REVIEW: Yakuza Kiwami

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

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Making a great remake isn’t easy, as this game proves that even with good intentions, sometimes added content can be detrimental and hurt the overall product, especially ones that are so tied to the game mechanics and in this rare case as well as the story. Majima Everywhere is when fan service goes too far and becomes more fan disservice — I honestly don’t want to fight Majima for a long time and I don’t expect seeing myself replaying this version of the first game all that often because of this. The first game is dated, yes there is no denying it, but what I loved about it and subsequent releases after was how well they were paced. I can play the story and do most of the sub stories with a mixture of random encounters and my Kiryu will get maxed stats and all abilities outside of training. While this thankfully applies to the other styles, the same can not be said of the style that Kiryu used for the entirety of the original game and subsequent later installments. It’s just not enjoyable having to grind boss battles and fight a character who gradually obtains more and more health bars thus making the grind even more painful unlike the side quests in Yakuza 0 which felt more natural and flowed better. Yes the developer’s are unapologetic and know they have a smaller budget to work with and reuse assets including the game’s engine and fans realize it and accept the games for what they are, as do I. This terrible decision though was self inflicted — they chose to put something this dull into the equation in the name of fan service and it boggles my mind. Another thing I noticed was the bosses now having been overhauled and now with entirely new move sets, which makes sense, but the problem is that they’re all mostly recycled from other bosses in the franchise. This isn’t entirely new, one instance of this was the moves and animations of one of the Yakuza 5 bosses Okita and reusing the majority of them again for Majima’s Dancer style; but that was it, a few instances, not an entire line up. It just screams laziness rather than being their usual efficient selves as a development team.

Yakuza Kiwami | Kamurocho circa 2005 with a cosmetic makeup

When Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan hit the scene, they added to the series a kind of boss exclusive QTE heat moves and Yakuza 3 followed up with “Feel the Heat” for boss context sensitive heat moves which were somewhat similar. I bring this up because now after so long they come back to an idea similar to those for this title with “Climax Heat” and it came with questionable results. There is nothing more frustrating or just plain annoying than seeing a boss regenerate health. Well in Kiwami each boss, ranging from mid-bosses to simply a strong opponent, has a chance to do just that, multiple times even. Usually, after taking down a health bar down or two from them, they will activate a color coded aura where they will begin to regenerate. To stop this you either use a weapon heat move or a Style Heat Move that corresponds with the color. The problem? Even on Normal the health regeneration can be very quick with them gaining almost an entire health bar back as you switch styles. If you don’t have enough Heat you’re pretty much going to have to either consume an item you carry on yourself that boosts your heat bar or pummel the enemy to gain enough heat, just to possibly get enough damage in so they didn’t regenerate too much health that you just scraped off. Sometimes the prompt just refused to show up and I had to position myself differently to activate it but that allowed them to gain even more health back. It’s a beyond god awful gimmick and it makes Hard difficulty and above unbearable at times.

When the game was released in Japan I heard complaints that the game suffered at times from frame rate dips, and while the game does stutter at times when exploring Kamurocho with a bit of screen tearing, the combat is silky smooth 60 fps with them implementing its updates upon its western release and I’m very thankful. When it came to cutscenes I noticed some updates not just for some new lines to fit the narrative, but even it even updated some of the voice acting which is nice; though the cutscenes themselves are a different story. Being faithful is one thing, but barely updating them shows a lack of effort, and it felt awkward as they just updated the textures and lip-syncing for the old cutscenes but the new ones have far better animation and pacing to them. When it comes to the music, the Ryu ga Gotoku franchise as a whole always delivered and went hand and hand with its gameplay to such a degree that it was ingrained into it and I cannot say the same for these remixes which I honestly felt either were too overproduced or in some fashion butchered them. The long time composer of the series, Hidenori Shoji was tasked in blending multiple musical genres with a modern feel for the game’s 2005 city setting. Doing so masterfully with mixing, hip hop, RNB, rap, rock, heavy metal and jazz to morph into some of the most contemporary and toe tapping music an action beat ’em up could ever have asked for and still feel like a video game soundtrack at its finest. The remix tracks replace real instruments what sounds like for synchronizers and dub step bulldozing what made the tracks not only fitting tone wise but thematically to the scenarios. It’s not all bad, some tracks like the remix for Unrest is fine and the remix for id was serviceable albeit being a departure, but the remixes for say the Funk Goes On and Intelligence For Violence are just terrible. On a side note, not surprising anyone, the licensed tracks are sadly gone, which include the main theme of the game Receive You which was done not in-house but collaborated with an actual famed band in Japan so it didn’t make the cut which I feel was a blow to the game, as it fit Kiryu and served as in introduction to the game perfectly.

My complaints boil down to poorly thought out new gimmicks and the lack of effort; it’s apparent that this was a quick cash grab, not of the soulless corporate type but of what their general focus was on creative wise. Their development apparatus was clearly being more fully committed to Ryu ga Gotoku 6, or Yakuza 6, and its new engine then it was on for this remake. It’s not a terrible remake, no, but a disappointing one. Doesn’t help matters when one of the series usual strengths, its soundtrack, drops the ball and only makes the above issues I had just seem worse. New fans will likely be satisfied with the low price of $29.99, with this being their first experience of the first game that was chronologically released. As an old fan that played the original, I felt it accommodated me enough but wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been and needed more time to either fix the rough edges, add a bit more content or at least more effort to where the game needed. For the 60 hours I played, I got around 90% of the completion list done and still need to replay it on the hardest setting, so you are getting your bang for your buck. I can only hope that the recently announced remake for Yakuza 2, Ryu ga Gotoku Kiwami 2, will fare better as I hold the second entry in high esteem and near and dear to my heart.

Review Score

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About David Fernandes

(Community Manager) David is an assistant admin and community manager at oprainfall. He joined the Operation Rainfall Campaign at the beginning, and became one of the staff as the first wave of new volunteers were needed back in mid June. He is an avid video game collector, and lover of most game genres. David spends much of his time in a futile effort in clearing out his ever growing video game backlog.

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