yakuza 2 is one of the classiest games i have ever played, the game just radiates style in every way and it makes it very special. every yakuza game to me has a specific weather and time associated with it, yakuza 1 for example is like a starlit night in kamurocho, yakuza 3 is a sunny sega-blue skies beach in okinawa, yakuza 5 is a winter snowstorm in sapporo and yakuza 2 is like a jazzy, smokey rainy night in sotenbori, it just has that vibe to it, the game has probably the most rain of any game in the series and it looks fantastic, giving the city a hazy quality which makes the lighting look super good, it's easily one of the most atmospheric games in the series, doubly so in the original non-HD version on ps2, the low resolution just fits the vibe perfectly. the soundtrack too helps this mood, at least in the ps2 version. the game uses several licenced songs from crazy ken band and they all fit the game massively, used in both advertisments for the game as well as being in it at several points and it goes super well, when i think of the game those two songs are honestly two of the things that come to mind first, the game is just jazzy like that. the game does a bunch to add to the atmopshere too that the original game didn't have, the citizens of kamurocho will have little mini conversations in the background, the encounter rate is super low and in many of the games chapters turned off entirely because it's a more lowkey experiance, a chill one, even, it even has a few new areas too, the smaller riverside city of sotenbori and the tiny older town of shinseicho. add in the ability to look around in more of the games area's and it makes the game feel a lot bigger and more grand.
the two new areas are great too, sotenbori would go on to feature very prominantly in future games and for good reason, the river, the bridges and the bigger, fancier storefronts give it a vibe all its own, one i even like more than kamurocho in some ways, it feels cozier, the river helps this a lot i think, the area even comes with a new minigame too in the form of golf, which while far from my favourite is still very fun, it has a lot to love though, the riverside walkway is just super comfy, the main street is full of life and has a lot of cool looking signs (like a big crabbo) and the allyways of south sotenbori give a more familiar feel, being the part of the city most resembling kamurocho. shinseicho really steals the show here for me though, see i used to stay in an area awfully similar to this so it gives it a very homely quality, the old houses, the tiny shopping ginza and the little shrines all just give it one of the nicest vibes of any area in the series, doesn't overstay its welcome either, you really only visit a handful of times and it doesnt have a whole lot of quests either, really just a acupuncture shop, a tower (who's framing takes up most of the screen upon arrival), a combini and some resteraunts, it's really just one long street and a car park when you get down to it, but it stays with you nonetheless. it really feels like the area of the game you'd most likely want to actually live in. sadly this would be shinseicho's only appearance, not even being a part of the games remake, which is a real shame as it's a standout in an already fantastic game.
Story is another highlight, the game really takes its chance to expand on the scope in a big way, where the first games story was very small and personal, 2 tries to be big, grand and sprawling, being a race all over japan, having stakes of a war, big villians and even bigger fights, and it works! i think in large part to just how good the cast is here, ryuji goda is *the* best yakuza villian, the man has charisma for days and even made me cry at one point, he's just the best, a perfect rival and even the series knows this, bringing him back as a playable character in the GOTY of GOTY's yakuza dead souls. kaoru is great too, while she was divisive with the fandom for sure, i love her, it was nice to have a woman stand on kiryu's level and their relationship really helps make the game feel very personal to me, i love her! heck even more than them, detective kawara was a great one-off character, being mysterious and just cool, the opening scene with him gives me goosebumps every time i watch it. you also got the likes of daigo dojima who has a big role in this game, he's hot but it doesn't feel like he really does much, still has a cool arc though. but back to the story, it has a lot of mystery to it, starting with a massacre that takes place 20 years before the games start and being kicked off by a possible war between the tojo clan and omi alliance, with kiryu and daigo having to go and make a truce, it goes a lot of places and all of them are super interesting, the jingwon mafia are a very good threat and every time you see them you know things are going to get serious and ryuji's group are cool too, having some fun subvillians. the ending is also worth noting, the credits theme was perfect and the last hour is absolutely thrilling, one of my favourite climaxes in the series. the cutscene direction here also absolutely needs a shoutout, it feels almost movie quality sometimes and is easily some of the best in the series, they even kept a lot of the animations and shots in the remake. the old cast are still great here too, kiryu remains both the best boy actually and his heart is as gold as ever, even punches a tiger, date is the bro-est of bros and even characters like yuya and the florest get some time to shine and haruka is as cinnemon roll as ever, kiryu will (not) murder anyone to protect that smile.
the gameplay is much improved too! adding the ability to attack anywhere in a combo is a game changer here, and turns the combat from fairly stiff in the first game, to the most arcady combat in the whole series, i've even seen a lot of people prefer it to the games remake, which i would generally agree with, although i am very much a dragon engine defender. it feels better and just works better here than in yakuza 1. the minigames come back too, including the aformentoned golf, the one off "YF fighter" a first person fighting game that i loved plus pachislots which i find weirdly addicting, as well as staples like shogi, crane games and mahjong. there's a lot to do here, especially when you add in the substories, which here are much closer to what you would find in later games, versus yakuza 1's well shot but fairly short and unmemorable stories (with a few fantastic exceptions like the scammer and the yumi substory) there's also two major substory questlines here. first is club adam, where kiryu becomes a host! this was also, sadly cut, from the remake. club adam is quite difficult, essentially playing like a harder version of the hostess quests you find throughut the series, where kiryu has to woo the various women that take him on (jealous of them tbh) and you have to get massive sales goals, which is very difficult, but the storyline here is great and all the encounters are memorable, plu it's just cute to see kiryu in this role, bring it back please. you also have the merietta, a club managment game, this is basically just a stat raiser, you buy the right furnature, keep your hostesses stats up and improve the club as it goes along, it's fine enough but there isn't much of a story here, it is nice to see your club expand though and it becomes a nice place to just walk around later on.
the game was released in the winter of 2006, which is also when the game takes place, and it was a big hit. the game had a ton of commercials and had a localisation shortly after release in september of the following year. the game did very well, ensuring the series went on and it did go on, which doesnt even have to be said. the game had a port to more modern consoles in 2012 and 2013, for both the playstation 3 and wii-u, the former being a really cool port with a map on the gamepad. there was also a remake in the form of yakuza kiwami 2 in 2018, a divisive version for sure. i quite like this remake, it plays great, looks great and has a lot of fun minigames, including a whole port of virtual on, making it one of the best games of last gen by default! (seriously play virtual on). i'd like to talk about this version in more depth one day though, but i will say i do prefer the original version of the game to this remake, and i would say to play the original if you can, it's a classic and is considered a masterpiece for a reason.