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PS2 Review: Yakuza 2

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Yakuza 2 (also known as Ryu Ga Gotoku 2) features returning protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, a great catalyst for satisfying action and in-depth gameplay in this expanded sequel set exactly one year after the first installment. The developers stay loyal to the Japanese setting and cultural elements by keeping the language Japanese while offering English captions as an option.

This PlayStation 2 exclusive game from SEGA has an excellent third-person crime story, mainly told through Kazuma’s perspective and flashbacks. The plot contains several chapters and is peppered with great foreshadowing elements and an even pace to sustain a high interest. The plot also includes side missions, great fighting and nice role-playing elements.

The basic adventure status allows Kazuma to collect information, purchase items, enjoy city life, work at clubs and engage in the enticing side missions. Players will frequently find keys for special coin lockers and item boxes, which are great for storage. Great locales include a golfing range, hostess bars, massage parlors, and restaurants/bars, which replenish health. Players can satisfy their item cravings as well in various shops. Inventory management is key in the game, especially when characters make you keep unwanted items, which can be discarded by selecting the item in the items menu (hit the start button then select), then pressing circle (be careful, once you trash it, it’s gone for good).

Battle status is also essential during side missions and the main objectives event. Losing a battle twice unlocks an easier level only for that specific battle so players can progress well utilizing eight save slots, activated with any in-game phone. Battle successes build up three important categories: Mind (Shin), Body (Tai), and Skill (Gi). Players are rewarded for attack variety and special finishing moves when your “heat” meter is maximized. The fixed camera makes some maneuvering difficult (camera can be easily reset by hitting L2 or R3), but most difficulties can be easily overcome thanks to a wide array of fighting options.

The square or triangle button attacks address the threats behind you while recovery/escape combinations (any of the four colored buttons on the right with the left analog stick) provide tremendous help. Practical moves like picking up objects with the circle button and blocking while taunting (R2) and stomping enemies while they’re down (triangle) will be hard to resist. In a new feature, players can get in stances to dodge/shift attacks. Some battles incorporate cooperative characters, so you won’t be fighting alone all the time…some nice support, especially when you mission involves entering a seemingly hopeless situation.

Though a largely a single player, linear game, the developers inject some variety and open-ended play, which make a great balance of entertainment. Great role-playing aspects including getting voice mail on the cell phone. Players see and hear various comments as they venture through several manageable urban environments, which prompt special cut scenes, which complement the plot well.

The cut scene loading times get lengthy at times, but patience pays off. Players can select an option to skip cut scenes, but it’s not recommended, not because objective information is missed, but because players miss some incredibly entertaining scenes that establish great characters and a deep story — rare in today’s games. If players decide to skip, they can also can read about the next objective when hitting start to pause the game.

The plot also recaps events from the first Yakuza game as players also learn as the game progresses. The numerous characters introduced in the beginning can be overwhelming, but paying attention to specific motivations/alliances can give you a strategic advantage when you make critical decisions later. Great character voice work, visual character outlines, widescreen/vibration options and a powerful soundtrack enhance the game. An essential for the PlayStation 2 library.

Yakuza 2 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Alcohol Use, and Violence.


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