Mini Grind: Yakuza 2
All right, I admit it, I have a problem! I can't play through games unless I've played through all the previous games in a series! There I said it. This once led to me playing through Tomb Raiders 3, 4, 5 and 6 before playing the newly released Tomb Raider Legend (AKA Tomb Raider 7). So in order to fully appreciate Yakuza 3 when it's released in a couple of weeks, I must finish Yakuza 2! I really enjoyed the first Yakuza when I played it back in 2008. A lot of people had to described it as Japanese GTA, but those people clearly hadn’t played it. It's more like a slow paced gangster epic, which occasionally turns into a game with a brawler fighting system and RPG components.
It’s hard to deny a large portion of the game is watching cut-scenes and people saying things that sound totally incomprehensible (Hey, it's Tojo Clan's Shimano Family's Futo Shimano!), but if you take the time to work out who everyone is and how the various clans and families fit together, it's not only a interesting insight into the yakuza, but also a damn good story. The combat system ain't no slouch either, while initially you can mash your way through it, you will need to get to grips with various combos and the 'sway' evade system at some point in the game. Yakuza 2 is so far following roughly the same formula as the first, leaving you to wander the streets finding side activities to do between the story and fighting. I’ve only got to Chapter 3 of 16, so there is still a ways to go.
: Ah! I remember!
As Yakuza is, if we're being honest, mostly about the plot, I was a bit worried by the fact that I could barely remember any of the specifics of the first game. Fortunately the game has a detailed and well edited 'Previously on Yakuza' type sequence at the beginning which whips through the entire first game's sprawling plot in about 20 minutes. While this won't help you all that much if you never played the first one, it was all the refreshing I needed to jump back in.
: Heat Moves
As you fight you fill up a HEAT gauge, which allows you to do brutal things to people when it’s full. To activate a Heat move you either need to grab a guy and drag him over to something fun, knock a guy on the floor, or be holding a weapon. If you are next to a tree, you will introduce his face to the tree. If you are holding a bicycle, you will smack that thing down on their head. If you are on a balcony, you will chuck the guy right over it. These are all incredibly painful looking and consequently a lot of fun. My favourite one so far has been suplexing someone through one of those displays filled with fake plastic food that Japanese restaurants have outside them.
: East vs. West
The story so far has been a prelude to a brewing war between a Tokyo Yakuza clan and an Osaka based Yakuza clan. While Osaka and Tokyo are only about 350 miles apart, this is framed as sort of East versus West thing. The uncouth western yakuza are acting dishonourably, relying on guns and being generally dishonourable. Kazuma comes out of retirement to teach these punks a thing or two about a thing or two, or just throw them into rivers and throw bicycles at them. Whatever goes really.
: Other Stuff
So far there’s been tons to do between getting into fights and watching cut-scenes. I helped a man get presents for his girl out of a UFO catcher. I played a fake arcade first-person fighting game in a Club Sega, and I practised golf and got better at beating people up while holding a golf club as a result. I know later you can date hostesses, run a club, and play Shogi with people, which means I am about to learn how to play Shogi. Perfect.
: Please let me save!
If you are planning to play this game ever, make sure you have a bunch of free time ahead, as it was an incredible one hour and 11 minutes before the game let me save for the first time. This of course says nothing of the quality of these first 71 minutes, but come on. Please let me save!
: Ah! I remember!
- Heat Moves
- East vs. West
- Other Stuff
: Please let me save!
For those of you who may be interested in Yakuza 3, I’m not sure if I recommend taking the same course as me as I am clearly crazy. Finding copies might be hard at this point, and you would have to put up with them being fully PS2 games, with all the constant loading and blurriness that entails. They are also going to quite hard to find, so might need to resort to eBay or Amazon Marketplace. If you are willing to do it though, you will find yourself rewarded with a couple of very satisfying bicycle throwing simulators.