Judgment (video game)

Judgment[a] is an action-adventure video game developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega for the PlayStation 4. A spin off to the Yakuza series, the game initially began development in 2015 under the codename Project Judge. It was released on December 13, 2018 in Japan, and on June 25, 2019 worldwide. The game follows lawyer-turned-detective Takayuki Yagami as he and his allies explore a case involving dead bodies whose eyes were removed. The player controls Yagami in the fictional Tokyo district of Kamurocho, where he fights thugs and yakuza while carrying out side missions which involving chasing, stealth and searching for clues.

Judgment
Judgmentcover.jpg
North American cover art
Developer(s)Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publisher(s)Sega
Director(s)Koji Yoshida
Producer(s)
  • Kazuki Hosokawa
  • Daisuke Sato
  • Mitsuhiro Shimano
Designer(s)Masao Shirosaki
Programmer(s)Yutaka Ito
Artist(s)Naoki Someya
Writer(s)
Composer(s)
SeriesYakuza
Platform(s)PlayStation 4
Release
  • JP: December 13, 2018
  • WW: June 25, 2019
Genre(s)Action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player

The game was written by Toshihiro Nagoshi who wanted to write a new type of story which contrasted the team's work in Yakuza with a detective case. As a result, the game was created to be accessible to detective-game newcomers. Singer and actor Takuya Kimura was cast to play Yagami both in facial features and Japanese voice acting. Due to popular demand, the game was given an English voice-acting option; a number of languages were placed to attract more gamers. Alexandros performed two songs in the game.

Judgment was withdrawn from the Japanese market in March 2019 after the arrest of Pierre Taki, one of the game's actors. During the process of localizing Judgment for international markets, Taki's likeness was removed and his vocal performance replaced. The game received a generally positive response from critics, with many praising the game's plot and side content but criticizing the simplicity of its investigation mechanics. Judgment has been a commercial success while also being recognized as one of the best video games released in 2019 through awards. The success has led to the possibility of Ryu ga Gotoku Studio considering a sequel.

GameplayEdit

 
One of the game's "tailing" sections, with Yagami (left) following a suspect

Judgment is an action-adventure game with a third-person perspective. The game follows private detective Takayuki Yagami (Takuya Kimura[1][2], Greg Chun) as he investigates a serial-murder case in Kamurocho, a fictional district of Tokyo, Japan previously featured in the Yakuza franchise. When asked about similarities between Judgment and other Yakuza titles, series creator Toshihiro Nagoshi said that "the location and assets might be the same, but the gameplay and story here are drastically different".[3] While like in the Yakuza games Yagami can buy healing items in real life based stores to restore his health, he can suffer a major wound due to an enemy weapon like a sword. As a result, Yagami's maximum health is decreased and meals cannot restore the maximum health. The player can meet a doctor who treats people in secret who can either treat Yagami to erase the major damage or sell an item that will heal him these wounds.[4]

Judgment features a similar combat system to that of Yakuza 0, where players can change between two different fighting styles at will: crane-style, focused on fighting groups of enemies, and tiger-style, which is focused on fighting individuals. Yagami also incorporates parkour elements, such as wall-running and leapfrogging, in his fighting style.[5] Similar to the previous games, Yagami can enter into a "Rage" form where he becomes stronger in battle. Should he be aided by Masaharu Kaito, both characters can perform team up Heat combos. By accomplishing sidequests or doing achievements in the main narrative, the player is rewarded with point that can enhance Yagami's skills and well as teach him new techniques.[6]

The game also features an investigation mode, where the player must search a scene for clues and evidence of a crime.[2] Players must infiltrate areas with lock picking and disguises to gather information or find objects of interest. The game also has sections where the player must pursue a suspect. These take the form of tailing sequences, where players must follow a suspect while avoiding being seen, and chase sequences, where players must avoid oncoming obstacles while running to catch a fleeing suspect.[7][8]

 
Real shops are used in the game to furnish items.

Yagami can take on a number of "side cases" in addition to the main storyline, similar to the "substories" in other Yakuza games. He can pick up side cases by looking at the noticeboard in his office, asking at Genda Law Office or Bar Tender, or by walking the streets of Kamurocho. Certain meetings trigger an "Friendship" level that can evolve across the game by interacting with them. While some of these require finishing sidequests, scenarios inspired by dating sims games can also be found.[9] Like other Yakuza titles, the player can find minigames and side activities scattered around Kamurocho, which include drone racing, a virtual reality board game, and fully playable versions of Space Harrier, Fantasy Zone, Fighting Vipers, Motor Raid, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, and Puyo Puyo.[10]

PlotEdit

In 2015, attorney Takayuki Yagami investigates the Advanced Drug Development Center (ADDC) for the death of patient Koichi Waku, successfully clearing accused worker Shinpei Okubo of the murder charge. However, Okubo is arrested shortly thereafter for allegedly murdering his girlfriend. Guilt-ridden, Yagami resigns from his law firm.[11]

Three years later, Yagami has become a private detective in Tokyo's Kamurocho district and accepts investigation requests with his partner, ex-Tojo clan member Masaharu Kaito. A serial killer has recently been murdering yakuza members in Kamurocho and removing their eyes. Yagami accepts a murder case concerning Matsugane clan captain Kyohei Hamura, who is suspected of killing a Kyorei clan member using the same methods. Yagami investigates, and proves Hamura's innocence, though He suspects that Hamura is working with the killer, whom Yagami dubs the Mole. Yagami investigates a brothel where one of the victims was last seen and encounters Hamura, who orders him to stop investigating the Mole.

Yagami returns to his office to find that the Mole has killed Masamichi Shintani, his former colleague and teacher. Yagami finds a recent call on Shintani's phone for Dr. Yoji Shono of the ADDC. He questions ADDC director Ryusuke Kido about Shintani's phone call, to no avail. After further investigation, Yagami meets construction mogul Shigeru Kajihira at a Kyorei clan hideout. Kajihira reveals a failed plan to seize land around the ADDC for redevelopment which was foiled when researchers claimed to have discovered AD-9, a potential cure for Alzheimer's disease. Kajihira asks Yagami to investigate the death of former ADDC vice-director Toru Hashiki.

Yagami is brought to the public prosecutor's office for interrogation, and is informed that Kazuya Ayabe, a crooked cop who was Yagami's informant, has been arrested on suspicion of being the Mole; Yagami, however, is unconvinced. He and Kaito find Hamura hiding out in an underground illegal gambling den and question him about his connection to the Mole and other possible suspects. Yagami concludes that Dr. Shono may be organizing the murders before Hamura is rescued by Matsugane clan members. He theorizes that the Mole's killings are actually human experiments to test the effectiveness of AD-9, and Waku, Hashiki and Shintani's deaths were failed experiments. Yagami also theorizes that Okubo did not kill his girlfriend; she was killed by Dr. Shono to cover up the experiments.[12]

Kaito is taken hostage by Hamura, forcing Yagami to storm a Matsugane hideout. Yagami finds Hamura and Kaito, defeating and capturing Hamura with the help of Mitsugu Matsugane. Yagami and Matsugane transport Hamura to a Kyorei clan hideout and interrogate him, learning that Hamura worked as a human trafficker for the ADDC and helped frame Ayabe for Shintani's murder. The Mole appears and shoots at Hamura, but Matsugane shields him and is killed. Hamura reveals that the Mole is Mitsuru Kuroiwa, a detective in the Metropolitan Organized Crime division, and gives Yagami definitive evidence that the ADDC participated in Shintani's murder.[13]

During Ayabe's trial, Japanese Vice-minister of Health Kaoru Ichinose covertly arranges a hit on Kuroiwa. Kuroiwa kills his assailants and storms the ADDC. Yagami finds Kuroiwa taking Shono hostage, intending to force him to finish developing AD-9. Yagami defeats Kuroiwa and the police surround them, killing Kuroiwa when he tries to kill Shono. Shono injects himself with a new version of AD-9 and dies from its side effects after his eyes turn blue. Dr. Kido confirms Shono's human experiments at Ayabe's trial, and the blue-eye sign was why Shono had their eyes removed. The court acquits Ayabe; chief prosecutor Kunihiko Morita and Ichinose are imprisoned for their involvement, Kajihira is placed under investigation. Okubo is freed after three years on death row, and Yagami and Kaito decide to resume being ordinary private detectives.[14]

DevelopmentEdit

 
Writer and executive director Toshihiro Nagoshi

Judgment began development in 2015. It was first hinted at in a Sega live stream by series director Toshihiro Nagoshi, who called it "something completely different".[15] Since the game Yakuza 6: The Song of Life concluded the story of Yakuza series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio game developers wanted to create a distinctive character the story. At the behest of producer Kazuki Hosokawa, the team decided the character should be a detective. In order to generate a major contrast the leads, the staff wanted to Yagami as a more relatable character based on the troubles he suffers in the narrative that caused his quit from being a lawyer. Yagami's past and his new life as a detective were elaborated in order to attract players to him. Due to the popularity of detective stories, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio wrote Yagami as a man who would become more knowledgeable across the game alongside the player.[16] The biggest influence was a movie starring Paul Newman who suffered a crisis similar to Yagami's in regards to his career as a lawyer.[17]

Early in Judgment's production, the Sega staff considered using a star to develop Yagami and chose Takuya Kimura. Nagoshi remembers being surprised and thrilled when Kimura was selected (because of the number of plot twists they could use with him), but also concerned about fans considering the game lighthearted with the stylish Kimura compared with the team's previous work. A number of elements of the character were produced with Kimura's approval.[18] Since detective dramas are not well known in gaming, Hosokawa wanted Yagami to stand out in the game and creating the new character was a challenge. For a protagonist to properly succeeded Kiryu, the developer wanted Yagami "more grounded to fit the noir vibe". According to Nagoshi, "when you're writing a story and there's a really solid character that's been around for a long time, the character dictates what happens next ... In contrast to that, with Yagami, at the start of development we didn't really have anything attached to him at all. It was a challenge, but also an opportunity for a development team that has been working so long on the same series."[19] The team was inspired by realistic detectives in portraying Yagami's life and work.[20] The plot originally focused on romance, which was eliminated because Nagoshi thought it would affect the game's courtroom-thriller feel.[21]

In order to fit the scenario, multiple actors were chosen based on their experience. Akira Nakao plays lawyer Takashi Genda who originally looked after Yagami during the time he was not a detective. Similarly, Shosuke Tanihara was cast for detective Mitsuru Kuroiwa as due to his strong visual appearance in order to make impressive scenes when he and Kimura appear together. Pierre Taki was also cast for he being used to portraying famous criminals with Kyohei Hamura being his character. On the other hand, while Yagami is linked with multiple female characters, none of them were created as a love interest, as the staff avoided using romance in the narrative.[22]

Nagoshi, who conceived of the game several years before its release, worked hard to release it as quickly as possible.[20] It was scheduled to be on Japanese store shelves in December, with a planned Western release in 2019. Hosokawa and Nagoshi refrained from calling Judgment as a spin-off from Yakuza, despite its development by the same team, because of its different narrative.[23] Before the game's Japanese release, Sega released a demo of Judge Eyes on the Japanese PlayStation Network.[24][19] Judgment was announced under the Japanese title of Judge Eyes on September 10, 2018 on the PlayStation Lineup Tour, shortly before the 2018 Tokyo Game Show.[25] The announcement was made to market the game for the holidays in Japan; it had finished production, and the team was busy debugging it.[20]

The game uses the Dragon engine to produce graphics similar to Yakuza 6. The team enhanced the engine to improve character design, changing the game's lighting to emphasize its theme of "legal suspense".[20][26] The staff decided to explore the fictional city of Kamurocho (from Yakuza), with a different approach. Real-world shops, such as Don Quijote, were also used (similar to Yakuza) to impart realism. Nagoshi said that he enjoyed the finished product.[18] A "friendship system" was developed to solidify Yagami's characterization as he forms bonds with a number of non-playable characters and develops how the character fits into the setting. His traits are balanced in the main story and the sidequests for fans who wanted a balance between seriousness and comedy; the former is explored in the main story, and the latter is featured in sidequests.[27] According to Nagoshi, the primary influences on the detective character were Korean films.[28]

Although Hosokawa wanted to provide gamers with as much content as Yakuza 0 (30–35 hours to finish the main story and over 100 hours to complete all of Yagami's cases and friendships), he said that the team refrained from using returning characters from the Yakuza series. Since Yagami is a lawyer, they wanted to give players the option of emulating his actions by choosing his thoughts. Some segments involving friendship were made to emulate dating sims.[9] According to Nagoshi, it was tricky to decide how expansive or difficult the detective work should be. The game was made to be accessible to the casual player, but also challenging. The detective story was also challenging, since the cast had to follow the Mole case.[29] Action segments were made for more-skilled gamers, making them carefully plan the abilities to give Yagami.[20]

MusicEdit

 
Japanese band Alexandros did the two main themes for Judgment

The game uses two theme songs by the Japanese band Alexandros: "Arppegio" and "Your Song".[30] The band did the themes for Judgment alongside the one from the Bleach liveaction film in the United States. They sent their work to Japan in a video and received positive response.[31] Nagoshi showed the band a demo of the game (which enabled them to write a song quickly),[32] The studio spent considerable time choosing the right band for the songs.[20] "Arpeggio" was made on the rooftop of the Brooklyn studio. Member Yohei took a liking to an it that another happened to be playing on my guitar, so they took a break during our recording session and wrote that song on acoustic guitars up on the roof.[33] A game demo became available in August 2019 for English-speaking regions.[34] A three-CD soundtrack was released in Japan on April 15, 2019.[35]

LocalizationEdit

The idea of giving Judgment an English dub was following the release of Yakuza 0. Since Kiryu's games were always released in Japanese language, Sega thought it might be unsuitable to give the cast of Yakuza 6: Song of Life and English dub. As a result, Sega believed that starting a dub with Judgment might be more fitting, searching the possibilities of attracting newcomers.[36] Sega announced that for the first time, the franchise would receive an English dub; other languages would also be provided.[37] The company's rationale for the dub and the short timeframe before release was increased fan demand,[23] and the staff said that the game's Western version would be identical to the Japanese one.[26] Scott Strichart, localization producer for the Yakuza series, ordered the English-language release to have two subtitle tracks: one with Japanese audio and English subtitles matching the Japanese translation, and the other matching the English dub. Despite this, the developers believed they managed to make the dubbed Yagami be identical to the Japanese in terms of characterization despite different words said in the translation.[38] Following the changes, the staff made revisions to the charater's facial animations in order to fit lipsycning.[36] In scripting, Strichart insisted that the English actors keep using Japanese honorifics to retain the Japanese cast's impact.[39]

During the game, there is a scene in which players control Saori Shirosaki in a hostess club was. Strichart told game website Polygon that "Sensitive scenes are tricky to get right," and that the team had to be careful in dubbing this. He further stated that in order to bring realism into the narrative, characters' response to Shirosaki would come across as "uncomfortable" as the non-playable characters were unsympathetic during this scene. Since the Yakuza series was primarily popular thanks to the male demographic, Strichart wanted those gamers to understand how awkward can be men in the making of this when compared with the Japanese scene where the men where attracted by Shirosaki's looks.[40]

Multiple audition were made in casting the English actors with a positive result according to Strichart. The team aimed to make the English dub come as natural as possible.[36] Greg Chun was pleasantly surprised when he was selected to voice Yagami in Judgment, since he was familiar with the franchise. Chun said in the game's announcement that "I'm super psyched to be a part of this game", and liked the character he had seen thus far.[41] He called his work in the game satisfying: "It really did require me to let go of the tricks that you use to push a performance through, and I really did need to fall back on authenticity and genuine groundedness". Although he found the faithfulness to the original Japanese audio challenging, Chun was pleased with his character's balance of seriousness and comedy; however, the game's screaming segments were difficult. Noting that fans tended to choose the original Japanese audio, Chun suggested that they try the English dub to test his voice.[42] He was surprised by Yagami's deep character arc (involving himself in the present while dealing with his past life as a lawyer), and said that he would never forget the role.[43] Matthew Mercer liked voicing Kuroiwa, but found the character's different tones challenging. Crispin Freeman enjoyed his work because he considered Kaito to be likeable.[44]

ReceptionEdit

Review Scores
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic80/100[45]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid7.5/10[53]
Famitsu37/40[51]
Game Informer8/10[48]
GameSpot7/10[49]
GamesRadar+3/5[52]
Hardcore Gamer4/5[54]
IGN8.2/10[47]
RPGamer4/5[56]
USgamer4/5[46]
VideoGamer.com8/10[55]
Hobby Consolas90/100[50]

Judgment received "generally favourable" reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[45] Famitsu gave the game a score of 37 out of 40, with ratings of 9, 10, 9 and 9.[51] Although its gameplay was praised, critics had mixed opinions about its case-solving elements. Hobby Consolas praised the game for relying on multiple types of gameplay, giving the Yakuza spin-off more variety.[50] According to a VideoGamer.com reviewer, gamers attracted to the Yakuza series would enjoy Judgment because of its similarities in action. He noted that the fighting system was superior to Sega's latest game, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, and would attract fans; the varied side missions gave players far more playing time.[55] Although a GameInformer reviewer liked the action, they found the tailing missions frustrating and the investigation areas do not penalize a player for failing them.[48] USGamer said that the tailing missions might drag, but the new chasing missions were more entertaining.[46] Destructoid agreed, disliking the former but enjoying the latter; the reviewer felt that the action scenes were not difficult.[53] Tristan Ogilvie of IGN praised the game's combat system and diversified side content, criticizing its shallow investigation mechanics: "There's surprisingly little room given to make your own decisions".[47] Edmond Tran of GameSpot called the game's tailing and chasing sections "dull, slow and arduous", and called the investigation sections "incredibly straightforward". Nevertheless, the writer enjoyed the melee combat for the options it gives to the player.[49] GamesRadar+ writer Bradley Russel criticized the core gameplay as "lacking in its execution" and over-relying on combat, rather than investigation.[52] On the other hand, Hardcore Gamer enjoyed the balance between the different style of gameplay.[54] RPGamer.com also praised the action elements but felt that the detective sections needed to be fixed the developers.[56]

The plot was generally well-received. Because it introduced a new cast instead of reusing characters, GameInformer found the story "refreshing" and called Yagami's investigations intriguing.[48] USGamer also praised the story for standing on its own, despite Yagami's similarities to Kazuma Kiryu; the new lead character had his own way of life.[46] A Destructoid reviewer said that despite the game's similarity to Yakuza (due to its balance of seriousness and comedy), Judgment had a unique narrative which they felt was on a par with Hollywood films.[53] B. Russell praised the story, calling it "potentially one of the best in the medium".[52] VideoGamer liked the game for using deep, moral themes which would entertain players for many hours.[55] GameSpot praised the storyline and Yagami and Kaito, calling them "genuinely likable characters".[49] A HobbyConsolas reviewer noted that Sega added subtitles for the first time for languages other than English (making Judgment far more accessible), but Yagami was a less appealing character than Kiryu.[50] Hardcore Gamer regarded the storyline as "the closest one can get to an entry point for those anxious about such an overbearing legacy that the Yakuza series presents" and how the Dragon Engine provides for facial expressions inportant for solving cases.[54]

VideoGamer liked the original Japanese cast's striking performances, despite his initial preference for an English dub.[55] The English voice actors' performances were praised;[57][58] Ogilvie called the game's English voice acting "excellent", but noticed an inconsistent lack of English lip-syncing.[47] EGM Now said Chun made a more striking performance than Kimura, who the writer did not find suitable for the character.[59] RPGamer.com praised Sega's decision to add two languages in the audio, praising both Japanese and English versions equally while also finding.[56]

SalesEdit

According to Media Create, the game had a strong opening in its first week in Japan with sales of 148,246 copies.[60] This made it the most successful release for a new IP for the eighth generation of video game consoles in the country, although this record was later taken by Death Stranding.[61] On January 13, 2019, Media Create increased its sales figures to 240,293.[62] Producer Daisuke Sato said that Western sales of Judgment had exceeded expectations.[63] After Judgment's worldwide success, pushsquare.com said that they would like to see a sequel again feature Yagami's life.[64] GamesRadar also found Yagami a character worthy of appearing in Judgment sequels, since his skills rival those of the Yakuza lead characters.[65] Although producer Kazuki Hosokawa said in April 2019 that the studio planned to port the game to the PC for wider audience appeal, this was unconfirmed.[66]

AwardsEdit

Year Award Category Result Ref
2019 PSLS Game of the Year 2019 Awards Best Adventure Game 2019[67] Won
RPG Gamer Awards Best Voice Acting[68] Won
DualShockers Best PS4 Game, Best Narrative, Best Open World, Game of the Year 2019[69] Won
Famitsu Awards Excellence Prize Won [70]
Japan Game Awards Award for Excellence Won [71]
2019 Golden Joystick Awards PlayStation Game of the Year Nominated [72]
2020 NAVGTR Awards Original Light Mix Score, Franchise Nominated [73]
Performance in a Drama, Lead (Takuya Kimura) Nominated
Performance in a Drama, Supporting (Pierre Taki) Nominated
Song, Original or Adapted ("Arpeggio" by Alexandros) Nominated

Multiple reviewers from GiantBomb also listed as one of their favorite games from 2019,[74][75][76][77] with Chris Tilton listing at the top.[78] USGamer provided similar response.[79]

ControversyEdit

 
The new character model for Hamura (left) and Pierre Taki's model before his removal

Sega halted Japanese sales of the game on March 13, 2019, after Pierre Taki (a Japanese actor whose voice and likeness were used for the character of Kyohei Hamura) was arrested by officers of the Narcotics Control Department of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare for cocaine possession and use.[80] Sega did not comment on whether Taki's arrest would affect Judgment's Western release.[81] According to the NCD, Taki had been under investigation since the previous year following tips from unnamed sources[81][82] and was asked to submit a urine sample.[83]

After Taki's arrest, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio producer Daisuke Sato tweeted that he would not allow Taki's arrest to interrupt the game's success or allow the actor's contribution to the game to be deleted. CyberConnect2 president Hiroshi Matsuyama criticized companies that stop marketing their products if a person connected with their work is arrested.[84] Sega later said that Taki's voice and likeness would be replaced, but the game's planned Western release date was unchanged.[85] The character's new design was not based on any actor.[86] Sega announced that a new version would be released in Japan on July 18, 2019, with a new character model and actor Miō Tanaka replacing Taki for the role of Kyohei Hamura.[87]

Imported sales of Judgment rose in Japan when the game was withdrawn from Japanese store shelves; about 97 percent of its stock was sold, and it reached number three in Amazon's sales rankings. Nagoshi stated that although the sudden interest in the game due to the controversy was disappointing, he was "glad in any case".[88]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Judge Eyes: Shinigami no Yuigon (Japanese: JUDGE EYES:死神の遺言, lit. Judge Eyes: the Reaper's Last Request)

ReferencesEdit

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