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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. Despite its title, this is the seventh entry in the long-running series about the life of gangsters in Japan. There's loads of bloody violence in the game, as players use various weapons such as guns, knives, and items on hand to maim and injure enemies. There are also scenes of torture and gore. Characters use loads of profanity throughout dialogue, and there are frequent moments where players will go into bars and drink heavily. Bartenders will stop serving drinks after a while, although characters are never shown as drunk, and they frequently are seen smoking cigarettes. Erotic videos are also shown in some stores, and there are scenes where gangsters grope women in bars and clubs.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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 '80s 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.
Is it any good?
This strange adventure game is amusing for its setting and humor, but eventually, it devolves to a bunch of repetitive gameplay that can become boring. Although it mostly plays like Grand Theft Auto, the series as always tries not to take itself too seriously except for the story moments when it does. While all the plotlines are dark, heavy, standard video game fare, there's also a bunch of silliness on display. This is shown both in the over-the-top button-mashy combat (you can pick up a bicycle and wield it as a club or even find a stray salt shaker to season people's eyeballs) and the goofy side quests (like helping Miracle Johnson, a clear stand-in for Michael Jackson, shoot a music video while you punch "Thriller"-style zombies away from him). Regardless of the tone, just like in any open-world game, it's only a matter of time before the repetitiveness starts to set in. Whether the game is worth seeing through to the end will depend on how much the game intrigues or charms, which it tries hard to do.
The other thing about Yakuza 0 is that as the seventh entry in the series, it seems content to be somewhat on autopilot. There isn't a ton here that's new or that hasn't been done before by this or any other series. The different sort of setting -- Japan in the '80s -- only goes so far when you're doing the same things over again in a confined space. New wrinkles are attempted in allowing both main characters to run their own side businesses (the only way to possibly earn and unlock upper-level character upgrades), but even then you must decide whether running a pretend business in a game where you're trying to clear your name for murder is something that interests you. It's hard to wholeheartedly recommend because, as mentioned, there's so little that's new here. But what it does that's been done elsewhere is solid nonetheless. It's worth a shot, but only with tempered expectations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the violence acceptable in this game because there never seem to be consequences to the over-the-top violence, apart from what drives the plot forward? Is it a problem because you're acting as a criminal and performing violence to solve your problems?
Are there things civilians living within the bounds of the laws can learn from people who do not? What does that say about both walks of life? Does that make one "more" valid than the other? Why, or why not?
Why would a video game released in 2016 be set in the 1980s? Are there things we can learn about today by exploring stories set in the past?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sega of America
- Release date: January 24, 2017
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, History
- ESRB rating: M for Sexual Content, Strong Language, Blood, Use of Alcohol, Intense Violence
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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.