Game Review: Yakuza: Kiwami (PS4)

The original release of Yakuza may be over twelve years old but this High-Definition remake of the much-beloved-franchise brings some fresh blood into what some would consider an aging game. So; what can one expect from SEGA’s release of Yakuza: Kiwami and more importantly is the game any good? Well lets take a look!

Title: Yakuza: Kiwami
Publisher: SEGA / Deep Silver
Developer: SEGA
Platform: PS4
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Audio: Japanese
Subtitles: English (White)
Local Players: 1
Online Players: N/A
Install: YES (21GB)

Over View:

Developed using the same game-engine as Yakuza 0 comes Yakuza Kiwami for the PlayStation 4; a High Definition remake of the original PlayStation 2 classic that was released in 2006 (or 2005 if you imported the Japanese version) which puts you in control of Kazuma Kiryu as he attempts to overthrow the current Yakuza leadership within the streets of Tokyo.

By now you may be thinking “Really? Not another rerelease of an old game” but just like with Vicarious Visions High Definition remake of Crash Bandicoot or The Coalitions remake of Gears of War SEGA have built Yakuza: Kiwami from the ground-up to deliver that authentic current gen experience while staying true to the content of the original PS2 Game. Now; personally I have ‘never’ played the original Yakuza, nor had I played any Yakuza game until the release of Yakuza 0 earlier in the year, but even I was massively impressed by what this game had to offer – not just with its improved visual performance, which runs on par with most releases nowadays – but with the attention to detail in the games ever-expanding and in-depth story.

The story of Yakuza Kiwami begins in October 1995 when after collecting money from a local Yakuza-owned-den Kazama receives word that his potential love-interest Yumi had been abducted by the local boss Patriarch Dojima. Concerned for Yumi’s well being Kazama’s long-time-friend, and local Yakuza ally, Akira Nishikiyama, nicknamed Nishiki, goes chasing after them. Hearing word of this situation Kazama leaves his collection drop-off meeting to chase down Nishiki and Dojima; but when arriving at the local Yakuza office discovers Dojima dead and Nishiki holding the weapon that killed him. It’s a dramatic scene and it’s one that sees Kazama taking responsibly for the murder of Dojima so that Nishiki and Yumi can escape but in process becomes exiled from the Yakuza and considered as a traitor to the core – much to the dismay of those who respected him.

Fast-forward ten years into the future and Kazama leaves prison to return to the streets of Tokyo to find that everything he once held dear has gone. Not only has the Tojo clan and Nishikiyama clan changed drastically but his childhood-friend and potential love-interest Yumi has disappeared. Confused by this new situation Kazama attempts to unravel what has transpired in the past ten years but upon doing so discovers that the Yakuza clans are not only looking for a missing ten billion yen payment but are after a mysterious young girl known as Haruka; a girl which potentially has ties to disappearance of Yumi and the missing money. It’s a great set up for what is an exceptional story and, as you may imagine, we get to experience it all through the digital eyes of Kazuma Kiryu.

This story is presented to the player through a combination of pre-rendered CGI cut scenes, in-game cut scenes, Dialogue on screen – almost visual novel like – scenes and regular gameplay which combines the free-roaming-experience found in Sleeping Dogs and SEGA Dreamcast classic Shenmue with the brawler fights of a button masher; all of which blend naturally together to create a seamless experience that gets more invigorating and rewarding the further your progress.

For instance during the opening hours of the game (some of which you will be able to see in our gameplay video) you will be restricted on what you can do and where you can go in this digital recreation; but as you progress forward through the story you will be able to explore more areas, engage in more destructive fights and even choose which shops and locations to take part in. It literally is the 21st Century version of Shenmue – except this time it has the adult themes of sex, violence and alcohol to go along with it.

As mentioned combat is delivered in between the ‘progressive storyline elements’ of the game to deliver some action but what makes this combat different from similar games is that four different fighting styles are available; each of which offer a different fight style. These different fight styles can be improved by using experience earned as well as learning from other characters in the game; but those looking for the more ‘violent’ touch can do so by using weapons found scattered on the floor. Naturally only a limited amount of weapons are available; but if it is available it can be varied with items such as Golf Clubs, TVs, Chairs and Baseball Bats each being usable in a fight. Constant use of weapons though will result in the item being damaged; so best to avoid constant use of them.

The combat is simple and effective, much like with the rest of the game; but while it may look simple on the surface – especially with its narrative and combat style – a deeper complexity can be found within the streets. Nearly every character can be spoken up – although only some will provide useful information – additionally being able to walk in to selected shops, such as pawn brokers, an arcade or a dinner – allows for further flexibility and areas to explore on what some would consider a linear storyline experience.

The progression of the game is quite linear in its approach, with next-objective markers being placed on the games mini-map (as well as full-screen map found within the game menu); so you’ll never find yourself distraught on what to do next. Some objectives however, such as the Pawn brokers mission near the start of the game, will see you hunting people within the local area with clues being provided by people in the street. Naturally these are time consuming; but they are not troublesome and offer a nice break from the potential onslaught of battles that you may experience as part of your campaign.

Yakuza Kiwami may seem like ‘just another HD remake’ to some; but from my perspective at least ‘this’ is the HD remake of game you’ve been wanting to experience. A lost gem from an older console re-envisioned for a new generation of gamers. It’s visually stunning, invigorating and an absolute rollercoaster of a journey that just gets better the further you progress forward. If you missed out on the original PlayStation 2 classic then now would be the perfect time to experience this thrilling title.

Score: review-stars-5

Yakuza: Kiwami is now available for PlayStation 4 as both a physical release and digital download from the PlayStation Store.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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