|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Amusement Visions||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 9, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
As far as worldwide gangs are concerned, the Japanese Yakuza have a reputation for being one of the most hardcore. They are known the world over for their unrelenting passion and honor, as well as their powerful violent tendencies.
But as fans of gangster culture know, there is a certain romance involved with this type of underworld society, and Hollywood has proved that the general public relishes epic tales of those who live outside the law. Yakuza 2 presents an absolutely epic tale of the reluctant Yakuza Kazuma Kiryuu.
The game's story picks up one year after the events of the original Yakuza. Kazuma is enjoying his life outside the Yakuza culture with Haruka, and it seems that the normal life he had always dreamed of is finally within reach. However, as you might have suspected, a tragic turn of events lures him back into the deeply troubled Tojo clan. The clan has been struggling recently and is on the verge of extinction. When news of a brewing war between East and West reaches the clan's ears, they know that such a war would spell the end of the Tojo clan.
In a last ditch effort to preserve the clan's name and honor, they reach out to Kazuma to deliver a peace treaty to the head of the rival Oni clan. Kazuma reluctantly agrees, but does so under the condition that the wayward heir to the Tojo clan returns to fill his leadership responsibilities. However, as Kazuma goes to fulfill his duty, he uncovers a plot to undermine both the major clans and create a third, all-encompassing mega-clan for all Japan. A major war begins that not only involves the Japanese Yakuza, but the Japanese police and the Korean mafia.
The best feature of Yakuza 2 has to be the story. It rivals any Hollywood gangster movie and will engage you right from the very beginning. However, you will also notice right away that Yakuza 2 is very heavy-handed when it comes to the cinema scenes. The first hour of the game is basically two long cinema scenes punctuated by a battle tutorial. Once you launch directly into the gameplay, you'll notice that you'll frequently sit through ten to fifteen-minute cinema scenes in between battle missions. The gameplay in this title most definitely takes a backseat to the story, and if you are not comfortable with putting down the controller for very long, then Yakuza 2 is not for you.
But if you are the type who relishes a deep and immersive story, then Yakuza will definitely fit the bill nicely, and the actual gameplay serves as a nice complement to the story. The game has a semi-open world where you are free to roam certain areas of the city and do as you please. In addition to story-based missions, there are plenty of side missions you can do for various people you meet in the city. In this way, it resembles the Grand Theft Auto model, albeit on a much smaller scale.
It also resembles GTA because it features lots of random stuff to do. There's an arcade to go to, a place to play golf, and even a cabaret where you can watch dancing girls. None of this stuff is explicitly spelled out in the direct story, but as you explore the city around you, you'll discover all sorts of surprises. While these little extras are certainly interesting, they don't really enhance the game. I found myself opting out of these cute little diversions in favor of continuing the story in most instances.
However, since you are a Yakuza first, chances are you'll get into a lot of tussles while you are going around the city. You will rarely ever have to kill anyone, but you will have to beat some people up. There is no gunplay in Yakuza 2, and you will have to rely on your fists and feet of fury to put the hurt on your enemies. The battle system uses a very simplistic grapple and kick-based attack system that gives you several basic button-based attacks you can chain together to unleash more powerful ones. The game also makes use of some truly punishing environmental attacks that are quite violent, but fun to watch: I mean, who doesn't love bashing someone's head in with a couch?