Developed by Sega, Ryu ga Gotoku Studio Published by Sega Reviewed on PlayStation 4
The Ryu ga Gotoku Team really impresses me. Coming off of last year’s Fist of the North Star game, I wondered what they would have for us next. I was sad when I had finished Kazuma Kiryu’s story in Yakuza 6. I loved it all: the combat, the incredible music, stories, and the shining gem that is Kamurocho itself. After finishing Kiryu’s story and introducing their powerful new engine, The Dragon Engine, it was time for something new. While what we get in Judgment is not 100% original, the game’s new cast in a familiar setting is something that stands on its own real merits.
So here’s what’s not really new: Kamurocho, the primary setting of every major game in the Yakuza series to date. I was dead certain that I’d be tired of seeing those densely packed streets again for the umpteenth time. However, the city has more stories to tell and more secrets to reveal. Time will easily slip by with the massive amount of content within the city. Thanks to the power yielded by their new engine, Kamurocho’s important inhabitants look as fantastic as ever. The level of almost photo realism mixed with the excellent character models, brings Judgment to life in a believable way. I don’t feel like they have completely mastered the engine yet, though. There are some weird technical quirks such as weird contrast and some anti-aliasing that doesn’t quite work as well as it should. In my run time of this game though I never really found myself bothered by these problems, just an occasional glimpse of them.
The familiar streets spin a silky new tale of lawyer turned detective, Takayuki Yagami. Yagami had a promising career cut short due to a series of events from a singular case. We cut to three years later, we see Yagami on a stake out mission tracking a target on the gorgeously realized streets of Kamurocho. It becomes very clear the core experience is here, but the changes in the formula are fresher than ever. The story is a gripping, well woven crime drama told from the eyes of a detective working in a shady city. It’s filled with enough turns that will keep you guessing and is a must play for those who love crime dramas.
A gripe many have about the Yakuza series is its lack of English voice acting. With veterans like Greg Chun as Yagami, the Judgment English dub rivals the original Japanese one. The voice acting cast for every character performs incredibly well. Both are excellent and you will feel everything on offer in either language. I would also be remiss if I don’t mention the side stories. The side stories in the Yakuza series are where we get some major tonal shifts from the drama. Balanced perfectly again, you will meet some kooky individuals with some great stories that will make you laugh out loud. Be warned, there are a staggering amount of them and it is very easy to get off the main course with them. They are worth your time for not only entertainment purposes, but because you gain reputation the more people you befriend and missions you complete. This will help you unlock missions for Yagami to go on cases to earn EXP and extra money.
Game play is broken up into two types, free roaming with investigations and beat ‘em up segments. Taking on side cases and the aforementioned side stories for money, EXP, and to unlock even bigger cases. Going to certain points on the map will advance the story but there’s always a ton of side things to do. Whether you get into a fight with random street thugs or if it is an ordained story fight, the combat is still solid. There are light/heavy combos and meters are used for crazy finishers. Yagami’s sense of agility and crazy kung-fu acrobatics are awesome. If you’ve played Yakuza before, you’ll be right at home. If you haven’t, you’ll learn quickly. The difficulty curve is damn near perfect, too, as long as you think about your moves and purchase new skills you can still come out on top. The new mortal wounds system will keep you on your toes as it’s impossible to treat them without paying a good chunk of money for the service or the curative items needed.
The only other complaints I have are nitpicks. Certain missions require you to tail an individual and I feel this part needed more polish. Places that should be obvious hiding spots don’t always offer the necessary cover you need and this becomes tedious. There are quite a few of these missions, too. I also noticed the soundtrack is not as high caliber as the Yakuza games. The soundtrack is good, but it seems almost to be a bit too subtle. Still, as a whole Judgment is a great game with a lot of content, a great story that will keep you guessing until the end, and further proof the Yakuza series has a lot of fire left in it. This is due to the combat system, a great story, and the promise of a long road renewed. Pick up Judgment!