The Yakuza series has been popular since its debut on the PlayStation 2 over 13 years ago. Putting players in the shoes of a yakuza member, the game features intense fight sequences and action-oriented gameplay in addition to its meaningful story. A success in Japan (and later in the West), the game spawned a franchise featuring several direct sequels and spin-off titles. The latest such spin-off is the PlayStation 4 game Judgment.
Originally known in Japan as Judge Eyes, Judgment does not feature Yakuza protagonist Kazuma Kiryu—instead, players assume control of Takayuki Yagami, a yakuza-turned-lawyer-turned-private detective who is assigned to investigate a murder case involving one of his former associates. Players need not have any knowledge of the Yakuza games, as Judgment follows a self-contained narrative that will maintain the interest of all players. As Yagami discovers new clues and evidence for the case, players will begin to piece together the puzzle—but the narrative throws plenty of surprises to keep players on their toes.
Piecing together such a puzzle requires investigative gameplay, and Judgment has plenty of it. When searching for clues, the player will scan an area or image for anything relevant and list all evidence that they discover. Investigation also demands witnesses; the game features conversation options when talking to characters within the world so players can decide how to lead each conversation. Selecting the most intuitive questions in consecutive order will reward the player.
Of course, the game would not be a Yakuza spin-off without combat. Yagami is a talented fighter and can chain together hits on enemies in an immensely satisfying manner. Though button-mashing will likely lead to success in some early combat encounters, nothing is more satisfying than piecing together complex moves for maximum damage, and later fights in the game will require such complexity. The player will encounter random enemies when exploring the open world, temporarily halting any exploration to focus on the fight. These encounters can appear frustrating due to their frequency and irrelevance to the active narrative, but they are quick and simple enough to be satisfying, boosting the player’s experience in the process.
The open world of Kamurocho will be familiar to Yakuza fans, though casual players may be frustrated by its size and limits. Boundaries are not clearly marked, instead stopping the player dead in their tracks in the middle of the road. Thankfully, the world has enough content to keep the player entertained; several buildings can be entered, with many leading to hidden locations such as rooftops, and the destructible sets will keep anyone distracted for a while. The artistic and graphical design is not quite on par with those of the character designs, but credit must be given in this department nonetheless.
Both the Japanese and English voice acting is outstanding, and the game’s music and sound design are impeccably implemented. The cutscenes are typically well-constructed and some allow the player to skip dialogue one line at a time; some scenes in particular stand out due to their incredible camera work and framing, though some earlier scenes suffer due to a lack of quality in the same area. The transition between cutscenes is often distracting, and some tight areas lead to awkward gameplay moments, but neither detract from the overall experience.
Judgment is shaping up to be a very enjoyable game. Enjoyable gameplay, an intriguing narrative, and talented voice work is enough to keep the player entertained, and the early chapters spark enough intrigue for the player to wish to see Yagami’s story through to its conclusion. Yakuza fans should not miss out on Judgment.
For non-Yakuza fans: the game has a cat cafe. Need I say more?
Stay tuned for OnlySP’s final verdict on Judgment later this month. In the meantime, be sure to follow OnlySP on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and join the discussion in the community Discord server.