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Review

Review: Judgment

With Kiryu’s sto­ry com­ing to an end in Yaku­za 6, Judgment was the begin­ning of a new chap­ter for the Yaku­za Team. Brin­ging in a fresh cast of cha­rac­ters and going with a new detec­tive the­me, Judgment deli­vers ano­t­her com­pel­ling sto­ry even if it doesn’t add a lot to the exis­ting Yaku­za for­mu­la.

Taking place in the fami­li­ar set­ting of Kamu­ro­cho, the events of Judgment revol­ve around the ex-lawy­er tur­ned detec­tive Takayu­ki Yaga­mi. After being drag­ged into a mys­te­ry invol­ving yaku­za that are kil­led in a stran­ge way, Takayu­ki must find out the truth with the help of his part­ner Masa­ha­ru Kai­to and a few unli­kely allies. It’s worth men­tio­ning that, even though Judgment makes use of the same city for its sto­ry, no cha­rac­ters from Yaku­za make an appearan­ce, making this a good star­ting point for tho­se that may have been intimi­da­ted by the long list of games in that series.

While Kiryu may have had some inte­res­ting moments here and the­re, espe­ci­al­ly during sub-sto­ries and the main plot of Yaku­za 6, for the most part he was a rather simp­le cha­rac­ter. He main­ly sol­ved pro­blems by pun­ching them, and reli­ed on other cha­rac­ters to sort out anything more com­pli­ca­ted. Takayu­ki on the other hand has a more inte­res­ting per­so­na­li­ty, due to his back­ground as a lawy­er and his cur­rent work as a detec­tive. Having a main cha­rac­ter that is more ana­ly­ti­cal is a nice chan­ge of pace, and with Judgment being a self-con­tai­ned game he has a lot of deve­lop­ment throughout the sto­ry. The rest of the game’s cast is also strong, even bet­ter than most of the sup­por­ting cha­rac­ters in the Yaku­za series. From Takayuki’s acquain­tan­ces at his old work­place, to the peop­le he teams up with during his inves­ti­ga­ti­on, most peop­le that you encoun­ter throughout the sto­ry are memo­r­able.

Adding to the well writ­ten cha­rac­ters is a sur­pri­sin­gly good Eng­lish dub, which is hand­led far bet­ter than the Eng­lish voice acting fea­tured in the ori­gi­nal Yaku­za. For this review we play­ed through the main sto­ry in Eng­lish, only going back to rewatch pre­vious sce­nes in Japa­ne­se, and it’s honest­ly a fine way to play the game. Asi­de from a coup­le of weak per­for­man­ces from some of the less important cha­rac­ters, the Eng­lish cast is incredi­b­ly strong and we’d even go as far to say that a coup­le of cha­rac­ters end up being bet­ting than the Japa­ne­se dub. The only real down­si­de to play­ing the dub­bed ver­si­on is that most enemies and peop­le not rela­ted to the main sto­ry end up still speaking in Japa­ne­se. It’s not enough to ruin the expe­ri­ence, but it is a stran­ge decisi­on con­si­de­ring how well loca­li­sed the rest of the game is.

Even with a strong line-up of cha­rac­ters a well hand­led Eng­lish voice over, the sto­ry does suf­fer from some of the same pro­blems found in the Yaku­za series. For star­ters, the pacing of the sto­ry can be incon­sis­tent, often having you do mun­da­ne tasks or thro­wing a come­dic sce­ne in that doesn’t qui­te match the tone of the sto­ry. The­re are also times whe­re the game intro­du­ces a side event or cha­rac­ter during the main sto­ry, even though they could have easi­ly made the sce­ne optio­nal as to not slow down the sto­ry. The most unfor­tu­n­a­te part of the sto­ry howe­ver is the ending, which doesn’t qui­te make all the build up worth the wait. The­re are some cool moments, and it does lead to some inte­res­ting boss fights, but it ends up fee­ling like the sto­ry wraps up too quick­ly and in a way that isn’t as satis­fy­ing as it should be. It’s not enough to ruin the sto­ry as a who­le, it’s just disap­poin­ting con­si­de­ring how well other ele­ments of the plot are hand­led.

As for the rest of Judgment, not much has chan­ged over­all com­pa­red to Yaku­za 6 and Kiwa­mi 2. Subs­to­ries have been split into cases and fri­end events, dif­fe­rent names but both fil­ling the role of side­quests. Cases can be accep­ted from a few pla­ces, inclu­ding Takayuki’s detec­tive agen­cy, and often make use of some new gim­micks (more on tho­se later). Fri­end events on the other hand are often qui­te short, many just requi­ring you to buy an item from a shop or talk to someo­ne a few times. It’s not a big chan­ge from the Yaku­za games, but having some of the side events be cases ties them into the main sto­ry bet­ter.

A new main cha­rac­ter also brings a new figh­t­ing style, alt­hough the basics are still the same as they’ve ever been. You string light attacks tog­e­ther and finish with a hea­vy attack, along with using a varie­ty of items and the envi­ron­ment to defeat enemies. The style sys­tem from Yaku­za 0 and Kiwa­mi makes a return, though the­re are only two dif­fe­rent figh­t­ing styles this time. Cra­ne is made up of spee­dier attacks that are good at clea­ring out groups of enemies, while tiger is best used on sin­gle oppon­ents with each attack being char­ge­ab­le for extra dama­ge. Regard­less of the style, Takayu­ki can also leap off walls to initia­te jum­ping attacks and grabs, or avo­id dead­ly attacks from bos­ses. His figh­t­ing styles are fun to use, even if they do feel simi­lar to some of the styles used in the afo­re­men­tio­ned Yaku­za games.

Roun­ding out the simi­la­ri­ties to Yaku­za are the various mini-games, most of which have been car­ri­ed over from the latest releases in that series. From the majo­ri­ty of games avail­ab­le in the arca­de, to the bat­ting cen­ter and mah­jong par­lours, most optio­nal activi­ties have made the move to this game intact. Stran­ge­ly enough, the popu­lar karao­ke mini-game is absent for the first time in the series. Of the new miniga­mes fea­tured in Judgment, dro­ne racing is pro­bab­ly the sin­gle best addi­ti­on and has the most con­tent tied to it. You can cus­to­mi­ze your dro­ne by craf­ting new parts and the­re are a decent amount of tracks to race on.

It’s just a shame that Judgment doesn’t do much to try and build upon Yakuza’s game­play in a mea­ning­ful way. The­re are some new mecha­nics tied to the detec­tive the­me, but none of them are fle­shed out in any way. For examp­le, the­re are a coup­le of lock picking miniga­mes that are qui­te simp­le to com­ple­te, and they never beco­me more inte­res­ting even on the har­der locks. Even wor­se than this is the tail­ing mis­si­ons, which requi­re you to fol­low your tar­get wit­hout being spot­ted. Not a sin­gle one of the­se mis­si­ons are enjoy­a­ble, and they’re often ove­r­used during side cases.

Conclusion

Jud­ge­ment is ano­t­her excel­lent game from the Yaku­za Team, but at times it can feel like a Yaku­za res­kin rather than a uni­que expe­ri­ence. It’s still a must have for tho­se cra­ving a new game from the team, and an excel­lent star­ting point for new­co­mers, though at this point a new set­ting would real­ly go a long way in making future games stand out more.

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