Release Date: June 25th, 2019 (Playstation 4)
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
ESRB: Mature (Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol)
When players think of Sega a couple of iconic titles come to mind, ranging from Sonic the Hedgehog to the classic side scrolling beat em up title Altered Beast. One of Sega’s renowned titles in recent years has been the Yakuza series, an open world action/adventure string of games centered around a yakuza named Kazuma Kiryu. The Yakuza games are undoubtedly long, following the story of Kiryu in which he becomes imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Sega has now expanded upon this universe with their latest title, Judgment, in which the story focuses on Takayuki Yagami – a lawyer at the Genda Law Office. Having been released in Japan in December of last year, the game was released worldwide June 25th.
Yagami is depicted as a rockstar of a lawyer, with every single phone call received in the office requesting to be represented by Yagami rather than his cohorts. With tension rising in the office over his popularity, it all comes to a halt when a phone call from Shinpei Okubo comes through the line. Shinpei Okubo was being charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Emi-chan, and burning down their apartment complex. The game’s cutscenes are quite lengthy, and the intro scene portrays the sense of hopelessness Okubo feels due to the events that had transpired. He is shown being taken by the police, looking crazed and covered in his girlfriend’s blood. Yagami states that “my career as a lawyer died alongside Emi-chan… both murdered by Shinpei Okubo.” The player is then time warped three years later to Kamurocho, Tokyo, a fictional region of Tokyo in which the Yakuza games took place as well. Yagami since then had left the law office and now works as a detective, in which the overarching story is about Yagami investigating the murders of yakuza that turn into a case much bigger than anticipated.
The player has a couple of options in terms of how they can experience the adventure. There is the original Japanese dub and an English dub, in which character animations are at times a tad bit off compared to the original Japanese dub. Although the animations are slightly off at times, it does not pose to be a distraction throughout gameplay. The game plays at 30 fps, in which the city of Kamurocho shines in its gritty yet bustling fast life. The controls are straight forward – the player uses square and triangle to attack enemies in a free form combat style, equipped with the ability to block, grab enemies, and weapons. The combat system is simple yet effective. It resembles the fighting style in Yakuza 0, but in contrast, Judgment provides you with only two fighting styles you can switch back and forth between whereas Yakuza 0 gives you four. The two fighting styles are tiger and crane, in which the player benefits utilizing crane against multiple enemies and tiger against a single enemy. A mechanic called EX actions comes into play during combat as well, with a gauge at the top left of the screen. The gauge fills up during combat, and once filled up, a prompt to press triangle enables you to engage in EX Actions. One of the details the game has is how each NPC has their own names, as well as their own quirks and habits that they express during combat/alongside the street. For example, during the tutorial fight, one of the thugs (Kawakami) is seen drinking a can of beer to shake off the player’s attacks.
Being primarily a detective game, the mechanics the player is introduced to work very well with the story line and its detective roots. The title shines in this aspect, switching between third and first person, with first person primarily being engaged when in Tailing Search Mode, in which the player utilizes to identify a suspect using clues and sketches. With the game being set in the year 2018, the modern detective utilizes a drone as well to track and spy on subjects. There is an accomplice of the player’s that has hacking capabilities and allows side quests, and a tracking system through smart phones. There is an array of side quests available in line with the main story. Kamurocho is a lively city and is great to explore. For example, there is an arcade where the player can enjoy mini games, batting cages, and one of the more interesting aspects – drone racing. Although it is one of the smallest cities in open world games, it stills retains its charm and livelihood and the player can find hours of entertainment in the open world.
With a fluid combat system, a nice array of detective artillery and an intriguing story, Judgment is a great introduction to the Yakuza series and players looking for something new. There are many twists and turns throughout the title, with many characters hiding things about themselves and then later coming out with a revelation. In retrospect, Judgment still maintains a solid story throughout, reminding the player of key takeaways and important events consistently being brought up into the limelight rather than just being a minute detail. With the implementation of what seems to be endless sidequests, the player can be rewarded with the title’s currency to gain new skills, as well as unlock even more side quests to build Yagami’s reputation within Kamurocho. The side quests can be a double-edged sword however, with the main story being placed on the backburner but then coming back to light after completion of the side quests. Another double-edge sword is the fact the combat feels nice, but at times can get repetitive. Overall, the title is enjoyable, and players can find many hours of enjoyable casual gaming. (Anthony Pacheco; Gaming Writer)
Review copy provided by Sega.