By Marisa Alexander / September 11th, 2019
The story, while occasionally interesting and enjoyable to sit through, can be a slog to go through. For some reason, at many points in the main story you must do a forced side case or objective in order to progress. Due to this, the entire progression of the plot takes a sudden nose-dive in favor of a small interlude that has nothing to do with the main story. As there is already plenty of side content to tackle, there is no reason to have the plot just force itself to a halt. It gets particularly egregious when it is very clear what is treated like side content and main content just by presentation alone, such as lack of voice acting and fluid cutscenes.
Coupled with how the story can feel like a standard crime drama, the plot can get rather boring. Either things lack subtlety or tropes are done straight. Does this mean the story doesn’t have its moments? Not at all, as Yagami is a fine enough protagonist to carry the story forward, with Kaito able to lighten the mood as well as still having very enjoyable serious moments. It just simply won’t entice those who are looking for a fresh take on the formula.
On the topic of pacing, Judgment can take a sharp turn for the worse after a point in the main story. After a specific point, every now and then Yagami will have a gang called the Keihin after him in full force. During this period of time, gang members will begin spawning throughout the district much more actively, with their leaders available at particular spots to combat. Not only is the encounter rate much higher, gang members also attack when they effectively spawn, instead of being able to avoid an encounter if you can just move around the threat. This breaks the pace of the game severely, as it felt like I had an enemy encounter every ten seconds, when otherwise I could go on for a minute without having to run or fight anyone. It doesn’t help that it only ends when a gauge called the Threat Level goes to zero percent or all leaders are defeated.
The presentation and feel of Judgment are a strange conundrum. It is both one of the higher points and lower points of the game, fluctuating between the two. The Kamurocho district looks wonderful, especially at night time, definitely in line with the common image of Tokyo at night. EX attacks are extraordinarily flashy and provide the most impact in combat. Many main story cutscenes are also top notch, being well-animated, coupled with great camera angles, visual effects, and terrific voice acting. Even side content can have wonderful visual and audio flair, such as the VR Paradise activity. While technically it’s a visual overload of lights and colors, that is also the point.
However, you then have the other side of the spectrum. For example, while this may be exclusive in the English version of the game thanks to the dub, it is jarring to hear generic voice lines from Yagami still be in English, but generic voice lines from side characters be in Japanese only. The soundtrack of the game also hardly felt memorable, almost as if it was an afterthought on how the developers wanted to handle the soundtrack. The lip-syncing is also questionable, particularly noticeable during phone calls where you have a character’s face on-screen right up close.
Another issue is the matter of moving around, particularly in enclosed areas. Yagami seems to walk into everything, as if his hit box is much larger than him, and than it needs to be. This awkward feel however is no better exemplified by the drone Yagami owns. Every now and then, he will use it to aid in his investigations such as looking through the camera to see higher up or take pictures. He can even participate in drone races with it. Yet, during investigation, it is literally the worst control in the entire game where I have to fight to even move it properly, despite movement involving only the two analog sticks. In contrast, in the drone races, it works perfectly fine.
On the technical side, thankfully Judgment runs well. In my playthrough, I have not run into any major bugs or glitches. The only strange oddity is when the game transitions from normal combat to EX attacks. The game stutters and freezes, as if it has to load the animation. Otherwise, the game runs fine even when a lot of people are walking about on screen.
As for side activities, it is predictably hit or miss. Some, even though they might just be poker or mahjong, are fine enough ways to kill the time. Others can feel a bit frustrating, such as the batting cages. The big highlight is definitely the side cases in the end. When you actually want to pursue them, they provide nice small stories separate from the main story. In truth, sometimes I found them more engaging than the main story itself, be it because of their humor or sweet moments. The only issue is that it can be rather vague on how to progress in certain cases, so it effectively causes you to look up a guide or scour the entire city for the one spot that allows you to move forward.
As a whole, Judgment is a game that I have conflicting feelings about. Either the game is exceptionally enjoyable with hardly a complaint, or it just feels like a slog to go through. There is no in-between of what it is both a fantastic experience and a painfully mediocre one. Ultimately, I believe that Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio stretched themselves too thin. They wanted to do as much as they could, but due to the extraneous elements of the game, it left less time to both polish and develop the overall package. As such, it didn’t catch people’s interest in the long term and as such, many just stopped playing.
In the end, the developers have made a decent game. It is by far not the best but certainly not the worst. With over 20 hours of main content to go through, with even more side content to pull through, the $59.99 price tag is dependent on how you value your purchase. In terms of raw content, it is definitely worth it. As far as quality content goes, however, I recommend waiting for a small drop before purchasing. For fans of the developer, it will most likely be satisfactory. Yet, for those unfamiliar with their style, it might be a more difficult bar to pass.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Pages: 1 2Action AdventureJudgmentPS4Ryu ga Gotoku StudioSega