Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Review: Yakuza Kiwami/龍が如く 極 (Ryuu ga Gotoku Kiwami) (no story spoilers)

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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

the music.

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.

The Description of Review: Yakuza Kiwami/龍が如く 極 (Ryuu ga Gotoku Kiwami) (no story spoilers)