After recently finishing and thoroughly enjoying Judgment, a spinoff of the Yakuza series, I went back and started playing some of the older games of the franchise. The time I’ve spent with the series in the past was really enjoyable but I have never been able to finish a game to completion. Judgment is the first game in the universe that I actually managed to finish.
So, I jumped back into Yakuza 0 but then I managed to snag a copy of Yakuza Kiwami 2 for the Xbox One from Sega PR. At the time, I didn’t know it was also coming to Xbox Game Pass but that didn’t really matter. So, for the last week, I’ve been swapping my time between Yakuza 0 and Kiwami 2. I haven’t finished either (I would say I feel like I’m at least ⅓ of the way through Yakuza 0 and just over halfway through Kiwami 2) but I wanted to share some thoughts on both games.
It’s really interesting playing two very different games from the same series. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing this but it’s a great way to see how development has changed over the course of the two games. Yakuza 0 originally released in 2015 with Kiwami 2 coming to PS4 in 2017 (using the Japanese release for both). Yakuza 6 and Kiwami were released between the two and I’d love to go back and play some Yakuza 6 if possible just to see more of the changes that took place between games.
What really pulls me into the series is the game’s protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu. He is just so interesting and engaging. I’m fully invested in his actions and it should come as no surprise that I want to see how he evolves in later games.
As I wrote in my Looking Back for Judgment, I also love Kamurocho. Seeing the changes of 1980’s Kamurocho of Yakuza 0 and the 2000’s era in Kiwami 2 is quite refreshing. It’s also fitting that both games also take place in the Sotenbori district of Osaka. It was months in the real world when I last played Yakuza 0 in Sotenbori but when I first touched down in the district in Kiwami 2 I was instantly taken back and began to remember events from Yakuza 0 and the locations of certain businesses from the prequel.
The games aren’t perfect. While I am enjoying the storylines of both and they move at a nice pace, a lot of the side stuff doesn’t hold the same interest. In Yakuza 0, I just got to the point where I’ll be able to buy up property across the city but I am worried that it will take me away from the main plot. Meanwhile, in Kiwami 2, the sections involving recruiting and completing Clan missions with Majima, and the Hostess Grand Prix, don’t do it for me.
The other side story stuff can be either really funny and challenging or downright annoying. There is a Majong side story that I just couldn’t complete. I’ve played Majong with my wife so I’m familiar with the game but I just could not win enough to progress the mission.
I’m not quite sure just how popular the Yakuza series is here in the West. It’s definitely nice to see that Sega is pushing the game wherever it can. Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2 are regularly discounted and available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. If you have Xbox Game Pass, the three games are available through it. While the rest of the series is currently only available on PS4, I do suspect that before the launch of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the rest of the series will make its way onto Xbox and PC.
For those who have never played a Yakuza game, these are not bad places to start. In the case of Yakuza 0, it’s a prequel. So, even if they make references to later games, you won’t feel lost or confused by the stuff that takes place. Meanwhile for Kiwami 2, while it does take place a year after the first game, they offer the option to watch a pretty decent recap that breaks down all the core aspects of the first game so you don’t feel lost.
I really want to finish Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 0 before Like a Dragon launches later this November, but I’m not too sure that I can. Again, I really enjoy both games but they are also very long games and I suspect, like Judgment, I will need to invest at least 25-30 hours each before I see their end credits.
If I do manage to reach the end of either, I will most certainly follow this up with a proper Looking Back and I am pretty confident that I will be talking about Like a Dragon later this year when it launches across the different platforms.