Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Sep 042019

Coming into 2019, Judgment was one of my most-anticipated games of the year.

And it delivered.

I finished Judgment yesterday after around 65 hours of playtime and walked away conflicted: I really want a sequel, but at the same time, I’m not sure they can top this story.

Judgment is a spin-off of the Yakuza series. You play as Yagami, a former lawyer who stopped practicing law after a client he got acquitted was then convicted of a second murder. Now a private detective, he finds himself searching for the truth as a string of murders leaves the city shaken.

Despite not being a Yakuza game, it plays a lot like a Yakuza game.

Yagami’s combat style is different (and this was my first game in the new Dragon Engine, which definitely took some getting used to), but the basic principles are the same, and the city is filled with mini-games and side content. My favorite was Dice & Cube, a Mario Party-like board game that I really hope returns in future entries.

There are a few additional gameplay elements since Yagami is a detective – investigating crime scenes, presenting evidence, tailing suspects, etc. This was great, but I felt a lot of it was underutilized. (Except for tailing, which got repetitive.) If they ever do make a sequel, I’d love to see them expand this aspect of the gameplay.

Instead of encountering sub-stories in the city like you would in a Yakuza game, here you take on side cases instead. Friendship events with characters throughout Kamurocho also provide smaller sub-story style experiences.

I felt it was a good balance, and while some of the side cases are just okay, others are insane and hilarious.

There’s really only one part of the gameplay I disliked, and that’s the Keihin Gang. Oh, the Keihin Gang. Partway through the game, you get on the bad side of this gang. From that point on, they routinely invade the city, causing a higher encounter rate and mini-bosses to appear. You either need to fight them or wait it out, and it happens so often it got annoying pretty fast.

Now let’s talk about the story. Judgment’s story is fantastic. It starts out pretty slow, but don’t let that turn you away. Once it gets going, it really gets intense and exciting.

Yagami is pretty different from Kiryu, but he’s a good protagonist. One thing I liked about him was that during the side cases, Yagami always had this look on his face like he couldn’t believe the absurd situations he gets mixed up in. The rest of the cast was great too, and the antagonists cover a wonderful range of sympathetic, realistic, and terrifying.

Click for major Judgment spoilers
Morita, for example, enabled awful things to happen… but when I heard the story of his past and what happened to his family, I felt bad for him. I understood why he was trying to protect AD-9.

One concern I had was that with how much build-up the story gave “the Mole” (the serial killer Yagami is hunting), I wasn’t sure he could live up to it. I’ve noticed that sometimes a story builds up such a sense of mystery and danger around a character that once they’re actually revealed, they aren’t as impressive anymore. That wasn’t the case here. He lived up to it. Judgment handled the whole thing beautifully.

Click for major Judgment spoilers
Every moment from his first actual introduction (as the Mole) is golden, from the way he calmly shoots the people around him while trying to kill Hamura, to the casual little smirk he gives Kaito and Higashi when they’re watching him from the van, to the final battle with him where you really see his fighting skills.

I found him frightening in a way I didn’t with the villains of Yakuza 0 or Kiwami.

Also, is it coincidence or sneaky foreshadowing that the very first time the game tells us about the Mole, it’s accompanied by a scene of Kuroiwa examining the victim? Either way, I like it.

Everything came together in a fantastic way, and the finale kept me engrossed until the very end. While I enjoyed Yakuza 0 more overall, I think I actually liked Judgment’s story more.

There are so many more things I could praise about the story and characters, but instead I’ll end by saying this: if you like the Yakuza series, detective games, or just a good story, you really should check out Judgment.

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  4 Responses to “Judgment: A Fantastic Story in a Fun World”

  1. […] want a sequel, even though I’m not sure a sequel’s story could top what they did here. Judgment is phenomenal, and it might have my favorite story of any game I’ve played this year. I loved the […]

  2. […] is an absolutely fantastic game, and I’m thrilled at the thought that we might be getting a sequel. True, I was hoping the […]

  3. […] I haven’t played Yakuza: Like a Dragon or Lost Judgment yet, so usually I wouldn’t promote them specifically like this, but my experiences with the series so far have left me confident in them. As for the first Judgment, I absolutely loved it, and you can check out my review here. […]

  4. […] imagine, given my love for Ace Attorney and Yakuza, this idea tremendously appealed to me, and I absolutely loved it. The truly spectacular Judgment sales have unfortunately passed with the end of the weekend, but […]

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