By Patrick Aguda / August 31st, 2021
|Developer||Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio|
|Release Date||June 25th, 2019 (PS4)
April 23rd, 2021 (PS5, Xbox Series, Stadia)
|Platform||PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Stadia|
|Age Rating||ESRB: M – Mature 17+|
Back in 2019, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio released a spin-off to their popular Yakuza franchise, Judgment. The game, while taking place in Kamurocho, featured a brand-new cast of characters and no returning fan favorites from Yakuza. I thoroughly enjoyed the original game because of its fun gameplay, great characters, and dramatic story; however, there were some issues with framerate and loading screens which could take away from the fast-paced action combat and traversing Kamurocho. Fast forward to 2021, and Judgment has been remastered for a new generation of consoles. How does this remaster compare to the original? And is it worth your time? Well, let’s move on and find out!
Judgment starts shortly after Takayuki Yagami, a promising lawyer, manages to clear his client, Shinpei Okubo, of murder. This victory brings many defense requests to Yagami and he enjoys a period of great popularity. However, everything comes crashing down after Okubo is once again convicted of murder: the victim this time is Okubo’s girlfriend, Emi Terasawa. This tragedy sends Okubo to death row and drags Yagami’s reputation through the mud. Yagami resigns as a lawyer and becomes a private investigator. Three years later, a gruesome murder case drags Yagami back into the courtroom spotlight. Can Yagami find out the truth behind this serial killing spree?
The story in the remaster of Judgment is exactly the same as the original, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I enjoy a good mystery, and figuring out the truth behind the serial killings was quite an adventure and had me hooked onto the main story. I appreciated that while the story can get pretty dramatic, there are many lighthearted and comedic elements in the game too, similar to the Yakuza games. The game has a good cast of characters too. Takayuki Yagami, being a former lawyer, has a good head on his shoulders. He is able to use his intellect to help deduce the truth in cases, and he also has a good sense of humor. But Yagami isn’t only smart, he’s also a pretty badass fighter. We can thank his dad for teaching him self-defense and Yagami’s years as a delinquent for his fighting prowess. Yagami also has a strong sense of justice, always trying to seek out the truth and do what’s right, no matter how much the odds are stacked against him. Yagami is a good main character, but the supporting cast is great too. Masaharu Kaito is Yagami’s partner and his enforcer. Kaito is an ex-yakuza, which explains why he’s so strong and good at fighting. He’s also kind of a meathead, so he’ll tend to mess up certain sayings, even if he heard it only a couple minutes before. Saori Shirosaki is Yagami’s former co-worker at Genda Law Office. She’s straightforward and shows little emotion, unless sweets are involved. Saori can make cutting remarks on the fly, so it was fun seeing her respond to other characters. Mitsugu Matsugane and Ryuzo Genda are Yagami’s father figures who try to guide Yagami throughout the game, though they work in completely different spectrums. Matsugane is the patriarch of the Matsugane Family and Genda is the director at Genda Law Office. While they work on completely different sides of the law, they both look out for Yagami as their own son. These are only a couple of the characters you’ll meet in Judgment, so you’re in for a ride when you play.
The gameplay in Judgment consists of traversing the streets of Kamurocho, beating up thugs, completing side cases, and more. It is very similar to the gameplay found in the Yakuza games, but with some differences. The combat in Judgment is similar to Yakuza 0 in that Yagami has access to different fighting styles: Crane and Tiger. Crane style is a faster style best used in combat against multiple enemies. Tiger style is Yagami’s more powerful style, best suited for one-on-one combat against tough foes. Using these differing styles, you can mix up normal attacks and throws to beat down your opponents. Of course, Yagami also has access to EX moves, which are attacks with special animations that cause a large amount of damage to enemies. You can use EX moves after charging up your EX gauge, which can be seen near your health bar. Instead of using an EX move, players can utilize an EX boost instead, which temporarily powers up Yagami and gives him access to extra EX moves. Yagami will remain in this state until the EX gauge runs out. You can gain more abilities, for combat and other activities, by using skill points. Skill points are gained by winning fights, completing main story quests and side cases, eating new foods for the first time, playing minigames, and more. In addition to the fast-paced combat segments, you have the investigation segments. These can consist of examining certain scenes in first person view or tailing a target. Examination has you searching for specific items in a location before you can proceed. You can gain bonus skill points by finding every examinable item in a particular location. Tailing a target is exactly as it sounds, you follow a target until they reach a specific location, there really isn’t much more to it.
I really enjoyed Judgment’s gameplay, but I did have some gripes. First involved the Crane and Tiger styles. As you progress in the game and gain more abilities, the Crane style slowly starts to become less useful than the Tiger style, to the point where I barely used the Crane style near the end of the game. This is because the game offers you Tiger style-specific upgrades to obtain, so that style gets significantly stronger as you progress. The Crane style does not get the benefit of any exclusive power-ups, which causes the divide in usefulness. In order to balance the styles out, I think the developers should’ve added some style-specific upgrades for Crane style. Second involved the tailing segments of the game. These segments were very slow and annoying, taking away from the fast-paced combat segments. And the tailing segments can drag on quite a bit, and if you mess up, you will have to start over. Despite these gripes, Judgment was a very enjoyable experience.
Visually, Judgment looks amazing. The character models are very detailed and I like how similar Kamurocho looks to real-life Kabukicho. After being able to visit Kabukicho in real life myself, I have come to appreciate Kamurocho that much more. It’s pretty amazing seeing how similar the two locations are. In the Judgment remaster, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio opted to use more realistic lighting as opposed to the original game. This means shadows weren’t as prominent and the colors looked a bit flatter in the remaster. This shouldn’t affect newcomers to the game, but those who played the original may find this change a bit jarring. I personally liked the original game’s lighting more as I thought it gave Judgment a more unique look. Another issue I found with the game’s visuals came during certain scenes involving dialog. The game would have trouble focusing on characters. For example, Yagami would be talking to someone but he would be blurred even though the camera was focused on him. It isn’t a big issue, but it did distract me during certain scenes.
Audio wise, Judgment does very well in that department. It’s very satisfying hearing Yagami beat down opponents thanks to the great sound effects. From regular strikes to EX moves, their sound effects make a great impact. The music in this game is fantastic too. You have the hot-blooded music that you know and love from the Yakuza series, but you also have the somber tunes for the more dramatic and tense scenes. I personally liked Judgment’s final boss theme because of how different it was from the Yakuza games. This isn’t a manly fight to see who’s strongest, this is a fight for survival, and the theme really fit the final boss well. Both the Japanese and English cast did a great job bringing these characters to life. I personally played the game using the Japanese voices, but I did go back and watch some of the cutscenes in English, and that cast did a great job as well. No matter which voices you prefer, you’ll have a great time with either option.
Performance wise, the remaster of Judgment runs as smooth as butter. The game runs at a steady 60 FPS, even when fighting large groups of enemies. This helps the action combat feel that much better, and it’s one of the best improvements Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio brought to this version of the game. In addition to the smooth frame rate, this version of Judgment boasts much improved loading times. When traveling by taxi or traversing between different locations, the loading times are usually only a few seconds at most. Transitions between areas were very smooth thanks to the small loading times, letting you get immediately back into the gameplay. I really had no issues with how Judgment performed.
I think the Judgment remaster is great, though I have some issues with it. First of all, there is no free upgrade option. So, if you own the PlayStation 4 version of Judgment, you will still have to purchase the PlayStation 5 version, which may deter owners of the original game. Second, there is no option to transfer your save data. So, if you do end up switching to the PS5 version, you will not be able to transfer your saves from the PS4 version, meaning you will have to start the game all over. My final issue is, other than the improvements to performance and changes in lighting, there is really nothing much different between the PS4 and PS5 versions. There are no additions to the story nor any extra quests added. Other than performance improvements, the games are pretty identical. Again, this may only affect you if you own the original version of Judgment.
Judgment runs like a dream on PlayStation 5. With a great story and characters, fun combat, smooth frame rate and loading times, and all previously released DLC included, I believe this is the best way to experience this game. It took me 30+ hours to complete the main story on Hard difficulty while completing some side cases along the way, but I still had plenty of side cases to complete after the main story was over. So, you’ll have plenty of things to do after completing the main story. Personally, I think the price tag $39.99 is a bit much for a remaster that doesn’t really add much to the original, but that’s only because I played the PS4 version too. I think it’s a great price for those who are new to the series. Those who have played the original should wait for a price drop before snagging this one up. I highly recommend this game for those who are fans of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s previous games and fans of action games in general. Give Judgment a try, you won’t be disappointed.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Action AdventureJudgmentPS5RemasterReviewsRyu ga Gotoku StudioSega