Quick review of Yakuza Judgment, the “Ryu ga Gotoku” 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 portrayed a heroic or major 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 The Song of Life was, wasn’t the story kinda a let-down? 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, Yakuza 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 don’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.