Judgment Game Review

Mystery and Street Brawls; My Kind of Game!

General Info

Release Date(s):
PS4 JP: December 13, 2018
PS4 NA: June 25, 2019
PS5, Xbox, & Stadia: April 23, 2021
Rating: M 17+
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publisher: SEGA
Platform I Played On: PS4
Platform(s) Available On: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Mystery
Difficultly I Played On: Normal

Since this review I have completed the first three Yakuza games: Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, and Yakuza Kiwami 2. I can see many similarities between the conduct of those games and this one. If it weren’t for this game, I may not have played those games. Judgment introduced me to a new series and I am very appreciative for the positive game experiences it has brought me.

Synopsis

Taken from Official Site

Judgment | Official Website (sega.com)

A fiercely idealistic ex-defense lawyer turned private detective. After facing a devastating betrayal by one of his former clients, he became known as a fraud who lets murderers run free, effectively destroying his reputation. Now he’s caught up in an enigmatic serial murder case and will need to push his investigative skills to their limit to solve it.

Why You Should Play: The Short Version

>> A good whodunnit

>> Essentially a court drama

>> Quality game from story to world, no complaints!

>> Really fun and random side quests and mini games

>> You get to have glorious fights

First Impressions

I have taken many precautions and have not put any spoilers in this review. As a mystery story I don’t want to spoil anything that may detract from a players first experience with the game. So if you find anything to be a spoiler in this review I would recommend just playing games going in blind, probably for the best~

Disclaimer: This is my HOBBY blog with my own opinions, please take that into consideration~

Disclaimer 2: Currently I am in the process of playing the Yakuza games (and having a blast). This game was simply giving me a jump start into the franchise. I now know how much Judgment is influenced by the Yakuza franchise. Update: I really loved the first three Yakuza games! Had a blast!

This was the first game that was within the sphere of the Yakuza franchise. I like a good detective story and this game really intrigued me. When I was looking up information about it many people said that knowing nothing about the Yakuza series wouldn’t hinder your experience with the game. I then purchased the game and had a great time playing it!

What attracted me to the game was the overall premise of it being a detective story, that it appeared to be a single player linear storyline, and it was set in modern day Japan. Before Judgement, I had been on a long streak of playing primarily western made games. This was essentially my reintroduction to Japanese made games to my gaming library.

The game starts a bit on the convoluted side. We get multiple backdrops so we the player is aware of all the aspects, people, and backstories. At first this was a bit overwhelming, me, a player not knowing a thing about the Yakuza series and what they usually entailed. Since this was a detective game I figured the people and stories would come together and make sense. Afterall that’s what mysteries are for, to unravel and connect all the facts and motives.

Yagami, our disgraced lawyer turned detective essentially starts off with investigating a case that involves a string of events that involves someone found dead with his eyes gouged out. This ultimately leads Yagami on a string of events and discoveries that tie in many clues and events that occurred in the past.

I don’t want to spoil too much because the story is really neat if you go in blind. It’s a mystery, so I simply cannot even give minute spoilers! I can say that I definitely was not expecting the story to go in the direction that it did. I remember just wondering how everything was going to be connected and what possibly could go next. I will say this I enjoyed every bit of the story and didn’t think there was a part that was unnecessary.

The main story is divided into chapters (love chapters in video games) and each chapter focusses on a certain component of the case. Throughout the chapters you have the ability to explore around Kamurocho and all the shenanigans that are present. In some instances, there are locations that you need to take a taxi to get to. Those are specific to the main story and some contain their own mini map. The bulk of the story is in Kamurocho so have no fear! There is plenty of time to explore!

I really liked that the game’s stories really maximized and forced us to go to various areas of Kamurocho. Kamurocho is the area in which we are confined to throughout the majority of the game. At first, I thought the map looked quite small for a relatively new game and was wondering if new areas would be unlocked. The Kamurocho district is so well-crafted I never felt confined because there are so many things to see and do in the space!

There were some sequences where a story made us go into a building or area that looked fairly inconspicuous and I had passed many times but never gave it much thought. I liked how access to certain buildings or stores were progressively added throughout the course of the game. Just when you thought you knew all the key points of interest the game would add new ones. I would honestly call the Kamurocho district map small but mighty because the developers were able to cram so much story into a tiny neighborhood.

The one thing I wasn’t really expecting (remember not having played ANY Yakuza game) was the number of brawls that took place in the game. I especially wasn’t expecting the combination of playing as a detective/PI and getting into street brawls. Once I got past that initial shock, I really ended up liking the brawls and how ridiculous they all were. The fights, while random, is simply just another day in Kamurocho, love it 😂

The game also contains a number of various optional content. There are typical side quests in mini games. Alongside these forms of entertainment there is a phone app (Yagami’s phone) that has certain milestones you can attain such as trying the various food around the numerous restaurants in Kamurocho. There is also a crowdfunding app that you can invest in certain projects that give benefits to the player. There is simply a ton of additional and optional content in this game. Even though all these extras are completely optional I would recommend partaking because it’s part of the overall experience of the game.

There is a combination of humor, urgency, and seriousness of varying levels throughout the game. The levels of humor and hijinks never feel forced or highly unnecessary and take the edge of the overall seriousness of the plot. I think this combination of light-hearted and hard-hitting moments makes the game a unique experience amongst all the video games out there.

The game as a whole is a fully encompassing experience. The main story never loses traction and always makes you the player wonder what’s going to come next and how everything will connect. All I can say is that it’s never a dull moment in Yagami’s life and you should expect all sorts of twists, turns, and humor along the way.

Side Quests and Mini Games

LOVE THEM // Investigating to Tailing // CLAW GAME

I don’t typically say this for most video games but I love the side quests/stories in this game! All of them are unique and you never quite know what the game will throw at you. From people drama to object oriented cases/quests all have a different flavor and never feel like a shore to do. In fact, you run around wondering if a random side quest will trigger.

Update: I think of this game and the three Yakuza games I’ve played Judgment had the most interesting and enjoyable side quests. Perhaps it’s due to the detective nature and we get to solve random mini cases for people. All in all, I think from the Yakuza games I’ve played it appears they’ve continued to elevate the side quests and the various individuals we get to help out along the way.

There are a few ways you can get side quests in the game. One is via Yagami’s office where clients actively seek him out. The other is random events while you are out running around Kamurocho. Both kinds of side quests were consistently enjoyable and you met interesting characters along the way.

The side quests involved different kinds of investigative procedures. Some involved tailing people while others were investigating a location or person. Some had follow-up quests while others were a onetime deal. All in all, the side quests are versatile. One of the more memorable moments was a mystery involving dismemberment (play it and see!). Never a dull moment!

Another HUGE aspect for me was the ability to play games within a game. I really love when video games have this. I seriously played an embarrassing amount of time in the batting cage. Though my true love was the CLAW GAME. I made it a mission to acquire every single toy and I succeeded! I loved the bird toy so much! What was even better is I could decorate Yamagi’s office shelf with all the loot from the claw game (what his clients must have thought 😂).

There were other mini games such as cards, a VR game, drone racing game, classic arcade games, etc.. I definitely spent a few hours playing cards, no regrets. The offerings of mini games was an unexpected surprise and I definitely indulged in all them.

The Characters

Great Characters // All make Sense // Many Walks of Life

There are many characters that are present in Yagami’s life. He has his closest friend Kaito, a Yakuza affiliate, who is present throughout the entirety of the story. Other than that, I won’t divulge many character specifics because it’s best just to experience all the character introductions in the game. I will tell you every character makes sense to the story! All the characters have their moments and personal contributions to the game.

The main groups Yagami deals with are his former coworkers at the law firm, police members, Yakuza members, and a few surprises! All of these different groups had different degrees of agreeableness with Yagami. Some people hated his guts while others wished he would get his life together, and a few characters are actually his friends 😂

I really liked all the characters in the game. Both the villains and good guys have their respective moments and everything fits together like a glove. I think every character has a distinct personality and varying connections to the main plot and Yagami himself. It was just nice to not feel confined in a world where the protagonist only has about three people to talk to on a frequent basis. The game is just simply well executed character wise. No complaints!

Our Detective: Takayuki Yagami

Cool Guy // Bulldog // Gets himself in Amusing Situations

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Yagami. In the beginning many characters call him a deadbeat and they’re really not wrong 🤣 Yagami doesn’t even have his own apartment in the game I can see why the people around him have some concerns. Overtime, I became to really like him as a character both in the main story and in his general interactions with people in the side quests.

His character is fairly laid-back while simultaneously being a bulldog on a case. He never gives up and continues digging around until he finds something useful. In the main story he is pretty fearless and is willing to go into various situations without batting an eye. I think it’s kind of the quintessential main character in the Yakuza franchise being the traits of the main character are somewhat fearless with an element of machismo while facing ridiculous situations.

In the side quests Yagami’s reactions to the randomness (or in some cases stupidity) is quite humorous. The degree of absurdity and shenanigans that goes on in Kamurocho is unparalleled. Yagami is fairly stoic so the amount of chaos and sometimes embarrassing moments he has to sit through just makes you laugh while playing it.

Gameplay

Controls Smooth // Fighting // HP and Doctors

Options: Controller

Being that this game is not available on PC, controllers are the only option. Honestly, I had no qualms with the controls whatsoever. Movement is smooth and once you get used to the game’s mechanics it’s pretty straightforward. I really don’t have any complaints.

The fighting system at first was a bit of a challenge for me. I typically do not play fighting games, especially ones that are basically a brawl simulator 🤣 It took a bit of getting used to (and really not reading instructions closely…) but in the end I was finally able to get a fairly good grasp and vicariously live out my street brawler fantasy.

The fighting mechanics are pretty simple in that there are different button combinations that result in different moves. There are two styles we can switch between being crane and tiger. These have different attributes and are useful in different fighting scenarios.

Additionally, in battle you can usually replenish you HP and Heat points through the help of medicine or food. However, a big challenge is when the enemy has a lethal weapon because that permanently drains your HP. You cannot retain your HP back until you get fixed up by a doctor. Luckily there are numerous doctors all around Kamurocho, how convenient!

In certain instances, you also may be required to tail people or chase them down. The tailing includes following someone and trying to not attract attention making the target suspicious. For the chasing sequences you are running after the individual and have to make reactionary movements depending on the crowds and obstacles via the joystick or buttons. These can be really fun or frustrating depending on the level of suspicion or speed on an individual.

There are a few additional detective related objectives that you do throughout the story and occasional side stories. Firstly, there is a drone that you sometimes need to control that once you get the hang of the controls its manageable. Secondly there are various locks that need to be picked when the situation arises. I enjoyed picking locks because it involves observant skills and aligning the cylinders to an appropriate position. The other major story and quest related activity is taking photos for evidence.

Graphics, Artistic/Aesthetic Style, & Ambience

LOVED the world // Visually stimulating // No Graphical Complaints

I LOVED the world in this game! The world is vibrant and has all sorts of advertising, lights, and reasonably filled with numerous people milling around going about their daily lives. The level of detail was insane and it felt so realistic. It reminded me of my experiences in Japan. From the fake food displays, the city lights at night, or simply a perfectly stocked convenience store there was realism that I was not expecting.

The way they packed Kamurocho full of building details and storefronts the world while small felt realistic and large. I call the map small yet mighty and it really isn’t an understatement. A game doesn’t need an open world to feel realistic and full of life. This game is proof positive!

Update: I appreciate how this game utilized the vertical exploration. It contributes to the illusion of the busy and vibrant neighborhood. When exploring the random buildings there are actual mini games, side quest, or main quest events taking place on a different floor. The small but mighty Kamurocho truly utilizes every ounce of space on the map. It is a simple enjoyment that we can randomly go to a fourth four of a building on our own volition and actively take an elevator or go up steps. This is a detail I have since found to appreciate greatly.

The graphics are quite reasonable. Nothing hyper realistic, but the game ran smoothly. Nothing looked out of place or funky. No complaints or issues from me personally.

Would I Recommend?

Honestly this game was a breath of fresh air for me at the time I played it. I had played a lot of games that were very serious in tone, so the overall randomness and humor scattered throughout the game made it stand out. This was a game that I binge-played and never took a long-term break from it.

I can confidently say that I love this game so much because it offered so many experiences wrapped into one game. The story, the characters, the world, the fighting, the side quests, the mini games; all these things were exemplary and well executed. This game felt so well rounded and polished, it really was a full package experience.

I wouldn’t recommend this game for people that aren’t into brawls or simply are not a fan of Japanese games or style of storytelling. There can be quite a few tropes that occur in Japanese media. In this game I don’t find them cringey but rather part of the experience the game offers. If you really don’t like getting into brawls frequently then you might want to at least consider heavily before getting the game.

I would recommend this game for anyone that wants a really intricate story, doesn’t mind getting into brawls, and simply wants to have a good time while playing a game. I cannot stress enough how fun I had while playing this game. The story, the side quests, the mini games; this game really had a fully fleshed out and encompassing experience. The characters were compelling and everything story wise all tied together. Honestly if any of the merits that I discussed from this game intrigues you buy the game and play it! I would recommend playing it relatively blind because that’s the best way to experience it!