In Recent Years Developer Ryu Ga Gotoku

In recent years, developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has hit the West with the Yakuza series. The rough-and-tumble fighters and the Japanese underworld became a hit that we couldn't get enough of. Due to the demand for more, the spin-off called Judgment has been launched.

In Judgment, you no longer play on the side of the underworld, but as a detective named Takayuki Yagami who investigates a serial killer who has connections to the Yakuza. Will the game live up to the expectations of the Yakuza series or will it miss the mark?

Yakuza but from the other side

The story is set in the well-known Kamurocho, where three unsolved murders of yakuza members lead to a major conspiracy.
The story begins with a small introduction to Yagami in the past. He works at a law firm and has just proved the innocence of a client charged with murder. A day after Yagami's client is released, he is arrested again. This time for killing his girlfriend and setting her apartment on fire. This event causes Yagami to stop practicing as a lawyer and continue as a detective. His reason is 'if I can't distinguish between those who are guilty and innocent, I don't deserve to be a lawyer'.
The story keeps you captivated, is not difficult to follow, contains complex moral issues and remains exciting until the end.

Judgment is set entirely in ancient Kamurocho and it has never looked so beautiful. Still, I would have liked to see a different environment. The fictional Tokyo neighborhood is still a great gaming location, but fans of the series know it by heart. Other parts take you to new cities in addition to Kamurocho, which show very different interesting cultural aspects of Japan. Also on other points you quickly notice that this is a spin-off. The main games are richer and more varied in both content and scale and contain more interesting activities.

Shut up about the tiger!

As far as combat is concerned, it's exactly the formula you expect from a Yakuza game, only a little less smooth.
In combat you have the Crane and Tiger stance. Crane is used against multiple enemies and Tiger one against one. Both stances use rush and finisher attacks to kill your enemies. Throughout the fight you will fill up the EX gauge that will allow you to perform extravagant Bruce Lee attacks. You don't have to expect the fast gameplay that you are used to from Yakuza Kiwami 1 & 2 here. Judgment's battles feel a lot slower. Although Yagami is the first in the series to use real martial arts, his movements feel stiff and unnecessary. These problems can be somewhat solved by certain upgrades that allow you to perform animation cancels, but these do not address the main problem.
The way Yagami interacts with his environment is unfortunately also not in order. Yagami can only walk and run in other words slow and fast, but nothing in between. In buildings this causes considerable frustration because you are practically forced to walk, the camera does not cooperate well in buildings and if you bump into a wall or object it interrupts your flow.

Sherlock Holmes without Watson

The only thing Judgment really tries to differentiate itself with is the fact that you play a detective. For example, you have to search for traces, interrogate people, present evidence, carry out chases, take on disguises or trace people. Unfortunately, all these elements have been worked out quite sparsely, so the elements that should distinguish the game from its predecessors are experienced as a downside. In particular, the missions in which you have to stealthily chase people seem to come from an Assassin's Creed game from ten years ago. The AI is predictable and chasing a target itself doesn't get any deeper or more interesting than just 'follow your target at a distance'. The game has tons of these kinds of missions and they are all the same. Furthermore, the new 'inspection mode' is also not so good.Yagami sometimes has to look for clues from a first person perspective, but this is mainly done by looking around with the camera almost randomly. When interrogating people, you have several dialogue options, but you basically can't go wrong or change the course of the story. In short, it's not all worked out well enough. The new machine heads feel like an appendage.
Fortunately, the game still contains those absurd elements that the franchise is known for. For example, you need to catch a pervert named Ass Catchem. Moments later, you befriend an American who is running through the streets of Kamurocho dressed as a ninja. The game doesn't take itself seriously at all and that's great.

Verdict

Oh Judgment how I want to love you, but your predecessors set the bar too high. It has all the elements needed to make it a great experience, but the execution just misses the mark. From the combat to the detective elements and even discovering the world, everything just leaves something to be desired.
Personally I think if the game had a little more development time and some concepts were developed a little better Judgment would be a masterpiece. Anyway, if you're a fan of the Yakuza series, the game is definitely worth a try. For the newcomers among us, however, this will be a hit or miss. If it is the case that Judgment will have a sequel, I am convinced that it will be very strong.


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