Way of the Samurai 2
I wish I knew some Haiku..
The game takes place during the late Edo period, the last days of the samurai. As a lone ronin, you've been wandering around Japan and eventually reached the town of Amahara where upon you faint just outside the gates due to hunger. The story starts with you eating a rice-ball, given to you from a young girl apperently concerned with your health. She looks upon you questioning and you look back into her eyes...
This game has a heavy emphasis upon roleplaying as decisions will constantly appear. If you told the girl that it was the best rice-ball you've ever had and ask her for her name, she will will look at you and run away, accidently running into a pair of thugs who thinks of using her to get extort money from some people. You get the choice of either standing up for her and protect her or simply just walk away and leave her to these oppressors.
Each of these selections may lead to a completely different ending based upon your interactions and decisions. Infact, this game has 14 different endings and a multitude of characters who might be against or with you based on these decisions you make throughout the week. Yes, this game takes place under the mere span of one week (approximately August 21 to August 29) but it's only as long or short as you chose it to be. Each day have several phases from Early Morning to Late Night and it is quite possible to go the entire duration without sleeping at all though that requires special medicin and sake that you may not be able to afford your first time playing through. There are plenty of items in this game, ranging from food to drinks to buddist beads and even bonus comedy items such as cat ears.
You will also unlock new character heads including female ones. Everything that you don't use during your playthrough you can store up and save it for your next one which is very useful and is pretty much essential if you plan on playing on the hardest difficulty. Speaking of which, this gave has 4 difficulty settings. Easy, Normal and Hard are unlocked by default unless my memory falters. After a few playthroughs you'll eventually unlock the Finishing Blow difficulty which in my mind is the most fun and unfair one because everyone including yourself will die from one hit. If you are not careful, you might suddenly find yourself on the ground as your life flows away from you.
A lot of the game's influence comes from old samurai movies as the developers even confirmed that they've been inspired by the works of Akira Kurosawa. Acquire the developers of the game have developed games in a similiar fashion which you've probably heard about, most notable the Tenchu series.
As you walk around Amahara, you'll see a lot of faces and you will learn about things. These are turbulent times since Japan are undergoing dramatic changes, which puts Amahara under some grave problems. The Magistrates are desperately trying to enforce the law in the city and they will not hesitate to arrest anyone who they believe is breaking it, for whatever ludicruous reasons they may be. On the other side of the town is the Aoto Gang, a once chivilarous group who protected the townspeople from the exploits of the magistrates, but that all changed when the Old Boss died. Now, they're nothing more than common thugs and criminals, much to the dismay of the previous boss's daughter, Kasumi. In the middle of these two groups are the townspeople of Amahara centered around the brothel called Amakaze. All they want is to live their lives in peace but they find themselves oppressed from both sides who are fighting for control and rule of the town.
If that wasn't enough, the shogunate have taken an interest in Amahara and rumor has it their spies have infiltrated the town, watching every single movement. Who you decide to help will ultimately decide the fate of this island-trading town.
As I mentioned this game has a rather large cast of characters, including what I can only interpret as a transgender person or at least a very feminine male whose name is Nakamura Sosuke. But don't let his stance and apperance fool you, he is quite the skilled swordsman and often mentioned by some people around the town. He is quite the character actually and so is Dr. Genan, a samurai hating doctor. There are many people to talk to as you can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, perhaps they'll strike up one with you. From time to time, you'll also come across people who are itching for a fight or you may even walk in on two who are fighting each other. The town is very much alive even if it also somehow feels a bit static.
The main flaws about Way of the Samurai 2 that I have about it is that there is no real skip cutscene option, so if you've played it a lot you may find them quite lenghty to rewatch. While you do get to carry over items and swords to your next playthrough, you don't get to carry over any money that you've might have made so you're best to spend all of it on items or sword upgrades. And this is the games main flaw in my view, the sword upgrades. If you're planning to play on Hard mode to get some of the very rare swords, such as Master Tessho's bokken that he only uses in Hard, then you're going to need a very strong and durable sword and trying to get your weapon into such a excellent shape litterary takes hours of your real life as it involves constantly saving and reloading in order to get the best gains as the blacksmith gives completely random gains. The worst thing possible would be that he even breaks your sword.
But the flaws are minor ones.
As it stands, Way of the Samurai 2 is an excellent game that provides several solid stories, huge replayability and a bunch of interesting characters. This is one of my favorite games and I hold it dear to my heart, I highly recommend that you pick it up as it's available on both PS2 and for the PSP (although only through import from Japan as it the PSP version wasn't released elsewhere).
PS. There may have been weird sentences and misspelt words what you've just read. I apologize for that.