Title: Judgment Developer: SEGA / Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio Publisher:SEGA Release Date: June 25, 2019 MSRP: $59.99 Genre: Action RPG, Courtroom Thriller Platform:PlayStation 4 Players: 1 ESRB: M (Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol)
The Yakuza series has gone from being barely recognized outside of Asia to worldwide acclaim. Ryu Ga Gotoku studio has created a masterpiece in the story of Kazuma Kiryu. After the events of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, the Dragon of Dojima earned his retirement from the series. A new protagonist will be in the next Yakuza game and the development team has even tackled new projects. Fist of The North Star: Lost Paradise captured the insanity of the anime as only his team could. Now they bring things back home to Kamurocho with Judgment. It's time to see if the tale of an ex-lawyer turned detective can stand up to the saga of a dragon.
Justice is Blind
Takayuki Yagami was a household name when he proved the innocence of Shinpei Okubo in a murder case. Unfortunately, Okubo did something unspeakable a few months later that ruined Yagami's career as a lawyer. Years later he is a private detective and pretty satisfied with his current life. This is until a trio of out of town Yakuza end up murdered in a particularly gruesome manner. Yagami must solve multiple cases and determine how they tie in to big mistake he made during his legal career.
Even for remaining spoiler-free, my description of the story is vague. That is because the plot to this game has true depth. Judgment has plenty of head-cracking for those that just want to fight. For those who want a good story, this may be the best writing to come out of Ryu Ga Gotoku to date. I will not act like it is perfect as there are definite flaws. The bottom line is that Judgment plays out like a crime drama that would captivate the hardest audience.
Back Where it All Started
The heading has a double meaning you will have to play the game to understand. Judgment takes place in Kamurocho which Yakuza fans will be all too familiar with. The events take place in 2018, so don't expect any lockers or Nouveau Riche. Despite having a much smaller play area than say Yakuza 5 or 6, you will get a lot of bang for your buck. The main story alone will take well over fifty hours to complete if you are not rushing through it. Throw in minigames, side quests, and the completion list and Judgment provides at least one hundred hours of gameplay. If you want a game that can carry you through the summer, here it is.
Tigers and Panties and Hair (Oh My!)
The length of the game does not matter if you do not enjoy it. Yakuza fans will love Judgment – I have actually heard many say so. This is a perfect launch point if you have never played a Yakuza title. You need to know nothing of previous characters or storylines. With four difficulty settings, the gameplay is challenging, but fair (except for . . . that one time). Yagami has his Tiger Style to deal with tough, individual opponents. For crowds of enemies, the Crane Style is made to tear through and keep them off their feet. Supplementing the styles are your skills. Standard punches and kicks are fine, but who would not want a move literally made to knock out a tiger at their disposal? Unlocking the skills is what will have you doing all the side missions. The game is made to feel like less of a grind because there are skills for fighting, improving minigame performance and even side mission enhancement. The various gameplay modes scratch each others' backs and keep things feeling fresh.
Is the Dragon Past its Prime?
Judgment is only the second title to use the Dragon Engine (Fist of the North Star did not). While the engine was a huge step up from the previous Yakuza engine, it already feels dated by PS4 standards. Make no mistake that the main characters look great and the fight animation is amazing. The problem lies in the more minute details. I have to give credit where it is due; touches like blood spatters on Yagami after fights are awesome. Unfortunately, the wow stops after the main cast. Extras really look extra as there are only about five or so recycled male faces. Females have even fewer. Hoshino (above) looks great on the engine, but look at the Poppo clerk:
There are many recycled assets from Yakuza 6. During minigames, they even reused Takaya Kuroda's (Kiryu) voice instead of Takuya Kimura (Yagami). That is only if you use the Japanese dialog. In English, Greg Chun voices Yagami throughout. These are minor gripes as the game is far from broken. I would just hope that in a sequel or whatever game the studio does next, there is greater attention to detail.
Verdict: What is Slick's Final ‘Judgment?'
As a mark for the Yakuza series, I could easily just say “this game is great, go buy it.” However, I want people to understand what they are getting into. Judgment is one plot twist after another and you will not see the story direction coming. This is very fitting of the game's crime drama theme and sets it apart from its predecessors. It is also compelling and players will want to know what happens next.
The gameplay is nothing you would not expect from a Yakuza game. That is one thing I am happy remained (mostly) the same. All I would ask for are more EX Moves (Heat Actions) and not using SP (experience) as currency. The completion list guarantees both fun and frustration to trophy hunters, but anyone with a platinum for a Yakuza game will tell you it is never easy.
Graphics are (maybe) the one sticking point in the game. When you consider the flashiness of Kamurocho, I would really love to see a game engine that uses the power of the PS4. Fortunately, graphics are not the driving factor in how good a title is. I hope for more balance from future Ryu Ga Gotoku titles in terms of visuals.
To address whether Judgment is worth your money, the answer is absolutely. Out of the actual new games that have released thus far in 2019, I would count it amongst the top ten. Do not let the cultural differences of Kamurocho turn you away from this game. It has fights, fun and does not take itself too seriously. If you want a solid, single-player adventure with a great story, look no further. Do not find yourself guilty of not having played Judgment.