Ever wanted to smash bicycles over dudes’ heads, but instead of being a brawny ex-Yakuza legend, you are a lithe former lawyer-turned-private eye? If you said yes to that question, read no more. Judgment is the game for you. 5 out of 5 Bibles right here. Review over…
But stick with me. Stepping out of the shoes of Kazuma Kiryu and into those of Takayuka Yagami will feel like second nature; they are a pair of hand me down shoes that fit just right. If you have ever played any of the previous Yakuza games, you will be right at home. In fact, this may be the most complete version of a Yakuza game to run on the Dragon Engine. The game looks and runs amazing, load times between buildings and fights are non-existent with zero hiccupping.
Stepping back from the criminal underworld, but not fully walking out of its shadow, Judgment explores avenues that the series has previously not gone. As a private eye, you are not trying to bail out your former yakuza buddies from stolen money capers; you are a private eye on the trail of a murderer. While Yagami, like Kiryu, can solve most of his life problems by punching dudes in the face, he is also a bit smarter (sorry Kaz!) and plays like a real detective. Yagami investigates crime scenes and tails less-than-reputable people. While neither element reinvents the wheel — and offer a nice change of pace to the series — they do start to feel stale 30-hours in.
Judgment does feel new and fresh, with changes that stem from Yagami not being Kiryu — from the previously mentioned investigation mechanics to just how he fights. With Kiryu being more of a bruiser, Yagami is more agile, able to rebound off walls and slide under or jump over enemies. Coming back from past Yakuza games, Yagami can switch between two combat styles at will. The heavier hitting single target focused Tiger Style and the faster wider hitting crane style. Enemies now can also inflict “mortal wounds” which require expensive healing kits or doctor visits to cure, making block and evasion mechanics almost a must on higher difficulties.
In typical Yakuza fasion, there is a lot to behold in this package. From the series standard side stories and Club Sega arcades, to new coming drone racing and a unique VR board game. You can lose yourself for hours in the city and not get anything done on the main quest, then stand there wondering where your time went. That is a feature the Yakuza series has always managed to do well, and this is one of the better examples as there is just so much to do, you will find yourself almost always with an activity to pass your time.
The one thing that Judgment does better than the Yakuza series is the story. Yakuza always has had good stories, but they always managed to fly off the rails into the territory of insane crime dramas. Judgment though stays largely grounded in a hard-boiled murder case, telling –over the course of 40 hours– one of the best tales the series has spun.
If you like the Yakuza series, there is no question you do not want to miss this game. If you have been curious about the Yakuza series but are hesitant to jump into a 7 game-deep story arc, this is the perfect place to start. With no direct connection to the main series, Judgment still offers up all the wild charm that Yakuza can muster. With that, I’m going to break 4.5/5 Bibles over some dude’s head then get a bite to eat at Smile Burger before paying a visit Club Sega to play some Puyo Puyo.