Judgment (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Albert Lichi 06.12.2022

Review for Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

With Kazuma Kiryu's journey concluding with Yakuza 6: Song of Life, what was left for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio to follow up on? Throughout the eighth console gen, the venerable developer under SEGA would revitalize the Yakuza franchise with remasters and remakes of prior games when the sixth numbered entry made waves in 2016. During that time, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio was planning its next phase for Kamurocho and the new adventures that would take place within its seedy underbelly. While Yakuza: Like A Dragon would drop the numbering conventions, and abandon the brawler style action in favour for JRPG-style turn-based combat, Judgement (or Judge Eyes) would continue the style of action that Kiryu's games were known for. In 2018, Takayuki Yagami's quest to catch "the mole," was a hit. A sequel got greenlit and fans of classic Yakuza-style combat wouldn't fret of losing the action they crave. Since 2018, a new console generation took off, and now that Judgement is a franchise, how well does the remaster stack up on Xbox Series S?

Yakuza may have reinvented itself as an impeccable turn-based JRPG, but Judgement is where it is at for good old fashion beatdowns with thugs and mobsters. Takayuki Yagami is a lot like Kazuma Kiryu, but with some notable differences. While he will be getting into many scrapes with all kinds of creeps and criminals, Yagami will find himself doing a fair bit of sleuthing, as well and also operating as an attorney in some moments. He used to be an up and coming lawyer, but after he defends a psycho-killer and proves him innocent, the killer murders Yagami's in a bit of poetic irony. Torn by the guilt, Yagami quits the lawyer racket and re-establishes himself as a private eye.

The story begins with a series of murdered yakuza, all of whom have had their eyes removed. Yagami will have to not only solve the mystery of who is committing the savage killings, but will also be tasked with maintaining justice within the legal system. Competing with smarmy lawyers and questioning witnesses become battles of the wits; pushing players to not just be a demon on the streets, but at the stand too. As the story unfolds, all the hallmarks of what has defined Kamurocho throughout Yakuza take shape; dirty cops, corrupt politicians, serial gropers and more.

Screenshot for Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

Judgement is not just Yakuza with a detective story. Yagami does have a very distinct modus operandi from Kiryu. Being a private eye means having a less direct approach because sometimes fists (at first) won't solve a mystery. Yagami will often have to search around in first-person for clues at crime scenes. Other times he will have to do an Assassin's Creed-style tailing mini-game. Identifying persons of interest from eye-witness accounts or a sketch is the kind of detective work that would be expected in a hard-boiled murder mystery. There is always the questioning, and making dialogue choices that have been a part of the Kamurocho-verse, but Judgement incentivises making the correct choices at the right time with skill point bonuses.

Judgement is an off-shoot of Yakuza, and that means some RPG character building. Throughout the experience, Yagami will earn SP for various actions. Some activities will net a small amount, like fighting grunts in the streets or huge sums from completing side-cases or increasing his friendship with specific NPCs. The opinion of the people of Kamurocho is ranked, and it is worth helping the people out because that is how Yagami can get new side-cases. While the main story is often dramatic, and filled with overtones of intense personal danger, the optional content is where the laughs lie. Kamurocho is a wild and weird city, full of weirdos and perverts, thus it is always interesting to see what comes next.

The English voice acting for Judgement is very strong. While it is usually best to experience Kamurocho's stories in its native Japanese for the full experience, the effort put into the localization is incredible. Greg Chun sounds exactly like an English counterpart to Takuya Kimura, and manages to capture his deadpan snark and dramatic sincerity. The only problem with the character of Takayuki Yagami, is the actor he is modelled after, and how old he is. Yagami's age is never made clear, but the story suggests he is fairly young if he was a promising attorney at the start of the story. Kimura is a middle-aged Japanese actor, and the boys at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio copied his likeness one to one. This is a miscalculation, and the resulting effect makes Yagami look ridiculous as he acts and dresses like a guy in his late 20s to early 30s. It is made even more embarrassing in combat as he does kung-fu. Kiryu was basically a grandpa, but he was not based on anyone, and the artists always made him look tough as he got older. Kimura looks like an old guy trying to look young and hip.

Screenshot for Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

While the combat itself is enjoyable, it is perplexing that Yagami is a guy who gets into so many street fights and has moves like Jackie Chan. The protagonist is a lawyer and his martial arts are apparently something he learned as a child. It feels arbitrary because this is a game set in the Yakuza universe, and the main character has to be able to get into fights in some capacity. It would have been so much more interesting if Judgement came up with a more creative approach to battling that did not involve throwing punches or doing the same kinds of moves Kiryu was doing to punks for years. Maybe gamers would have found Judgement too boring if Yagami only did detective stuff and didn't beat guys up. It is mildly disappointing that this had to be so similar to Yakuza.

Maybe all the mystery solving, fighting and interrogating gets a bit exhausting; Judgement always aims to please with SEGA's arcades providing some classics. Space Harrier and Fantasy Zone are staples of Kamurocho arcades, like always, but Judgement also has Virtua Fighter V: Showdown and Fighting Vipers. Most impressively, Kamuro of the Dead; a House of the Dead-inspired rail-shooter that recycles the monsters and environments from the perplexing Yakuza: Dead Souls.

Screenshot for Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

Judgement is generous with all the side activities to be had. There is a casino with blackjack and poker. An entire flying drone league to compete in, complete with customization options is fully fleshed out. The developers also stuffed in a surreal VR board game. Mainstays like the batting cages and darts are always appreciated, but no matter what, nobody ever plays any of the endless varieties of Shogi or Mahjong that always manage to find their way into Kamurocho.

Being the latest brawler built on the Dragon Engine shows the full extent of what Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio can do when putting the latest consoles to task. Back on the PlayStation 4, Judgement was a looker and was already the most refined entry in the Kamurocho-verse. This was a game with a ton of particle effects, real-time physics applied to many objects, and it was not uncommon for many thugs and goons to swarm Detective Yagami in some instances. For a PlayStation 4 title, it held up a mostly stable 30 frames per second and it still maintained high image quality throughout.

On Xbox Series S, Judgement's remastering pans out almost flawlessly. The combat was already refined as much as it could, but the boost to the frame rate really makes it shine brightly. The entirety of the effects during fights never slow down the action or make the animation look choppy. Combat feels more responsive than it ever was on PlayStation 4, and make the cut-scenes look so much more fluid. The lighting was also revamped; making the visuals look very natural and more realistic than before. Shadow quality is sharp and crisp, adding a great deal of depth to each scene.

Screenshot for Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Judgement is by far one of the better entries in the Yakuza franchise. It is a gritty detective story, with a killer in it that is legitimately scary, thanks to the performances. The Dragon Engine getting a boost from the new generation of consoles shows how Judgement was meant to be played, with extremely short load times and buttery smooth 60 frames per second that is unwavering. Judgement may be second to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, but being second to the best is a great place to be.

Developer

Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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