Review: Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)

Review: Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)


  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3 *Japan only

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV


  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Yakuza Kiwami
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (20.42 GB)
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Using the same game engine as its prequel, Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami tells the story of the rise of Kazuma Kiryu in the Tojo Clan.

Having not played the original Yakuza on the PS2, I was so excited to hear that the remake, Yakuza Kiwami, was coming West.

This version of the game has been rebuilt from the ground up for the PS4. The original was dubbed in English and did not include the Japanese voice tracks. In addition to the graphical upgrades, the Japanese audio has been completely re-recorded in this version.

The game picks up in 1995, some years after the events of Yakuza 0, and continues the story of Kazuma and Nishiki. Very early on Kazuma again finds himself at a murder scene and is sentenced to prison.

When he finally makes parole, a decade later in 2005, he returns to Kamurocho to try to pick up his life where he left off. No longer are there pagers and pay phones – flip phones are now the main mode of communication. Not only is Kamurocho almost completely different, the Tojo Clan is in disarray.

Yakuza Kiwami is not just a simple remaster, but a complete remake of the original game. This means that you get to play not only with the enhanced graphics engine, but you also get to play Kazuma with his four battles styles: Brawler, Rush, Beast, and Dragon.

The battle system here has been enhanced from Yakuza 0. The styles themselves remain mostly the same but now there’s a new Essence of Kiwami special Heat attack. For those of you who are new to the series, Heat is a special attack meter that builds as you fight in battle. When the Heat reaches one of several tiers on your Heat meter, you get an indicator that allows you to perform a devastating attack when you hit the Triangle button.

As you’re fighting mini-bosses and regular bosses, when their health gets low, they’ll go into a charging state where they’ll glow and begin to recover health. In their charging state, the bosses will glow a specific color that corresponds to one of Kazuma’s four battle styles. If you switch to that battle style and fill your Heat meter to at least the first tier, you will get an indicator to perform the special Kiwami attack which does an extreme amount of damage that typically ends the fight.

One of the game’s signature additions is the new Majima Everywhere system. Similar to the Mr. Shakedown system of the prequel, the Majima Everywhere system has the fan favorite Gorō Majima roaming the streets of Kamurocho looking for a fight. Unlike the Mr. Shakedown fights, the Majima fights aren’t quite as tough in the beginning, but the encounters are fairly frequent for such a sizable map, and he also gets tougher and tougher from battle to battle.

This system is not just a cool excuse to throw more Majima into the game, but it also serves up some of the most hilarious encounters with the maniacal frenemy. Majima Everywhere really means Everywhere. Frequently, Majima will invade both common battles on the street as well as invade your play time in the various minigames.

The Mr. Shakedown mechanic was one of my favorite aspects of the game of the prequel and this new system is just as great of an idea. And just like how the Mr. Shakedown battles were great for getting massive amounts of experience and cash, the Majima battles reward you with gobs of experience and also are the sole way to upgrade your Dragon battle style.

The mini-games, one of the hallmarks of the series, are back and are new and enhanced. The batting cages are more like the ones that fans are used to in the third game forward as far as aiming and batting go. The bowling game is just like the one in Yakuza 5 and Yakuza 0 with all of the various weights of balls unlocked to use on the fly.

I was a bit sad to see that fishing and Boxcelios (arcade shooter) missing from this game, but this is a budget title with a surprisingly low cost for the amount of features and enhancements it has.

Although a few of the mainstay mini-games are missing, slot car building and racing makes a comeback along with a new twist on the bikini wrestling game that was added in the prequel. Instead of going down in the basement of the theater district to watch the bikini wrestling, you now go to the arcade to play a revamped version of the game now called MesuKing: Bug Battle Beauties.

MesuKing is essentially an arcade card-battle game that’s entirely inappropriate for, but popular with, small children. The same bikini clad babes from the previous game now are dressed in insect themed bikinis and you use various cards to build a deck. This is a Rock-Paper-Scissors style game, but the two fighters have a health bar and special attacks that make it a bit challenging as you fight the harder adversaries.

Coin locker keys, another series staple, are back. Not only do you have to find all the coin locker keys, but you also need to keep your eye out for MesuKing cards. The coin locker keys are the same greenish white glowing orbs around town, and the MesuKing cards appear as glowing pink orbs that morph into butterflies, making them slightly easier to spot.

Since I didn’t play the first version of the game I’m not quite certain if there are additional substories added but there seem to be quite a few new ones. There are only two hostesses to romance in this version and they seem to be brand new. According to a walkthrough, of the PS2 game on GameFaqs, there were six hostesses in the first game and none of which made it to the current game.

It’s kind of unfortunate that the content of the six hostesses is gone from this game but the plus side is that there’s a little bonus waiting for you when you complete each hostess’ substory. You get a little video clip similar to the adult video viewing business in Yakuza 0 which depicts sexy times with the ladies.

The game also mentions that if you continue to romance each hostess after you S-rank them you’ll have an even more special bonus in store for you. I unfortunately didn’t get that far at the time of this review so you’ll just have to romance them and find out for yourself.

Though I didn’t play the first game, I can’t really say much about how much better this one is – story and content-wise – from the first version. However, so far it’s been fantastic. There are so many hilarious encounters and the game seems to be packed full of content for such a low price.

The game uses the same engine as its prequel, Yakuza 0. Unfortunately, the graphical issues that I encountered in that game carry over into this one. I want to stress, however, that these are very minor and really don’t affect the enjoyment of the game.

There’s frequent texture pop-in though they seem to have fixed the screen tearing for the most part. There also tends to be framerate dips at certain times, particularly in the nighttime segments. But other than these minor graphical problems it looks simply gorgeous. Just like in the last game, Kamurocho is more alive and vibrant as it’s ever been.

As with all the HD Yakuza games, Kiwami does an excellent job with the surround sound, often too good at times if you have pets. The use of the back speakers is excellent, and really brings out the atmosphere of a busy section of Tokyo.

As far as dialogue goes, the original English dub is gone and is now replaced with the standard Japanese audio which has been re-recorded for this new edition of the game. As per usual, the voice acting is excellent.

While there is no online component to the game, it does have two player local multiplayer for some of the minigames (i.e., bowling, darts, and pool). I unfortunately don’t have people to play the games with, but it’s just kind of an extra bonus mode that’s thrown in. The scores you get in the multiplayer portion do not contribute to your completion points in the single player game unfortunately.

Overall, Yakuza Kiwami is an excellent game, despite some missing content and some minor graphical issues. It’s such a great time to be a Yakuza fan in the West, and be blessed with so many of the games coming out in 2017 and 2018 – and possibly beyond, with the recent announcement of Kiwami 2).

If you’re new to the series, there has never been a better time to get in on the action. Yakuza 0 was an awesome prequel and it’s just wonderful to be able to finally have a chance to play the game that started it all. I’ve always debated getting a PS2 to play the first two games, and now I can enjoy them in this new awesome rebuilt edition for the PS4.

This series is my favorite series on PlayStation – the story, the characters, the quirky mini-games and humor are just so good – I can’t recommend Yakuza Kiwami enough.


* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Jason Honaker

Jason Honaker

A software developer for over 15 years, originally from St. Louis, MO and currently living in Seattle, WA. Started gaming in 1979 on the Atari 800 8-bit PC. I play all sorts of games, but am partial to RPGs and 3rd person brawlers and shooters.

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