Good evening, welcome to the Bilinguist.
Today, I'll be talking about Ryuu ga Gotoku Kiwami, or Yakuza Kiwami.
Kiwami is the remake of Yakuza 1, in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of the series,
as well as the result of requests from fans who wanted to see 1 and 2 translated to a
modern console with the new graphical fidelity of the games since Yakuza 3. As the game director
Nagoshi himself says, Kiwami is the product of what he wanted Yakuza 1 to become, the
final vision, if you will.
If you need a summary of Yakuza... it's... a series about beating up people with over
the top violence blended with a crime drama that features veteran actors and a huge amount
of side activities.
Even though it was limited by technological and hardware limits back in 2005, Yakuza 1
boasted an incredible aesthetic, replicating the steets of Kabukicho (Tokyo) in the form
of the fictional Kamurocho that we've come to know and love. The streets were filled
with neon lights, clubs, and plenty of everyday citizens milling about. And at the same time,
thugs, low life, and scum you can freely punish with anything you can get your hands on.
At the time, Yakuza 1 was critically acclaimed for its dramatic direction, the gritty story
and brutal action. Kiwami brings back everything, and more. But is more necessarily good? Is
it better than Yakuza 0? And most importantly, does Kiwami surpass and improve upon everything
Yakuza 1 did? ... Kind of.
Let's start with the battle system. In Kiwami, you carry over Yakuza Zero's combat styles
- Kiryuu can use Chinpira, Rush, Destruction and the Legendary Doujima no Ryuu freely.
Well, after you upgrade them all back to their previous levels, since you lose it all by
spending 10 years in prison. As far as I'm concerned, the reset isn't the worst thing
to ever happen, and the new system does sort of improve upon Zero's.
By unlocking the swap skills, you can change combat styles in the middle of attacking,
throwing enemies and objects around, and even while being downed. You can build up your
heat gauge with easy counters or combos, then swap to Destruction to slam the enemy with
super powered heat actions. The possibilties and movesets are varied and there's lots of
freedom in how to play.
But if I'm being honest, the system isn't as elegant as Zero's. Why is this? Simply
put, in Zero's Legendary style, you can perform all the heat actions the other styles had
because of the special ability unlocked by the style. This made combat extremely smooth
and the action was kept up nonstop. You could counter throw people with Legendary, and then
swung them into lightpoles without breaking action even once because you can directly
use Destruction's Heaven Swing.
However, Kiwami plays a little differently: let's say you use Legendary style's Tora Otoshi
and the guy flies into the wall. You then have to swap to Destruction, pick him up by
the leg, then swing him into the lightpole. Why is this? Because most of the heat moves
are now unique to their respective styles and stay that way, which is a shame. The extra
button press slows down time (literally), and just ends up feeling like a break in the
action and completely unnecessary.
That said, each style has their advantages and weaknesses... at least, up until the midpoint.
Like Yakuza 1, street objects are the best weapons you can use. Which means Destruction
will see a lot of use against groups and tough enemies. At the midpoint, you'll get enough
exp to unlock the extremely important Chinpira guard counter that's basically a weaker but
less risky version of Tora Otoshi, and give you an edge in fights against increasingly
tough opponents like Majima. Destruction remains extremely powerful all the way until the end
of the game, since you'll need it to take out the huge amounts of enemies.
Once at endgame, Legendary's Tora Otoshi will destroy pretty much anything, and is the bread
and butter of any encounter with an elite enemy. Ok, so... what about Rush style? You
didn't mention that so far. Yeah, that's the thing. Rush was pretty much useless for me
the entire game. There's no reason to use Rush for trash mobs, since Destruction will
sweep everything faster and easier, and there's no reason to use it against elites because
Chinpira's counterattack is far more powerful than anything you can do in Rush, and the
wall crush counter is much easier to activate.
Put simply, Rush is pretty much pointless. I couldn't even find a use for it outside
of the one single weapon arena fight with brass knuckles, and even then if you're farming
points, the ring out weapon arena fight is much faster with the wooden sword, since you
can slam people against the wall and force a ring out in 10 seconds. So yeah, Rush is
rendered useless and you can't even use its heat actions in Legendary mode.
Anyway, while the three Zero styles can be leveled up and improved with normal exp, Legendary
depends on how much you fight Majima, who will attack you very frequently. Depending
on whether you're a Majima fan or not, this can be... annoying. Like they advertise in
the trailer, Majima will show up anywhere at all. Patrolling as a policeman, dancing
in the streets, hiding in traffic cones, and he'll even play minigames with you, from the
mini-4WD races to playing darts or bowling.
To fully unlock the Legendary style's full abilities, you will have to defeat him at
everything. Like I said, depending on your point of view, what I listed can be regarded
as an either fun way to progress, or incredibly annoying.
I should also point out that near endgame, you have to use Tora Otoshi, or the fights
will drag on forever. FOREVER. Not only do enemies get tougher, they will also resist
a lot more. Normal combo attacks will almost never hit even trash mobs unless using Destruction's
AOE swings, and they will resist grabs a lot more. Not only does this make fights drag
on, bosses are far more annoying now.
New to the combat system is the super style heat actions, which are basically super combos
each style can do to bosses and take off huge amounts of health. What they didn't mention
however, is the fact that if you don't use a heat action to hit them while they're glowing,
the enemy will recover a stupid amount of health and you have to chip away at it again.
Majima in particular is a hugely annoying bastard before you get Tora Otoshi, and you'll
have to get very creative when fighting the weaponmaster style in particular, because
that style has a lot of guardbreaks and fast attacks that can't be countered. He will also
break grabs and dodge attacks almost perfectly near endgame, and there's simply no way to
keep up without using street weapons or Tora Otoshi. Ironically, the Mad Dog style is the
easiest to counter, so unlocking the last abilities of the Legendary style is actually
easier than the ones related to the weaponmaster.
But it's worth the effort, because you can actually unlock Majima's Mad Dog heat actions
and use them as Kiryuu. You thought Kiryuu wasn't already the strongest dude in the Yakuza
universe? Ok, give him Majima's moves and now he can even use short knives and bats
like a psycopath. It's a wonder he doesn't actually kill anyone in this game. The loss
of the heat actions from his Zero styles are basically replaced with Majima's and depending
on your point of view, could be an improvement.
Anyway, overall the combat is fun, but I wouldn't put it above Zero. Easily being able to swap
between styles is both a strength and a weakness, and while there are new heat actions and abilities
to have fun with, you can't enjoy them all at once anymore. Is that technically a flaw?
It's really up to you. People who think you should have the most fun with the Legendary
style will probably consider it one. People who think a balanced system where you have
to use all the styles equally might consider it an improvement. Majima fans are probably
pissing themselves at the thought that Kiryuu just outright steals his moves.
Anyway, I think that's enough about the combat, I want to talk about the graphics and aesthetic
now. Kamurocho looks absolutely fantastic, and brings back a lot of old shops in new
skins. There are now garbage piles and dirt in the back alleys, and water puddles look
better than ever. The weather actually affects how the streets look, and they look very pretty
in the rain. But I haven't even mentioned the best thing yet.
You can now knock glasses and shades off people. That's right. Ever thought to yourself, man,
I just crushed this guy's face in the floor and his shades are still on his face? Are
you kidding me? Well, you can now knock them off. By crushing faces against the floor.
HOW AWESOME IS THAT. It's awesome. It's bloody fantastic. Kamurocho's details and actual
prop physics are probably a preview of what we're going to see in 6, and I am looking
forward to that game, oh yes.
I guess if I had to nitpick, it's that Kiryuu looks permanently pissed now. Back in Yakuza
1 movies, I felt that his expressions were a lot more varied, especially when he turns
around in that movie where he gets arrested during the thunderclap. He looked... actually
sad. Sad that things came to this state. Sad that everything happened this way. But in
Kiwami he's... angry. And boy, does he look angry everywhere else too. Maybe they intended
for him to be angry all the time all along, but... I think I prefer a more 3-dimensional
Kiryuu who has other emotions.
Also, another problem I had was the constant frame drops. While the game usually runs at
60fps, it drops below that very frequently, and it's jarring as hell. I don't know why,
but someone screwed up optimizing the game and the silky smoothness from Zero is gone.
Move the camera around? Frame drop. Run faster than the game was loading? Frame drop as assets
are loaded in. Heat actions that involve a lot of movement? More frame drop. I don't
know why they managed to screw this up when Kiwami only has 1 explorable map that by all
rights should be absolutely perfectly optimized by now over the years.
This might be a problem that only occurs on the PS4 version, I don't have any idea if
the PS3 version is unoptimized as well. But unless they patch this, it is very obvious
and... well, while it doesn't ruin the game, it's annoying and definitely will cut into
your enjoyment. Hopefully, they will patch this some time in the future.
Moving on to the sound design, I think they've once again done a superb job in Kiwami. Everything
sounds great and accurate, from the crowded atmosphere in the streets to the clinks of
drinks in bars, the city feels more lively and accurate to life than ever. Combat sounds
are more brutal, the voice acting is even better than before, and the music, oh man
Mini 4WD races got a new soundtrack, and it's great. Fights have a new soundtrack, and it's
great. And best of all, themes from previous Yakuza games make appearances too. At one
point, you fight Zombie Majima, and you get to hear the battle theme from Yakuza Of The
End! And more songs too, from the old Receive You to the new one, Kiwami has an amazing
soundtrack and variety. While it's not the same 80s nostalgia you get with the 80s best
hits album in Zero, Kiwami has its own nostalgia - the kind you can only get from a series
that has spanned 10 years.
And of course, there's the two songs sung by Inaba of B'z fame. Good god this game has
a kickass soundtrack. So yeah, overall, I don't think I have a single complaint about
the sound design for Kiwami. It's pretty much as close to flawless as can be.
I guess the last thing to talk about would be the story. I actually wasn't sure if I
should assume everyone already knows the story, I mean, it's a game from 10 friggin' years
ago. It's like "Luke, I'm your father" territory. But, at the same time, I do realize there's
quite a lot of people who only got into the series after its Western boom in recent years.
And because of that, I will avoid spoilers.
At the same time, I wasn't sure if I should judge the story and writing in its current
state as a remake of 1, or if I should judge it standalone. In the end, I decided to judge
the remake as a remake. After all, it's a love letter to the fans, and as such, should
be judged as one. As someone who's played through 1 several times, I can safely say
that the story definitely has been improved. Nishikiyama's motivations, his mental changes
and suffering are well fleshed out and I gotta hand it to the actor Kazuhiro Nakaya, who
has improved immensely since Yakuza 1.
I remember in an interview he said that back in 1, he performed as he was told and didn't
quite grasp the character as well as he wanted to back then, and in Zero, he filled the shoes
a lot better because he finally got to see the motivation behind the character. And I
think he's right. In Kiwami, Nishiki is written a lot better and the performance has improved
significantly, and makes the story flow much better than before. An immense improvement
Majima has a lot of substories and interactions inserted, and will expand on what they both
did when the two sit down to drink in a club. And even references stuff that will happen
in the future. As mentioned previously, this game caters to Majima fans, and it doesn't
bother hiding that at all. Hidenari Ugaki acts his heart out as usual, and perhaps goes
a bit too far in some of the added bits...
In addition to the main story, a huge number of substories were added to the game as well.
Not only will you see familiar faces like the mini-4WD kids from Zero all grown up,
you will meet new ones from playing... a... uh... certain insect fighting game. Also,
if you liked Yuki from Zero, you'll be pleased to find that she makes a cameo in Kiwami as
well. In that insect fighting game.
However, at the same time, they added a bit of fluff to the tutorial. It adds a bit of
time between starting the game and actually getting to the part where Kiryuu gets imprisoned,
and if I'm being honest, kinda interrupts the flow of the game. To me, Yakuza 1's opening
was paced perfectly. Like an actual Yakuza crime drama on TV. Characters are introduced,
plot moves forward, drama ensues. It's now altered to be more game-y and explains a bit
more about the story and the significance of a certain object, but ultimately, I think
that could have been taken care of in a flashback and not actually forcing the player to go
out and mess about in a cut off, limited world.
Overall, I liked Kiwami. The combat is fun and ridiculous as always, and the city looks
better than ever. It has its flaws like the weird frame drops and some incredibly annoying
endgame enemies. If you're a Majima fan, it caters to you in every way. You'll find Majima
in every costume he's ever worn, from the Karaoke idol suit to the mysterious tuxedo
masked Hannya and even new ones like that revealing dress. Good god I'll have nightmares
of that one.
Anyway... what else? Uhh... the sound design is flawless, and the story has its improvements
and detractions. Overall, a great game that I would definitely recommend if you never
played Yakuza 1 and want to know more about the story. I would also recommend this as
a direct sequel to Zero, since it's directly connected via the substories.
However, if you've already played every single game in the series and are on the fence, I
would say... make your own judgment with what I've said about the game. It's an improved
Yakuza 1 with some elements of Zero, and while it has surpassed 1 in just about every way
possible, I don't think it surpasses Zero. Not quite. Hopefully, this review has been
helpful to you. My name is Xhinryu, thanks for watching.