Yakuza PS2 Review

Yakuza may be set in the criminal underworld, and allows you to wander the streets involving yourself in many tasks besides the captivating main storyline, but where the GTA comparisons start is exactly where they end. It’s totally unfair for such a different game to be constantly mentioned in the same breath of Rockstar’s mega popular franchise. The living city is now part of our gaming landscape, be it Grand Theft Auto or not.

Yakuza’s well crafted plot shortly sees Kazuma (the games anti-hero and the so called “Dragon of Dojima“) get banged up for a decade for the murder of his boss, just when he was making it good in the criminal underworld. The felony behind the death of the Yakuza boss is actually, Nishiki, a lifetime friend of Kazuma. The Dragon of Dojima decides to name himself as the responsible one (bless him), but when he is paroled 10 years later, his name has been spat on, 10 billion yen has been snatched, and the Tokyo streets are very different. As mentioned earlier the plot is truly involving stuff and is definitely one of the major things that kept us playing, but there‘s also a pretty decent and engaging game in here too.

First lets talk fighting as when you aren’t doing anything else you certainly will be using your fists and feet to colour faces black and blue. The combat is wisely kept simple with intuitive combos, a grapple and throw button and some flashy evasion manoeuvres. Your fighting skills are expanded as you level up or are taught techniques by others, but what’s always evident is that this is a game that was rated 18 for a very good reason (frequent swearing and strong violence). The brutality is off the scale, as faces are stamped on, bodies thrown against walls, and weapons smashed over heads. A meter rises as you score strikes, and a number of wince-inducing moves can then be brought into play using weaponry and your surrounding environment to your advantage. These one-button attacks make short work of smaller enemy power bars and takes a significant chunk out of the larger ones.

Certainly worth a mention is the Tokyo streets, which are populated with an impressive amount of people and look great in all their neon glory. An annoying and archaic Resident Evil style pause when moving from screen-to-screen may detract from the experience a little, but it’s something that becomes more bearable as you explore the lit-up streets. Eventually you are granted the ability to free roam the city, and Yakuza’s Tokyo then becomes a sandbox with tons of things to get yourself involved in, including everything from side quests, (which earn you extra experience, cash and items) Casinos, fighting tournaments and batting cages amongst other activities. You can even romance hostesses by buying them lunch, something to drink, giving them presents and having a conversation that will hopefully spur their interest in you.

Finding your way around is easy thanks to a circular map, although there were some instances when we were left a little baffled as to where to head next (you’ll understand once you have to buy dog meat or look for a runaway character). Random battles also interrupt your time in the city, in which thugs will stop you in your tracks, and say some nasty things to you, after giving them a sound beating they then apologetically hand over money or items to you. Random attacks can be pretty regular at times, which can annoy in some situations (especially as loading times are quite long), although it is possible to escape from them if you have the room to do so following the warning throb of the Dual Shock.

So is it worth a small amount of that 10 billion fortune? We think so, as it’s one of those games that draws you into its world thanks to its interesting storyline, likeable cast of characters and lively setting. It has to be said that even though the criminal underworld is now behind us we’ll be enticed back to it when the time is right.