Quick review of Judgment, the Yakuza series spin-off released last month.
First of all, I’m not going to go into the controversy behind Judgment, otherwise known as JUDGE EYES: Testament of the Deceased in Japan. Not even going to link to the related news. All I’ll say is, I thought it was silly that the English release was for a while, in the air. It wasn’t as if the voice actor who was arrested even portrayed a heroic figure in the game.
Secondly, I wasn’t particularly excited about this game. Yeah … Having a Yakuza spin-off is nice but after Yakuza 6, well, I wasn’t entirely sure I liked where Sega was going with the franchise. Let’s be honest, as beautiful and atmospheric as Y6 was, wasn’t the story kinda compact? Most beloved supporting characters barely made appearances. Kiryu’s final fate was rather abrupt too. And two years later, there’s a “spin-off” reusing the same open world but with a different protagonist?
Sounds to me to be a cash-milking thing.
But … I’m three hours into the game, and I’m glad to say cash-milking attempt, or not, Judgment is still a worthwhile buy. An enjoyable Yakuza-like experience, but with enough differences so that it’s not completely derivative. To summarise what I like about the game:
- I think I’ve played so many PS4 Yakuza games since 2016, Kamurocho/Kabukicho now feels like a hometown to me. I break into an uncontrollable silly grin even if merely standing in a virtual version of it.
- I’ve never been a big fan of Takuya Kimura but I’ll readily agree he did a great job voicing protagonist Takayuki Yagami. Without giving the plot away, his articulation deeply reflects his character’s jaded, pessimistic worldview.
- Believe it or not, I never liked the mini-games in the Yakuza series that much. Well, with the exception of the fishing one in Yakuza 6 anyway. On the other hand, the ones in Judgment rocks! I absolutely adore Kamuro of the Dead. The VR one is sheer psychedelic indulgence too.
As for what I didn’t like …
- Ultimately, the environment is too similar to the Yakuza games. I appreciate the opportunity to revisit Kamurocho, but not the same streets and restaurants and shops again. Would have been great too if the play-area was expanded. (When will we finally get to cross those damn streets?!?)
- Remember those weaker Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks in which no matter what you choose, you are “pushed” towards a certain route? The conversation choices in Judgment give me this impression. Now, I’m not that deep into the game so this might change. However, I suspect the overall conversation/interrogation mechanic isn’t going to drastically improve for the better.