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Yakuza Kiwami

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Title: Yakuza Kiwami
Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Website: http://yakuza.sega.com/kiwami/
Genre: Action/Adventure/RPG, Brawler
Platform: PC / PS4
Audience: 18+
Release Date: 19/02/19 (Steam)
Price: £14.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

What the Developers say

‘SEGA’s critically-acclaimed entry that started a legend. Become Kazuma Kiryu, an up-and-coming yakuza who takes the fall for the murder of a crime boss, only to emerge from prison ten years later to a changed world. Remastered from the ground up, now in 4K and uncapped framerates on PC.’

Introduction

The Yakuza series, originally hitting Western shores back in 2006 has always had a strong reputation among the fan base for its depiction of the Tokyo district, Kabukichō and other interesting Japanese locales. Its never-taking-itself-too-seriously, tongue-in-cheek approach to character relationships and its massive branching story forged a unique identity for the franchise, spanning decades of our loveable criminal protag, Kazuma Kiryu’s (and a couple of others on the side) journeys through the ups and downs of yakuza life, both inside and outside the organisational structure.

Taking the fall for his yakuza bro, Nishikiyama and ending up behind bars, our man Kazuma Kiryu wanders out of prison to find everything has changed, as you would expect over the course of a decade. Well, apart from his face. 10 years in the slammer acts a convenient explanation for Kiryu’s rusty fighting skills, but don’t worry, fan favourite (or least favourite; it’s a Marmite thing), Goro Majima, the Mad Dog of Shimano-turned-goofball, is constantly harassing Kiryu-chan at every opportunity in a bid to sharpen his skills. As is known across the internet, Majima is everywhere.

Finding the effects of his former colleague Nishikiyama’s trail of corruption throughout Kamurocho, Kiryu is on a mission to find friend and (obvious) love interest Yumi’s whereabouts. And to learn exactly what manner of power has infected Nishikiyama’s judgement, quickly raising Kiryu’s yakuza profile back to pre-departure glory with ever-escalating twists, whether he likes it or not.

Given the long life of the franchise and it’s humble PS2 origins, it’s fair to assume many players will have missed the original outing. Roll into 2017, and PS4 owners got a taste of the original in a full remake with loads of additional content. A remake that’s now arrived on PC.

In what’s an ever-more common occurrence in the PC gaming space, Japanese developers are raiding their back catalogues and porting their greatest hits to the platform. There are often caveats to the made-for-console-first titles, so how does Yakuza Kiwami stack up?

Looks and Sounds

In terms of performance then, the PS4 version of the game ran at a mostly stable 60FPS. Naturally the same is easily achieved here. Running a GTX 1070ti with an i5-8400 in 1080p, Yakuza Kiwami is silky smooth from start to finish. However, I use a high refresh rate 1080p monitor, as opposed to an arguably more suitable 1440p display.

Playing the game through medium settings with a couple of tweaks helped manage a v-sync enabled 120hz with no screen-tearing, using 144hz setting to allow for some overhead give. Cranking the dial up to ultra settings across the board with FXAA at its highest setting, clean textures and the best shadow quality, I still managed to lock it down to 60FPS with only a couple of minor adjustments. There’s a nice suite of choices to adjust to your liking. Not only are uncapped framerates supported but resolutions up to 4K are in the mix and, at the other end of the spectrum, Steam’s minimum specs listing suggests you’d manage with a GTX 560 or Radeon HD 6870, so anyone on a budget setup should be able to find settings to suit.

Image quality is fantastic and the colourful lighting that flanks the busy nightlife of the semi-fictional streets of Kamurocho is brought to life with lots of granular detail, like the selection of magazines in shops, the convincing layout of the streets, the neon shop signs, the seedy clubs, drunk folk staggering by the glorious Japanese food selection, the look of the vending machines; the list goes on. There’s so much to take in, making Yakuza Kiwami feel like the true modern-day successor to Shenmue that it’s often touted as. Character and facial animation are admittedly a bit lacking compared to modern counterparts, as is some of the texture work, but never to the point of being jarring.

The audio was re-recorded for the 2016 release, so everything is of the high quality you’d expect. Voice acting is as great as ever, with the fantastic Takaya Kuroda reprising his lead role once again. The soundtrack is a little more subdued than the rest of the presentation, often sounding like generic rock or electronic music mixed with some SEGA arcade flair; it’s competent but with only a handful of standout tracks. General sound design fairs better, however, with the over-the-top crunching of fisticuffs or slashing of weaponry sitting perfectly in the mix.

Gameplay and Replayability

Kiwami sports the Yakuza 0 fighting engine, a natural evolution of the usual Yazuka formula. What you have is a somewhat varied but simplistic 3D brawler where free movement in a small 3D arena is offered, and targeting is best left loose to take on multiple enemies at once, though the option to lock on to opponents is useful for one-on-one brawls. Fights are fun if a little stiff. While sometimes intense due to numbers, it’s a mostly button-mashing affair, with X (Xbox pad) used to string auto-combos and Y to deliver heavier blows to finish combo strings.

Grabs, dodging and blocking are naturally present, and special abilities range from flashy and brutal to plain daft, mostly handled in small set pieces called ‘Heat Actions’. Heat Actions are performed by meeting certain criteria such as holding a specific item, providing your Heat gauge is filled. There are loads of these, and it can be fun to experiment.

Kiryu has several fighting stances which do enough to keep early combat interesting. As you unlock more abilities – and adding to Kiryu’s Dragon of Dojima style is especially cool if you’re prepared to put the time in – you increase a fairly diverse array of moves, but in all honesty, it still devolves to button-mashing. The combat is arguably one of the weaker aspects of the series as a whole. Fights are mostly against small groups of thugs, wannabe gangsters or actual Yakuza of all rank but the difficulty is mostly static throughout, with few battles causing actual challenge. Random battles are far too frequent, and poor Kiryu can’t walk to the shop without some chump getting in his grill.

The RPG mechanics are centred around a task list which offers points, used for upgrades which are split into various stats and types across an FFX-style sphere grid skill tree (though more linear), whereas experience points are gained through fighting. Lots of the tasks are menial, with many comparable to the most mindless and/or obscure of standard achievement lists. However, most are naturally ticked off throughout a normal playthrough, providing you take the time to explore and enjoy the setting properly.

The real charm, outside the outlandish Yakuza TV-drama characterisation choices, is in that very exploration. Looking around within the game’s third-person perspective, Kiwami’s district of Kamurocho always feels alive and dense. Sandboxes are relatively small, but the bonus of this setup is there’s little by way of added fluff. The place feels organic and, after your fifth game of Shogi or Mahjong you’ll feel like you’re living the life of a movie Yakuza dude with too much time on their hands. There are a tonne of mini-games and partaking is great for really getting into the role and splitting up the story. Add to the usual open-world naturally occurring side quests, and you’ve got quite the package.

Conclusion

Yakuza Kiwami may not be best-in-class for each of its core components, but the package offers a unique take on Japanese sub-culture and one of the most polished Yakuza titles to date. The fast and flashy look at a glamorised yakuza lifestyle with all the loud-noise-tom-foolery of a proper SEGA joint is worth every minute. Now if you excuse me, I’ve got some fingers to chop off.

Rapid Reviews UK Rating

You can purchase Yakuza Kiwami on Steam at the following link,

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