to once again walk the streets of Kamurocho. As you work your way through some of the main streets to find the son of the previous Patriarch, the visuals just couldn’t seem to keep up and it was rather straining on the eyes. This chugging doesn’t last too long thankfully as once you leave Kamurocho for other parts of Japan everything smooths and it just becomes a delight to play.
For the most part, Yakuza Kiwami 2 follows the same structure of the first. With hefty cutscenes mostly at the beginning and ends of the chapters, there’s a sprinkle of smaller ones in between to move the plotline along between the various bouts that Kiryu will be having as he’s charged by thugs of various natures. Perhaps my favorite part this time around is that because of the new graphical style that was implemented for Kiwami 2, foes will be walking around in large groups or run out of shops in order to get all up in your face as they have no idea of who they are dealing with.
I would have to say between Zero, Kiwami 1 and Kiwami 2, Kiwami 2’s fighting system simply felt more natural as it did away with “styles” such as Brawler, Beast and Rush and instead had one all encompassing style that didn’t need to be changed out of. Now, you are simply levelling the abilities that you want to use and using them when you want to. This was great for me as I spent most of my time in Kiwami with the Brawler until there was something on the ground to use like a bicycle or a store sign for loads of extra damage in Beast mode. Either that or one of your enemies to use against the others that just brings its own satisfaction. It’s not the most “realistic”, but it’s damned satisfying.
Unlike the original’s concept of having experience levels that can be used to purchase skills, this time around Kiryu will be receiving “stat” specific experience points that can be used in various combinations with one another to unlock new abilities. Strong Charge attack for example will cost six body and six endurance while getting a Token of Appreciation costs six across four stats and 34 of another. Completing side quests, fighting with thugs in the streets or moving the main storyline ahead, each will net you a decent amount of experience which can only be amplified with food. Eating it back and on top of healing you up, it’ll also grant you loads of experience as long as you don’t overdo it and overfill Kiryu’s stomach.
Along with the skills, experience is also used to increase strength, health and defense which once level capped, a new cap can be unlocked for a hefty sum. So doing the sidequests, fighting the thugs that simply don’t know what they are getting into or stopping those that are bullying people? You’ll want to do all of the above as it generally doesn’t take that much time and it also has the satisfaction of knowing that the place is just a little bit safer for everyone in the meantime.
While playing through both Zero and Kiwaki 1, I kept thinking to myself that the series is old enough to have spawned certain other ideas into place but it wasn’t until loading Kiwami 2 and going through the tutorial that I knew that I may have been right. Akiba’s Trip was NUTS as you brawled your way through the streets of Akihabara hunting down vampires and using whatever was available as a weapon. This time around, and I appreciated it from the first, is that on top of using bikes, and motorcycles and street signs as weapons to do hefty amounts of damage, Kiryu can now stock up on certain types of weapons to use them later down the line.
Bokken (Wooden Katana), Metal Katanas, metal or wooden baseball bats or knives and guns. Each of these can be stashed away for later use and up to three of these can be slotted in for quick use. This makes certain badass bosses a little more manageable at lower levels but at the same time I think it’s assumed that you do have this inventory because while it’s perfectly acceptable and possible to duke it out with fists, dodging and blocking? Having a sword or a golf club makes quite a difference especially when the situation is life or death.
Now unlike Yakuza Kiwami, and more in line with Yakuza 0, the second has a few side stories that are entirely possible to sink too much time into. Introduced into play during chapters four and five, Kiryu becomes both the manager of a Hostess Club and a Foreman of Majima Construction, yes, Majima Construction. Majima has gone “straight” and has decided to build the Kamurocho Hills where the homeless den of Purgatory once stood in the top right of the city map while running all of the businesses below after the Flourist left. Both are massive time sinks and while you are pretty much forced to do the intros, if either or both are not your thing, don’t worry about it as the main story can be advanced.
Between the two, the Hostess Club wasn’t really my thing, but it’s interesting enough to spend some time on between beating people up as the main story escalates. Acting as the manager, Kiryu will be greeting people at the door and deciding based on personal takes which hostess will be greeting which guest. With the end goal to make loads of money and win a Grand Prix tournament, you’ve got your work cut out for you starting with only three hostesses. Each session goes by quickly enough and in that time between seating and picking up the checks, you’ll also be asked to step in and help from getting glasses to emptying ashtrays or bringing towels all based off of hand gestures from the hostess that asked for help.
In a clear contrast from the hostess scene, the clan creator mode where you are made foreman for Majima Construction was much more up my alley. Threatened by construction tycoons wanting Kamurocho Hills, you’ll have to manage the staff and Majima in a top town real time strategy. Each unit is controlled independently and the main goal is to defend the construction equipment being targeted. It’s fast enough paced as the stages move on and often you’ll find yourself needing to redo some stages in order to level up your units because the bosses that you’ll encounter are just ridiculous.