Yakuza 2 Review for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Yakuza 2 Review for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Gang Warfare…Japanese Style

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.

Yakuza 2 screenshot

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.

Yakuza 2 screenshot

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.

Yakuza 2 screenshot

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?

In the technical department, Yakuza 2 fares well against other last-gen games. Considering this title was originally produced in 2006, the graphics are very good and character models have a good amount of detail.

Yakuza 2 screenshot

However, this title does suffer from some seaming and shuttering issues throughout. The camera is also a constant problem, as it’s completely fixed and automatically switches perspective frequently. The recurrent camera switches make traversing across complex maps difficult, as it is easy to lose your bearings when the camera view changes. Despite these technical issues, however, Yakuza 2 still looks good for being an almost two-year-old last-gen game.

One area where Yakuza 2 unquestionably soars is in the music department. The score was produced through a collaboration of seven different prominent video game music creators, including noted Metal Gear composer Norihiko Hibino and Echochrome composer Hideki Sakamoto. The result is a sweeping score that matches the epic scope of the Yakuza story. The music is quite moody and conveys the dark undertones that underline the story. The soundtrack is definitely worth downloading or importing, even if you are not that interested in the game itself.

The voiceover in the game is also very good. There is no English voiceover option, but this is probably a good thing because the Japanese voice over helps keep you immersed in the game’s setting. All the characters are fully voiced during the different cinema scenes, and the vocal performances are top-notch. Even if you don’t understand the language, all the emotion and drama conveyed in the game come through quite well in the vocal performances.

Yakuza 2 is not for everyone. Much like Metal Gear Solid 4, it has a cinematic style that often trades gameplay for story. However, the story in Yakuza 2 is definitely something that will stay with you, and must be experienced for fans of gangster culture, Japanese history, or anyone who appreciates a well-told and deep narrative. If you don’t mind the long cut-scenes, you’ll be treated to some fun and memorable gameplay with a battle system that doesn’t disappoint. Yakuza 2 may have its faults, but if you only pick up one more game for your PlayStation 2 before you officially retire it, let it be this one.

The graphics look fairly good, considering the game’s for a last-gen console. However, shuttering, seaming, and camera issues prevent this title from looking its best. 4.2 Control
Fighting system works very well and is easy to use. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The score for this game is very good, although battle music is a little repetitive. Voiceovers are pitch-perfect. 3.7 Play Value
The story is certainly epic, and there are plenty of side missions to keep you engaged, but there really isn’t much here to warrant playing more than once. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Authentic, cinematic sequel: The gritty, genuine portrayal of life in the Yakuza is made more realistic throughout 16 gripping chapters with a return to the original Japanese voice cast and English subtitles.
  • Twice as much to explore: There is now more to see and do than ever before in the hugely expanded world of the Yakuza. Visit bowling alleys and driving ranges, as well as cabarets and bars, all licensed from actual Japanese establishments.
  • A vibrant, true-to-life world: Like the real Yakuza, you must ingrain yourself in the authentic, neon-lit adult playgrounds of Tokyo and Osaka and become a regular at nightclubs, hostess clubs, restaurants and stores to gain access to secret services and uncover tips.
  • Brutal hand-to-hand brawling: An improved fighting engine allows you to fight numerous enemies at once with less load times and smoother camera angles. Experience points earned from brawls will help build up strength, stamina, and fighting techniques.

  • To top