The Yakuza series is one of the most critically acclaimed and popular video game franchises of all time. The action adventure beat em up has RPG elements and a deep story. After six entries and a prologue it can be a little daunting for new players, however. For those who are hesitant about diving in to Yakuza’s rich lore, 2019’s Judgement is a spin off that has many of the same elements and an engaging story.
Judgement is a legal thriller set in the same Kamurocho district the Yakuza series takes place. (There is no knowledge needed of the main series to play this game.) The story is about Takayuki Yagami a former defense attorney turned private investigator. As much of a detective noir story as an action packed video game, Judgment separates itself from the series it was spun off from.
The graphics for Judgement are fantastic. The game has many cutscenes and each one has a cinematic feel to it. This is not a game where you speed through the story scenes. Each moment is beautiful to look at. Interiors look realistic and the world looks lived in. This is a game players will admire looking at as much as they enjoy playing it.
Kamurocho itself stands out. At night, it is a neon lit district with bright purples, yellows, and greens, that pop off the screen. During the day, the blinding colors may be a little more subdued but they still stand out. Through it all there is the constant buzz of people talking and the ringing of games. The city is constantly bustling with activity.
Some supporting characters stand out in a less impressive manner. Main characters like Tak and his former boss Genada are filled with emotion and detail. However, some secondary characters do not receive the same attention. It does not affect the story or gameplay, but it is noticeable.
The gameplay is divided into two main parts. Exploration is broken up with arcadey fights which are incredibly fun. Controls are fluid and using simple button combinations, players will be pulling off some spectacularly brutal moves. Tak uses two upgradeable fighting stances that keep Judgement fresh. The over the top fist fights may look ridiculous, but they do not detract from the fun.
The investigation portions of Judgement are a nice addition that keep the game from getting stale. This is a detective game and players get to investigate various crime scenes and interrogate people to solve problems. This is not just a simple matter of talking to others or visiting locations, though there are instances of both. The game makes sure to switch things around. Searching for clues, taking pictures, and trying to catch people in a lie are just a few of things Tak must do. This includes occasionally having to chase someone down. Judgement has the player take on pretty much every aspect of being a hard nosed detective.
There are plenty of minigames and side cases to occupy Tak. There are fun distractions like batting cages, more complicated ones like mahjong, and old Sega games for nostalgia purposes. The side cases are similar to the main story. Tak tails suspects, takes incriminating photos, and gathers evidence. These can range from the light hearted such as catching a panty thief to proving someone is cheating on their wife. They are too similar to the main story to be considered much of a break, however.
Judgement has a very deep story. This leads to many cutscenes that sometimes bog down the pacing. The story also introduces many characters making it difficult to keep up with everyone that is in it. The tailing missions are not particularly difficult, but they are easy to fail. Capturing a damning photo is also a lot more difficult than it should be. On the plus side, none of these things ruin the game’s enjoyment.
There are plenty of action games on the market and nowadays finding a video game with a nuanced story is getting increasingly easy. Judgement tries to give gamers both. An intriguing detective story mixed with easy to learn but fun fight mechanics make it one of the most enjoyable and unique games for the PlayStation 4.
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