With intrigue, murder, batting practice, arcade games, and gang violence, Judgment is a lot of things. But at its core, it’s one of the most fun and compelling detective games ever made.
Judgment came out June 25, but flew in a little bit under the radar. The game was developed by the same team behind the Yakuza series, which has a cult following in the West but hasn’t gathered a huge audience. For the uninitiated, Judgment is a great starting point, but also stands alone as a fantastic game.
Whether you’re into a good mystery story, love beat-’em-ups, or enjoy goofy minigames, Judgment has a little something for everybody, and it’s all done really well.
A murder mystery
It all begins in an alley behind a bar in Kamurocho, Japan. For the third time, a yakuza member has been found dead with his eyes gouged out, and lawyer-turned-private-eye Takayuki Yagami is trying to get to the bottom of it.
A wild story unfolds involving multiple yakuza families, cops, lawyers, and a medical research hospital. As Yagami, players have to take to the streets of Kamurocho to figure out who killed these gang members, why they’re being killed, and what other shady things are going down.
Yagami gets down and dirty.
You quickly learn about Yagami’s past as a defense attorney who defended a guy named Shinpei Okubo who was being accused of murder. After getting Okubo off, it wasn’t long before Okubo was arrested again, this time being accused of stabbing his girlfriend Emi Terasawa and setting their apartment on fire.
Yagami felt responsible for Emi’s death and left his life as a lawyer behind. He still maintained his lawyer connections, though, and with his connections to the Matsugane yakuza family, he’s found steady work as a private detective.
Twists and turns keep the action and story moving forward as the cast of colorful characters develops and new key people get introduced. Through the entire game, you’ll chase people through the streets, tail suspects, gather evidence, fight endless amounts of goons, and try to get confessions out of people to unravel the mysteries of Kamurocho.
The main story of Judgment is great, but its litany of minigames and side missions can be just as fun.
Just like the Yakuza series, Judgment is packed with extra activities to do, because Yagami can’t spend his whole life pursuing leads and working the streets. He needs to relax, unwind, and have some fun.
Throughout Kamurocho, there are arcades full of games including the on-rails zombie shooter called Kamuro of the Dead, Virtua Fighter, Puyo Puyo, and little UFO catcher games where you can try to grab plushie prizes. There are the batting cages, mahjong, a secret casino with blackjack and poker, drone races, and more fun minigames to sink dozens of hours into.
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So many side cases
Along with minigames, Judgment is packed with side cases and missions that introduce you to new characters and give you unique options to make money.
There’s a wide variety of optional side stuff to do. Yagami can pick up legal cases where citizens ask for help with all kinds of problems, including helping them find out if their spouse is cheating and other dramatic squabbles.
There’s one side story that involves a mysterious person that’s been setting off bombs all over the city, which ends with a fight in a convenience store.
Dramatic showdowns are just par for the course.
Sometimes you meet characters like Ryan Acosta, an American who’s obsessed with becoming a ninja, that repeatedly challenges you to test his ninja skills.
Other cases are a little more serious, like the ones involving serial sexual harassers that you usually end up beating to a pulp.
Yes, his name is Professor Panty.
If you’re the type of person that likes developing relationships and establishing a little romance, there’s people you meet that will satisfy that need as well.
Throughout Judgment, players are introduced to so many great characters, most of them fully voice acted in both English and Japanese, depending on your preference.
There’s your ex-yakuza friend Masaharu Kaito, who is unbelievably strong and loyal and loves his flashy orange shirt. There are crooked cops, tenacious lawyers, and a handful of deadly yakuza, all of whom play key roles in the story.
Kaito is a great guy to have on your side.
But what really stands out about Judgment is the lead character, Yagami. Amidst all these strong, goofy, and dramatic characters, there’s this cool guy in a leather jacket that feels like he’s been ripped out of some over-the-top action movie.
The dichotomy between the weird, flashy world of Judgment and the serious, cool demeanor of Yagami is perfect.
Judgment is available on PlayStation 4.