Plunkett: Plus maybe the best thing about Kiwami is that it’s set only in Kamurocho, which means more than any of the more recent games it really lets you learn the lay of the land. By the end of Kiwami I was playing with the map turned off and was finding my way round pretty easily just by remembering the names of main streets and the landmarks. Considering Kamurocho is maybe the real star of the series—and like you say, it’s always nice seeing it grow up—it was great getting to spend an entire game there without being whisked away somewhere else.

Alexandra: Speaking of stars, can we be real for a minute and agree that this isn’t really Kiyru’s story? In a lot of ways, this game is about Nishikiyama.

Plunkett: It is! And maybe that’s Yakuza 0's greatest gift to the series. I just kept imagining playing this game without knowing Nishiki’s story (he’s your best friend throughout the prequel), and how shitty that would have been. Knowing the story of his friendship with Kiryu really made his turn in Kiwami more impactful, and also lent a little more (sorry) bang to his farewell.

Alexandra: They added additional story scenes for Nishiki in Kiwami and that really paid off. We get to see him struggle as he inherits responsibilities that everyone wanted Kiryu to have. For a while, he’s not really good at being yakuza. By the time of the game, he’s a smooth operator but its still really clear that underneath it all, Nishiki never forgot what it was like to feel inferior. It’s so well written. He’s probably the best villain in the series.

Plunkett: Yeah, he really is, that’s one of the things that stands out here. Were he the villain in a later game he’d probably lick a gun barrel before somersaulting out of a helicopter onto an exploding horse, but here, in a humbler time for Yakuza, he’s just a good kid who makes some bad decisions.

How’d you find the combat here? After the baseball bat-infused fury of 0, I had a bit of trouble returning to a more nuanced combat style, especially since I didn’t get far with the game’s advanced styles.

Alexandra: I really liked it. The three styles might even work better here than in 0. I stuck with Brawler for most of that game but here I found myself switching from Rush to Beast or whatever I had to do in order to win. Kiwami finishers had a lot to do with that. Missing those is punishing since bosses will regain a lot of health. I was a lot more aware of my stance and heat gauge here than in other games.

Plunkett: I wonder whether that’s just a relic of the original design or something they tweaked here, because I was the same. For the last 3-4 games I’ve mostly stuck with the one fighting style, but here you just couldn’t, otherwise you’d run into a brick wall where a certain boss or group fight wouldn’t let you progress unless you used the “right” style.

Alexandra: I got my ass kicked in the gambling den fight more times than I’d like to admit until I literally went Beast Mode on them.

If I do have one minor complaint about the combat, it’s that some of the bosses are reusing move-sets from 0. Shimano is basically a re-skin of Mister Shakedown. It’s not a big deal but from time to time Kiwami feels a bit more like a Yakuza 0 mod than a game unto itself.

Plunkett: It definitely feels like the odd Yakuza game out. We’ve had a fairly natural progression in terms of game design, if not the timeline (thanks to 0 being a prequel) over the last few games, but throwing Kiwami into the middle of it all certainly makes for a weird fit. I know this is going to throw out my “which Yakuza game do you try next” timeline, because while Kiwami follows on from 0 in terms of narrative, I assume it’s going to be jarring for many going from the more modern design and tone of the newer games to something shorter and more raw.

Alexandra: I’m going to start up Yakuza 5 soon and I bet that’s going to be strange. I’m super glad that 0 and Kiwami are around though. The former is one of the best games I’ve played this year and while Kiwami is a bit less ambitious, it’s still very good. I played this while on a vacation and enjoyed every moment of it.

Except maybe when Bob Utsunomiya didn’t have any extra items to give me. That greedy clown...

Plunkett: There are four constants in life. Death, taxes, a new Yakuza game every year and Bob Utsunomiya being a creepy piece of shit.