What is Yakuza: Kiwami?
Yakuza: Kiwami is a much-enhanced Playstation 4 remake of the first Yakuza game, which launched on the Playstation 2. An adventure game set in the fictional Kamurocho district of Tokyo, Yakuza Kiwami follows the story of ex-Yakuza man Kazuma Kiryu as he tries to adjust to life outside of the underground crime syndicate, and get to the bottom of a triple set of mysteries: his childhood friend/potential love interest's mysterious disappearance, the Yakuza's missing ten billion yen, and the sudden appearance of a very important 9 year old girl. With the Yakuza having worked themselves into a bit of a tizzy over all that's been going on, murders, kidnappings and betrayals are par for the course in this gritty crime drama, with flashy quick-fire combat paired with a smattering of silly mini-games and quirky characters to give the game a great sense of humour along the way.
How do you play Yakuza: Kiwami?
Yakuza: Kiwami is really a game of two halves - one more serious and story-driven and the other, a more light-hearted free-form side. Heading to the handy big red dot on your map will take you to your next main story objective, which could vary from sneaking into a rival gang's funeral, to pursuing a petty pickpocket around town, fighting wave upon wave of angry Yakuza men, or even trying to track down some food and water for a poor abandoned puppy. Combat is a big part of the game, and you'll often find yourself in the middle of a massive brawl, punching, throwing and dodging your way to victory. A master of several different attack styles, you can switch between different fighting types depending on circumstance - whether you need the fast-paced evasive 'Rush' style or the more heavy-hitting 'Beast' that focuses on raw destructive strength instead.
However, there's a lot more to Yakuza: Kiwami than a gangster soap opera, with a whole city packed full of activities to explore. Between story segments, you're largely free to wonder the mean streets of Kamurocho and take in whatever takes your fancy. There's getting on for 80 'Sub Story' side quests to tackle, helping out folks with everything from chasing down a guy who ran out on his restaurant cheque, to acting as the bouncer for a hostess club, to trying to score some sake for a drunken bum. There's also a heck of a lot of side activities and mini-games you can try out, from the crane machines in the local arcade, to karaoke, customisable Scalextric-style toy car racing, and a peculiar trading card-cum-wrestling game, Battle Bug Beauties: MesuKing, where kids virtually battle their voluptuous insect women against each other.
How easy is Yakuza: Kiwami to pick up and play?
While it is aimed at more experienced players, Yakuza: Kiwami does have three different difficulties you can tackle it on, with 'Easy' aimed squarely at the newcomer or less able player. The difficulty can be changed at any time via the Save/Settings menu in the game, and should you find yourself failing at an important story battle too many times, the game will ask you if you want to dial the difficulty down a notch temporarily. The easy mode itself is pretty darn easy too, making it well suited to those who don't play many third person action games, or who just want to enjoy the story - you don't really have to worry about the finer points of the battle system, such as blocking and dodging, and can just mash buttons without having to stress too much.
Outside of the combat difficulty, your objectives are mostly flagged up pretty obviously with a big red dot/arrow showing where you need to head next - something which is much appreciated, as Kamurocho is a big place, with many similar looking streets. However, there are also times where you'll need to rely on your intuition and observational skills instead, particularly when you're tracking on someone.
It's also important to note that Yakuza: Kiwami is voiced in entirely Japanese, with English subtitles, so in order to know what's going on story-wise, there's a fair amount of reading to do.
Sample Sentences include:
- "(I wonder if Tamura the informant is still in town. I'm sure he knows enough to bring me up to speed. Maybe I can track him down.)"
- "Anyway, the venue for the funeral is Tojo Clan HQ, so they'll be there in full force. If they find out who you are, sir, it's going to be bad news."
- "So, Kiryu-chan! I'm gonna have to pat ya down to see if you're carryin' any dangerous items!"
Yakuza: Kiwami, like most of the other games in the Yakuza series, is a pretty adult title, peppered with bad language, bloody violence and sex references befitting of the Japanese crime syndicate it took its name from.
Pretty much every swear word in the book gets a look in, from the more benign crap, dumbass and asshole to sh*t, f*ck and p*ss.
Violence and Gore
Violence is frequent, and often somewhat bloody - combat sees you punching, kicking and throwing other gang members around, sometimes making use of improvised weapons such as signposts, bicycles and bar stools, as well as the more traditional knives, metal poles and katanas. During the regular hand-to-hand combat scenes, you'll occasionally spot blood splatters on both Kiryu and your opponents, and sometimes the defeated enemies will collapse in a pool of blood. One of the more grisly cutscenes shows a Yakuza boss slicing off two of his subordinate's fingers with a razor blade, triggering a huge shower of blood. Others scenes show a character being shot in the face, heads being bashed into walls, and a bound man being tortured by having metal spikes pushed into his skin.
However, Yakuza: Kiwami does give you an option to tone down the violence somewhat, if you prefer - via Settings on the main menu, or via Save/Settings from within the game, you can switch the 'Gore Level' from Normal to Mild. Doing so removes much of the blood splatters and effects from day to day combat, however the cutscenes stay much the same - so you'll still see large spurts of blood when a guy's fingers are cut off, for example.
Kamurocho, where the game is set, is a bit of a red light district, full of bars (where you can order alcohol) and a few more risquee clubs. Hostess bars let you chat to ladies, and as your relationships with them escalate, you'll unlock video clips of real-life women posing in lingerie, swimsuits or in bathtubs, nipples/genitalia covered by soap bubbles. One mission in the game involves venturing into an underground street, where ladies of the night beckon to you, promising you a good time, although you can't actually take them up on their offers of sex. One of the mini-games you'll come across, Battle Bug Beauties: MesuKing, is a collectable card game featuring scantily-clad women wrestling, with several of their outfits barely covering their ample bosoms. Occasional dialogue references sex shops, rape/unwanted male advances and sexual acts, while references to Japan's 'soapland' crop up from time to time too - essentially undercover brothels in which female courtesans 'bathe' their male clients, although Kiryu isn't able to take them up on the offer during the game.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4