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The Same Flaws That Hampered the First Title, Hamper Kiwami 2. But Its an Awesome Entry in the Series

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    Truck_1_0_1_
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    Yakuza Kiwami 2

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    The Same Flaws That Hampered the First Title, Hamper Kiwami 2. But Its an Awesome Entry in the Series

    Since I started playing the Ryu ga Gotoku/Yakuza series in 2012, I have pre-ordered every title in the series, upon Japanese release: Kiwami 2 has been my least anticipated title in the series since then, by far, even though for the fans on a whole, this game was highly anticipated. After the wonderful evolution that was 6, specifically in the game play and graphics departments, the game play itself I was looking forward to in Kiwami 2, as it was expected that it would get even better and things would continue to improve. Like Yakuza 2 though, the same issues that impacted that game, impact this title; the game play is solid and tight, the graphics and replay are strong, but the music is not as strong as other titles and the story… I will explain more in the story section. We will begin with the best this game has to offer and that is game play.

    Game play: 10/10

    Yakuza 2 was a well-built title that improved upon the great but heavily-flawed in spots first game in the series, from a game play standpoint. It added more variety, a smoother fight system (though this was also due to story elements, undoubtedly) and had more mini-games and sub-stories. While Kiwami 2 has cut down on a bunch of the content the original had, but in keeping with the evolution of the series after 6 with the Dragon Engine, the content makes for a more streamlined and seamless gaming experience, which is far from a bad thing. The fights are a touch smoother than 6, with the addition of a few more heat actions and weapons being able to be purchased outside of battle. The mini-games have all returned from 2 and have been greatly improved (Driving Range {big time} and Batting Cage), with a few additions to the arcade titles, namely Virtual-On and Virtua Fighter 2 and the bizarre urinal games that are incredibly popular in Japan ("The North Wind, the Sun and Me," and, "Milk From the Nose)," which will definitely require some practice to perfect. Sub-stories are down from 120 to 76, but what has been kept are meaty and full of substance. Kamurocho and Sotenbori return in all their glory, with all of the trimmings that prior titles in the series that featured both locations, had, as well as a few additions in terms of where you can go; not so much an expansion out, but up, as you are able to climb many buildings and discover what each can hold, be it items, play spots or plot-specific areas (this was borrowed from 6). Granny White’s area has been removed (cannot for the life of me, remember what it was called… Shinsei?), but that’s the only location that has been cut out. Hostess Club Management is back from Yakuza 0 and dare I say, its more refined and better, this time around. The story to this side quest is also very well-done and will keep you engaged for a while. Clan creator is also back from 6 and I feel it is worse than 6’s, (while Clan Creator in 6 was straightforward and easier to manage, Kiwami 2’s is a bit too big and more convoluted) though the new characters from various Japanese wrestling promotions, save it. Lastly, Bodyguard Missions are a new addition, where you have to defeat a bunch of enemies without dying (or in some cases, before the time runs out), at three levels, which net you awesome weapons, cash, armor or abilities.This is arguably the grindiest section of the game, thus a good chunk of time must be devoted to it. All-in-all, the game play from top to bottom, is fantastic in Kiwami 2, with enough variety to keep you entertained for many, many hours. The story on the other hand, is still greatly flawed.

    Story: 8/10

    Now, greatly flawed may be a bit harsh, however some great principles of plot/screen writing and key concepts of the characterization process, have been thrown out the window and cause the flaws to rise to the surface; as mentioned in my original review of 2, this is most-likely why Hase Seish¨± was not asked to come back and Yokoyama has been the full writer since Kenzan!.The story has not been touched from the original thus it still begins with Yukio Terada asking Kiryu for help against the Omi Alliance, him getting shot and that event sparking the rest of the game’s plot. All of the characters from 2 return, though Kawara, Bessho, Takashima and Kurahashi’s voice actors have all been replaced, thus their likenesses have changed as well: Kawara and Bessho appear to be younger, while Takashima and Kurahashi appear to be older. Some scenes from 2 have been cleaned up and improved (such as the flashbacks), while otherwise, you have the same scenes with just a graphical face lift. Where the problems begin, are in the writing proper. To begin, Sayama, who is much beloved (not sure why), is presented as a a strong and fearless character. The character undergoes a massive amount of mood swings and situations however, that completely abandon the setup and essentially, her character has little identity (aside from negative traits, which go against her setup) or presence (unless you consider a blubbering, loud mess a positive presence), in the grand scheme of things; by the end of the game, this woman who has been by your side and so involved for the entirety of the game, really has nothing to do with the plot and could essentially be an extra.The final two chapters reveal her as a massive heavy and she is basically only present for dramatic effect and not for plot substance. The final chapter is also a prime example of how not to write a twist or to develop a character, as it is just ridiculously over-the-top, unnecessary and it had me shaking my head that this material was written by a crime novelist (these are hardcore, objective writing codes and conventions that were eschewed, by the way and not my opinion); one or two contrived coincidences is acceptable in a text this length, but seven and all in a span of 3 chapters? That is a bit ridiculous. All being said, the story from chapters 1-11 are significantly better (though they can and do lag a bit, at times) and had the rest of the game seen this through and not gone the way of a tornado, this would have been a rock-solid story, among the best in the series. Sadly though, while I have no evidence to back it up, it seems to me that Hase had no idea of which direction to take the series or the characters and when a writer does not know the direction to go, they throw in a multitude of plot devices and conventions (as well as past characters that have nothing to do with the new plot; I’m looking at you, Hayashi!), even if it does not make sense in the context of the story, just to drive the plot and tie up loose ends. Hase not being asked back for subsequent titles, does not necessarily confirm my thoughts, but it certainly can make sense. Graphics are up next.

    Graphics: 10/10

    In keeping with the new graphical face lift that 6 introduced, Kiwami 2 looks fantastic. Everything is super crisp and clean, as well the detail that has been added to Kamurocho… man, if you compare the two side by side, you would not believe that these two games are the same thing (er, that did not sound right… you know what I mean)! The buildings look fantastic and with cars driving around and the glut of NPCs, this is a fantastic, bustling city and since 6, Ryu ga Gotoku Studios have done a fantastic job portraying the modern, Japanese cityscape. The characters look fantastic and a massive amount of detail and work has been incorporated, to make them more modern; if you see Sayama in 2 and Sayama in Kiwami 2, this improvements are mind-blowing, even though the basic look of both is the same. Like 6, the game runs in 30 FPS, which may detract some, however 30 FPS, in my opinion, is not detrimental enough to hinder the experience. Virtual On and Virtua Fighter 2 arguably look the best they ever have as well and playing them is a sight to behold. Our review continues with sounds, next.

    Sounds: 9/10

    Gah! Kiwami 2 took Kiwami’s route, in that the songs were remastered from the original game, but they sound worse! Its not too big a deal, as the soundtrack is still superb, but like Ryu ga Gotoku Studios did with Kiwami, they fixed something that was not broken. Sotenbori’s main fight song (Outlaw’s Lullaby), is the standout track, in my opinion and is a more-than faithful remaster of the original tune. Crazy Ken Band’s tunes are nowhere to be found (even in the iconic "rain" scene), however they have been replaced with two decent songs in their own right, just different genres (SiM’s tunes, "the Sound of Breath," and "A)." While the former is a bit poppy, it has a wonderful sound to it, musically and the latter is fantastic musically, albeit with the lyrics being too auto-tuned and sounding a bit childish. It fits right in with the Kiwami themes of downgrading the music on the whole, with slightly worse tunes. The voice acting in this game is truly remarkable, with a fantastic job being done by everyone (again though, Sayama is tons over-the-top), whether it is a few lines or a main character. Hard to fault the sounds, which goes for the replay as well.

    Replay ability: 9/10

    I beat the game in 69 hours (two more than I did 6), although I did not platinum Kiwami 2 like I did 6. I did complete the game at 96.03% however, thus I probably would have gotten the platinum in another five hours or less. This is a great amount of time to complete a game, however for Yakuza standards, like 6, it is a bit less than the majority of the other titles in the series. The minigame completion is back and it involves mahjong and shogi, which can be quite difficult if you are not up to speed on the games. Still, there is more than enough here to keep you busy for quite some time, though the efficiency in replay that 6 had, is not quite here in Kiwami 2.

    Buy or rent?

    When this title comes out in August of this year, I would say to purchase like always; this is a great game.

    I never knew how weak certain elements of the plot of this game were, until I played Kiwami 2 and then it all came to me like a tsunami. Such a great and well-established game from a game play, graphics and sounds point of view, gets to be not as enjoyable (for me) because of plot devices that almost ruin the story or create a discord in the story, from chapter 1 until the final chapter. Kiwami 2 appears to play on gamers’ emotions, more than outright letting the game do the talking and that is something that will cause division among fans, either lifers like myself or those new to the series. Regardless, Kiwami 2 from an evolution standpoint, is an excellent title and, despite me liking Kiwami and Yakuza more than the second games in the series, it does the remake act significantly better than Kiwami did and for that reason alone, you should pick up this title. "I’ll take care of these guys. Time to teach you some Yakuza etiquette!"

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