I cannot speak with any authority on how this stands up as a remake of Yakuza [龍が如く]
, my only experience of the original being a couple of short videos showcasing its dreadful English dub - but take it purely as a sequel to Yakuza 0 [龍が如く0 誓いの場所]
and it's....pretty good, I guess?
It's an awkward thing to judge without knowing the original, because it feels like so many of the things about this game that aren't as good as its predecessor are a direct result of this being a remake; the plot's a little more sloppy and less involving, the pacing is a little awkward, the characters don't feel as well defined, and those are all things a remake can only exert so much control over when it has a duty to be faithful to the original. More damningly, some of the moments that make me smile the most here are very obviously new additions, giving closure to story threads from ten years earlier and allowing you to re-encounter old characters to see how they've been getting on (and that's before we even consider Majima Everywhere, a new feature that constantly injects Majima into minigames and street fights - it's undoubtedly the greatest thing about this game, to the point where one of my main criticisms might well be that, even though there were points where Majima literally popped up every five minutes for me, I actually wish he appeared more often). And on the other hand, so many of the things that are as good as Yakuza 0
are literally exactly the same - the engine, the map, a number of the minigames, and almost all of the combat mechanics are lifted completely wholesale from Kiryu's sections. (The major addition to the combat is that bosses can now heal themselves, which feels cheap, but is ultimately easy enough to get over.) Knowing how to feel about this as a remake, and how important that is compared to your feeling about it as a sequel, will come down to you, but take it purely on the latter metric and it would be difficult to argue that this isn't just more of the same, but a bit worse. And yet the tone of the Yakuza
franchise overrides so much of that: no other game has this personality, and the number of games that have such a complete picture of what they want to be, and go about achieving their vision with such glee and gusto, is tiny. (It may literally only be Saints Row IV
among all the games I've played, honestly.) In the same way that a writer with a great voice or a band with a great sound will have a very high floor when it comes to how bad they can possibly be, a subpar Yakuza
game is still ultimately a Yakuza
game, which is alone is enough to make it very good - and Yakuza Kiwami
is quite a bit better than 'subpar'. It's still Kiryu and Majima, it's still Kamurocho, it still has a wild emotional range that treats tragedy and comedy as equally worthy aims, and it's still entertaining as hell; being worse than the games immediately before and after it in the Yakuza
chronology is far more reflective of the qualities of those games than any flaws in this one.