There has been a recent surge, both in sales and popularity, for Japanese games in the West. For instance, games like Capcom’s Monster Hunter World and Bandai Namco’s Dragon Ball FighterZ were the top two best selling games in January of this year and reached critical acclaim from a bunch of outlets including ourselves. There is also Yakuza 0 which released in the West last January that seemingly did well enough here to warrant full remakes of the first two games in the form of Yakuza Kiwami and the upcoming Yakuza Kiwami 2.
We got some hands-on time with the latter, as well as Fist of the North Star, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight — all games created by Japanese game developers and publishers Sega and Atlus.
This was reasonably unfamiliar territory for me — especially when compared to the Eastern-centric writers on DualShockers’ staff. I was vaguely familiar with two of the franchises — I had played about 30 hours of Persona 4, Persona 5, and Yakuza 0 each. That unfamiliarity became curiosity. I was intrigued. Luckily, all three did not disappoint.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
Although I never completed Yakuza 0, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I had last year. There are seldom games that have me rolling on the floor laughing at its ridiculousness, as well as tell a gripping melodramatic tale about Kazuma Kiryu and his quest to clear his name. The dichotomy of it is so weird, yet so appealing. Yakuza Kiwami 2 seems to continue that trend while using a new engine that improves some technical facets.
The engine used in Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the same used in Yakuza 6. As such, Kiryu’s face doesn’t just look beautiful; the gameplay is vastly improved from Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami. If you’ve played Yakuza 6, you already know the improvements, but for those who don’t, combat is so much smoother than Yakuza 0. Every move, punch, kick, and object thrown all flows in a way that is intuitive and satisfying. The look and feel of the full-remake alone had me excited.
What sold me on Yakuza 0 before was its wild humor. During my demo with Yakuza Kiwami 2, I was shown a hilarious urinal-based mini-game called Toylet — which is a real thing in Japan — where you have to control the strength of the stream to match the meter of the computer; an HP bar at the bottom indicates how much you have left in you. When the timer is up, you have to go as hard as you can with the first one who finishes loses. I can only imagine what my face looked like while playing this. I could not believe the devs made peeing into a mini-game. This was the kind of ridiculousness I want from a Yakuza game.
Like the rest of these games, my time with Yakuza Kiwami 2 was too short. Thankfully, I won’t have to wait too long since it releases on August 28 for PlayStation 4. Oh, and the Steelbook Edition is going for the same price as the standard edition on Amazon if you catch it now.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise
The post-apocalypse setting has been used a lot in gaming throughout years. Despite this, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise was a pleasant experience. This was the game I had the least knowledge of and, in turn, surprised me the most.
My dive into Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise was not very deep with the majority of my time with the game’s combat. It plays very similarly to Yakuza 0 but faster and more violent. Watching the enemy’s head explode is reminiscent of the absurd brutality of a Tarantino movie. These finishers can be executed when a noticeably large button prompt appears; pressing it will start a quick time event bringing cinematics that makes the moment-to-moment gameplay a bit more entertaining. It does get a bit repetitive, but the tight controls and cartoonish visuals kept me from being bored.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is still somewhat of an unknown quantity, but the Mad Max-inspired aesthetic and its tight gameplay were enough to impress me. Going in, I didn’t have a clue what this game was. Now that I’ve gotten some time with it, I’m hoping I’ll give it a bit more attention when it launches on October 2 for PlayStation 4. You can pre-order the game on Amazon to make sure you ATATATA on launch.
Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight & Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight
Since the whole plastic instrument phase, rhythm games have become some of my favorite games just to relax and get lost in. Although most rhythm games can be frenetic, requiring your full attention for three or so minutes, there is nothing more pleasing than listening to some good tunes. The Persona series is known for its fantastic soundtracks making it a prime candidate for the genre.
I did play both Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight but it is the latter that stunned me the most. Persona 5‘s soundtrack was one of my favorites from last year with its smooth and jazzy music you don’t usually hear in video games. It perfectly fit the game’s tone as the Phantom Thieves serve its unique flavor of vigilante justice.
Right when I began my demo of Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, the song I was hoping I would play was “Life Will Change” — I wasn’t disappointed. For lack of a better term, the note highway in both games are split into two areas; the left side contains directional inputs, and the right side includes face button inputs. As the guitar riff began, button prompts began to fill the screen. At first, I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the controls but quickly caught on as the button prompts, for the most part, come in clockwise. After figuring out the basics, the more advanced prompts come naturally. Perhaps the game’s greatest strength is how intuitive the controls are.
Both Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight were my favorite games I played during my time with Sega and Atlus. While there is no concrete release date, I’ll be patiently awaiting its release in early 2019.
The next twelve months for Sega and Atlus look incredibly promising. For players, like myself, who want to start playing the Yakuza series, Yakuza Kiwami 2 will allow players to continue that adventure with a modernized version of the game. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, with its brawler tendencies and exciting take on the post-apocalypse setting can be an excellent gateway to Japanese games like Monster Hunter World or Yakuza 0. Lastly, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight was a joy to play with its fantastic soundtracks, intuitive gameplay, and characters many know and love.
All of these games are worth your time. Whether you want to play a solid beat em’ up or a delightful rhythm game, Atlus and Sega have you covered until early 2019.
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