"Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a faithful, beautiful remake of the cult-hit PS2 game for a modern system."
Toshihiro Nagoshi, creator of SEGA's Yakuza series ("Ryu ga Gotoku" in Japan), stated that he wants the entire Yakuza series on PS4 in 2016, after the Yakuza Kiwami remake was a success on Sony's platform. SEGA's Yakuza team followed up on that wish quickly with Yakuza Kiwami 2, a remake of the second PS2 Yakuza game, released in Japan on December 7th, 2017. Later this month, Yakuza Kiwami 2 releases worldwide.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 continues the adventures of Kazuma Kiryu, a retired Yakuza member known as "The Dragon of Dojima," operating out of the fictional Tokyo neighborhood of Kamurocho. Inspired by the Japanese film industry's decades of organized crime movies, the Yakuza series balances operatic drama and intrigue between gangsters with a penchant for spectacle and physical comedy. Kiryu is equally likely to dispatch an enemy with a sword or a bowl of ramen, depending on what's handy.
The story of Yakuza 2 has Kiryu travel between his home of Kamurocho and a fictionalized version of Osaka to negotiate a deal between his former Tojo Clan and the Osaka-based Omi Alliance. Disaster strikes when a Korean syndicate, the Jingweon, kidnaps key members of the Tojo and Omi in an attempt to bring the two Yakuza clans to war. Ryuji Goda, the most dangerous man of the Omi Alliance, is determined to defeat Kiryu and is a key villain in this conflict. It's up to Kiryu to prevent all-out gang war between the two Yakuza groups. In a side story new to the Kiwami 2 remake, Yakuza series regular Goro Majima stars in a parallel tale that adds some extra details to his background.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is built in the Dragon Engine, the same technology used for Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. The city areas are vibrant and beautiful, with dozens of NPCs active at any time and a wide variety of buildings and amenities to check out. Any troublemakers, enemy Yakuza, or hitmen that recognize Kiryu will immediately want to throw it down; combat uses a simple combo system with a wide variety of weapons available. In the E3 demo, Kiryu used both a lightning katana from his inventory and a nearby wooden sign to defeat an Osaka thug that recognized him. Unarmed combat has a simple four-button interface of combos and holds, with a special moves meter for powered strikes and quick-time event cutscenes for finishing blows.
It wouldn't be a Yakuza game without alternative gameplay modes, and Kiwami 2 delivers those in spades. Or in hearts, diamonds, and clubs as well... in the card games playable at a few of Osaka and Kamurocho's clubs and casinos. In addition to cards, there are mini games for golf, baseball, fishing, karaoke, and photographing models. Complete arcade ports of Virtual-On and Virtual Fighter 2 are playable on in-game arcade machines. You can also create your own Yakuza clan, in a minigame returning from Yakuza 6. The "Toylets" minigame involves Kiryu relieving himself into a urinal to engage in simple button-mashing mechanics, but our hero is unable to play if he hasn't had something to drink recently (you can visit a bar or vending machine to refill Kiryu's tank, so to speak).
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a faithful, beautiful remake of the cult-hit PS2 game for a modern system, with plenty of new content to match what more recent Yakuza titles bring to the table. Kiryu's intense stare, stoic attitude, and iconic gray suit are stark contrasts to the bloody combat and gangster excess surrounding him, adding gravitas to duels with neither honor nor humanity and bar urinal pissing games alike. These Yakuza developers balance dramatic and comedic tones in a unique way that I find fascinating, as someone who's interested in the Yakuza series but never played any of them outside E3 demo stations. Unlike one of Ichi the Killer's victims, there is love in this violence.