Judge Eyes (JPN Version) - PlayStation 4 Review

Japanese Thriller Starring Takuya Kimura

  • System: PlayStation 4
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios
  • Release Date: December 13, 2018 (Japan), Presently Scheduled for Summer 2019 (International)
  • Price:8,050 yen (Japan); International Price Presently Unconfirmed (as of January 2019)
  • Rating: Rated D by CERO, the equivalent to an M rating by the ESRB. ESRB presently pending as of January 2019
  • Genre: Open World, Action, Adventure
  • Players: 1 (main story), 2 (online)
  • Official Website: http://yakuza.sega.com/judgment/

Who it Caters to

JUDGE-EYES-Shinigami-no-Yuigon-300x421 Judge Eyes (JPN Version) - PlayStation 4 Review
For starters, fans of Yakuza, or Ryu Ga Gotoku in Japan, are likely going to enjoy this since it takes place in the same universe, and their presentations are the same in relation to their foundations, but Judge Eyes has enough distinctions to make it distinguishing as its own game. Since 2005, the Yakuza franchise has been part of Sega’s post-Dreamcast identity. In addition to seven main installments, the series is no stranger to spin-offs. There are two Japanese historical spin-offs where Kiryu, the main character up until 6, filled in the roles of Miyamoto Musashi in Ryu Ga Gotoku Kenzan, and as Saito Hajime and Sakamoto Ryoma in Ryu Ga Gotoku Ishin (however, those games are still presently Japan exclusive).

Even prior to Judge Eyes, there have been other spin-offs without Kiryu at all. Two notable examples are the Kurohyo games for the PSP (which also presently remains exclusive in Japan), where you assume the role of Tatsuya Ukyou, a teenage delinquent who later becomes a pro fighter. As some of you may know, there’s also Hokuto Ga Gotoku, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, where the Yakuza 0/Kiwami 1 engine is used to represent the original Hokuto no Ken manga, while also using many of the franchise’s voice actors, such as bringing back Takaya Kuroda, the voice of Kiryu, as the voice of Kenshiro.

As for Takayuki Yagami, the main character of Judge Eyes, he is voiced and modeled by one of Japan’s biggest stars, Takuya Kimura. For some of you Ghibli fans, he played the voice of Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle. Many of his accolades in his 3 decade career include being the star of many hit dramas such as Hero, Beautiful Life, and Long Vacation. Up until the end of 2016, he was a member of one of Japan’s biggest boy bands, SMAP. So, if you love Japanese pop culture as a whole, his inclusion may have your interest. For some of you Dragon Ball fans, he happens to be married to Shizuka Kudo, who sang Blue Velvet, one of the ending themes to Dragon Ball GT.

What to Expect

Just like the Yakuza series, you once again explore that respective universe’s version of Tokyo’s Kabukicho red light district, Kamurocho. Much of what is featured in Yakuza 6 is brought back since this game also uses the Dragon Engine. As opposed to playing a former mafia boss, Yagami is a former lawyer turned private investigator, and much of the game’s distinguishing features revolve around his job. The side stories are introduced as side cases for Yagami to solve such as helping a wife confirm her suspicions that her husband is having an affair, finding and apprehending a panty thief, or finding cats. You also make friends throughout Kamurocho and those friends can just be people working at the local convenience store, a local bartender, or the cashiers at a burger joint. The more friends you make, the more side cases you get. As to what the side cases do, they give you more money to spend on items or to improve your drone. Not only do you get familiar locations, much of the combat system will feel the same in terms of controls, but different in terms of presentation.

Judge Eyes Shinigami no Yuin (Judgement) Trailer


JUDGE-EYES-Shinigami-no-Yuigon-300x421 Judge Eyes (JPN Version) - PlayStation 4 Review
Three years prior to the main story of Judge Eyes, Takayuki Yagami won his first criminal case. Shinpei Okubo, the young man he defended, was let off the hook for murder due to insufficient evidence. Shortly after his trial, he’s once again arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Emi Terazawa. Feeling that the evidence was overwhelmingly convincing of his guilt, Yagami couldn’t do anything despite Okubo’s pleas of being innocent, and is sentenced to the death penalty. Yagami then quits being a lawyer (though he is still licensed), and starts a private investigation agency with Kaito, an exiled member of the Matsugane-gumi of the Tojo-kai yakuza clan. As it turns out, Matsugane, the Kumichou (or the Don) to the Matsugane-gumi, paid for Yagami to go to law school, which is why he has a close relationship with the local mafia.

In recent weeks, a string of strange and gruesome murders have been happening in Kamurocho with members of the Kyorei-kai, a gang based out of the Kansai region, have been found in alleys with their eyes removed from their corpses. It is rumored that Hamura, a lieutenant of the Matsugane-gumi, is behind the murders since his gang is presently at war with the Kyorei-kai. However, Yagami has a hunch that the real killer is someone else, and that killer is connected to a pharmaceutical project called Adeck 9, whose purpose is to find a cure to dementia with Japan’s rapid aging population, and it turns out there may be some corruption within the project, so he sets out to connect the dots.


JUDGE-EYES-Shinigami-no-Yuigon-300x421 Judge Eyes (JPN Version) - PlayStation 4 Review
If you’ve played any Yakuza games, specifically 6 and Kiwami 2, many of the foundations are there for you to easily familiarize yourself with. If you haven’t played any Yakuza games, it’s ok. This game is still easy to pick up as you get to explore a digital version to one of Tokyo’s most famous red light districts. Just like in Yakuza, it shares many of the same mini-games such as hitting the batting cages at the Yoshida Batting Center (which is inspired by an actual batting cage in Kabukicho), or go to an arcade and play some classic Sega arcade games like Fantasy Zone, Space Harrier, and Fighting Vipers, or more recent titles such as Virtua Fighter 5. House of the Dead sort of comes back as Kamuro of the Dead, where you fight such zombies in Kamurocho. Or, you can also enjoy darts and eventually go gambling in underground casinos for some Blackjack, Poker, Hanafuda, and other traditional Japanese gambling games. A new featured mini game is a digital board game where you can win a lot of money!

As we previously shared, much of the game focuses on the detective aspect. In order to accommodate the Yagami character’s job, some new features include following targets of interest by walking behind them. As you follow them, there are instances where you have to hide behind objects in case they turn around and face your direction. Then, there are also times where you have to evaluate a crime scene or look around to find a specific object or person. For some side cases, you will also be required to take photos, and the game perfectly explains the conditions of the photo you have to take. With a husband and his mistress, you have to get their faces, and when they’re entering a love hotel (and make sure you get the name of that hotel!) in order to get a successful picture to prove to the wife that the husband is having an affair.

As we previously stated, this game allows you to use a drone to explore Kamurocho, and there are instances where you need it for reconnaissance purposes before storming a building, or you need to take pictures with it. At the Millennium Tower, you can also participate in drone races where you can win prizes to improve the performance of your drone. In a certain side case, you can also get firepower! Other features that emphasize on the detective aspect of this game is when you sneak in somewhere, you have to disguise Yagami as a repairman or custodian in order to get inside. If a door is locked, the game allows you to pick locks.

Naturally, street fighting plays a big part in this game, but Yagami has a much different style than Kiryu. As opposed to using power and brute force like Kiryu, Yagami relies more on technique, speed, and agility (he personally calls his style Kamurocho-Ryu, or Kamurocho style of fighting). Due to the character’s Kung Fu background, Yagami’s style feels more like you’re playing out a Jackie Chan action sequence (you can jump off walls and do kicks like former UFC champion Anthony Pettis did in his earlier career). The controls are very easy to pick up and you can more or less get away with button mashing.

You are also free to use weapons, but due to Yagami’s lawyer background, he won’t pick up a gun and use it like Kiryu can in other Yakuza games. If any enemy drops a gun, the gun disappears. However, bats, traffic cones, bicycles, and beer bottles are still at your disposal. The heat action system is once again brought back, but is re-named EX-Action for this game. Many of the moves are similar to what have been portrayed in Yakuza, and there are some that are entirely new.

Although hostess bars do exist, they aren’t emphasized much here. In place of making relationships with hostesses, Yagami can make 4 female clients his girlfriend, and this can be improved by giving them gifts, having meaningful conversations, and impressing them by winning mini-games such as batting, darts, shogi, and poker. After they confess their love to Yagami, they can enjoy more dates together.

The Dragon Engine is a great power house with its graphical presentation. Though there are some notable changes with the real life Kabukicho, much of it feels like the real thing with its inclusion of Don Quijote stores (think of them as Japan’s equivalent to America’s Wal-Mart), convenience stores, fast food, traditional Japanese restaurants, arcades, and so on. It feels like you’re in Tokyo! For those familiar with Takuya Kimura, you will instantly recognize him! Not only does he lend his likeness, he voices the character as well. The voice acting is also a masterpiece and feels like a true modern day Japanese noir flick. The music is intense and emotional when it needs to be. It is excellently balanced and we are hoping that the theme songs will not be removed for its international releases, which has been the case for many past Yakuza international releases.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

JUDGE-EYES-Shinigami-no-Yuigon-300x421 Judge Eyes (JPN Version) - PlayStation 4 Review
The game is easy to pick up, but is hard to master. We acknowledge it is a cliché in video games, but that saying applies very much to Judge Eyes. There is just so much to do in this game that at a times, you do forget about the main story. But don’t worry, doing those side-missions and mini-games are a great way to level up to make the final boss easier! It’s definitely a distinctive kind of experience if you’re looking for a Tokyo simulator but with a good number of twists all over the place.

Honey's Pros:

  • For starters, we would like to once again strongly emphasize that you don’t have to have any prior familiarity or exposure to the actual Yakuza series in order to get into this. Though they share many similar qualities and plot points that run parallel to the main franchise, it tells its own distinct story with its own unique set of characters (while we can confirm that two character from Yakuza 6 do make a come back, but you don’t have to play 6 in order to understand who they are). However, if you played Yakuza 6, it does give context as to why Asia Town is under construction in Judge Eyes.
  • If you can’t afford a trip to Tokyo, as opposed to paying over $600 USD, you can probably spend $60 USD on this game for something close to the real thing. Many of the geographical locations of the convenience stores, hostess bars, love hotels, and restaurants are accurate to where they are located in the real life Kabukicho. The streets are crowded at night showing how popular it is for people of all ages. As an extension, we also appreciate that the story uses an actual issue that relates to what is presently going on in Japan. With its rapidly increasing senior population, the number of people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other deteriorating brain diseases are going to increase as well. By 2020, according to various polls, about anywhere between a quarter to a third of Japan’s population is going to have such an illness, and it’s nice to see a video game address such a realistic issue and what we should do to prepare for it.
  • The fighting is pretty exciting and there is so much to do with it. If you get Yagami drunk enough, one of his EX-Action techniques is that he will do Drunken Boxing! Depending on your position, you can do other crazy moves that can easily take out an enemy. If you run towards an enemy, another exciting technique is a running flip over DDT. If you are unfamiliar with professional wrestling, a DDT is where you get someone in a front headlock and you drop yourself backwards as you drop the opponent on their head! If you have a friend backing you up in a fight, you can also do some crazy double teams that you probably have seen in hardcore wrestling bouts. If you have friends who work at convenience store or restaurants, other EX-Actions are they can help you with weapons. If you make friends with someone at a beef bowl restaurant, they’ll throw you chopsticks as weapons. Or at a hamburger joint, they’ll give you hot sauce as a weapon.
  • When your health is down, you can eat at some restaurants to get it back up and earn experience points. One real life restaurant you can visit is Ikinari Steak, and in that game, you meet the actual owner! In other instances, you help out with their business by taking surveys and they give you new hamburgers to try. With one sushi restaurant, the game goes out of its way to educate you about the sushi business and certain terminologies they use to describe their unique art.

Honey's Cons:

  • If you thought the length Metal Gear Solid’s cutscenes were notoriously long, then they’re nothing compared to Judge Eyes’. To our best guess, Judge Eyes’ cutscenes are probably over 9,000 times longer than that of Metal Gear Solid 4’s! In addition, a lot of the enemies that you fight in this game, especially in context to members of the Kyohei Rengo, are very repetitive and lack variety, which has been a problem to the Yakuza franchise as a whole. Plus, the random fights just feel very inaccurate to how safe Japan really is. Though Kabukicho does have its seedy characters, all the random fights just feel unnatural and inaccurate to wanting to recommend this as a true Tokyo simulator. In real life, the closest thing you’re ever going to get into a fight is by instigating one with a Nigerian tout.
  • Another instance is that some of the fight scenes do have cutscenes mid-way and during those sequences, they could have been used as QTEs, or Quick Time Events. Though the game does have QTEs, they could have been used a lot more in the same manner of Yakuza’s spiritual predecessor, Shenmue. As for the QTEs in this game, they are weak and lack emotional content. Lastly, there are some mini-games that are Japanese oriented such as Mah Jong, Shogi, and Hanafuda, and they can be very difficult to pick up if you have no familiarity with the culture.
JUDGE-EYES-Shinigami-no-Yuigon-300x421 Judge Eyes (JPN Version) - PlayStation 4 Review

Honey's Final Verdict:

As seen in the trailer, an English dub is going to be included with its international release as Judgement, and we can see that is convenient for a considerable number of gamers, and in expanding the audience. However, we feel that by listening to it in Japanese, you get a more natural feel to its environment and to the characters, and it makes you feel more connected to Kimura’s character, and who he is as an actor. Plus, it feels more immersive by taking place in Japan. Based on what we saw in the trailer, the dub doesn’t seem that bad considering how infamously awful the first dub to Yakuza was. However, we do give credit to Hokuto Ga Gotoku, or Lost Paradise, for actually having a decent dub. As we said before, we would like the theme songs to remain in the international releases because it would be criminal to remove them, and they perfectly capture the atmosphere of the games.

If you want to wait until later this year for the international release, then we can say based on its Japanese release, that the game is awesome. It is a must have for Yakuza fans for sure since it maintains the franchise’s unique balance of comedy and drama. For some gamers, it could be a good gateway to the Yakuza series, or to Takuya Kimura as a whole. Considering that PlayStation 4 is compatible with a majority of regions, you can easily import now. We are sure translation guides will be out in the upcoming weeks for those who can’t comprehend Japanese, but if you have at least level 2 or 3 Japanese based on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test’s rubric, we can estimate the game is understandable around those standards. For those that are studying the Japanese language, we also recommend this game as a great tool to assist in your studies. It uses everyday Japanese, and it also teaches you some yakuza slang. If you love conspiracies, action, and excitement, Judge Eyes is the game you’re looking for!

JUDGE-EYES-Shinigami-no-Yuigon-300x421 Judge Eyes (JPN Version) - PlayStation 4 Review


Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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