I reviewed Sega’s Judgement, a spin-off from the company’s Yakuza series, a year ago on this site and now that I’ve played it again on Xbox Series X, my opinion still hasn’t changed: It’s one of the best games from studio Ryu Go Gotuku and if you’re a fan of the Yakuza series then you need to play this. It really is that simple.
I’m likely treading old ground here from my previous review but set in the fictional (but familiar) city of Kamurocho, Judgement is an action RPG (more action than RPG, mind you) that tells the story of lawyer-turned-private eye. Takayuki Yagami, the son of a murdered lawyer, raised by a yakuza patriarch who is tasked with investigating a series of particularly brutal murders. One of them pinned on aggressive Yakuza captain Kyohei Hamura, who is no fan of Yagami’s and his friend disgraced yakuza Masaharu Kaito.
I’ve been a long time fan of the Yakuza series – having first been introduced to the series on the PlayStation 2
So playing Judgement felt like a well-fitting glove. It has a just-right mix of story missions interlaced with wacky side missions. Fans of the series will also feel right at home with the combat system, which is akin to that of the Yakuza series rather than the turn-based combat of this year’s Yakuza Like A Dragon.
I love how over-the-top the combat is, with Yagami able to pick from two distinct fighting styles depending on whether he’s facing a single foe or a group of thugs and he can use things in the environment to smack goons and street thugs with. I never got tired of Yagami launching a bicycle into the air and kicking it into the face of a stunned yakuza or wall running and launching a powerful punch to a gormless goon. Yagami earns XP and SP (skill points) through various actions which he can then use to learn new moves and increase his stats, useful when facing off against more powerful enemies.
Judgement is filled with the same silliness as the Yakuza series with weirdly named NPCs like Frivolous Young Man and Shady Men and some of the conversations coming from the citizens of Kamurocho are just ridiculous, like “I’ve been having trouble peeing, that’s normal, right?”
Just like the Yakuza games, there are diversions that you can do if you want:
Yagami can buy food from vendors, visit arcades and run errands for citizens and there are interesting side missions to test his lawyer skills. He can also play records in his office. He plays a VR game for one of his friends. He can take part in drone races. He can pick locks. He has a mock trial with his law office mates over who supposedly ate a cake that was left in the fridge overnight. It’s quirky, it’s wacky, it’s fun.
Ryu Go Gotuku have added a few refinements to Judgement, though, which I think work extremely well. First is the ability for Yagami to examine crime scenes – shown through a first-person perspective – and gather evidence. You have to look around the scene until you uncover clues – the controller will vibrate slightly when you’re close – which will help move the case forward. There are also missions where Yagami will need to present evidence he has collected to sway others to his point of view on a direction a case is taking.
Judgement has some QTE (quick time event) sequences but they’re restricted to on-rails chase sequences where you have to move the left stick in the direction of an on-screen indicator or press the correct face button on the controller as Yagami chases a suspect or person of interest through the streets of Kamurocho. I really loved a chase sequence where Yagami had to outrun some street thugs while grinding around on a skateboard.
There are also stealth sequences where Yagami must tail suspects without them seeing him. If he gets too close, the suspect’s suspicion meter will start to fill so Yagami can hide behind signs, vehicles and (improbably) sign posts until the coast is clear. The sequences are handled well and are short enough not to over stay their welcome.
Keeping it real.
While the Yakuza series doesn’t have English audio, Ryo Go Gotuku decided Judgment would be the first game it worked on to have an English audio track to appeal to a wider audience. Personally, I think this was a mistake. In the interests of balance, I played Judgment briefly with English audio (read: American accents) and it just sounded wrong. Hearing a Japanese man outside a shop speaking in an American accent just doesn’t work and it pulls you out of the narrative and world-building that the game works so hard to create. I quickly changed it back to Japanese audio and I’d suggest that if you play Judgement with English audio you’re doing the series a grave disservice. This is a game that should be played with Japanese audio and English subtitles.
Technically, it looks good with great character facial details and a vibrant world (every now and then invisible walls pop up to prevent you moving to a certain location too soon) and load times are fast on the Xbox Series X
The bottom line here is if you’re a fan of the Yakuza series, dipping your toes into the Judgement waters would be a wise decision. Because it carries on the fine tradition of these games that I just love to bits. There’s a new Judgment game coming from Sega soon and I can’t wait to play it (hint, hint, dear editor!)