THIS POST CONSISTS ENTIRELY OF GAMEPLAY AND STORY SPOILERS FOR YAKUZA 2 (AND YAKUZA)
I'm very much enjoying Yakuza 2, although not for the love of the narrative espoused at The Brainy Gamer. That blog espouses. I blather. :) So let's blather.
My first impressions of the game were that it introduced many of the mechanics of the old game very quickly. Turning attacks. The shark based lock on system. (You have to move constantly for the lock to update.) Heat moves with QTEs. Dodges. Throws. I wonder if a newcomer wouldn't feel a tiny bit overwhelmed. Having played the original less than a month ago, I felt like I was playing almost the same game, even to the point that my cheapskate reflex was wondering why the game was worth essentially buying again. I got over it. A good experience is a good experience.
And the story does contribute. I'm not in love with it because it's not my genre. As much as the acting (voice and animation) is very good, and the story isn't a farce yet, I know the ending will be nuts. Heck, the ending of the first had the top of Tokyo's Millennium Tower exploding, and it's already exploded again in the first hour or so of the sequel. It exploded... again.
This is also Spinal Tap. :P
That said, the story does have a lot of well drawn characters. I knew from how many people figured out his "secret" in the first game that Terada was going to be an ineffectual clan leader, forcing Kazuma to return and save the Tojo. But that felt right. Kazuma didn't want to lead, and Terada was the only senior Yakuza in the story who wasn't crazy and was still alive at the end. Terada had also paid his dues in dangerous service to the Tojo, which Kazuma respected (even if it was disloyal to the Omi Clan and completely failed to fool anyone). Well, I can't really speak for Kazuma. But it's a very rare game where I would even begin to imagine that a character had a thought process that reflected their values and goals.
And as I'm catching up with so many different characters in the game, I'm appreciating what a diverse crowd they are. The homeless martial arts master. Majima's new business plan. Kage going straight (and wearing actual clothes). I'm loving how much they're underusing detective Date. He felt like the buddy cop that made the first game a buddy cop movie. But outside of a small role in the plot, and the information that his daughter is doing much better, he's barely been in the game. It's fun to anticipate him making a big entrance and having no idea what form it will take.
The new characters I'm not as attached to. There's a giant crazy guy in the Omi family who's taking the place of the giant crazy guy in the Tojo family from the first game. There's a lady cop who's also an orphan. For those keeping score, Kazuma and Haruka (the child he protects) are also both orphans. This feels like a somewhat blatant ploy to make her part of the gang, which was pretty unnecessary as she was already a badass lady cop. She spent most of the first part of the game being injured, but the one part of the game she has fought in was cool. She has some crazy leg around the throat grapple move that's fun to watch, and she can finish off bad guys on her own, which is also cool.
But it's really the insane stuff I still love. Readers may remember the first game introducing me to the concept of hostess and host clubs. Well, now they're called cabarets, apparently. And Kazuma is working as a host as part of a side mission to help out a host from Stardust (a club that helped him out in the first game) who's being scammed out of a lot of money by the club owner. This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever done in a game, in no small part because it feels so ridiculously out of character for Kazuma. I know it gets worse in the Yakuza 3, with karaoke, dancing, and "hostess customization". But for now, between this absurdity and the "enormous police baton" fight, the game has absolutely fulfilled its stupidity quota.
That's enough blather. I've only got a few hours until Titan Quest, so I better get back to busting heads and selling the ladies overpriced drinks. ;)