Just finished Yakuza Kiwami on PS4 on normal difficulty. That's two Yakuza games down in two months, having finished Yakuza 0 just last month.
I was instantly surprised by many of the differences between 0 and Kiwami, many of which are certainly a result of the fact that Kiwami was released just after 0 but at the same time the game is a remake of the very first Yakuza game. It was particularly surprising due to the huge number of things that are practically identical between the two. I never played the original Yakuza games but things which I assumed were true for all or at least most games in the series turned out to be either a characteristic of 0 or (paradoxically) the chronologically later games which have been released before these two.
Anyway, I'll instantly say that Kiwami is in my opinion the worse game of the two and it can be felt very strongly from the game's very beginning. On one hand the game is missing a number of things that were present in 0 (but presumably absent in the original Yakuza), on the other it feels to me like the series took a few entries to refine its formula and style. The pacing is a lot worse, with a very slow start, and the writing feels much more cliched, less plausible and simply kinda worse - although still pretty good. Oddly the "substories" (sidequests) suffer from kinda the opposite - while in 0 they are the part where the game becomes outrageously absurd and over-the-top, serving hugely as comic relief, here many of the substories are about rather mundane things and feel like the part that is supposed to (sometimes) deal with the more common and realistic Yakuza stuff than the main plot. Then there's the most obvious differences: there's only one map (Kamurocho), there's only one playable character (Kiryu) and it lacks the business mini games that guarantee you an easy income. The city also lacks a few of the more interesting locations from 0. That the game is smaller is not really a problem, however, it still took me 40 hours to finish the thing, which is more than enough content, but 0 took me more than 90 hours (with a similar completion rate for optional content).
Most shockingly (if not as obvious as the other points): here you actually have traditional XP alongside money, so you actually have to fight and do sidequests to improve your character, and one entire skill tree, for the arguably most powerful "Dragon style", is only filled by performing a variety of tasks, mostly revolving around competition with Majima, the second protagonist from 0. Incidentally the balancing feels much better here. While Kiwami is still a very easy game all in all (at least on normal difficulty), the difficulty curve and character building feel a lot more consistent, although you can max out everything well before finishing the game if you do enough optional stuff (but without grinding, which is good). Once again the toughest fights are unrelated to the plot, though, mostly optional, and even those can be bruteforced by stocking up on healing items. Even the game's final fights were very easy by comparison, which is kinda dumb.
And while I'm on the subject of Majima: he feels like an entirely different character here. 0 apparently tried to deliver Majima's origin story and explain how he became who he is (a hilarious violent maniac), but frankly it fell quite short of it. By the beginning of Kiwami seven years have passed between 0 and Kiwami and his actual transformation must have happened in this time frame which we know nothing about (at least having played only 0 before this).
Anyway, it's still a really good and fun game. The characters are really cool and likeable, the plot still feels kinda plausible and engaging compared to must stuff I'm used to from video games, and the core mechanics are, if not fantastic, at least very fun. The combat, which is virtually identical to the system in 0, is pretty good and has some depth to it but you're not forced to fully master all its intricacies to finish the game. And since you generally can outrun enemies, you're rarely forced to fight random enemies if you don't feel like it. And while there's fewer side activities here, many of them are still pretty "big" and fun to do. And even though the substories are less humorous, several of them had me crying from laughter. I was definitely well-entertained from start to finish.
I definitely recommend 0 to anyone who doesn't know where to start with the series, but Kiwami is still a very good game and I can't wait to play Kiwami 2, even though I've just put about 150 hours into the series already.
Post edited December 15, 2018 by F4LL0UT