Never has it been this visually impressive or satisfying to punch a person in the face in a video game than it has been in Yakuza Kiwami 2. I say this with all seriousness too, as the game is quite frankly one of the best I’ve played on Xbox One. Though I might be a little partial as a huge fan of the franchise, the Kiwami games are objectively the best way to introduce yourself to Kiryu Kazuma and the wonderfully exciting world of the Yakuza.
The Yakuza Kiwami games are a reboot of the original two games that came out on the PS2. As you can guess, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the sequel to the first remake. After a release on PlayStation 4, now both games are finally out on Xbox and PC. Yakuza Kiwami 2 takes place in the city of Kamurocho (and Sotenbori) and follows our bombastic protagonist Kiryu Kazuma a year after the first game as he’s stuck between a war with the Omi Alliance and the Tojo clan.
The game is the second in the series to implement the new Dragon engine after Yakuza 6. While the visuals of the earlier games are still fetching, they pale in comparison to Kiwami 2. The city looks bright and full of life, the lights reflect and glisten, and overall the game looks beautiful. It’s especially gorgeous now that the game offers 4K support.
Functionally, the game is almost perfect. I had no real issues pummeling the usual mobsters on the streets. Even when filled with many NPCs I didn’t experience any sort of lag or frame rate issues. It’s also nice that every building you walk into won’t harass you with a loading screen, with no glitches whatsoever. Other than that, the voice acting and animations are still top-notch, especially now that characters are ever slightly more expressive thanks to the refined Dragon Engine.
Combat wise, Kiwami 2 plays similar to the other games in the series. The main difference is the lack of different fighting styles present in other games. This time, however, combat feels more focused and fluid. Attacking enemies and hitting them isn’t as risky as it was in other games, as Kiryu’s punches are more precise.
You can grab an enemy with a push of the B button, use light punches with the X button, and throw heavy punches and special heat attacks with the Y button. While I miss the other games’ fighting styles, Kiwami 2’s combat feels much more stable and easier to master. The game also makes using weapons much easier and more convenient. When not using a weapon on hand, you can store them in your inventory by tapping the D-pad for later use.
Something else I noticed about Kiwami 2 is its impressive and highly visual boss fights. Bosses have way more dynamic movements and reactions to your attacks compared to the previous titles. While some of the earlier bosses are prone to being dull, most are quite engaging and fun to fight.
Another aspect of the game that surprised me is the new upgrade system. The game does away with the traditional skill tree and instead lets you upgrade whatever category of the leveling system you choose such as Health, Attack, Defense and Heat.
Other than beating up gangsters, you can do this by visiting the many restaurants available in Sotenbori and Kamurocho. Each meal garners more experience points to a specific category. The leveling system was quite frankly a refreshing part of the game and using it allowed me to fully customize Kiryu the way I wanted, which I appreciated.
When not enjoying the dramatic story, players can also immerse themselves in the cities of Sotenbori and Kamurocho. A handful of games are available in the arcade, most notably Virtua Fighter 2 among others. You can also spend time at the cabaret club, enjoy some Karaoke, or just hang around the city and its zany characters through the series’ iconic and highly entertaining sub-stories.
Overall I’m happy to say I enjoyed my time with Yakuza Kiwami 2. While the experience didn’t last as long as I wanted it to, I’m at least glad the Xbox One port did the game justice. Hopefully, the other games will make their way to Xbox One and Windows 10 as well.
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