A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a role-playing game for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC. Its story unfolds within Japan's criminal underworld, where mobsters regularly discuss and commit illegal acts, including murder. The gameplay's heavily focused on violent melee combat. The frequent exchanges are over-the-top, sometimes including fantastical elements and effects, but are still bloody, bone-crunching affairs carried out with feet, fists, and makeshift melee weapons. Cutscenes include more realistic violence -- often with guns and knives -- with some graphic blood and gore. A portion of the story also takes place in a prison, where a character is brutally beaten. While the protagonist is fully entwined in this criminal world and lifestyle, he also displays a number of positive qualities on his path to making a better life for himself. Characters frequently drink, sometimes excessively, as well as smoke and vape. Some female characters wear revealing outfits, and are occasionally sexually harassed by male characters. There's multiple references to prostitution, as the protagonist was raised in a brothel. Foul language, including "f--k," "s--t," " d--k," "ass," "bastard," and "bitch," is used frequently. The game features a number of systems and mechanics, including turn-based combat, that might be complex for casual players and those new to the genre.
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What's it about?
YAKUZA: LIKE A DRAGON is both the latest sequel in Sega's long-running Yakuza series and a bit of a reboot for the Japanese mafia franchise. As with previous entries, the game contains a sprawling story heavily focused on the criminal underworld, where most disputes are settled with flying fists and feet. While the urban Japanese setting, shady characters, and frequent street brawls return, the latest entry trades series' protagonist Kazuma Kiryu for newcomer Ichiban Kasuga. After spending nearly 20 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, Kasuga sets out to rebuild his life and uncover the many family mysteries and larger conspiracies that were created in his absence. In addition to its standalone story and fresh antihero, the game adopts a new turn-based combat system, forgoing previous installment's action-focused brawling for more strategic showdowns.
Is it any good?
Anyone who's spent some time behind the skyrocketing fists and feet of this series' sharp-dressed anti-heroes will feel right at home in the franchise's latest installment. Yakuza: Like A Dragon, Sega's newest entry in the saga, retains the detailed, urban settings, optional mini-games, colorful characters, dramatic storytelling, and brutal beat-downs of its predecessors. But these familiar elements are nicely balanced by a few fresh, notable features that make for a deeper, more compelling take on the series' formula. Regular protagonist Kazuma Kiryu passes the torch to Ichiban Kasuga, a likable, sometimes clueless character that not only injects the story with some kindness and charm, but also counters the melodrama with some welcome laughs.
This isn't to say Kasuga's softer personalty comes at the cost of the series' signature, brutal combat. On the contrary, encounters are bone-crushingly satisfying, packing more depth, variety, and over-the-top style than ever. Most of this comes courtesy of a new turn-based battle system, a huge departure from the franchise's previous real-time action brawls. The new take adds a ton of nuance and strategy, from managing a four-member party of fighters to carefully selecting their offensive, defensive, special moves, and consumable items. The system also doesn't entirely abandon the immediacy of real-time combat, as characters can still wield makeshift melee weapons and even unleash grenades and other table-turning goodies. While generally a positive for the series, the more methodical fights occasionally display some clunkiness, such as characters getting caught behind environmental objects and targets moving erratically. Like a Dragon also suffers from some slow narrative stretches, especially in its early hours. Still, it does a fantastic job retaining and polishing what's made these games cult-favorites, while also introducing enough fresh tweaks to evolve the series for a new generation of wannabe gangsters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the game's protagonist. Is he a good guy or bad guy? Is it possible to be both? What are some of his best and worst character traits?
How does the game's city change after its twenty year jump in time? What technology is new? Has the city changed for the better or worse?
How does the game glamorize gangsters and criminal activity? Is it okay for entertainment mediums to positively showcase this lifestyle? What are the pros and cons of games sensationalizing criminals and criminal behavior?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
- Price: $59.99, $69.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sega of America
- Release date: November 10, 2020
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Adventures
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
- Last updated: November 25, 2020
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