Coming from the same developers of the Yakuza game franchise, Judgment is another game that takes place in Kamurocho, which is the location of most Yakuza games. If you’ve played games from this franchise, Judgment will make you feel at home with the familiar setting, but at the same time, detached since the main character, Takayuki ‘Tak’ Yagami, isn’t part of a crime family.
Yagami is a quick-witted defense attorney-turned-private investigator with strong principles and ideals. Having been used to Kazuma Kiryu (the main protagonist of all Yakuza games), it took me a while to adjust to Tak as I stroll around Kamurocho. Despite this, long-time fans of the series will find this game a bit fast-paced compared to the original series since Yagami is relatively more nimble than Kiryu.
The game also features a fight system similar to Yakuza 0 in which the main character can switch between fighting styles. Yagami has the ability to switch between Crane and Tiger styles. Unlike previous games, players can do flashy moves off-the-wall which gives room to more creative finishers and basically, beat people up in style. For a detective game, the fighting here seems to be the most fluid out of all the games in the series, which is a good thing!
But since this is mostly a detective game, not all resolutions are solved with beating people up…
Another thing that sets this apart from other Yakuza games is the Active Search Mode mechanic. The player is put into a first-person view to look around their surroundings to keep an eye out for important clues and pieces of evidence (and cats, but more on that later) that will aid them later in the story. Yagami also has a drone at his disposal to help him get a better view of the situation at hand. Ace Attorney fans will be delighted with the investigative aspect of the game.
Some cutscenes involve conversations with choices. Choosing the more relevant ones will give extra skill points, which means players will really have to keep up with the conversation, as every good detective should.
True to the spirit of the Yakuza series, there are several ways to procrastinate from the main storyline. Personally, I’ve spent a huge amount of time playing Virtua Fighter 5 and Puyo Puyo Tetris in between missions. Although I haven’t progressed further into the game, there are drone races that players can participate in if they want to use their drones in non-investigative ways. Other tabletop games—like Shogi and blackjack—are present in the game as well. I haven’t explored every nook and cranny Judgment has to offer but I was able to stumble upon a VR arcade in Kamurocho! This game is truly set in a modern era.
Sadly, karaoke isn’t present in-game due to the production costs that come with the fact that Takuya Kimura, the actor playing Yagami, is a popular singer in Japan. Despite this, players can actually afford to date around! In fact, flirting is a skill that players can level up using skill points.
What makes Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio games so special is how they immerse players into the setting. Players who haven’t been to Kabukicho (where Kamurocho is based) feel like they’re actually living in there. The streets are bustling with NPCs with their own set of problems. Don Quijote is vibrant as ever. Players can even decorate Yagami’s office with collectibles from Ebisu Pawnshop and plush toys from UFO Catcher crane games!
The abundance of cats in this game is worth pointing out since there is an actual cat café that players can visit! In fact, there’s a trophy associated with examining ALL stray cats present in Active Search Mode.
Judgment isn’t far too different from Yakuza, although it is more serious and darker compared to the other games from the series. The game feels like a true hard-boiled detective game with engaging chase mechanics, no-nonsense fighting, and down-to-details investigations.
With all of these said, Judgment is a great game to start with for players who haven’t played a single Yakuza game. The story reels you in deeply and the drama involved among the characters makes it an enjoyable spectacle. The voice acting is superb and the camerawork in cutscenes is something to take note. Despite the mostly serious tone of the game, it still leaves room for players to set aside work and actually have fun (like, you know, in real life).
For those who are looking for a beat-’em-up game like Yakuza with the investigative elements of Ace Attorney, this is the perfect game for you. Unlike other action-adventure games in the market, this game demands a specific set of skills since you’re playing as a detective.
Judgment is now available on the PlayStation 4 for ₱2,795.
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