Judgment, the expected spin-off of Yakuza which is the subject of this review, stands as an experiment of great importance for SEGA. In fact, we are talking about the first recent production by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio which includes a double audio track, with dialogues in Japanese and English subtitled in Spanish, which breaks down the now historical language barrier that has unfortunately kept many users away from the extraordinary adventures of Kazuma Kiryu. Secondly, as mentioned, it is a spin-off that reuses the well-known fictional scenario of Kamurocho (inspired by the Kabukicho district of Tokyo) to tell a completely new story, written by Toshihiro Nagoshi himself, with new characters very well characterized, a perfect direction and many twists.
Protagonist of the game is Takayuki Yagami, a lawyer who decides to leave the profession following a traumatic event: three years earlier he defended a boy accused of murder and managed to get him acquitted against all odds, but the same person was then stained with a brutal crime. Reputation ruined and disappointed by his naivety, Takayuki left the law firm where he worked to open a small detective agency with his longtime friend Masaharu Kaito, a former Yakuza with gruff ways but with a noble soul. The two make ends meet by accepting any kind of assignment, moving in a gray area far removed from the rigidity and bureaucracy that govern the courtrooms ... until a particular murder case catches their attention: there is a killer a Tokyo killing its victims by pulling out both eyes.
Setting: Kamurocho has never looked so good
After years of very pleasant experience with the Yakuza series, we can say with full knowledge of the facts that the brand boasts a great protagonist beyond its characters main: the Kamurocho scenery. As mentioned, it is a 'setting inspired by real places, which over time has undergone numerous changes and enrichments, arriving at the appointment with Judgment in its best form. The latest version of the Dragon Engine runs in fact a 30 frames per second and on PlayStation 4 Pro it does a bit of effort in some situations, but it is a small price to pay in the face of so much atmosphere, so much beauty and an absolutely unprecedented degree of interaction. Previously closed places can now be explored freely, different buildings have passable stairs to climb up to the roofs, visible due to the drone that is part of our equipment in the game and that in several cases we will have to use to identify certain people who are perhaps on the second floor of a building, closed in his own office.
All the activities are accessible in a transparent way, without uploading, and this time they have an achievement system that encourages, for example, to try all the dishes on the menu of each single restaurant, to play with all the coin-ops present in the inevitable SEGA Clubs (in this Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown case, Space harrier, Fantasy Zone, Puyo Puyo, Motor Raid, Fighting Vipers and the shooter Kamuro of the Dead, in addition to the usual UFO Catcher), earn a nest egg in the secret casino playing Blackjack or Poker, play a few games of Mahjong and Shogi, two swings at the battling center or a darts challenge. At the headquarters of Takayuki's agency there is also a real one Pinball, while there are no karaoke bars and strategic minigames based on the management of cabaret clubs or on conquering the territories with your own gang of thugs.
Not bad: from a certain point of the campaign onwards you can improvise host and entertain for a fee girls and / or ladies looking for male company within a real dating sim, participate in drone races and try a kind of virtual goose game that includes many prizes and challenges to overcome by force. This abundance, however, represents only a part of the Judgment experience, that if we want more frivolous and carefree, which however manages to translate on the screen in a surprisingly faithful way the reality of a visit to Kabukicho or among the narrow alleys of the Golden Gai (here called Champion District). Shooting in the evening, with the many illuminated signs reflecting in the puddles (the game uses screen space reflections) and the people walking around, is fantastic. Something is inevitably lost during the day, but the developers have been able to play with the lighting system to give a certain depth to the landscapes even during the day.
Gameplay: Like Yakuza, more than Yakuza?
Judgment shares setting, graphics engine and gameplay with the Yakuza series: it is as if all the characters had been replaced leaving the basic mechanics intact, including the traditional structure that mixes an engaging and high-impact narrative, recited in the cutscenes with conviction in both Japanese and English (a very good surprise), with exploration and combat sequences. On the street we will not fail to meet the usual minions, shady dudes, bullies and assorted criminals who will challenge us to a duel and that we can break down using two different fighting styles: that of the Crane, more agile and devoted to acrobatics, designed for scrums; and that of the Tiger, more consistent and able to open any guard, ideal for one-on-one clashes and boss fights.
An abundance of objects can be used as improper weapons: from road cones to signs, passing through the inevitable bicycles, and once the fury bar is filled we will be able to activate devastating special moves that on the one hand recycle a lot of finisher from the repertoire of Kazuma Kiryu, on the other hand, they introduce new, hilarious and / or very painful contextual actions. Orphaned since he was a boy, Takayuki had to learn to defend himself from a young age and that is why he masters martial arts, but as a fighter he is very different from the aforementioned Kazuma, probably less strong overall but capable of bouncing off walls to deliver ferocious attacks. , perform flips and pirouettes that make the duels truly spectacular, although perhaps a little less consistent in terms of impact yield.
However, we are talking about nuances that are placed in a framework of excellence, which increases the degree of challenge in order to make every battle more strategy-oriented and slow down the unlocking of skills that make life too easy for us. Forget the very fast ones upgrades for attack and health, but above all welcome the so-called fatal wounds: if an enemy should hit us with a weapon or with special techniques, a part of the energy bar will become unusable and to restore it in its entirety we will necessarily have to use a first aid kit or visit an underground doctor who operates in the sewers. It is no longer possible to use the numerous drink dispensers located on the side of the streets, but restaurants and convenience stores will certainly be for you if you want to fill your stomach and regain your strength: an important novelty for an aspect of the experience that only recently it has been enhanced.
However, the differences with Yakuza are obviously not limited to these elements: Takayuki is a private investigator and several new activities have been created around his profession for the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio series. The stalking in style Assassin's Creed, the realization of photographic proofs that are somewhat reminiscent of the first Dead Rising, the analysis of finds to the Batman: Arkham but on a two-dimensional basis, the chase sequences with quick time events at the Shenmue, the aforementioned explorations with the drone, the minigames for picking locks and electrical devices, the multiple choice questions during interrogations or common interactions with NPCs, the recognition of very similar suspects and not least the mechanism in style Phoenix Wright in which you have to select the right evidence to prove a thesis.
Not all of these outdoor are pleasant in the same way, for example in the early stages of the campaign you find yourself stuck in a room looking for a code and it takes some time to understand how to get it, but fortunately these are small parentheses that do not affect the will to a general gameplay revamp. Of course, we shouldn't expect too much from this experimentation: the tools available to the protagonist are recalled during specific situations, investigations which proceed in a linear way and which therefore present the various minigames as simple puzzles, sometimes a bit banal, which have the sole purpose of further supporting the narrative element, which remains central also in this spin-off.
PlayStation 4 Trophies
Judgment includes 47 Trophies: some of them are obtained simply by completing the chapters of the campaign, but most of the achievements are related to the secondary activities of the large sandbox at our disposal. There are objectives related to the interaction with restaurants and shops, others that are unlocked by completing the minigames, still others by raising the level of friendship with the various NPCs present in Kamurocho.
Structure and technical realization
We were talking about Takayuki Yagami's detective profession: around it not only the new gameplay mechanisms described above have been created, but also an unprecedented way of understanding the missions secondary. In fact, if in the role of Kazuma Kiryu it happened to come across some strange character by chance and then follow the events deciding to help him, in Judgment there are different ways to access this type of stories optional, for example by obtaining specific tasks reported in our lair or assigned to us by friends and acquaintances. Don't be afraid: the taste for the absurd and the traditional japaneseity situations are not lacking even this time, and so you will happen to chase a toupee that flutters through the streets in order to bring it back to its rightful owner, catch a dangerous panty thief, escort a woman and her daughter to defend them from an apparently violent husband, take revenge of the owner of a bar who scams her customers by inflating the bill and threatening those who do not want to pay, helping a restaurant owner to free himself from the threat of a mafia clan and so on.
We note the great care taken in the realization of these subquests, which unlike some Yakuza episodes are never too short and banal, so they have something to say and remain well impressed. Moreover, they contribute to substantially enrich a structure that can offer beyond 70 hours of contents between main and secondary quests, and that you will hardly be able to exhaust in its thirteen chapters in less than half the time, even leaving out the bulk of the collateral activities. In short, we are talking about an extraordinarily full-bodied experience, which will keep you company for a long time and which you can approach without fear of anything even if you have never played an episode of Yakuza before. Indeed, considering the narrative independence of the game with respect to the adventures of Kazuma Kiryu and the aforementioned presence of the subtitles in Spanish, as well as the double audio in Japanese and English, Judgment is the perfect title to get closer to this fascinating universe and visit the streets of Kamurocho, as never mentioned so suggestive, detailed and full of possible interactions.
Graphically, an extraordinary work of enrichment and refinement has been done that makes you turn a blind eye to the fact that the developers have reused a setting already seen over and over again. In terms of effects, the Dragon Engine has never been so sophisticated and almost all the characters boast a very strong aesthetic characterization, obviously thanks to a motion capture done well and with great attention to even the smallest details. There are some animations recycled, see for example several special moves, but otherwise the assets of Yakuza have been greatly renewed and the thing becomes clear after a short time. Finally, excellent colonna sonora: with a great atmosphere, perfectly calibrated to the situations, stylish and compelling when necessary.
CommentTested version PlayStation 4 Price 59,99 € Resources4Gaming.com
Judgment reaches the verdict by overcoming most of the perplexities that had accompanied its development: the new investigative elements do not revolutionize the gameplay and remain linked to specific situations, but manage to mix the cards on the table and differentiate the experience from the various episodes of Yakuza. Takayuki is a different character from Kazuma and this aspect is rendered very well both in the in-game sequences, with more strategic and challenging fights, and from the point of view of the narrative sector, once again brilliant and predominant compared to everything else. The Kamurocho scenario is what many already know like the back of their hand, it is true, but it has never been so detailed, fascinating and open to an exploration that goes into the corridors, on the stairs, among new commercial activities and even on the roofs. of a city that never sleeps.
- Great story, flawless storytelling
- Great mix of old and new mechanics
- Kamurocho has never been so fascinating ...
- ... but it remains a scenario already seen
- Investigative elements not always successful
- A few small uncertainties on PS4 Pro