You’ve taken the fall for a murder charge and spent ten years in prison, solved the mystery of the Vacant Lot and dabbled in real estate management and slot-car racing. So, what is next for Kiryu Kazuma? How about trying to stop an all-out war between two huge yakuza families whilst being harassed by his biggest adversary yet? It is all in a day’s work for the fourth chairman of the Tojo Clan.
Whereas it has always been a toss-up with where to start in the Yakuza franchise, as fans argue over the merits of starting with either Yakuza 0 or Yakuza Kiwami, there can be no arguing that Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a suitable starting point. This feels very much like a sequel to the first Kiwami; both of these being remakes of the first and second games that originally appeared on the PlayStation 2. It is a direct continuation of the events that transpired, with many characters and themes returning.
After an initial cutscene that is showing off the power of the new Dragon Engine – more on that later – Kiryu and Haruka Sawamura have all but closed the door on the events of Yakuza Kiwami. A year has passed and Kiryu now has legal guardianship of Haruka. On the one-year anniversary of the showdown atop the Millennium Tower between Kiryu and Nishikiyama, Kiryu and Haruka visit the gravestones of those that were lost in the explosion.
Here, Kiryu meets up with Yukio Terada, once of the rival family Omi Alliance, but now fifth chairman of the Tojo Clan, who warns Kiryu of a potential war between these two yakuza families. But as he is warning Kiryu, they are ambushed by Omi Alliance members, and Terada is shot dead. Realising the criminal underworld is not yet finished with Kiryu, he travels to Osaka with old friend Daigo Dojima to arrange a truce between the Tojo and the Omi Alliance.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 makes a welcome return to Sotenbori as the sequel splits its time between here and Kamurocho. Whilst it may not have as many things to do in relation to Kamurocho, Sotenbori is still full to the brim with side content and distractions.
As well as the usual minigames such as karaoke, casino and parlor games, and the SEGA arcade – this time featuring Virtua Fighter 2 and Virtual-On – there are plenty of new ones incoming. Toylets, for example, is a minigame that you can only have a go at when you have a full bladder, as it revolves around the power of peeing. In any other game you would probably need to re-read that sentence to make sure you’d read it correctly; in the Yakuza series it is nothing unusual and par for the course.
Perhaps best of all, this Toylet minigame is based on a real-world activity in Japan, also developed by SEGA.
Gone though are activities such as bowling, slot-car racing and a dating mechanic. Disappointing, but considering three Yakuza games are now on Game Pass, they are present in those games and – much like everything else in the franchise – almost close to perfection.
Also gone are the different fighting styles. This time Kiryu only has one style that encompasses all attacks and Heat attacks. Being able to select a specific style for an opponent offered a bit of tactical thinking – alongside four wildly different styles that never suffered from repetitiveness. Here though, there is only one style, and it’s pretty plain. This doesn’t stop Kiwami 2 being any less violent though; perhaps there is even more blood thrown across the streets of Kamurocho in this instalment.
Larger minigames are also present that could each take up 10-15 hours on their own to complete. Making a welcome return is the Cabaret Club minigame, previously in Yakuza 0. This time with Kiryu at the helm, there is now a Grand Prix to determine which hostess club is the best in the land. By recruiting and training up hostesses you must take Club Four Shine from the bottom of the pile to the top.
The Clan Creator minigame has transferred over from Yakuza 6, but with a twist in that it is now in Kamurocho. Majima is currently renovating the area formerly known as Purgatory but needs the help of Kiryu et al to help fend off other developers. Clan Creator is a tower defence game of sorts, but also includes online leaderboards and weekly online matches to compete for the highest score.
Fans may be disappointed to hear that this is where you see the majority of Majima, at least in the main story. Gone is the underrated Majima Everywhere battles from Yakuza Kiwami, but he has his own mini-saga that you can unlock through main story progression. This details his transition from Tojo Clan patriarch to real-estate mogul in the time between Kiwami and Kiwami 2. There is also the return of a major character from his side of the story in Yakuza 0.
The Majima Saga isn’t the longest, with only three chapters, but allows him to explore Kamurocho in full and enjoy all the various side content. There are no substories in this short addition, but there are 76 brand new ones to discover and enjoy in the main story.
Throughout the 20-hour main story you will encounter yet more of the weird and wonderful denizens of Kamurocho and Sotenbori. Once again many of these substories dissolve into Kiryu beating the crap out of the undesirables, and they don’t feel as varied as in previous efforts. Still, there are some standouts including grouping up with some students for a group interview, another gentleman caught short at the public bathroom, and Kiryu agreeing to pose awkwardly for some photographs.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 marks the first appearance of the Dragon engine on the Xbox One, but when compared with how it performs on the PlayStation 4, it does come up a bit short. There is no denying it looks gorgeous and is a giant step up from Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami; both cities feel alive with colour and pedestrians on an evening. But the Dragon engine claims to allow Kiryu to enter shops and restaurants, and in and out of fights seamlessly, but there is a noticeable delay when running into groups of enemies. The overall load time feels a lot longer too. Compared to the PlayStation 4, the engine doesn’t feel as well optimised for Xbox consoles.
There are 59 achievements to go for in Yakuza Kiwami 2, and once again they take in the length and breadth of the game. It will be another lengthy completion for the 1000G as you will need two playthroughs to unlock them all; Legend difficulty only unlocks after finishing the game once and has its own achievement.
Once again though, Yakuza Kiwami 2 on Xbox One is an excellent addition to Xbox Game Pass, and another solid entry to the series. It is a culmination of the series so far that has arrived on Xbox in 2020, until Like a Dragon releases later in the year. Hopefully, the remaining titles of 3-6 can release on Xbox, because Kiryu and Haruka’s journey is only just beginning. But if this is the last ‘Kiryu’ Yakuza game, then it’s been a wild ride.