When it comes to games from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios, I’m a newcomer. Especially to the Yakuza franchise, as I write this I’m still going through Yakuza Zero and very much enjoying it. So much so that I’ve purchased all games available for the PS4, as I know I’ll thoroughly enjoy those experiences.
With Judgement (or Judge Eyes as it also goes by), I wanted to experience modern day Kamurocho without spoiling the rest of Kiryu’s story. Plus the premise of it being Yakuza meets Phoenix Wright was an intriguing hook to get me in.
You are Takayuki Yagami, once a big time Lawyer now uses his skills to be a detective in Kamurocho. When a spree of murders occurs involving eye gouging, you must uncover what is happening. Whichever way is easier to get the truth. It’s a great murder mystery, with all the twists and reveals you’d expect. To solve these murders you are going to have to put those detective skills to good use.
Your supporting characters are excellent especially your ex-yakuza partner Kaito, their to-and-fro conversations are both funny and meaningful. Yet all characters add the depth needed to be invested in each of them, without the feeling of them been shoe-horned in. Kudos to their respecting actors who all do a tremendous job in convoy the emotional spectrum, even when some lip-synch issues throw you off.
The area of Kamurocho is bustling more than ever, making it a character unto itself. My down time was spent wandering the streets, looking at all the buildings and seeing the strange quotes float above citizens heads. A lot of buildings are accessible, busy restaurants filled with photo-realistic food, Internet cafes and bars. It’s a city which is alive and familiar, fans of the Yakuza games will notice how much things have stayed the same but also how some things have changed.
Judgment introduces gameplay mechanics that are different from the Yakuza series, namely the bits you’ll be doing to gather evidence and things like that in nature. The first hour will reveal these mechanics to get you familiar with how they will play out, with one of the first things the game will get you to do is tail a suspect.
Tailing involves taking cover behind objects throughout Kamurocho’s streets, all whilst not drawing attention to yourself. It isn’t an instant fail if you are seen, a caution bar will begin filling up giving you time to duck behind a car.
Investigation mode/search mode will put you in 1st person, allowing you to ensure you are finding the right person and allowing you to scour every inch of a select area for clues and more. Hey…even that suspicious cat might know something.
Occasionally you may have to chase someone down, these play out as you’d imagine. On rails, quick time events which in truth do make a nice change to normal missions. The rest of the mechanics will include the use of disguise, the presenting of evidence and lock picking All these gameplay mechanics add a lot to the proceedings whilst not becoming overly complicated. This eases with progression, as you won’t hit brick walls with frustrating gameplay.
My main complaint with Judgement is this; the investigation mechanics never feel overly complicated and often feel as if I can’t miss anything even if I tried. And while I understand they may not have wanted to over complicate the game, especially to newcomers I wanted to be penalised for not finding certain evidence. If they could be fleshed out more I know myself and others would be grateful.
It’s not all investigation work though, often Yagami will still have to use his brawn rather than his brain. Combat is still top notch as you’d expect from the studio, with two fighting styles Tiger and Crane, fit for crowds and one on one. Each punch, kick and throw feel impactful, made even better when you use the special EX moves. Unlocking new moves will make combat fresher as you play the game, one move allowed me to use a swing to serve up some shoe based justice as Yagami’s feet impacted the thugs face Very satisfying indeed.
When you’re not spending your time glued to the main story, just like other RGG titles side missions are plentiful and often convey a less serious tone than the murder solving. As Yagami is a detective, a lot of side missions revolve around his skills. Others like from his landlady are food tasting and a QTE wig chase. You’ll likely spend hours just doing these. Activities, eateries and more are scattered around the streets for you to enjoy. Drone racing, a new addition allows you to compete with your own drone in you guessed it…races is a fun distraction. The Yakuza staples such as Darts, Baseball and the chance to play old school arcade games are present. Although fan favourite Karaoke is nowhere to be seen, which is unfortunate because those sections in the Yakuza games are top notch entertainment. Friends and girlfriends will develop as you play through the game, these add to not only Yagami’s character but those around him. Seeing these sub-stories connect in different ways add a deeper experience.
Whilst it may be a Japanese game you have the option to have the voice acting set as English, each performance is extremely well done. I had it set to English myself as a change of pace compared to the Yakuza games I’ve played but whenever I do decide to replay this game no doubt I’ll set it to Japanese for that authentic touch.
This is how a spin off of a popular series should be, from its gripping unique story to the characters I can’t wait to spend more time with (if a sequel is ever on the cards).
Whilst some of the new features aren’t entirely fleshed out, Judgement is a great starting point for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in the Yakuza universe. It’s just a shame you can’t take Yagami to a karaoke session.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*