After a two-year wait to arrive in North America, SEGA’s Yakuza 2 is finally here. The original game was impressive enough that its sequel’s delay in coming to America was surprising, to say the least. Yakuza 2 picks up where the original left off, at least technologically, with everything having been expanded, more side quests, more cities, more mini-games and (gasp) more story.
Those new the Yakuza series don’t have to track down the first game, as Sega wisely chose to summarize its events in the opening of Yakuza 2. (Of course, you can also read our Yakua review to learn more about the original game as well.) However, to skip the original would be a disservice to yourself, as the first one is still a blast to play and had a decent story to tell. In Yakuza 2 you also get a few trinkets if you have a Yakuza save file on your memory card. And yes, although this is a PS2 game, it worked flawlessly on our 60GB PS3.
The story in Yakuza 2 gets much more dense, with added depth from original scribe Hase Seishu, and the game’s cut scenes get accordingly longer. The story takes place one year later, with Kazuma’s former family descending into ruin and risking all-out war with the other families. Kazuma once again heads out to put things right.
Walking the streets once again seems immediately familiar, partly because Sega only made a few tweaks to the graphics. It’s still a pretty impressive achievement, but Yakuza 2 is still very much a PlayStation 2 game. The fighting engine seems to have been tuned a bit as well, as we found our attacks landing better than they had in the original. Sega also adjusted the camera, which is mildly improved, and wisely chose to do away with the English voiceovers and instead give us the original voice with subtitles.
During the course of the game, familiar faces make appearances along with a host of new ones, not to mention your local gangs and their leaders. Even the Koreans show up. You’ll have more then a few side quests, from hostess bar romance games to the opportunity to run your own club, and all of this side action does a good job filling-in the details of the Yakuza lifestyle. The arcades also feature a new side activity: Virtua Fighter 7 set in a first-person perspective that plays like Makken X or a poor Virtua On clone.
Yakuza 2 still has its loading times, and some of the cut scenes do run a bit long. Side quests can also be confusing, and there aren’t many “must do” side activities. For instance, in a city where you can buy more than 50 dozen items, we found ourselves needing to feed a cat. We tried cat food, dog food and a fish sandwich, and none of them was right. Worse yet, not once did we get a hint as to what the damn thing wanted. Another issue is when trying to complete a side quest, you may trigger the next scene in the story, which throws you into another direction and usually tasks you with doing something that — by the time you’ve finished it — has made you completely forget where you were in the side quest.
The story does take a bit of a Takahashi Miike direction in certain over-the-top moments rather than portraying an accurate one, and some things remind you that Yakuza 2 is just a game. Case in a point: a temple splits open revealing a rising gold temple within. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; Miike cut his teeth making over-the-top Yakuza films. But it pulls you immediately from the otherwise well-realized world.
Little bugs and snafus like that aside, fans of the original Yakuza will find a worthy sequel here, and it’s particularly nice to play as different cultures’ gangsters for a change (something more exotic than the usual mafia or drug dealers). No, Yakuza 2 is no Shenmue, but it’s also not a Shenmue wanna be. Yakuza 2 is a fun game on its own merits, with distinctive style and music that will more than please action game fans who still play their PS2.
Buy Yakuza 2 from Amazon.com.
- Score: 7.7
- It’s a bit more exotic than the previous game, with a bit more gameplay variety and groups, but it’s definitely not Shenmue.
— Phillip Vollmer