By Marisa Alexander / September 11th, 2019
|Developer||Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio|
|Release Date||June 25th, 2019|
|Age Rating||Rated M|
For quite some time before its release, Judgment was turning out to be Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s grandest title to date. It was getting marketing as well as a decently large premiere announcement. However, ever since its Western release, the game has not generated a lot of conversation. I have seen it mentioned every now and then but not to the scale of Yakuza or even Fist of the North Star. It is strange as it sold decently well and it reviewed quite well, floating around 80 percent overall be it reviewers or consumers. Having now played the game, I have a theory as to why. However, let’s first go over the game before making the final judgment.
The game as a whole boasts itself as a detective crime thriller, as well as an action-adventure game with RPG elements. It stars protagonist Yagami with his sidekick Kaito. A former defense attorney of the Genda Law Office, Yagami distanced himself from his previous occupation after the acquittal of client Okubo, who would only seem to go on and murder his own girlfriend. Kaito was formerly part of the Yakuza, specifically the Matsunage family, a sub-section of the Tojo clan. The story features Yagami’s pursuits to track down “The Mole”, a killer whose calling card is stabbing out both eyes of whoever was murdered, their connection to Matsunage captain Hamura, and a conspiracy behind the scenes.
As for its setting, Judgment takes place in Kamurocho, the same district that the Yakuza games takes place in, modeled after Kabukicho in Tokyo. The district is packed with various stores, activities, and locations to find. In addition, there are various side cases that can be taken, be it in Yagami’s office, the Genda Law Firm, at the Bar Tender or just merely walking around. Yagami can even build friendships with various locals. As such, there is much to do in the game beyond completing the main story.
For gameplay, Judgment can be taken down to two different halves outside of minigames: the detective elements and the combat. For the former, there will be sections that Yagami is to look around in first-person inspecting for clues on how to proceed forward. There are also challenges such as lock picking, tailing or outright chasing suspects. These tend to not change throughout the game, merely offering a different challenge for the player to overcome.
The other half of the gameplay is the combat. You have a basic combo string that can be ended at any time with finishers, along with the ability to pick up objects, grapple enemies, vault over opponents or even wall-kick. Yagami has two stances, crane and tiger, that offer different approaches in combat. Crane is more about crowd control, allowing Yagami to attack multiple enemies at once. Tiger meanwhile offers much more focused attacks on single enemies, helping to break their guard and make Yagami harder to stagger. To help complement these options, the player can perform EX attacks that consume the EX gauge. There is also EX Boost that consumes the entire EX gauge, allowing Yagami to deal more damage as well as be invulnerable to enemy attacks.
As a whole, this is a lot to juggle within one game, which leads to the game’s weakest point. Some parts of Judgment are much more fleshed out while others are very bare-bones. For example, the detective elements, despite coming from the main protagonist himself, are one of the most simplistic parts of the game. Sections such as searching about, chasing and tailing are incredibly simple. Searching tends to devolve into the cliche of finding the small part of the area to inspect, chasing is merely quick time events and moving left or right, and tailing is just following someone and occasionally hiding behind an object or wall. You don’t actively move objects around, chases are railroaded, and suspects only now and then look behind themselves to see if they are being followed. They don’t even proactively walk up to where you are so you don’t have to hide within the crowd or take a clever turn to make yourself look like just another passerby.
Combat also suffers from this. Despite the various abilities Yagami has at his disposal, some are very lackluster. Crane style, while fine on paper, rarely performs how it is meant to. If one enemy is guarding within the group, you will simply stop the entire combo. Tiger style also gets various abilities exclusive to itself, making it the far better style to stay in for the long run. Even though wall kicking was advertised as this cool new ability, actually landing a normal move from it rarely happens. Due to this, fights become one-note, be it when multiple enemies are involved or just one. As such, fights lose their enjoyment after some time.
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