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Judgement Review (2021)

Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

Publisher: Sega

Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S

Genres: Action game, Fighting game, Adventure game


"Review Copy Provided By Sega/Ryo Ga Gotoku Studios"

Kamurocho is seriously a great area to tell many storys for the Yakuza franchise even when it happens to be the location of a game that doesn’t technically bare the name of “Yakuza” or “ Ryo Ga Gotoku” yet is still set in the world of that franchise. In 2019 we got to experience one of the best spin-offs of the Yakuza franchise in Judgement (no Dead Souls does not count) with it deciding to tell a different story involving the series’ Tojo clan but from the perspective of someone who isn’t Yakuza and was previously a lawyer now turned private detective. Judgment starred Japanese megastar Takuya Kimura in the role of Takayuki Yagami and voiced by my good friend Greg Chun as Yagami (known also as Tak) oursues relentlessly a serial killer in the dangerous streets of Kamurocho where anything can happen. Originally released exclusively for PlayStation 4, the game has received a remaster for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Steam, and Google Stadia where it now runs at a smooth 60fps and graphically fully taking advantage of the current generation of hardware; Judgement is looking to return plays to Kamaurocho for either another go around or a first time experience. Does Judgement’s remaster make it worth the price of repurchasing or are you better off saving money and playing the original release? Let’s find out!

Story

Takayuki Yagami is one of the best lawyers in all of Kamurocho and to a greater extent Japan as a whole. On one fateful day, one of the criminals that Yagami defended in court and was acquitted of all charges ends up killing a woman and, by proxy, himself. Laden with severe guilt of the events that occurred; Yagami ends up retiring from being an attorney and decides to become a private detective and solve various minor cases in Kamurocho. One day he is hired to assist a captain of one of the Tojo clans’ subsudary families who has been arrested and awaiting trial for having murdered one of the rival clan’s members. With the clock ticking, Yagami is hot on the trail of this case not knowing what greater plot he is being pulled into.

Gameplay

If you’ve played the original release of Judgment then you’ll enjoy the faster more fluid gameplay which is thanks to the fps boost from 30fps to 60fps. Built upon the Dragon Engine introduced in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life; you’ll find yourself being able to easily acclimate to the gameplay and combat of this entry. While Yagami is certainly no Kiryu Kazama, he is none the less a fairly effective yet flashy fighter capable of switching between stances to handle large crowds of enemies and one on one encounters.


Unlike Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Judgement plays out like the original series does with an emphasis on brawling in real time. Yagami has access to various punches and kicks along with grabs and throws, dodging, dash attacks, stance switching between his two martial arts styles, and more. What really sets Yagami apart from Kiryu is how he can utilize his size and speed to run at walls and either jump off of them to do a leaping attack or do a leaping throw or parkour like vault over. Yagami is much more of a faster fighter than Kiryu and is effectively a middle point between him and Majima.


Like in previous Yakuza entries; Yagami is able to buy and utilize items such as StaminaX and more in order to gain various health restores and stat boosts such as being able to immediately fill up his EX guage for a more devastating combat style. You have access to the games RPG system consisting of a large skill tree of various abilities for fighting and detective mode along with stat boosts and bonuses.

The unique gameplay feature in Judgement that sets it apart from Yakuza is the Detective Mode which has you gathering evidence and looking over various items that you gain to help build the cases and sub cases that you are assigned to.


For example; there is in chapter 1 where you have to solve a murder mystery and will need to look at various crime scenes similar to CSI and see if you can find what stands out which can be anything from a broken surveillance camera to lack of blood on the ground near the victim and more. These events will have you in the first-person perspective looking around the environment and utilizing the back right trigger (or R2 since I’m reviewing this on PS5) to zoom in and see what more information you can find out.


There are even instances where you will be flying a drone to stake out an area that you’ll need to enter in order to chase down a suspect. There will be times where you will need to follow a character and make sure they don’t see you in-order to be able to figure out where they are going and why. In these instances you will have a meter showing at the top of the screen that will increase as you are spotted so your best bet is to just trail from a distance and utilize cover in the environments as best you can.


Outside of the usual gameplay are various arcades and minigames you can go and enjoy such as going to CLUB SEGA and playing anything from franchise classics like Fighting Vipers, Space Harrier, Virtua Fighter 2 & 5, and even play a game of darts and more. You can even go to the batting cages and swing for the fences and as you progress the story you unlock more and more minigames to partake in.

I could continue going into the various aspects of the gameplay but I will leave you with the above as a sample of what you’re in for when you play this game.

Graphics

Now this is the area you probably wanted to know the most about as the jump from the PS4 to current gen consoles is very very noticeable. It isn’t a groundbreaking leap on the level of a game being made specifically for the current generation consoles, however, it is a worthwhile like in quality. The level of detail increase in hair texture, facial texture, the way water looks in puddles, and just the breathtaking look of the neon tinged Kamurocho in and of itself. The game is simply a stunner in this remaster which is shocking to say as it was gorgeous before and yet this takes it to a whole new level.


The previous iteration had load times, and while not very long, they were there. This remaster removes almost all loading screens and for the few that remain they are gone in less than 4 seconds.

Audio

What can I say other than the voice actors chosen for their roles here are all simply fantastic! Greg Chun is simply legendary in his role here as Yagami delivering some of the best lines I’ve heard in a game with a level of cadence and cool factor unlike any other. Crispin Freeman delivers a standout performance as Masaharu Kaito with his iconic voice and vocal range greatly bringing our best friend to life. My friend Mark Whitten (Known for the voice of Alex in Street Fighter V and Seteth in Fire Emblem: Three Houses) does an absolutely outstanding job as the mysterious Fumiya Sugiura. This is honestly one of the most star stacked castings I’ve ever seen in a game as of late and everyone DELIVERS!


The soundtrack helps add to that tension and suspense of this murder-mystery thriller with music that just fits every moment, beat for beat, just perfectly.


The sounds of the environments and the bustling crowds are all fully realized and sound life like as if you were actually in the Shinjuku district that the fictional Kamurocho is based off of. In battles the sounds of punches and kicks, throws and weapons, all sound as if you’re actually in a fight with an extra added umph to them!


All in all, not a bad sound, voice, or music track in this game at all.

Downsides

There really isn’t much to speak on when it comes to discussing the downsides of this game as aside from some random clipping and odd ragdoll physics here and there; there isn’t anything to really knock this game for. Sure, the lip-synching isn’t accurate but that’s never been a focal point of a Yakuza, let alone a Sega title’s, focus.

The Wrapup

Judgement was one of 2019’s greatest titles to launch on the PS4 and here we are 2 years later with a remastered version of that classic that vastly improves that experience and makes this the definitive way to experience this title. With an absolutely amazing crime thriller story, one of the best star stacked voice casts in a game, creative and familiar gameplay, superb graphics and increased fluidity of frame rate fully taking advantage of the current generation consoles’ power, and all at a steal of a price make Judgement a MUST OWN! You simply MUST play this stellar game!

The Verdict

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