Yakuza 2 - PS2 - Review
Sega is certainly no stranger to games where the main character can dish out the martial arts moves and still have time to explore a big city with a lot to offer. Much like the Sega Dreamcast classic, Shenmue, the first Yakuza game took us into gangster territory with a hero just too cool for words. Now, Yakuza 2 for the PlayStation 2 brings Kazuma out of retirement for another journey into the Japanese criminal underworld that is sure to please fans of the first game.
A scene from the Japanese version of The Three Stooges
While it’s not essential that gamers play the first game (thanks to a detailed recap), it helps to experience the original’s story of a man who was betrayed by his childhood friend. I won’t get too much into the first game’s story or spoil the ending, but when we last seen Kazuma Kiryu, he gave up a lot to live a normal life with Haruna, the little girl he swore to protect. One day, the 5th Chairman of the Tojo Clan runs into Kazuma, he begs him to return to the clan that is on the verge of war. Reluctantly, Kazuma decides to help his clan by attempting to bring peace between the Tojo and the Kansai Clan. He also intends to restore the Tojo to their former glory by installing the rightful replacement … the son of the deceased Clan leader named Diago Dojima.
Unfortunately for Kazuma, Diago Dojima wants nothing to do with the clan or restore his father’s legacy. He much rather drink his life away until Kazuma manages to find and kick some sense into him. It is here that Yakuza 2 really takes off on a deep and involving journey where new gangs and even foreign gangsters attempt get bring the weakened yakuza families down. Kazuma even moves out of the familiar surroundings of Kamurocho for Osaka. Like the first game, there’s plenty of freedom to explore the many streets and back alleys of the city. You can spend the time going to a restaurant for some life-restoring ramen or hit the local Sega arcade to play a fighting game.
Exploration not only leads to various distractions and mini-games but it also leads to side missions that have you performing a number of tasks for people you meet on the street. You’ll defend a woman from a street thug and help a young man try to win a prize for his wife. It’s the little things that make the world in Yakuza 2 rich and fun to run through. On top of that, the story missions are actually interesting and enjoyable while weaving an intriguing tale with characters you’ll actually like. In the first game you were a host club client but in this sequel you’ll get to be the host attempting to entertain the ladies with conversation and drink like a dating simulator. You’ll even become the manager of a club called Marietta where you’ll have to keep customers happy while taking making as much money as possible.
“Alright already, Hirota! I’ll buy you a cheeseburger … just stop chewing on that tree.”
Even the fighting mechanics from the first game are back and still good. Aside from a number of combos and slick moves such throws and Special Moves that smashes your opponent against hard surfaces. Thankfully, you can level up your fighting skills as well as how much damage you can take during fights. You can even pick up and use weapons that will help even during the more difficult boss battles. The boss battles themselves are actually challenging but not enough that you’ll feel that Kazuma has an unfair advantage when even you’re getting tossed around. Even though combat can get very repetitive, they are still fun events that you won’t mind getting into yet another fight with a street thug.
The game also has a number of secrets (the locker rooms make a return) and it’s fun unraveling the mysteries that pop up during the game. Kazuma will make new allies (such as a tough-as-nails female cop) and new enemies that range from a Chinese gang as well as a few Korean lowlifes the make up the new foreign threat in Japan. The game’s story is also lengthy yet evenly paced much like the first game was so you won’t feel like things are dragging along.
Graphically, Yakuza 2 is quite visually impressive for a current-generation game. The cities are dazzling and, while they’re not as overly populated as the real Japan, it’s still an awesome sight. There are some pop-up issues that rear their ugly heads often in the game. Still, this can be overlooked seeing as the character models are good and the cut scene animations are smooth. Overall, there’s a lot to appreciate with your eyes in this game.
“Sorry, sir, we don’t sell Wasabi-flavored edible underwear.”
The same can be said about the game’s sound that, this time around, stays away from an English dub approach that the first game brought. Yes, the first game had a rather interesting voice cast that included Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum or actor Michael Madsen but this sequel does benefit from a solid Japanese voice cast. Sorry, but Japanese fits the game like a glove so those who don’t like to read will find themselves slightly disappointed. There’s also a great soundtrack, although that doesn’t apply to the battle music that is actually annoying and repetitive. As for the backgrounds noises, it really does make you feel like you’re in a Japanese city.
Yakuza 2 for the PlayStation 2 certainly deserves to be played by anyone who likes a good adventure with fun brawling mechanics and a big environment to explore. The first game was a wonderfully executed and brilliant game that was way too much fun to want to put down and this sequel is no different. While a big part of me wishes this game was released on the PS3, it’s impressive to see the PS2 still capable of bringing us a quality title like this game. Fans of the first game should most definitely buy this one right away.
|Review Scoring Details for Yakuza 2|
It’s still loads of fun smashing a thug into a telephone pole or breaking a sign post over a gangster’s head so the combat in the game is still good. There is another big city to explore and there are a great number of side missions and other distractions such as managing your own club.
The PS2 is still capable of displaying some detailed and beautiful visuals as we can see from this game. The character models are decent enough and the environments are simply stunning. It’s just too bad there are a few graphical issues here and there.
The music in the game is wonderful during cut scenes and exploration but the battle theme music is grating and unbearably repetitive. Still, there’s some great Japanese voice acting in the game and the incredibly detailed background noises feel like you’re walking through a crowded street in Japan.
Once again, Kazuma will find himself going up against more than one foe at once and sometimes those foes can really dish out the hurt. The boss battles in this game are a tad harder than the first game so you’ll be glad you can level up.
Kazuma is back and he’s still a force to be reckoned with in a game that offers so much to see and do in this one. Whether you’re beating up a number of thugs and yakuza punks or like to keep lovely ladies company in a host club this one has more than enough to keep you busy. You can even get in some golf or hit the arcade to play games.
It just goes to show that the PS2 is still capable of releasing amazing games that can compete with the next-generation crowd and Yakuza 2 certainly proves that point. Not only is this a brilliant sequel to an excellent crime drama but it’s simply a bigger and better action game with a lot to offer. If you liked the first game you will love this sequel.