I love the games from Team Yakuza, so even the earliest announcements about this game had me excited – and the more information came out, the better it looked. A new take on the same style of game and even taking place in the same location, adding a cool vibe of “I know other stuff is going on here too that isn’t relevant to this story at all, but it’s happening too” giving the town and world a bit more depth than usual. This review is very late, but I did play this at launch – then I got too lazy to finish writing this for months, just like I got too tired of the game to finish playing it!
Judgment was definitely one of those times where it was a bit mixed in terms of how I felt about it up until I hit the point where I just hated playing it and it felt like a chore which lead to me just outright dropping it after tens of hours being put into it. I love a lot about the game, but there is so much to be desired and a lot of the issues in the game and lacking things make it so hard to tolerate. My biggest complaints are a few things that seem nitpicky but really get grating pretty quickly, huge issues with side content (which is a big part of these games), and then the main story itself as probably the most important negative of all.
Any time someone helps you in a fight aside story characters – especially the weeb ninja who appears almost 100% of fights outside of the story – as well as buy anything, you’re basically given control and then immediately it is taken away again just so the camera can look in their direction and they can say the same identical one line every single time. It’s a “small” thing, but having control taken from me REALLY fucking bothers me in games when it’s like that and not some cutscene or something but where it’s just suddenly actually nevermind you don’t get control you’re stuck here another 15 seconds waiting for this stupid shit to happen 100% of fights or shopping. It is absolutely obnoxious.
The side quests are extremely wanting. You chase a guy’s hair 4 or 5 times with the chase mode. You tail a person for no reason because they have no idea who you are, how you look, nor have any reason to suspect someone is following them and you do so for 15 minutes never getting caught or facing any danger of it but being very fucking bored. You fight a pervert, then you fight another pervert in the same way, then you do it a third time – then, get this, you do it to more new ones that appear after you defeat the first three that were stalking this girl. You chase someone. You chase someone again. You chase the hair again. You fight a pervert again. You solve a number puzzle for a book publisher. You solve another number for the same book publisher. You solve yet another number for the same book publisher. You tail someone for 30 minutes.
And aside the side missions there is basically nothing to do – as with Kiwami and 0 they’ve removed almost 100% of any fun side content killing what was one of the biggest draws to the Yakuza games. To make it worse, they tease you with some bits from the old hostess club running game. You get to put a character together to be a hostess for one story mission and finally it was some glimmer of hope that this will open up a new minigame…and no, that’s it. You do it like two times for a 10 second story sequence.
The story is…well, some of it is really good, but at the same time it continually manages to forget what it’s doing and goes off on really stupid side-story tier shenanigans out of nowhere during important stuff – in fact that is what most of the ‘story missions’ end up being. For example, for no reason at all during the latter portion of the game while you’re finally pulling apart this crazy mystery and shit is getting a little off the rails, suddenly Kaito is babysitting a kid as CAPTAIN COP and you’re helping the father save him from Yakuza who wanted his winning lottery ticket and, haha, epic get this epic epic thing its so epic, Kaito has to do the Captain Cop pose at the end of this story. HA! EPIC! This story that has no fucking relevance to anything. This story that should have been a side job like many others and is something that WOULD be a side thing in Yakuza, yet was forced in AS STORY CONTENT to beef up main story playtime. Unlike even other similarly stupid shit this time it has absolutely NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING AT ALL and is just a joke thrown in WHILE YOU JUST FOUND OUT A LONG TIME ACQUAINTANCE WAS MURDERED AND YOU ARE WANTED AS A SUSPECT IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO IT.
It feels so strange throughout – like they forgot it isn’t Yakuza so they made it too much like Yakuza, and it’s worse because it isn’t like real Yakuza, it’s like fucking Yakuza 0 and the mediocre Kiwami games if they had somehow made Majima even more of a fucking retarded obnoxious “joke” character after ruining his entire character from the original games. While at other times it is the most serious shit imaginable and you end up spending half an hour being told what Alzheimers disease is, that isn’t even a joke, this really happens multiple times. They will stop everything and spend 30-60 minutes describing the intricacies of a mental illness old people deal with MULTIPLE TIMES. The entire story is so fucking boring once you get to the actual deep parts of it because they continually sit around talking about dementia and alzheimers in depth like it’s some fucking medical seminar. Then you jump from that to CHASE MY HAIR!!!! FOR THE FOURTH TIME!!!! FUN!
Really, that’s my issue with the game in a nutshell; it feels like the most retarded and simplistic bullshit mixed with the errors of Kiwami/0, a joke game that doesn’t do very good with its humor, pacing, or tone because it’s trying to be whacky during a serious story and instead just feels fucking stupid most of the time and a game that lacks any worthwhile story to begin with.
And then after chasing hair for the 5th time and standing behind a sign for the 30th, they end the whole game with “uh the drug made peoples eyes blue!” as the big reveal for the entire serial killer stuff and his signature eye poking out and the rest of the story ends on the most unimaginative unoriginal note possible while you get told about dementia for the 80th time, but really everything you thought from the first second of the game is correct and there was never any actual mystery even though the game thought there was. The big medical corporation is evil, the rich guy in the wheelchair is evil, the cop who the moment he shows up in the game is super obviously a bad guy is evil, the yakuza who is an asshole is evil.
It goes beyond that too though with the boring ass dementia talks that constantly go on for ages as if you’re in medical school and it doesn’t even fucking matter all you need to know is “dementia is bad and this drug is supposed to fix it” but, no, the game shoves you through constant discussions and explanations of what it is. It is seriously by far the most boring shit they could possibly fucking put in any video game. Past even that though is another issue with the story; the characters just kind of don’t matter. I liked the starting cast from the very early beginnings, but later the story ends up with you supposedly caring so much about a dirty cop you met one single time that the whole story pivots to trying to save him from getting in trouble at any risk necessary and tries to pretend he is someone you the player and the MC truly care about.
another issue i had with this game is that the cutscenes are just cutscenes – and many big fights happen in them with no interaction from the player. One of the most awesome things about Yakuza games is, as hard as it is to believe, the really awesome QTEs that make you feel like you’re doing cool shit. The franchise perfected QTEs and is one of the only places they aren’t obnoxious. Here? The cool shit is just done for you. The same applies to the mid-fight QTEs that used to be common in boss fights, you get just 1 typically at most and it’s something kinda lame.
Judgment starts out fantastic but then turns into something that no longer feels like a “real” video game and instead seems to become some sort of tie-in to a Public Service Announcement about Alzheimers and Dementia that just has bare minimum content to make kids interested enough so that they’ll play and learn about what old people go through and be kind to boomers.