Games: Yakuza Kiwami – what better way to get lost in Sega's land of the rising fun?
Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)
SEGA'S venerable, none-more-Japanese sandbox epics come full circle with this reimagining of the game that started it all, though there are no clues to its humble PS2 origins here, with a slick world rebuilt from the ground up using the same engine as recent titles.
The hilariously violent oriental hoo-ha focuses on the first time Kiryu Kazuma was grudgingly roped into smashing faces against the neon-soaked pavements of Tokyo. After 10 years in chokey for a crime he didn't commit, Kazuma gets caught up in a criminal society on the verge of internal war. Dapper as ever, Kiryu is suited and booted for shootin' and bootin' through Japan's spicy underbelly, and this Yokohamlet has enough vengeance and power grabs to make Shakespeare blush.
As befits a game with chapter titles like Funeral and Fists, back alley brawls and exploration of Kamurocho's bustling streets are the order of the day, while knocking seven shades of Shinto out of street toughs is a breeze, with an arsenal of martial arts at your disposal, switching styles and whipping out weapons at will.
Given the original is now two console generations old, Kiwami is not just easier on the eyes, pilfering ideas from more recent titles, including a detailed progression system for your fists and wits. It's a stripped-down, less bloated affair unburdened with an impenetrable backstory.
New bells and whistles include the reintroduction of series favourite Goro Majima as a recurring random boss battle, with our cyloptic maniac helping keep Kiryu match fit.
As you'd expect, Kiwami oozes ultra-violence, mixing Grand Theft Auto's go-anywhere open world with the criminal doings of the yakuza and garnished liberally with all manner of Japanese weirdness.
Kamurocho is gloriously bloated with down n' dirty quests while bizarre side-stories abound among its bars, bowling alleys and brothels.
Repetitive fetch quests and overlong cutscenes may have twitch gamers reaching for the hari-kari blade, but are as much a part of Yakuza's charm as the brawling – and when the fisticuffs gets too much, you can simply shoot pool, belt out the karaoke classics or chill in the local Sega arcade, playing games starring bikini babes dressed as insects. This is Japan.
Despite raking in the yen in its homeland, we foreign devils haven't taken to the Yakuza games in quite the same way, so what better way to get lost in Sega's land of the rising fun than with the title that started it all? And for completists, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is set to gussy up its sequel next year.