One of my favorite games from 2019 is now available on newer platforms with the remaster of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s Judgment. Back when I reviewed the original, I found it to be a perfect blend of Yakuza style action, Ace Attorney courtroom hijinks and L.A. Noire’s investigations. It’s still very much that same concept, but with the Judgment remaster, it now comes with a host of improvements. It also comes at a budget conscientious price at $39.99, making it one of the lower cost next-gen games you’ll find at retail. If you haven’t had a chance to check out this Yakuza spin-off, now is the perfect time.
Judgment tells the story of Takayuki Yagami, an ex-defense attorney that becomes a detective after one of his old cases comes back to haunt him. Murders are happening in the colorful town of Kamurocho, and Yagami takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of them. He’ll work with many allies, including ex-yakuza Masuharu Kaito, law office Director Ryuzo Genda, attorney Saori Shirosaki, and more. Of course, he’ll also be dealing with the Tojo Clan’s Matsugane family and others getting in the way of a deeper conspiracy. Full of plenty of twists and turns, Judgment keeps the story engaging while also maintaining a great sense of humor.
In classic Yakuza fashion, things go from serious to ridiculous real fast in Judgment. One moment, you’ll be investigating a body with its eyes gouged out, the next, you’ll be looking for cats. You’ll also be piloting drones, picking locks, playing arcade games, and catching cheating spouses in the act. You get the idea. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio masterfully balances these elements to make Kamurocho eventful while also telling their story. When you get to the actual investigations, things slow down and encourage focusing on key dialogue and evidence. A lot of the game involves paying close attention, and there’s no log to reference the previous dialogue with.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Yakuza series game without fighting random street thugs, gang members and even crazy perverts. Combat puts Yagami against multiple assailants in a no-rules street fight where you’ll have to win by any means necessary. With two stances to fight in, Crane style and Tiger style, players will have to adapt to their situation. Crane style makes for wide ranging attacks to take on multiple enemies while Tiger style focuses on single foes. On top of that, you’ll have plenty of objects to utilize in the fight, from traffic cones to street signs, and even dropped weapons from your enemies.
What makes the combat more interesting is the EX actions that Yagami can perform, which are essentially cinematic attacks. A lot of times they’ll involve the various objects and weapons you can pick up. Others will be based on your surroundings or circumstances like wall jumps, being drunk, or even if a car drives by. There are dozens of EX actions to utilize, and they can go from incredibly cool to hilarious. Even after spending nearly 80 hours in the original release of Judgment, I’m still discovering EX actions in the remaster. As you fight and do other activities in Kamurocho, you’ll earn SP to unlock even more skills and abilities. Players will even have to discover some of the skills by using the Quickstarter app that unlocks partially through the game.
When Judgment released in 2019, it was the first Yakuza game since the original to feature an English voice cast. This would start a pattern with the series that carried over to the excellent Yakuza: Like a Dragon. It’s a trend we can definitely get behind, as the English voice cast does fantastic in both games. Greg Chun’s performance as Yagami is a definite standout, and it likely led to him being cast as Like a Dragon’s Yu Nanba. but the cast has several solid actors. For the purists, the Japanese voices are also fantastic, giving players the choice to enjoy whichever they wish.
The game presents itself in an episodic manner, each chapter beginning with a “previously on” segment. This helps to give the game a similar tone to a crime drama television show. It also helps that the music is very good at conveying the visuals on screen. From the energetic street fight bass lines to the piano cues of revelations in the story. The music seamlessly transitions from scene to scene and delivers every step of the way. If you listen closely, you’ll even hear some classic Yakuza songs.
With the Judgment remaster, some of my biggest issues with the original game do get addressed. First of all, the load times are significantly improved thanks to the new storage drives. What used to be frequent pacing issues are now irrelevant and no longer an issue. Another minor issue I had in the original was the delay for pausing. There’s still a slight delay, but it moves much faster than the original thanks to the improved performance. Thanks to the power of the next-gen consoles, Judgment now runs at a pretty consistent and smooth 60fps. It does also get a resolution boost, though not at a native 4K, instead opting for 1440p. That isn’t to say there are no technical issues, but nothing that really hurts the experience.
Aside from the resolution and performance, the overall look of Judgment does get some changes. The color grading is more natural now, giving more realistic skin tones, better shadows and lighting, and even a different tone. With the original game, the tone was much warmer, but the remaster has a much cooler color tone to it. While it might not push the next-gen consoles to their limit, it does make the game look much better overall. Moving away from the visuals, the Judgment remaster also comes with all the DLC in one package. This includes some item packs, office decorations and even special outfits for Yagami’s potential girlfriends.
When it comes down to it, this is easily the best way to experience what was already an amazing game. Judgment has never looked or played better, and I’m so glad it got the upgrade it deserves. The combat is engaging, the side missions make for fun distractions, and the story is incredibly gripping. With an always bustling Kamurocho and fantastic characters, it’s a great game to check out for the first time. If you were a fan before and want to give a more definitive experience a try, it’s well worth double dipping. There’s no better way to experience Yagami’s tale, and hopefully this helps to lead to a sequel. Judgment Day is coming is this Friday, so hopefully we get some good news!
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