A blog dedicated to reviewing video games both new and retro. All titles are played and reviewed by the same person and each game bought with my own money. Systems being reviewed include the Sega Master system, Sega Genesis / Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, Xbox, Xbox 360, Playstation 1, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC and Ms-Dos.
Yakuza 2 (Christmas Special)
The original Yakuza
was something of an unexpected success in Japan despite being released
during Sony’s Playstation 2 final years. However, this success did not
carry over into its western release where sales were decent if
unspectacular. Thankfully, Yakuza managed to sell over a million
units worldwide, over half of which stemmed from the Japanese market.
This sequel launched in the Japanese homeland merely a year after Yakuza’s
release, though westerners would have to wait twice that amount.
Despite this time-frame increase, the localization process is noticeably
less involving than its predecessor, foregoing its star-studded English
dub for a humbler Japanese audio with accompanying subtitles.
place a year after the events of the first game, we discover Kazuma
retired and leading a simple life as Haruka’s guardian. At first the
Japanese was somewhat disorienting, but every actor performs their part
admirably, and while I miss voice-acting legends such as Mark Hamill,
the new cast quickly grew on me. Yakuza 2 also offers a lengthy
recap feature where players can catch up to all the backstory they
either missed, or forgotten. One of my criticisms of the original game
was its messy, convoluted plot and while videos and accompanying
narrations are of great help, they suffer from information overflow. I
can only imagine how confused someone who never played the first game
would feel after watching this video.
past introductions and recaps, the story quickly begins to unfold
itself. A weakened Dojima clan finds itself under siege by a rival
Kyoto-based organization, and the foreign Korean mafia. Yakuza 2
expertly manages to convey a heavily romanticized and idealized take on
the Japanese mafia. Often characters and plot seem more akin to that of a
soap opera with dramatic reveals and overly exaggerated reactions.
However, this mostly works to the game’s advantage as it maintains a
good flow throughout its narrative. This does not mean Yakuza 2
isn’t susceptible to the same pitfalls of its predecessor, namely how
ridiculous it becomes in some parts. At one point Kazuma enters the
premises of a mob boss who lives inside a castle that opens up to reveal
a second castle made out of solid gold. I’m not sure if this is meant
to be intentionally ridiculous, but the tone and mood plays it straight
which ruins any depth or gravity of the moment. Thankfully these are
mostly relegated to sidetracked plotpoints and hold little weight on the
actual narrative, though some manage to considerably hinder an
otherwise well told story. The most upsetting case occurs at the ending,
I won’t go into spoilers, but I will warn readers that it nearly ruined
the experience for me.
The entire main cast from Yakuza
makes a return, but sadly most of the appearances can be considered as
glorified cameos. It’s a shame the dynamic Detective Date and Kazuma
shared in the previous entry is hardly felt this time around. On the
other hand, Kazuma is now teamed up with the tough-as-nails female
detective, Kaoru who shares a well-executed bond with our main hero. It
may take some missteps, and at times vary wildly from cartoonishly
unbelievable to overly dramatic and serious, but Yakuza 2’s story is definitely one of its strong points despite the poor ending.
has changed little between entries, most of the shops make a return
graphically unchanged and selling the same products. Some new stores and
mini-games have been added, but the greatest addition is the all-new
Osaka district to explore. It may only be a fraction in size of its
Tokyo counterpart, but it offers variations on the already established
mini-games. For the most part my thoughts on these remains unchanged
from Yakuza; they are enjoyable for a few minutes but quickly
become boring. Moreover, the rewards offered are not enough to offset
the money and time invested to master them. This time however there are
two exceptions to this rule. The first is a spin on the hostess
mini-game, where this time, Kazuma is the one who must entertain
customers. Dialog in these sections is still mostly guesswork of what
works and what doesn’t, but this time players must also ensure customers
consume a minimum amount of drinks throughout the conversation. This
however, pales in comparison to a game where Kazuma owns and runs his
very own Hostess bar. Managing prices, decorations, worker satisfaction
and scouting for new hostesses was a very rewarding diversion and a
welcome distraction from the main storyline.
exploring the city, random groups of thugs will often attack Kazuma,
triggering battle sections. Combat is another instance in which Yakuza
2 remains unchanged, gameplay-wise from its predecessor. The difficulty
level was increased this time around as enemy patterns and movesets
actively encourage players to engage them tactically. These random
combat instances seem to happen at disparaging intervals between
storyline chapters. Some chapters will constantly swarm you with random
encounters while others remain relatively hassle free.
players will likely get a case of Déjà vu, most of the audio and
graphical assets are recycled from the first one right down to visual
glitches. The odd texture warping, seaming and clipping issues all make a
return with little if any improvements added.
Yakuza 2 improves the experience where it counts, the story despite flawed is tighter and better woven. Combat while still largely the same has been slightly tweaked and in
doing so became less of a repetitive chore, and a more engaging
experience. Finally, the side-content is immense, featuring Yakuza 1’s mini-games while still adding plenty of new things to see and try. Yakuza
2 may have launched during the PS2’s twilight years, but it became one
of the finest titles available on Sony’s little black box. Now if only
the ending weren't so terrible
Trivia: Did you know that due to the success of the original Yakuza,
its sequel featured even more tie-in campaigns? The Matsuya restaurants
for example, replace the unlicensed Akagyu chain of the first one. The
game has a total of 17 real brand tie-ins.
- A greatly improved story - Combat slightly tweaked for the better - More and better mini-games
- Terrible ending - Story still gets very silly in places - Much of content was recycled from the first game
Final Grade: A-
I'm sad to say Yakuza
2's cover does not look good. It's an almost identical copy of Yakuza 1
only this time the appealing color balance gives way to a black and
white image and the tattoo design is cropped. Without these, all we have
left is an uninspired cover that blends into the background. Maybe this
is why the series seems to struggle outside Japan.
Even the DVD looks plain in comparison to its prequel, what happened?
The manual is does fare a little better, in the sense that it's neither an upgrade or a downgrade from Yakuza.
It contains a short paragraph briefly glancing at the events of the
first game and goes into a pretty good detail on how to play the game.
It features plenty of screenshots as visual aids and even a few hint
manual is still in black and white and I did prefer the visual layout
of the first one better, but overall this a good manual. A shame about
the cover though.
Packaging Grade: C+
Christmas cheer rating:
Yakuza 2, much like its predessor, is a game which takes place on Christmas but barely ever mentions it. Once again you'll see people decked out in Santa outfits and hear a few jingles at some of the shops but that's where it ends. However, it does have a beautiful 'Silent Night' rendition during the credit sequence, so I'll give it that much. One out of five snowmen.