Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the first game in the Yakuza series from SEGA. Those who only know about the modern games of the series will feel right at home, while those who played the first title will get to see this everything in a better light. The story and characters remain the same from the original release, but Yakuza Kiwami adds new cutscenes and some gameplay elements from recent entries of the series, making for a polished retelling of the 2005 PlayStation 2 game. It might not be as long or over-the-top as other Yakuza games, but Yakuza Kiwami does a good job of reimagining the start of the franchise.
Unlike in the original release, you can now use multiple fighting styles much like in the game’s prequel, Yakuza 0. Beyond that, fighting enemies and moving around the city of Kamurocho is almost identical to the rest of the series. You still have those random mini-games you can find in the local arcades of the city, but they aren’t as abundant as in later games. Much of the focus is more on the story and battles than the time wasters in other Yakuza games.
In addition, you’ll find yourself fighting the crazy Goro Majima in random places around Kamurocho, which help you level up a Dragon Style of fighting. It can take a long while gaining enough experience or fighting enough battles to level up to MAX, but the moves and abilities you gain are helpful along the way.
The story of Yakuza Kiwami is exactly what you might expect if you played the original game it’s based on. If you never did, however, or if you only played a few of the recent games, then you’ll have a better experience with the origins of the series. Kiriyu Kazama takes the blame for a murder committed by his best friend and goes to jail for ten years, before returning to Kamurocho and seeing how the criminal underworld has changed. While it has a slow start with a few very dull moments, a lot of the excitement comes from the big battles related to the story.
There’s a lot of twists and turns with the plot, including a few surprises and double crosses that fans of the Yakuza series will already see coming, but their presentation is much better this time around. For Kiwami however, there’s an additional 30 minutes of story cutscenes that give more story details and build connections to other games that fans will appreciate.
Yakuza Kiwami is a big visual upgrade for the first game, making it look and feel more in line with the latest games of the series. The cutscenes look very good and make a lot of the action and drama look important, yet stylish. The city of Kamurocho looks great with its bright lights and bustling streets, most of which are filled with bystanders crowding the area.
It can get a little annoying when you’re running around and constantly bump into people that are just there randomly, which can sometimes bring your movement to a halt. The design of the environments does begin to show its age when you find spots with invisible barriers or stoic people lingering around, but visual details on everything still look good none the less.
If you’ve only gotten into playing the Yakuza games recently, then you’ll have a lot to enjoy with Yakuza Kiwami. As a remake, what you get is a solid revisiting of what made the Yakuza series so interesting, while still having enough room for all the improvements from later games. The visual update and additional content are good, despite some of the game’s older problems still lingering around. It’s not a perfect reimagining of the first Yakuza game, but it definitely gets the job done.
This review is based on a digital review code for Yakuza Kiwami for the PlayStation 4, provided by SEGA.