Console-exclusive for the past few years, the Judgment series from the studio behind the Yakuza franchise has finally made its way to PC via Steam after resolving some licensing issues. We reviewed the first Judgment game when it launched on the PS4 but the The Judgment Collection on Steam includes the whole series - Judgment, Lost Judgment, Lost Judgment - The Kaito Files Story Expansion - in one bundle.
As a refresher, Judgment takes place in Kamurocho, the fictional district of Tokyo, while Lost Judgment’s locations include Isezaki Ijincho, Yokohama; places not unfamiliar to those who’ve played the Yakuza series. While those series share similar locations and the same development studio, the story and main cast is a new one. We first get acquainted with series protagonist Takayuki (Tak) Yagami and his partner Masaharu Kaito in Judgment. Tak is a disgraced lawyer turned detective taking on the odd jobs until he gets involved in a case of gruesome serial murders that hides a bloody twist linking the events.
We are reunited with Tak and Kaito in Lost Judgment as they pursue their detective career. While still taking the odd jobs such as tailing a conman of a boyfriend, the duo ends up taking a large-scale case involving the horrific bullying of high schoolers.
As for the The Kaito Files Story Expansion, as the title suggests, this DLC focuses on Kaito instead of Tak. The latter being out of town, Kaito takes on a new case to crack that inadvertently links with his own past.
Each of these titles bear a plot that has become characteristic of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. They revolve around the gritty, dark underground crime network of Japan that somehow masterfully blends with humoristic scenes. You’ll chase and fight criminals but also chase an underwear theif or join a dance club. The games are wacky and serious at the same time; adjectives that have been synonymous with the Yakuza series and they translate well to the Judgment franchise.
Like the Yakuza games, the Judgment ones also heavily focus on the combat, meaning you’ll often have to beat the confession out of a lead if that’s what it takes. You’ll get to choose between fighting styles and upgrade your skills over time.
More unique to the Judgment series is that they introduce new and welcome stealth and exploration mechanics to the gameplay. You’ll get to tail suspects, identify clues and snap pictures, perform QTEs, distract enemies and, in Lost Judgment, perform parkour. This gives a more diverse aspect to the gameplay, with more of a balance between action and adventure than what has traditionally been the case in the Yakuza games and it feels right at home in Judgment.
There is a learning curve to the mechanics but you’ll easily get used to them with time. What I found to help ease the gameplay are the over-the-top performances of certain actions. QTEs will have you literally jump over pedestrians head while combats include dramatic finishers using environmental elements such as bicycles.
As PC ports, the Judgment games perform well, even on a handheld like the AYANEO NEXT. No stutters or performance issues in sight and it’s a delight to bring these titles on-the-go. Being PC versions also means that they come with extra goodies in the form of tweaking the settings to your liking to match your rig. You’ll get the whole host of expected features such as the ability to adjust graphics quality and set the FPS limit, as well as advanced tuning such as texture filtering, shadow quality, motion blur, real time reflection and more.
Currently, the Judgment Collection goes for £83.57 on Steam, while individually, the titles Judgment, Lost Judgment and The Kaito Files retail for £34.99, £49.99 and £24.99, respectively. Not exactly cheap, especially given that they were previously released on PlayStation systems where you could find them for cheaper. But if you’ve been on the fence regarding Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s games, the Judgment series is a good place to start. They are shorter, at around 25h (7-ish for the DLC) and feel more focused story than the 30h+ of Yakuza games. It’s also an easy recommendation for fans of the Yakuza titles looking for something new to play. The setting, tone and gameplay feel like that of Yakuza games but include welcome additions and new characters to make the experience feel new.