It’s a tragedy that Yakuza games don’t receive the Western localization they deserve. The games have a deep and engaging narrative and feature over the top, fun filled, combat and gameplay mechanics. But what can be done about it? Sega does not seem to be interested in bringing Yakuza games to the West anymore, although a prequel Yakuza 0 is scheduled to hit the Western shores sometime in the future. Having said that, Sega is still deeply invested in the Yakuza series, at least in Japan. A few weeks ago, they released Yakuza: Kiwami on the PlayStation 4, a full blown remake of the PlayStation 2 version which was released all the way back in 2005.
This is not the first HD treatment that Sega have given to this classic game. Back in 2012, Yakuza HD was released on the PlayStation 3, once again a Japan only release. But regardless of Sega’s territorial commitments, how does the company’s second attempt on a more competitive hardware turns out? The answer is simple: Excellent.
Right off the bat, Kiwami runs at a full HD 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, although cutscenes are restricted to 30 frames per second. This results into some drastic improvements in image quality when one compares it to the Yakuza HD released on the PlayStation 3. The HD version suffered from excessive image blurring and uneven texture geometry. Fortunately, these issues have been fixed thanks to Kiwami’s use of modern post processing techniques and a better lighting solution.
This isn’t your standard remaster game. Kiwami has been developed from the ground up using high resolution textures, an excellent use of anisotropic filtering, increase in NPC count and improved shadow effects. In some places (such as guns and clothing materials) the texture assets have been completely replaced. The narrow lanes of Kamurocho, which is a realistic recreation of Tokyo’s Kabukicho, now seem more busy, thanks to better NPC animations, improved screen space reflections and the general improvements in the look and feel.
There are a ton of other graphical updates the developer has employed in the title, that simply fall out of the scope of this article but all you need to know is that this is solid effort by the developers. Graphical updates like these come once in a blue moon and it’s a shame that this game will possibly never release outside of Japan.
Outside of graphical improvements, the game now employs a free camera. The original used a fixed camera (which was one of the annoying aspects of the original), making the experience somewhat restricted. Granted that this worked in its time but the remake’s free camera helps us to behold the the visual fidelity that this game offers.
Besides the game’s strong narration and exploration mechanics, Yakuza at its core is about beating up the bad guys. The remake’s cinematic visuals and support for 60 frames per second goes a long way in making combat feel fluid and smooth. As I have mentioned many times in my previous graphics analysis, 60fps is a game changer and in Yakuza’s fast paced combat scenarios, it’s a must.
The remake also features extended cut-scenes and additional content, along with improved audio and sound. It seems that Sega actually cared about this remake instead of rushing it out of the door.
At its core, this is the same Yakuza experience that you loved almost a decade ago. Fantastic voice acting, intriguing plot-line and the famous fast paced combat are all intact. Some of the gameplay mechanics have indeed aged with time but for some reason (perhaps nostalgia), revisiting Yakuza on the PS4 has been a pleasant experience.
This is game that needs to release out of Japan. Such high quality remakes are indeed rare in the games industry and with a whole new audience who are interested in the remaster/remake genre, Sega may have a followers who want to experience this classic all over again.