- 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
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
Judge Eyes Shinigami no Yuin (Judgement) Trailer
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Honey's Final Verdict:
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!