Yakuza 2 PS2 Review

Scrolling fighting games are all but dead, which I find to be heartbreaking as I grew up playing such games, bloodying thousands of noses in the process. But before this review is soaked by tears of nostalgia, it has to be said that from time-to-time there is still such a game released. Yakuza was a very good one, and its sequel has only now hit shelves (that’s not intended to be a joke, honestly) despite having been released in Japan a couple of years ago. It’s a good job it was worth the lengthy wait then.

Yakuza was however more than just a simple fighting game. It was set in a living city (of which was filled with fun distractions) and had a substantial, highly engaging story – a rarity in a genre that typically has flimsy storylines, that usually serve as nothing more than a righteous reason to beat people up. I’m glad to say that Yakuza 2 once again follows this winning blueprint.

Yakuza 2 is set a year after the original game and sees the return of Kazuma Kiryu, the good hearted ex Yakuza who you took charge of. This time around the Japanese voices have been retained, which given the far Eastern setting makes a lot of sense and adds a air of authenticity to the game that was missing in the first one.

The story sees Kazuma pushed back into the action, when Terada, the Tojo clan chairman is brutally murdered (if you aren‘t familiar with all this, you either haven‘t played the first game or have memory issues, but in either case you should opt to watch the wonderful recap of the narrative of the first game), to say anymore would be to spoil what is once again one of Yakuza 2’s greatest of strengths. What I will say, is that it’s easily one of the best storylines to ever feature in a game and is filled with twists, reintroduces most of the surviving characters (it’s nice to see what these lot have been up to for the past year) from the original game and also brings some memorable new personalities to the cast.

The Tokyo setting returns, but is also joined by a sizable Osaka environment, both of which do their best impressions of a living city, and in spite of the PS2’s now ancient technology, are amongst the most immersive settings in games. Each location also has plenty in the way of distractions (good luck in stopping that gripping yarn spinning though) that can greatly add to the longevity of the game. There’s the chance to manage your own club, dealing with aspects like prices, the menu, the interior setup, troublesome customers and making sure your hostesses are in a good mood, so as to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. There’s also, amongst other things, the addictive target golf, arcade game (YF6), Mah Jong and a generous helping of side missions, all of which join all the mini-games and coin locker key scouring from the first game. Completists are sure to be kept busy for some time.

Of course, fighting also sees a return. The combat system is virtually the same as the one featured in the first game, which is to say it’s very simplistic, but hugely enjoyable and beautifully brutal, for this sequel it’s been refined though, which results in tidier fighting (if there is such a thing) that allows you to attack in multiple directions. It’s still got a huge reliance on the HEAT mode, a context sensitive action, which allows you to hurt your opponents in a variety of ways, by dragging them over to walls, cars and such and pushing the triangle button, which results in a brutal wince worthy move being produced. QTES are also interspersed in a lot of the more important fights, which makes such fights feel even more special.

When you’re wandering around the cities, just minding your own business, you’ll be randomly attacked (much like an RPG) by lowly scum, most of which don’t stand a chance against the mighty Kazuma. Such a feature was in the first game, but due to their painfully long loading times, it could begin to grow tedious from time-to-time. Happily, loading times have been dramatically cut for Yakuza 2, meaning such unexpected battles are not half as much of an annoyance as they once were.

Another RPG like feature is the upgrading system. Defeating enemies and clearing certain side-quests, will reward you with experience points, of which you can upgrade Kazuma’s abilities with. It’s far from the deepest of such a feature, but serves its purpose and grants the game additional depth.

Despite looking identical to Yakuza and being a humble PS2 game, visually Yakuza 2 still manages to impress. The cities have an impressive amount of people going about their business, whilst the neon lights look beautiful. Of course, with the dated technology, it’s not exactly perfect and at times it feels like it is pushing the PS2 a little too much, an example is the abundant popup in the cities, which sees people magically appear right before you. There are also camera problems that blight the indoor areas, which is easily the games only significant problem, both from a technological and gameplay standpoint.

Yakuza 2 is essentially a tidied up version of the first game, with little in the way of radical new features. But both of its halves – that being the narrative and playability – are of an even higher standard than the already wonderful first instalment, so obviously as a whole, it’s an even better game and one that shouldn‘t be ignored just because of the current crop of mighty consoles happen to exist.