I’ve been meaning to check out Judgment for a while now. As a fan of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s Yakuza/Like a Dragon franchise, it only made sense to check out Judgment. Judgment was the first game they developed to star a completely different cast of characters with Kamurocho as backdrop. It plays like a Yakuza game in many ways, but it has its own distinct voice and style.
I warmed up quickly to Takayuki Yagami and his partner, Masoharu Kaito. In fact, many of the characters, including the antagonists were instantly captivating thanks to their outstanding performances. They did a great job teasing out tidbits of information about the characters and their history.
Like with RGG Studio’s previous works, the story was the driving force to punch my way through the streets of Kamurocho. I wouldn’t describe the execution of the murder mystery narrative as excellent, but it was captivating and I was satisfied with how it wrapped up in the end. I felt the transitions from between beats and twists took a bit of liberties and didn’t quite do enough stitch together a believable ramp up. Nevertheless, I was till thoroughly entertained and still found it to be the most relatable story the developer has ever put out.
Considering the detective angle, a number of gameplay mechanics were introduced to compliment the shift in tone. As a private detective, Yagami tailed a lot of people, and spent a fair amount of time looking for clues and evidence. There were moments of piecing everything together, but they were not as involved as I would like. Yagami was a former lawyer turned detective, and I was hoping to see more Ace Attorney style mechanics where I would be presenting evidence and dispelling lies. There were some, but not nearly as much as I hoped for.
Brawling was still a focal point to the core gameplay loop. Yagami was more nimble and acrobatic compared to Kiryu, but a faster paced style is not foreign to the series. Health and ki meter management was given greater weight because Yagami could suffer severe injury that would temporarily cap his max health until he visited a clinic. Attacks from weapons such as swords and guns could injure Yagami unless he harnessed his ki.
The side content involved Yagami taking on side cases, getting way into flying drones, and the occasional Mahjong. Kamurocho will still radiate Kamurocho things which included hostess bars, drinking, and oh so much delicious food choices. I was a tad disappointed that there wasn’t a larger overarching mini-game on the size of a running a hostess bar, but alas, I felt there was still enough to do in Kamurocho in-between major story beats. Unfortunately, Judgment took the Mr. Shakedown concept and took it too far. I kept running into the same fights over and over again which became nuisance more than a fun distraction to conquer.
Knowing how the Yakuza/Like a Dragon franchise is going down the turn-based route, I think RGG Studio can successfully continue their story driven brawler games with the Judgment franchise based off my impressions after the first game. I was so impressed with how well they introduced the new characters and stories. Judgment felt like a long running franchise already. The familiarity can largely be attributed to the familiar setting and mechanics, but there was no guarantee that I would like this spinoff just because it was set in Kamurocho. It’s not the place that defines meaning for me, it’s the people, and RGG studio introduced us to some great ones.
I liked it