Monday
Feb182019

QCF: Yakuza Kiwami 2

fter The success of both Yakuza Kiwami, and Yakuza 6: The Song of Life on the PlayStation 4, it was no surprise that SEGA had announced to Weekly Famitsu Magazine that it was planning to re-release the entire series of the mega-hit property onto the PlayStation 4. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the latest entry to spear-head the effort shortly after the release of Yakuza 6, an update to the second entry of the franchise, and the last one to have released on the PlayStation 2 before Yakuza had made the transition to the PlayStation 3 years later.

In what may arguably be the strangest title of the lineup in contrast to the spin-offs and seventh-generation entries, SEGA didn’t pull any punches in ensuring that Yakuza Kiwami 2 captured all of the wacky narratives and tongue-in-cheek writing of the original game. This PlayStation 4 remaster brings it all together with the new Dragon game engine that was introduced in Yakuza 6, and an assortment of other enhancements that make the trip back to the Kamurocho the best one yet.

Unlike the amount of groundwork that was involved with giving the original Yakuza the Kiwami treatment, SEGA had a more reserved approach towards Yakuza 2, striving to renovate the core game experience with familiar enhancements, instead of simply remaking it into something that was brand new. For starters, everything from the presentation, to the original menu interface of the sequel are kept mostly intact, being nearly identical to the PlayStation 2 iteration, with the exception of the high definition coat of gloss that’s been given to the visuals of course. Iconic moments from Kiryu’s harrowing quest to smooth over tensions between warring clans of the Tojo and the Omi are faithfully reproduced with a one-to-one accuracy. The degree of similarity between the two is so uncanny that if the two different versions were to be juxtaposed side by side with one another, they could play out in perfect synchrony, making it the more consistent remake of the Kiwami brand than the previous release as far as fan service goes.

In all fairness though, a lot of SEGA’s work was cut out for them when it came to modernizing this particular venture as the framework of Yakuza 2 was admittedly ahead of its time within its own right, which would to prove why the integration of the Dragon Game Engine, and other enhancements are executed so seamlessly in it.

The Dragon Engine had introduced a more “freeflow” take on the game’s combat dynamics, giving a Kiryu a more fluid feel in his fighting cadence than that of the dialed input system that Yakuza 0 emphasized. The fighting system in this new engine was handily the best it has ever been in any of the entries prior, brilliantly complimenting the pace of the already over-the-top martial arts combat the series was known for—yet somehow, SEGA had found to a way to improve it even more for Kiwami 2. The first big upgrade is the increased number of heat actions that the Dragon of Dojima has at his disposal. The further you develop the honorable criminal’s abilities, and his relationship with the citizens around him (more on that in a bit,) the more contextual opportunities you’re given to absolutely destroy the opposition with new sequences that push the franchise’s penchant for violent spectacle even further than anything before it.

While Yakuza 6 played around with context-sensitive Heat actions in a limited scope, Kiwami 2 expands that concept by giving players more options for its flashy finishers based on the immediate environment, or the specific side-stories that Kiryu has completed for the locals around him. Did you happen to help that street musician by bringing him some Kleenex when he needed to blow out his stuffy nose? He’ll gladly remember your kindness by throwing you his guitar to use as a weapon whenever you need it bust the buster who was stupid enough to provoke you while he was nearby. Or what about the shy convenience store clerk who didn’t know he was any good at customer service, help him with his retail woes, and he gladly assist you with operating the store microwave anytime you need to roast some sucker’s head in it when a brawl breaks out at the cash register. There are so many of these little instances that not only make the adventure of Kiwami 2 feel more dynamic, but they also make the player feel far more rewarded than any simple checklist did in previous outings.

On top of these enhancements for the system, Kiwami 2 brings back an old mechanic that was reintroduced the previous remake; weapon load-outs. Just as you were able to in the prior titles, Kiryu can now equip himself with three different melee weapons that can be selected at any time with the directional pad, giving him an extra edge against the opposition whenever the situation calls for it. The return of weapon load-outs may not seem like much at first glance, but it’s honestly a surprising refreshment to Song of Life’s bizarre decision to omit the mechanic from its combat system, grounding the series back towards its more, over-the-top roots.

While it may have seemed a bit too fool-hardy of SEGA to release another full-fledged Yakuza title so soon after the canonical swansong of the series, Yakuza Kiwami 2 sets itself apart by striving to deliver a remake that simply just works harder than the sum of its parts. Not since the re-release of Resident Evil on the GameCube has a remaster done so much to appeal to both its previous generation of players, and a generation of new ones—this title is a must own for any self-respecting PlayStation 4 library.

 

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