Yakuza’s mischievous legacy has always been adored by fans that praise it for its outlandish delivery. A mixture of Jackie Chan, Mafia and Anime that amalgamates into over-the-top, action-comedy/drama that pays tribute to Eastern Cinema. Upon Yakuza’s arrival to seventh-generation consoles (PS3/XBOX360), Publisher SEGA knew they hot a hot property on their hands but weren’t quite sure what to do with it after the closure of their in-house R&D studio. In an attempt to keep its popularity and momentum, New Entertainment – a rebranded and rejuvenated in-house R&D team – we’re delegated the property without SEGA having to outsource the franchise. Like a Dragon Arrives! was the first title under the new umbrella which sought to establish another branch of Yakuza that separated its narrative from modern mafioso-inspired titles, to the Edo period of Japan.
Releasing exclusive to Japan, the title was considered a commercial success and had pushed SEGA to re-establish a spin-off subsidiary of SEGA NE. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio was founded, and primed with a focused objective to revitalise Yakuza’s long-running series. After a lukewarm reception was met with Yakuza: Dead Souls, Lead writer Masayoshi Yokoyama had put an inquest to SEGA in rebooting the Yakuza franchise, beginning with Yakuza Zero. The franchise saw a renaissance, and had continued to make waves with its respective re-releases of Kiwami and Kiwami 2. While an adaptation to popular Manga series Fist of the North Star had seen a release, implementing Yakuza’s role-playing/combat mechanics, series director Toshihiro Nagoshi, wanted to try something different while keeping the concept within the Yakuza gaming universe.
While not wanting to label the title a spin-off, Judgment had been announced with the title pegged as an entirely new story with similarities that fans would appreciate. While Yakuza lore may seeded in Judgement, a new protagonist and key features would deviate much of the underbelly aspect of the long-running series to an crime-investigative JRPG thriller. Post Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, Nagoshi had wanted to take a brief hiatus from the mainline series in favour for exploring the opposite side of the law, while keeping some crooked facets of being private investigator as an antagonising feature that allows traits of its paralleled prequel to remain intact. Initially releasing for PlayStation 4 in mid 2019, the remaster was announced with visual and performance enhancements which would take advantage of next-gen hardware, and would also see itself land on XBOX, and Stadia.
Taking place in Yakuza’s homeland of Kumarocho, the renowned fictional metropolis of Tokyo, Japan. Former Defense Attorney Takayuki Yagami resigns from his lucrative career in law after successfully defending his client, Shinpei Okubo of murder. Following his win, Okubo is arrested again on manslaughter charges after the malicious murder of his girlfriend. Yagami places the blame of Emi Terasawa on his hands, and leaves his career in law. Sometime later, Yagami returns to crime fighting in an unofficial capacity, partnering with best friend and Matsugane clan member Masaharu Kaito. Kaito’s ties with the Yakuza, leads him to become a double-agent at the behest of his friend, encouraging Yagami to pursue suspects without legally obliging to serving them. Instead, acting as a private investigator, Yagami has the freedom to bend the rules, even getting physical if he has to.
With the aid of Kaito, they establish the Yagami Detective Agency. Not shy in flexing his credentials, Yagami retains his accolades as an attorney when needed but refuses the thought of returning to work cases at Genda Law. Instead, he casually visits his old workplace to take up investigative jobs where his old mentor Ryuzo Genda, tasks him with the unconventional murder case. Initially reluctant, Yagami and Kaito begin searching for the serial killer that is removing the eyes of Yakuza clan members. The prime suspect in question happens to be captain of Kaito’s patriarch, Kyohei Hamura. Yagami confronts Hamura, but is convinced that he’s innocent of the Kyorei Clan murders. While the former attorney campaigns for Hamura’s acquittal, he retains the forthright judgement that the Yakuza captain may indeed know who is behind the murders.
Credit: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
While questioning him, Hamura warns Yagami to drop the entire case and move on. Refusing to let up, Hamura ambushes the investigator, almost leaving him for dead. The untimely death of Yagami’s former teacher, Masamichi Shintaini tells the attorney that The Mole is indeed watching and is onto Yagami’s investigation. The narrative’s exposition is lofty, which heightens most of its expeditious pacing through exploration and dissection within each plot point and puzzle. Choosing to run through the bustling city, shoulder tackling a innocent bystander, and then be threatened by a group of delinquents can be a rush in itself. Reminiscent of a Sleeping Dogs like exploration in a smaller map, with a streamlined gameplay loop, and the incredible writing of Yakuza just melds into a fantastical thriller.
Pertaining a semblance to its Yakuza roots while its disparities demonstrated a distinguished difference was appreciated, and I hope to see more Judgement
Developing skillsets and unlocking new styles can be a lot of fun. I had a ball blasting my way through horde’s of enemies then using points to navigate through each skill-tree. The free-roam parkour stylings that adapt to Yagami’s repertoire while chasing down suspects do come with some impeding accuracies that can stump players. I did find myself stumbling to press the assigned action button when leaping over obstacles, or even patrons that happen to be walking idly by. But I did get the hang of it after a while. The great thing about Judgment’s navigation, is it keeps it tight within the constraints of its small metropolis. It doesn’t escape the boundaries of Kamurocho. It isn’t reliant on having to quick travel, but the option to catch a taxi to the other side of town is there for convenience sake, though it will cost you.
Raising the bar...
✔️Simply gorgeous. An amaziong remaster for next gen hardware.
✔️The same Judgment with an all new performance boost. 4K/60FPS.
✔️Strong narrative, fun gameplay.
❌Lock picking is tedious. It’s fun but it can be frustrating.
❌Does retain some problematic quirks that can be patched.
Judgment on PlayStation 5 is a real treat to experience. Having played the game on PS4, I was delighted by its entire depiction of a Tokyo-based city, the performance of the game itself and how its narrative was constructed to simply adapt from framework that had already been well acquainted with fans. I was elated with the return of Yakuza’s Rage system, where upon initiating the mechanic, Yagami’s strength and speed escalates to phenomenal levels. Sidequests are open for achievements/trophies and in-game rewards, while delegating XP to enhance skillsets or quirks to help our protagonist grow. The “Ace Attorney” inspiration shines in much of the first-person back alley investigative scenarios, where you have to scope each clue visible, then cross-examine them with other clues.
I had some frustrating moments, but those are to my own accord with lack of dexterity in some difficult areas. I detest lock picking, but I love its tedious nature. A true challenge in patience, but is one of those situations where I would rage when I get it wrong. Still, a ton of fun. Using the drone to inspect hideaways and inconspicuous areas where suspects may be meeting with subordinates and cohorts was great. The dialogue that transpires between the bickering best friends is hilarious, but gives some insight into their friendship and the brilliance of each character’s mind. Kaito may dress like a doofus, but he has his finger on the pulse.
While its original entry on last generation hardware was clean, the enhancements made here are exponentially superior in every way. Stills and screenshots do it no justice, with texture and model redesign, lighting and shading getting a complete overhaul, and an emphatic upgrade to 4K and a locked 60FPS? Outstanding. While some elements may seem a little dated, nothing’s perfect. It’s a remaster of the original, but I must admit that it’s polished quite well over the initial release. Cutscenes play out seamlessly without load times interrupting, and different areas continue to display a gorgeous aperture. The contrast of night and day plays a major part in delivering an eloquent visual of Tokyo’s skyline, with the neon aesthetic shining off the pavement at night, and the shadows of sun striking the leather of Yagami’s jacket. It’s all crafted with wondrous care.
I would be remised if we did not highlight the performances of the great voice talent that are features in the title. Greg Chun (Final Fantasy VII Remake) voices the lead, with Crispin Freeman (Promare, Days Gone) portraying his close cohort. We’re also privileged with the prolific casting of Matthew Mercer (Critical Role, Persona 5), Fred Tatasciore (The Looney Tunes, Darksiders III), Steve Blum (Mortal Kombat, Toonami), JB Blanc (Yakuza like a Dragon, Great Pretender), Matthew Yang (Cyberpunk 2077, Death Stranding), Jamieson Price (Persona 5, Great Pretender), Cherami Leigh (Persona 5, Cells at Work!), and the great Ray Chase (NieR Replicant, Persona 5). The entire cast did an amazing job portraying their respective characters with great range between multiple personalities and characters.
Judgment on next gen hardware is a must play. I had an incredible time reprising the role of a private-investigator that broke the rules for justice. His resolve in closing cases by any means necessary truly resonates with my own character. I was profoundly impacted by plot points and narrative that twisted in ways unimaginable. Pertaining a semblance to its Yakuza roots while its disparities demonstrated a distinguished difference was appreciated, and I hope to see more Judgement, with the potential of an impending announcement soon to come. Judgment on PlayStation 5 and XBOX Series X, is truly an essential for thrill seekers and third-person exploration conessuirs.
Judgment is an action-adventure video game developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega. A spin off to the Yakuza series, initial development of the game began in 2015 under the codename Project Judge.