The boy with the dragon tattoo
When Goro Majima appears over your shoulder dressed as a policeman and wanting a ruck while smiling and shouting in his eccentric voice, you’ll understand what kind of game Yakuza Kiwami is: one that hard-shifts from borderline-nonsensical things (stab someone in a fight, watch them run away unharmed) to sincere, heart-wrenching scenes that show characters with real depths. It all means you’ll fall for this universe in a big way. A remake of the first Yakuza on PS2, Kiwami has so much heart. From the hefty runtime to the diverse characters, taking in difficult subject matter that isn’t often addressed along the way, it always comes back to the story.
Series stalwart Kazuma Kiryu is just out of prison and embroiled in yet more Japanese organised crime. Trouble tends to follow Kiryu, and although he’s ten years out of the Yakuza game, part of his story is about rediscovery: his powers, his strengths, and how he’s never really changed. In a world ruled by gang bosses who are absolute scum, Kiryu is the fly in their ointment, the wolf among the sheep, and other clever analogies that will make you stroke your chin in wonder.
At the centre of Kiwami is Kamurocho, a neon-filled fictional district of Tokyo that is as much a character as Kiryu himself. Bustling and full of life, it plays host to the weird and wonderful people that make the game so amusing. As well as the sub-stories that make the place feel so well realised, there’s a Sega arcade to test your retro gaming skills, and karaoke bars to hit up. Kamurocho begs to be explored, even though it’s basically a red-light district, going so far as to include a dirty video shop and “soaphouses”.
When he’s not exploring, Kiryu is a phenomenal fighter, with four distinct styles to switch between. Each can be improved by unlocking skills with points earned by brawling. Combat is brutal, and you can perform heat actions, which are excruciating (often environmental) finishers that would make a cage fighter squirm. Fancy picking up a motorbike and smashing your enemy’s face in with it? Yakuza has you covered, my friend.
Thanks to the lengthy cutscenes and mesmerising Japanese voice acting, it’s easy to forget this is a remake built in the Yakuza 0 engine, but there are moments that remind you it’s an old game: getting stuck on a small bit of the environment, combat that could do with a few more moves, a couple of incredibly frustrating late bosses, and a few too many back-tracking moments.
If you’ve played the original then you’ll love the fact Majima is in the game more, and the updated visuals are a hit too. But if you’re new to the series, you can send us your thank you letter later. This is what’s been missing in your life.
“SHIFTS FROM BORDERLINENONSENSICAL ACTION TO HEART-WRENCHING SCENES.”
With a world that you’ll end up knowing by heart and characters you’ll want more of, Kiwami is unique, moving, and serious: everything you love about games. Adam Cook
The combat is brilliant. Every punch feels like it could launch a cow across a football pitch.
INFO FORMAT PS4 ETA OUT NOW PUB SEGA, DEEP SILVER DEV SEGA