I have to admit, when I recall the very first time I discovered the Yakuza series, I had mixed feelings for it. Despite hearing only good things about this series, it was just not really my type of game. Regardless, the Yakuza games got on my plan-to-play list for a long time and when I finally got around playing it, I was left stunned. Never did I think I would enjoy an action-RPG game as much as I did with Yakuza Kiwami 2.
I looked forward to playing it every time I booted up my PC, not realising I’ve been playing for several hours already when I finally manage to pull myself away from the screen.
I would like to mention that while there is an option to watch the previous games’ main plot-points, and therefore possible to start with Yakuza Kiwami 2 right away, it is still highly recommended to play Yakuza Kiwami, its predecessor, beforehand as the experience will be a lot different than only having watched a summary. It goes without saying that there are spoilers for the events from the first game within the catchup, so best not to watch it if you intend to pick up and play Kiwami at some point in the future. [Rob – There’s also Yakuza Zero, which was created just before Yakuza 6 but this isn’t covered in the ‘catchup’ segment. The Kiwami games have had content added to make Zero Canon but the events in that game are to purely expand on some unexplained backstories in the series]
Mild spoilers from Yakuza Kiwami – Yakuza Kiwami 2 continues the story of Yakuza Kiwami, therefore Kazuma Kiryu (the Dragon of Dojima) is the main protagonist within this game, just like all subsequent titles. After building up a peaceful life with his foster-daughter, Haruka Sawamura, the fifth chairman of the Tojo-Clan, Yukio Terada, got murdered and Kiryu is forced to go back to keep the peace between the clans, although many people are against it. Unfortunately, after meeting Ryuji Goda, the Dragon of Kansai, it is pretty clear that he has no intentions of keeping things peaceful. For him, there can only be one ‘Dragon’ in the world.
A Surprisingly Good Story-Line
As previously aforementioned, I’m usually not really into games that have a strong focus on fighting, but to my surprise, Yakuza Kiwami 2 contains a super entertaining story that left me craving for more. I soon started to absolutely adore every character I met and was able to sympathise with them very quickly, which made me naturally get attached to its story-line and really made me feel low when something happened to my precious characters. Although it’s a story about the Yakuza, who are quite violent, Yakuza Kiwami 2 managed to show me a new side of them, that even though they might have a bad prejudice in general, they are just human as well who just happen to have their own way of solving problems.
I have to admit, I don’t know a lot about the Yakuza in general or how they operate, yet the story was really easy to follow and it felt very natural. While I cannot say if the story is realistically written, as I was playing Yakuza Kiwami 2 I never questioned any of the actions of the characters or felt that they were ‘off’.
In the beginning, there is a tutorial available for those who are new to this series, which is easy enough to follow. You basically get the chance to test your skills and combos beforehand as you’re guided through the different functions of the game. The only thing I found a bit confusing was that instead of showing where that specific function was located, it just opened the menu and selected it by itself. Although it was nice that I didn’t have to spend time searching for it, it really threw me off, even making me thinking something was wrong with the game at times.
With that said, there are a lot of different useful skills available in Yakuza Kiwami 2. Besides the average attacks, combos, evading and guarding, there is also a separate gauge for a special attack that fills up itself while successfully hitting your target, but beware, it also drops again when you get hit by the enemy. It’s also optional to either pick up items and use them as a weapon or draw weapons you already own in your inventory which might get used for the special attack as well. The unique thing about the special attack is that every item and weapon has an individual cinematic attack.
A feature that is very unique about Yakuza Kiwami 2 is that it doesn’t work with levels per se, but still lets you gain XP with every successful fight or quest. It’s possible to spend the XP for various different skills such as extending your stamina or increasing your stats, so you are still having some sort of improvement. While your weapons might run out of usage, you can wear armour to gain stat boosts as well, although they do not affect your looks.
While I have to admit that I am not very good at fighting games in general, the boss fights were very outstanding and it was really challenging. Although challenging could be laid out as something bad, Yakuza Kiwami 2 bosses were nowhere near frustrating. Even after trying for hours, I was still determined to beat a specific boss until I finally took him down. Don’t make the same mistake as me, buy a lot of health potions before encountering a boss, they are really useful and worth every yen.
Although you can’t save during battles, it autosaves very often so you never need to worry about losing a lot of your progress. This is very useful at times when you’re fighting a boss and can’t beat him. Although you may not be able to save right before the fight, it gives you the chance to go back, gain more XP, and buy health potions to try and beat the boss again.
There are a lot of side quests available in the game which don’t have anything to do with the main story, they let you get to know various side characters and meet some ‘interesting’ people. I was really surprised to see that a few of the side quests are actually tied to one other and continue the side story across multiple events. While some are extremely short ones, others are quite long and there really is every type of side story available. Some are really hilarious while others are quite emotional – I even found myself sympathising with a few of the side characters, even though I’ll probably never see them again.
[Rob – On top of the multitude of side missions on offer, there are arcade-perfect emulations of classic SEGA Arcade games, which you find in the SEGA Arcade Centres, lots of bar games, whilst taking a pee in the urinal you get to play a mini-game, and the Clan Builder from Yakuza 6 is back. If you’ve not seen the Clan game, I explain it in more detail in my Yakuza 6 review (just click the name). It’s basically a case of recruiting various infamous Yakuza’s and sending them out to eliminate other clans as you watch on and plan who you’ll send in next.
On top of all of this (Yakuza games are massive if you haven’t noticed), we see a return of the Karaoke bars for you to sing your hearts out at, you get to play a new chapter as the loveable, yet slightly crazy, Goro Majima, and every street in both Kamurocho and Sotenburi is crammed full of missions to find and events to uncover. There’s never a dull moment in any Yakuza game.]
Managing a Hostess Bar
While there are a lot of different kinds of mini-games to experience, which aren’t related to the main story, the most memorable one for me was without a doubt managing a hostess bar. When I first discovered this mini-game, I immediately stalled the main story just so I could spend hours within this mini-game and improve my standing. When guests are visiting your bar, you are managing which girl will entertain them and occasionally help out when the customer causes a fuss. With every day, your hostesses naturally improve and gain level ups, but you have to keep in mind that their salary will increase as well. Sadly, the ladies sometimes need a break as their mood greatly goes down when work is too stressful. It’s a really fun micromanagement game in the vein of Diner Dash.
I found that this was a good way to earn a lot of money once I’d slowly gotten the hang of it. A very unique thing about Yakuza Kiwami 2 is, by far, that it offers so many different mini-games that it’s guaranteed that everyone will find their perfect one.
To sum it up, I absolutely fell in love with Yakuza Kiwami 2 and its series in general. While I never thought I would be able to love a game where it’s core component is fighting, I am absolutely glad I decided to give this game a try. While I have to admit there’s something really satisfying about beating up thieves, the story totally threw me off and got me hooked right until the end. Yakuza Kiwami 2 managed to make me care about its characters a lot and surprisingly, the mini-games were unbelievably fun.
By all means, give this game a try, even if you are not usually into combat-heavy games, you’ll end up absolutely loving this game as I did.