After playing Yakuza 6, I was more than ecstatic to jump into Yakuza Kiwami 2 and learn about ex-Yakuza Kazuma Kiryu. Kiwami 2 is the retelling of Yakuza 2 in which Kazuma Kiryu finds himself in the middle of turmoil with the Tojo Clan yet again. The story takes place after the events of Yakuza 1 with Kiryu waking from a coma. To make matters worse, a high ranking member of the Tojo Clan is assassinated and Kiryu gets dragged in the middle of a turf war between the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance. However, things aren’t exactly as they seem and it’s up to Kiryu to figure out what is going on.
The problem is that the story isn’t all that great. It’s easy to follow, but there isn’t much going on to keep me hooked. Unlike in Yakuza 6, where I was so enthralled with the story, Kiwami 2’s plot is boring, but there are a few standout characters that add some flair and much-needed excitement. One of them being, the Dragon of Kansai, Ryuji Goda. He’s a member of the Omi Alliance with a chip on his shoulder and a personal vendetta against Kiryu. Another standout character is fan favorite, Goro Majima. In Kiwami 2, Majima is a playable character with his own fighting style and story chapters. The story of Kiwami 2, plays out just like a soap opera would. Over-the-top action, betrayal, shootouts, the whole package all in about sixteen hours of gameplay; if you’re only focused on the main storyline.
The game takes place in two main areas; Kamurocho, Tokyo and Kansai, Osaka. Just like the previous games, you will do all of the story and side missions in these two areas with some story taking place in both cities at the same time. Unfortunately, unlike Yakuza 0 and Kiwami 1, Yakuza Kiwami 2 only allows players to utilize one fighting style but of course, you can upgrade your stats and skills. Random fights make their return to the game, with more thugs/delinquents/yakuza roaming the streets. You can also eat food from restaurants to gain more experience points. New to the game, is the ability to store weapons from fights for later. You can only use weapons a specific number of times, but they can turn the tide of a difficult battle; it is a small, but welcome change.
Fighting is where Kiwami 2 truly shines. Not fighting the weaklings that plague the streets of Japan, but the bosses, mini-bosses, and powerful enemies that you face off within the story and outside of it. When a fight starts with a cinematic intro or someone taking their shirt off to reveal a grandiose back tattoo, it’s going to be an intense brawl. Fighting remains the same as it is in Yakuza 6, thanks to the Dragon Engine, and it’s just as fluid.
Unlike the extremely tense action-packed main storyline, the side missions are much more light-hearted. Sadly, the side missions this time around just didn’t really do it for me. They’re downright outrageous and most characters come off as caricatures than actual people. For example, there’s a side mission where you accompany a group of Yakuza to a secret club where they promise you paradise, but the club is for men who like to pretend to be babies. Of course, this one ends with you beating up a bunch of adult men in diapers, because how else could it go?
The clan creator minigame makes its return, and I am still not a huge fan of it. Unlike Yakuza 6, where you built a crew and fought rival gangs in the streets, this time you have to protect equipment for Majima’s construction site and it is essentially a tower defense minigame. Not a fan of tower defense so it wasn’t for me, but thankfully the game doesn’t force it onto you. The streets of Kamurocho and Kansai are filled with minigames like Virtua Fighter arcade cabinets, mahjong tables, UFO catchers (my favorites), and more.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 uses the Dragon Engine from Yakuza 6 to improve the game’s performance as well as graphics and it looks fantastic. The minigames and side activities give some comic relief to an otherwise uptight game, but some of the jokes rarely land. The story itself is enjoyable, though predictable, but Kiwami 2 is a solid game for someone playing for the first time. Playing with Majima should be an option in any future games. I give Yakuza Kiwami 2, 4 TOV Stars out of 5.