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 Kiwami is an action-adventure game and is a remake of 2005's Yakuza, which originally came out on the PS2. Given the story that follows the lives of gangsters in Japan, mature themes persist. There's violence at nearly every turn, and players use various weapons to seriously harm and injure enemies. There are lots of scenes with torture and gore. Characters use every profanity you can imagine, and they often have occasion (and incentive) to frequent bars and drink heavily. Bartenders will stop serving drinks after a while, and although characters are never shown drunk, they are seen smoking cigarettes. Some missions allow you to become intimate with female characters, and via some mini-games, you can unlock images of women in lingerie.
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What's it about?
YAKUZA KIWAMI, confusing though it might sound, is an improved re-release of 2005's Yakuza -- also known as the game that started the now long-running series. This entry updates the old game with a few new plot lines intended to both clarify and reexamine new information that came to light in this year's prequel, Yakuza 0. Newcomers should be able to follow along just fine, though, as this is still intended as a point of entry to set the scene. Players assume the role of gangster Kazuma Kiryu, who takes the fall for what seems like his friend Akira Nishikiyama's murder of their yakuza boss. Kiryu is released after a 10-year prison sentence to find a world in which the order among Tokyo's crime families has crumbled, his friend and possible love interest Yumi has been kidnapped, and a robbery of 10 billion yen somehow connects with everything.
Is it any good?
For this long running series, it's always unfortunate to see how well each entry balances its repetitive tendencies (nonstop random battles) against its goofy sense of humor. Yakuza Kiwami, while technically a remake of an older game, boasts a couple of new plot lines that up the absurdity -- the most prevalent one is the "Majima Anywhere" mode, in which rival gangster Goro Majima tries to both train and challenge Kazuma Kiryu to be a better fighter by randomly appearing during the game to goad Kiryu into a fight. It's not always greatly implemented, and can be jarring for parts of the game where Goro did originally appear -- for example, he'll remark what a surprise it is to see you when, thanks to the new content, he had just appeared moments before to fight you. Other new elements are better implemented, perhaps because it trims plot points that just don't apply to series any more, making for a tighter game experience.
Still, at its core, Yakuza Kiwami is an open-world game. That means you spend most of your time running around and fighting other characters, which can become dull after a while. Fortunately, like all Yakuza games, this game does what it can to offer variety and charming weirdness. You can frequent batting cages, race remote-control cars, and visit hostess clubs to forge relationships with ladies working there. As geeky as it might sound, interacting with hostesses can be surprisingly fun -- conversations can go in any number of directions and even when you think you are picking the "right" response, you'll learn how you may have been insensitive or dismissive. It's far more refreshing than punching, kicking, and performing things that lots of other games have you do anyway. But you have to be rather patient as the clever, unique activities only open up after hitting certain milestones in the game. If you're intrigued by the weirder elements, and you're willing to put up with a lot of repetitive play, just know it takes about 10 hours to really start enjoying them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Why do you think it's acceptable to play as a brutal and violent gangster who frequently commits acts of violence? Is there a problem in playing this kind of character, or are the scenarios in the game unbelievable?
Talk about the lengths kids would be willing to go to to help a friend or loved one, especially when it involves the police or a prison sentence. Is going to prison for a crime that someone you know may have been framed for an honorable or an untruthful act? Why do you feel that way?
Why are certain groups of people not represented as much in popular media? This game highlights how people on the margins of society live by certain codes and, as such, are able to more quickly help and cooperate with one another. Are there things we all can learn from that?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4
- Price: $29.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sega of America
- Release date: August 29, 2017
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs
- ESRB rating: M for Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Blood, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol, Intense Violence
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