Saturday 27 October 2018

Yakuza Kiwami 2 ★★★★★

It's funny I should be writing this a week after the release of the Shenmue port, as the Yakuza series is widely considered a spiritual successor, of sorts. I get where the comparisons are coming from, but they're very different games. They just both happen to take place in Japan, have a lot of adventure elements and street fights. While Yakuza's not always the most fast-paced of games, it doesn't have you talking to every NPC that inhabits the world's populous. Yakuza Kiwami 2, (Ryū ga Gotoku Kiwami 2 - Like a Dragon Extreme 2) is a dramatically named ground-up remake of the second game, of the series, using the new Dragon Engine from Yakuza 6. Making the game that came out ten years ago, on PlayStation 2, - twelve years, in Japan - look ridiculously nice. From the neon streets of Tokyo's red light district, fictionally renamed Kamurocho, to the reflections off of the beautifully rendered water in Osaka's river, that divides the district of Sotenbori.

Due to the new Dragon Engine combat is also now even more of a fluid transition from a street encounter going straight into a fight, with the brutality of any given Miike Yakuza movie, right on the spot; with plenty of environmental hazards to use to your advantage. Throwing a man from a bridge or body-slamming them with a bike is a hard thing to get bored of.

Yakuza's story is ridiculously convoluted and has become more so as the series has gone on. Like trying to watch the entire Yakuza Papers collection, (Battle without honour and humanity), with it’s large cast of characters, it's easy to lose track of who's whom and what their relevance is, to the criminal underworld. Kiwami 2 starts with an optional recap of the first game to conveniently help fill you in or remind you of what went down. Other than Kiryu, Majima is possibly the most memorable and recognisable, with his eye patch and extravagant dress sense now getting a story gap filling mission of how he went from a Yakuza, in the first game, to a construction worker. Kiwami 2 also has a few other new scenes to try and fill in some previously missing and confusing plot points and to make it fit more closely with the later sequels. For most of the game you play as Kazuma Kiryu, the 4th Chairman of the Tojo Clan, a high ranked Yakuza. Yakuza 2 is basically, just when Kiryu thought he was out, they pull him back in.  He's just trying to live his peaceful life but people won't let him.

I'll be honest, I was struggling to find a way of explaining the gameplay of Yakuza. Until one night, while playing, my parents turned up unannounced and were watching me play through a side mission. In which Kiryu is asked to help with a photo shoot, by a man wearing only his underpants. Said man then asks Kiryu to strike several suggestive poses, as he enthusiastically rolls around on the floor taking photos. I gave no explanation of what I was playing and let them just watch, slightly confused, as they drank their cups of tea. Yakuza seldom takes itself too seriously, other than most of the main story; and even then it'll often go off on tangents. Throw in silly side missions. Has you run a hostess bar, buying new pants for a guy in a child's park toilet, Spend time in an arcade playing some Sega classics, like Virtua Fighter 2 or Virtual-On. Set you back into the serious main story of serious serious, betrayal, fighty fighty... And then have a urinal peeing minigame. The Yakuza series is pure genius and one of Sega's very few decent remaining ip's.

Bry Wyatt

Yakuza Kiwami 2 at CeX

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