30 points, 3 votes, 1 TOP GAME vote
Mitch Krpata: The most tragically overlooked game of the year. Great story, great action, and some truly inspired setpieces. Just brilliant. It’s not a hit, of course. I’m not sure most people even realized it had been released in this. The original Yakuza was superb — even made my top 10 for 2006 — and sank like a stone in the marketplace. Maybe better marketing would have helped, or maybe the inherent problems in localizing such a culturally specific game put Yakuza behind the eight-ball from the start, but by the time Sega decided to release the sequel stateside, they hadn’t even bothered recording an English-language track. They may as well have affixed stickers to the front of each copy saying, “Even we know you’re not gonna buy this.”
Jamescobo: It really is astounding how much ass Yakuza 2 kicks; even the (entirely optional) introductory catch-up on the previous game’s (invigoratingly unobjectionable) plot keeps interrupting itself to offer you another opportunity to skip straight to the part where you start wrecking shop. Within fifteen minutes into the game, you’re walloping people with bicycles. Within half an hour, you suddenly realize how fast this game is loading, probably because you’re jumping into any and every battle you can find. Within an hour, you no longer give a shit about the concessions it makes to the now-busted PS2 architecture; the fact that the elements with which you can actually interact are so glaringly obvious becomes completely irrelevant the first time you see an abnormally huge orange traffic cone, think “Damn, that’s one big-ass cone,” pick it up in order to flatten someone with it, and notice it’s called “Huge Cone”. It’s not a case of a game not taking itself seriously, either; it’s a case of a game which wants to reward you for checking stuff out. AND THE WHOLE THING IS LIKE THAT; it gives and it gives and it gives, even when more than a little is sufficient (QED the Mahjongg mini-game with its twelve pages of in-game instructions). The combat system, while not necessarily deep, is as fun to master as anything since the last Mario & Luigi game thanks in large part to the HEAT moves – invariably awesome QTE super moves which change based on your environment and/or weapon (crushing some punk’s skull with a Huge Cone, for instance). The game’s plot is amazingly nonretarded; I still can’t believe how rarely I check my email during a cutscene. And as if all that weren’t enough, the game’s (or at least the translator’s) humor seems to actually be legitimately, intentionally funny. Don’t even get me started about the peacock.
40 points, 2 votes, 1 TOP GAME vote
If: I don’t tend to have time for long games. When I see people say ‘that looks like it’s only going to be 6 hours’ I think ‘ooh, something I might actually finish’. This one takes nearly that long to get past the point where you are just pressing X repeatedly. Yet it’s awesome! The story is really unusual and well told for a game, the combat when you get there has just enough twists on ancient turn-based tropes to not be a drag, and the social link mechanism is so rewarding you start wishing things actually worked like that. ‘The Singles Jukebox crew also weren’t impressed by Animal Collective. You feel closer than ever.’
Zappi: Finally, a JRPG with a story that i didn’t find painfully embarrassing! could have done without Teddie really, but the detective story setup, dungeon crawling through peoples’ psyches (very reminiscent of Psychonauts), the fun battle system – it improved in almost every way on Persona 3. It also gave us this brilliant webcomic.