When I heard Judgment was getting the remaster treatment, I was a bit surprised. The original global release was in the summer of 2019 and overall it was a beautifully designed game. Judgment was developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, best known for working on the Yakuza series. I’m sure many assumed that Judgment was in some way connected to the Yakuza series or maybe a spinoff of sorts, when in fact it’s a completely unique experience from the storytelling to the gameplay mechanic all taking place within the Yakuza universe.
In Judgment, you play as Takayuki Yagami (Tak), a defense attorney with an outstanding track record, especially when it comes to clearing individuals who appear 100% guilty. One such case flips Tak’s world upside down. The case involves a hospital worker named Shinpei Okubo. Okubo killed a patient and avoided conviction thanks to Tak. Unfortunately, Okubo would later kill his girlfriend and set her house on fire. Tak is grief-stricken and decides to retire from practicing law and in turn, become the most badass private detective you will ever play in any game.
Tak along with his partner Masaharu Kaito, a former Tojo clan member, open up a detective agency in Tokyo’s Kamurocho district. For those who’ve played a Yakuza game, this district should look very familiar. The narrow streets packed with pedestrians, neon light-covered buildings and bustling environment bring this game to life. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has nailed this design style so it should come as no surprise that it’s used once again as the backdrop for this dark detective story. The soundtrack incorporates a good amount of jazz tracks that focus heavily on horns. These tracks are reminiscent of classic 1940’s detective noir films with a modern flair.
When it comes to the gameplay, Judgment takes the brawling combat system we know & love from the Yakuza series and wraps it around a plethora of new gameplay elements. For example, Tak will need to dig for clues by interacting with random pedestrians in the area. Not all interactions will produce a result, but this process is streamlined in the sense that there are select people you can interact with. Once you’ve gathered enough information, the story progresses and the questioning/interrogation process begins. I’m avoiding story spoilers so I will just say you have a selection of questions and depending on which line of questioning you select can give you a boost in SP. There is no “wrong path” such as the questioning process in L.A. Noire.
With that said, you will be able to ask all available questions and progress the story no matter the questioning order. Honestly, I’m indifferent to this approach. On one hand, I like the fact that I know I’m progressing the story but on the other, I would have liked a little bit of a side step leading to a misdirect. Don’t get me wrong, the story has a good amount of twists and turns to keep you interested. I would have just preferred a more diverse approach in regards to the interrogations. There are a few more of these new elements such as matching a face sketch with someone on the street or presenting a series of phone images to prove someone’s involvement or incorporating a modern tool like a drone to do some recon. These are all great fun but offer little challenge since there really is no path to failure.
Kamurocho is not just beautiful but also engaging. There are plenty of mini-games and side activities to keep you immersed, especially if you feel like taking a break from the main story. Club Sega, Yoshida Batting Center, and Mahjong just to name a few are available to you at any time and can easily be spotted on the map. Another great way to pass time is to just beat the crap out of random thugs. As you travel from place to place, you will have encounters with one or multiple enemies. The more beatings you dish out, the faster you will earn SP to unlock new moves. Tak can also use nearby items as weapons such as street signs, baseball bats, bicycles, etc.
Another cool feature is the instant finisher. After putting a hurting on a foe, you may see a (Y) button prompt appear. Pressing this will display a cool cinematic attack. There are a bunch of these depending on the situation and enemy placement. If you take too much damage your health bar will deplete and it’s game over. You load up at your last checkpoint save but I recommend manually saving often, especially if you’ve been rumbling in the streets and unlocking new moves. I also recommend after big brawls heading into any one of the many shops to pick up on items to replenish your health. You earn in-game currency from your defeated enemies along with other items. I would have been thrilled to see an animation of Tak emptying out their pockets and maybe dishing out a snarky remark like “I’ll take this as payment for wasting my time sucka!!!!“.
As you can see, Judgment serves up a good amount of content but the real question is what’s included in this remaster. I would have to say the offerings are a bit slim on the additional content side which is a few goodies for your office, drone components, and health items. The meat & potatoes are in the performance boost which includes a steady 60 FPS and faster load times. Judgment remastered is priced at $39.99 which is on the lower end when compared to other “next-gen” releases. The unfortunate part is if you already own the PS4 version, then there is no discount for this upgrade. So if you passed on the PS4 release, then $39.99 is a deal. However, if you already own the PS4 version which can play perfectly fine on your PS5, then I would say hold off until the sequel.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Judgment Remastered for PlayStation 5 provided by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and SEGA of America, Inc.