A remake of the original Yakuza (or Ryu ga Gotoku in Japan), Yakuza Kiwami was rebuilt from the ground-up to incorporate advances both in technology (since its original version was released on the Sony Playstation 2) and story (since it was developed and released after the prequel title, Yakuza 0). Alongside changes in graphics and gameplay to fit with more modern systems, extra plot elements have been added to fill in the previously-unseen storylines revolving around Kamurocho and the Tojo Clan during Kazuma Kiryu's time in prison.
The infamous "Dragon of Dojima," Kazuma Kiryu, takes the blame for his adoptive brother Nishikiyama shooting the Dojima clan's patriarch after the man tried to rape their orphan sister, Yumi. Kazuma's confession to the police lands him in prison for ten years. When he finally returns to Kamurocho, he discovers that everything has changed: Nishikiyama has become driven solely by ambition to become the head of the Tojo Clan, Yumi has gone missing, 10 Billion Yen has disappeared from the coffers of the Tojo Clan, and now the yakuza are gunning for Kazuma's head. His only hope lies in a little girl who might be the key to unlocking the conspiracy behind it all, if he can keep himself and the girl alive long enough to root it out.
Players control Kiryu as he progresses through the story. After a certain point, he will be free to roam around the city of Kamurocho and do what he pleases, whether it is to continue the story or play one of several minigames.
- "Majima Everywhere" System -- Goro Majima will appear at random times around town to challenge Kazuma to a battle. Other times, he will leave hints through a subordinate to tempt you to fight him. Though Majima is harder to fight than standard enemies and carries his moveset from Yakuza 0 with him, each time Kazuma defeats him, he slowly relearns his legendary "Dragon of Dojima" moves which cannot be bought with experience like other moves.
- Fight Stances -- Kazuma carries all four stances from Yakuza 0 (Brawler, Rush, Beast, and Legend ["Dragon"]) into Kiwami, but after the prologue, will need to relearn most of his moves. Like before, Kazuma can switch between stances at any time. Compared to the original, where Kazuma only had a single fighting stance to use.
- Additional cutscenes provide context for what happened during Kazuma's 10 years in prison and Nishikiyama's turn towards evil.
- New minigames including "MesuKing," a card battle game with rock-paper-scissors action. Also the return of "Pocket Circuit Racing" from Yakuza 0, with some familiar faces.
- Koshi Inaba of rock duo B’z wrote new music for the game, including Kiwami's theme song.