A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Yakuza 0 is an action-adventure game for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. It's filled with morally gray gangster characters who act with honor in their organizations and even occasionally help people, but still take part in vicious criminal activity. The player's character engages in melee combat, primarily using punches and kicks but also picking up makeshift weapons and knives to maim and injure enemies. Blood spatters with most hits, and finishing moves show faces being smashed, as well as bones and necks broken. There are also scenes of torture and gore, including a man who chops off his own finger and people who get shot at point blank range. Characters use strong profanity throughout dialogue, and there are frequent moments where players go into bars and drink heavily, their drunkenness indicated by an onscreen icon. Characters are seen smoking cigarettes, often in glamorous fashion. Women are frequently shown wearing revealing outfits, and the camera sometimes lingers on jiggling breasts. Some scenes depict gangsters groping women in bars and clubs, and the player's character can flirt with sex workers.
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What's it about?
In YAKUZA 0, you play as both the series' main protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and familiar face Goro Majima as they struggle to make a name for themselves and keep the peace with the way of the yakuza in 1980s Japan. Kiryu is investigating why he was framed for murder, which causes him to be expelled and ultimately turn against his Tojo Clan family to clear his name. Meanwhile, Majima emerges from a year of torture -- a punishment for being part of a plot to assassinate someone within his own family -- and tries to work his way back into his superior officers' good graces. They both struggle with what it means to be loyal and true to your word, even when you're on the wrong side of the law and trying to be a good person. Action is focused on melee combat, with players taking on groups of thugs with martial arts skills that involve both disciplined combos and brute force attacks. Players spend much of their time between objectives and battles wandering around urban Japanese streets, chatting with characters and engaging in side activities such as a batting cage game, karaoke, and dancing.
Is it any good?
This action game has a compelling story, though it can become repetitive in places. Yakuza 0's story is engaging, featuring complicated criminal characters with their own moral codes who are grappling with difficult situations. There's some over-the-top action (you can pick up a bicycle and wield it as a club or even find a stray salt shaker to season people's eyeballs), but the overall tone's serious, and is bound to leave players wondering what they would do in similar situations. That said, there's some comic relief in the form of goofy side missions, such as one in which players help Miracle Johnson -- a clear stand-in for Michael Jackson -- shoot a music video by punching "Thriller"-style zombies away from him.
Yakuza 0 is bound to draw comparisons to Grand Theft Auto for its bloody open world crime drama antics and occasional dabbling in bizarre side activities. Indeed, other than the intriguing setting of Japan in the 1980s, there isn't much here that will feel particularly original to veteran players, especially those who've worked their way through the rest of the games in this epic, ongoing series. But it's also polished. The combat's smooth and satisfying, providing plenty of options that allow players to develop their own style. And the dialogue -- though lengthy and spoken entirely in Japanese with English subtitles -- draws us into the characters' stories and plights effectively and emotionally. Like a good gangster movie, you're bound to care about these hard men. You'll appreciate their motives even as you question their actions. It's not quite a classic in the open world gangster genus, but Yakuza 0 is still worth a look-see for those interested in a glimpse into the criminal underworld.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Yakuza 0 affected by its focus on blood and gore? The action glamorizes its violence with gory close-ups and a general sense that toughness equates to coolness, but does this make sense to you? Does it seem over the top and unrealistic?
Why would someone who makes a living through criminal enterprise sometimes choose to help others? Is it possible to make up for the bad things one does by doing equal acts of good?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sega of America
- Release date: February 26, 2020
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, History
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
- Last updated: March 5, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.