A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that gangster life is gangster life, regardless of the setting. This game's depiction of the Tokyo criminal underworld is as violent, explicit, and morally rudderless as anything we've seen. The content is graphic and intense, showing brutality and blood, seedy sexuality, and unrestrained foul language, all with a child character looking on. It embraces in-game advertising -- descriptions of brand-name items effectively market the products to players.
What's it about?
YAKUZA, a game centered on a mission-based crime story, follows Kiryu Kazuma, an up-and-coming enforcer of a powerful Tokyo crime family. When Kazuma finds his boss murdered, he takes the fall for the crime rather than implicate the true killer -- Kazuma's friend whose criminal earnings pay for the care of a sick sister. Back on the streets after a decade in jail, Kazuma finds that a lot has changed; his friend is now a boss, his girlfriend is missing, 10 billion yen have been stolen, and a little girl is following him around asking him to help her find her mom.
Is it any good?
Japanese organized crime (Yakuza) is a hard-boiled genre that's long been ripe for the video game treatment. And Yakuza the game delivers with rich and intense gameplay similar to the successful Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series. Yakuza serves up an epic story with heart, multiple intersecting subplots, scores of characters, and an insanely detailed, atmospheric game world.
But the streets are harsh, and despite its ambitious storytelling, Yakuza revels in M-rated trimmings. Players can hang out at a strip club, intimidate local business owners, get in a bloody street brawl complete with graphic slow-motion attack animations, get falling-down drunk, check out some DVD pornography -- all in a night's work. It's this stuff that makes Yakuza an adults-only affair, despite its engaging, high-quality production values and story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about a common distinction made by media depicting organized crime -- a code of honor that separates mob culture from common street thugs. Do you think there's such a thing as an honorable criminal? Does this distinction add complexity that allows you to empathize with the human behind the violence, or simply romanticize an outlaw lifestyle? Do you see a difference between the way Yakuza stories are told and the way American crime stories are presented?
- Platforms: PlayStation 2
- Price: $50
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Sega of America
- Release date: October 18, 2006
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- ESRB rating: M for Mature Sexual Themes, Realistic Blood, Realistic Violence, Strong Language, Use of Tobacco and Alcohol
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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