Yakuza Kiwami 2 is an action-adventure game set in Japan. It is a remake of Yakuza 2 originally for the PlayStation 2. You play as Kazuma Kiryu, a tough ex-yakuza with a heart of gold who gets swept back into Tokyo's seedy underworld when the Korean mafia and an Osakan yakuza clan target his old comrades.
Pro Mature crime drama with a strong main villain
The story in Yakuza Kiwami 2 is one of the best in the franchise. It starts off with a flashback to the 1980s where the Korean mafia gets wiped out, and a policeman arrives on the scene, helping the dead leader's wife with a young child. That type of humanity shows itself throughout the plot, where the villains and the protagonists are never quite black and white.
This shows itself again when the protagonist Kiryu gets taken into protective custody by a fiery Osakan cop named Kaoru, who hates the yakuza, but eventually falls for Kiryu as she gets to know him. The powerful and charismatic villain, Ryuji Goda, also acts as a perfect foil to the honorable and stoic Kiryu, with their fights testing the strength of will between rivals. Learning about Ryuji's and Kaoru's motivations and discovering the true details of what happened with the Korean mafia gives the plot plenty of twists and turns.
Pro Brutal and entertaining brawler combat
The beat 'em up fights in Yakuza Kiwami 2 are brutal, with impressive up-close-and-personal cinematics that make the fights a lot of fun. Each punch and kick you throw out builds up a certain gauge for you to pull off special moves, and you can use items in your environment as weapons against your opponents in punishing ways.
You can hear your opponent's bones crushing as you smash your fist or foot into them, with successive hits building your heat gauge over time. Once your heat gauge is full, you can use a special move against an enemy with a nearby trash can, bike, crowbar, or anything else you can pick up, showing a neat cinematic straight out of an action movie as you smash your makeshift weapon into your attacker.
The combat here is intense, making you feel powerful while keeping your interest at the same time.
Pro Dense and realistic open world set in Japan
Yakuza Kiwami 2 takes place in the districts of Kamurocho and Sotenbori, both of which are painstaking recreations of the actual Kabukicho and Dotenbori districts in Tokyo and Osaka, respectively. They're not huge locations, but they're packed with details that make them seem much larger. Gleaming with city lights and brimming with people, Kamurocho and Sotenbori are filled with all types of restaurants with various cuisines, stores for you to shop at, and places for entertainment and mini-games. The districts are realistic enough that they make you feel like you're actually there.
Pro Tons of side content
There's so much to do in between story missions in Yakuza Kiwami 2, with plenty of quality and polish to keep you entertained for hours. All of the mini-games and side quests almost have a life of their own with plenty of variety and detail. There are dozens of side quests, some of which land Kiryu in hilarious and wacky situations that never seem too far-fetched. And there are a bunch of other mini-games, like singing karaoke, bowling, golf, gambling at mahjong, "watching" racy videos, managing a cabaret club, and many more. It's hard to get bored with Yakuza Kiwami 2's plethora of side content.
Pro Incredible English localization
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is fully voiced in Japanese with an amazing English localization for Western audiences. The localization team did more than simply translate the game -- they made sure everything is relevant for a non-Japanese audience to understand and relate with. Since there's no option for English voices, the subtitles do a great job at bringing the game to life for those who don't know Japanese but still want to appreciate the culture and support the Yakuza series.
Con Feels soulless compared to the original Yakuza 2
Yakuza Kiwami 2 has a nice, shiny coat of paint for modern audiences, but it lost something from the original game during the remake. The tangible dark and shady atmosphere from the PlayStation 2 version isn't here, replaced with a soulless, sterile purity. Losing the old soundtrack with the hard-hitting rock and trip-hop tracks in favor of electronica music is another negative. While it's great that new players get to experience Yakuza 2 for the first time, longtime Yakuza vets may miss out on a lot of nostalgia, preferring to stick with the original game.
Con Too many melodramatic story twists and events in the finale
The story is mostly pretty good up until the end where things fall apart. Way too many reveals happen here with the villains, padding the finale with cutscenes filled with people talking and talking, giving away their true motivations, and taking forever to get to the point. The added melodrama surrounding the events during the final chapter is also way too much, like a bad, hokey Hollywood movie, pulling you out of any suspension of disbelief you might have still had left. The writers could have done with some serious editing here to keep things in line.
Con Cut content from Yakuza 2
While Yakuza Kiwami 2 added content, like Kiryu managing a cabaret club, and fan favorite Goro Majima getting his own short playable campaign, there's also content that's missing. An entire area connected to Sotenbori is gone, with the story events there relocated and jumbled around. The substories from that cut area are gone as well. It's unclear why the devs made these cuts, but they take away from the game for longtime fans of the series.
Con Noticeable animation issues during combat
Even though the Dragon Engine significantly improves the graphics over the original Yakuza 2, the wonky combat animations are signs that the engine is still a work-in-progress. During combat, when you knock characters down or get knocked down yourself, there are a lot of weird ragdoll animations. Characters crumple to the ground or flail about in ways that look lazy and unfinished. The Dragon Engine is beautiful for serious story moments and the open world, though it really needs some more work and polish during the battle segments.
Con Annoying cliches with the love story
Kiryu and Kaoru's love story is nice for the most part, but it's really predictable. If you're seen any typical romance movie or read a romance novel, you will more than likely know how the two fall for each other. The love story doesn't change the overall plot in any meaningful way or add to it, either; it's just there for entertainment.