Detective Emma is back on the case! If you’ve read any of my Danganronpa V3 blogs, you know that I’m truly an amazing, brilliant detective without equal. So, it’s nice to step into the pristine white sneakers of Takayuki Yagami and hit the streets of Kamurocho to solve some murders and- oh hey wait, is that a minigame? The murders can wait for this minigame, can’t they? Yeah, it’ll be fine.
Here’s what I’m thinking about Judgment! Why do they spell it Judgment? No, that one doesn’t count as a thought. Besides, we all know Judge Eyes is a better name. Let’s just get to the game.
1. Lawyer’s Badges Are Real
I didn’t know, okay!? I didn’t know! Truly, I thought lawyer badges were a silly thing they made up for the Ace Attorney games so that Phoenix could shove it in everyone’s face every two seconds. But, in fact, the lawyer badges and the prosecutor badges are both 100% real things that real people use. Apparently.
I also didn’t picture the badges being that tiny, but I guess that makes sense. You’re just supposed to pin them to your lapel after all. I thought they were more like medallions for some reason. I’m dumb. It’s okay, you can say it.
The Detective Walk
A lot of the upcoming thoughts are going to be making fun of Yagami and the way I play him, so I feel like it’s worth saying that this guy is very cool. While my stepdad currently calls this “the game where the man walks down the street and kicks people,” he also was able to recognize some of Yagami’s moves (he does karate) which I thought was super cool. Yakuza games (or, at least, Kiryu) are often just “PUNCH AND PUNCH HARDER” and it’s fun how agile and…well, flippy? Yagami is.
Takuya Kimura and Greg Chun have given this character a lot of personality too, and I honestly love being in his pristine white tennis shoes. How does he keep these shoes so clean? The world will never know.
Dubtitles and Subtitles
Something that RGG and Sega have been making a big deal over lately is how Judgment has two separate subtitle tracks- one for the English voices, and one for the Japanese voices. Judgment having a dub is a big deal on its own since Yakuza hasn’t had a dub since the original release of the original (featuring Mark Hamill as Majima, this will never not make me giggle). But because so many people in the West are used to playing RGG games in Japanese, I figure the company assumed that a large percentage of their Western player base would still be using the Japanese track.
So, to accommodate that, they decided to provide both the dub translation (which takes a few more liberties) and the sub translation (which sticks closer to the original meaning). Most games just translate it once and leave the dub subtitles as the one track. It must have been an incredible amount of work to translate this twice, but it just shows their passion for the product.
I really appreciate it as a bit of a localization nerd too (check out Split Screen for what I mean). I’m really loving the dub so far, but it has been interesting to see the small differences in dialogue when I look up scenes in Japanese.
That’s Not Olaf
I don’t feel like you can really talk about Judgment without talking about the whole deal with Captain Kyohei Hamura. He was previously portrayed by Pierre Taki until he was caught using cocaine. Drugs are a huge deal in Japan, way more than in the U.S. By the by, Taki is also the Japanese voice for Olaf. Yeah, the snowman from Frozen. They had to replace him in Kingdom Hearts 3 as well.
His new Japanese voice actor is Yakuza alum Miou Tanaka, and his model is now entirely original and not based off anybody in particular.
For a game that seems to have a lot of things to say about the Japanese legal system, I’m not sure that erasing him from the game is in keeping with its messages. To be fair, it appeared to be more of a Sega decision than one by RGG Studios.
Anyway, his model is great, and English voice actor Fred Tatasciore is freaking terrifying so far. Just a bit of trivia.
Look at the Body? Nah, Look at this Cat!
There’s a stray cat you can find at almost every investigation. Why? I don’t know, probably for a trophy. Gets you a few extra skill points too. Lightens the mood when you’re investigating the dead body of your former co-worker that just fell out of your closet. A multi-purpose mechanic.
My Murder Collection
I have so many pictures of men lying unconscious on the street. If anyone took my phone, they would have so many questions. I like to imagine that Yagami hangs them around the office- like how a doctor might have their diploma on the wall. It’s showing off his qualifications.
Honestly, he should try to get these in a gallery. A Meditation on Overconfidence. A Study in Broken Noses. Please Don’t Arrest Me for This, Officer.
On The Side
I’ve talked about this before, but RGG Studios are masters of managing tone, especially in the Yakuza games. They have a particular style of storytelling that darts back and forth between extreme emotions, unafraid of absurdity in comedy and drama in equal measure. Generally, however, those two tones have been relegated for the main story and the side stories, with the main story leaning into melodramatic crime drama while the side stories celebrate the hilarious mundanity of life in the city. In Yakuza, you can easily skip by the side content if you really want, even though you’d be missing out. That is very much not the case in Judgment.
If there’s one concrete thing that I can point to and say, “that’s a way this game has improved on the Yakuza formula,” it’s how much more the side content has been integrated and encouraged. There are some “side” cases that are required for the main plot. You have to make certain friends in order to get the information you need. The main story often hits money roadblocks where you’re pretty much forced to pick up a secondary case or two if you haven’t already. Judgment demands that you experience at least a bit of everything. And, in doing that, it draws the players’ attention to that great strength of tone management that Yakuza always had.
VR is Here, and There is No Escape
Speaking of a little bit of everything, what the hell is Paradise VR? This game feels like what I imagine an acid trip must feel like. I mean, look at those people. Those people are tripping.
Also, I can’t imagine that it’s a good business model. All I do is steal Play Passes off people who assault me in the street and then I complete a course and win money. I literally don’t pay them a single yen. They just pay me. To play their weird VR game. With a dice dog. That I guess must be replicating a Kansai accent or something?
The future is here. Be a-feared.
Quick, Take a Selfie
I can’t stop taking selfies. Especially since I made friends with the person who taught Yagami how to actually smile instead of just quirk his lips slightly (see below). Sometimes, my friends will pose with me. Sometimes, as you can see above, they will look at the camera with these painfully unimpressed expressions. They gaze at the lens blankly, exhausted, as Tak urges them into the tenth group photo right before they’re about to stage a major infiltration. As if they’re begging me, through the screen, to stop taking selfies. Just stop. STOP IT, TAK!
I cannot be stopped.
The friend mechanic is one of the things you have to engage with in order to unlock side stories and even progress the main story. But, more than that, it really helps to make Yagami and, by extension, the player feel connected to Kamurocho in a way that Yakuza didn’t. Kiryu may have lived in Kamurocho for the grand majority of his story, and RGG Studios have done a lot to make it feel like a living, changing being through those games. But you really get the sense that this is Yagami’s home, not just the place where he happens to be located.
And it’s that feeling that keeps me running around the city for hours, saying hi to my friends in the street, having convenience clerks throw me skewers to shove in my enemies’ mouths, and other normal, city-life kind of stuff.
Except when the Keihan Gang is out. The Keihan Gang sucks enough that I’m not even gonna check that spelling.
There are some cases in which you need to put on a disguise so that you can tail someone or listen in on a conversation.
You could be a regular detective and put on your hat and sunglasses. Or maybe a classic homeless look. For particular cases, looking like a workman might turn out well.
Indeed, you could choose to be that kind of detective.
Feeding My Addiction
Every time I step into Charles, I put our reluctant ally and yakuza arcade manager Higashi in a bad place. I mean, theoretically, it’s only actually going to get him into trouble if there’s a scripted story event. But I imagine that Tak would be the kind of person to waltz right in every few hours and turn the gatcha a few times, just to drive Higashi crazy.
“If he really didn’t want me here, he would uninstall these gatcha machines,” Tak would say under his breath as he sticks in enough yen for another turn.
Maybe he really should uninstall them, considering I’ve spend like five minutes straight turning the gacha. I don’t have a problem.
This game was always going to invite Ace Attorney comparisons. I mean, how could it not? What’s another game with a lawyer as a main character besides Ace Attorney? There isn’t one, not really.
Judgment knows this and very much leans into acknowledging its predecessor in the small “lawyer genre” of games. There’s one particular side case where there’s dramatic pointing, evidence presentation, and even a mini-breakdown. Next thing you know, they’re gonna be telling me this takes place in California.
Oh Yeah, There’s a Murder or Two
Once you’re done with the many, many ways you can waste time with Kamurocho, it’s time to get back to the actual plot. Not that that’s a bad thing at all, because the main plot is pretty gripping so far. Three yakuza dead, with their eyes gouged out. More murders threatening on the horizon. A yakuza turf war and inner-family strife. And a possible connection to a revolutionary drug.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything connects. There are so many pieces moving around, and there’s currently nothing really connecting them beyond phone calls, locations, relationships…incidental things. You can see how they might be connected, even if you don’t know how yet. And I feel like it’s going to be intensely satisfying when the threads start to become more closely intertwined. I’m really impressed with the way they’re structuring the main mystery, is what I’m saying. I’m excited to solve this conspiracy.
15. And So…Avengers Assemble?
Yeah, you’ve heard of Ocean’s Eleven. But they got nothing on Yagami’s Five. We got:
KAITO! The bro! The bro to end all bros! In his possession is the loudest shirt to ever exist. This shirt is constantly screaming. This shirt breaks glass just from its own reflection. He’s actually got a weak punch, but the power of his shirt supercharges it, sending fear into the hearts of his enemies.
SUGIURA! Hardcore parkour, my man! He was the head of a band of masked thieves and, like a true leader, picked the absolute worst mask for himself. That’s how you know he’s in it for the right reasons. As Persona 5 has taught us, it’s only the Crow mask that you need to fear. That must have been a reference, right?
HIGASHI! He’s our friend, no matter what he has to say about it! There’s no escape from our friendship! His tinted sunglasses hide his warm eyes. His hard exterior protects his gooey heart. He complains about us eating all his snacks, but he also only buys our favorites.
HOSHINO! A puppy! He’s a real-live puppy who has mastered the art of disguise, appearing to us as a young human lawyer when, in fact, he’s just a canine. You want to ruffle his hair. You can’t resist the urge to ruffle his hair. That’s when he socks you in the stomach.
YAGAMI! A man who can’t walk three feet without taking a selfie. When he’s not taking selfies, he’s getting into fights. When he’s not getting into fights, he’s taking stalker-ish photos of his friends. For the memories! Sometimes he dresses like a vampire. Don’t worry about it. Anyway, he’ll be over by the gatcha machines.
We’re not the heroes this town needs. Or deserves. Or wants. But, goddamn it, we are gonna catch this Mole. Unless it turns out the Mole is one of us. Oh no.
While I wrote out the basis for these thoughts at the fifteen hour mark, I actually got another twenty-five hours in the game before finishing this up. Especially as you progress further and further into the story, it becomes really hard to put down. You want to know what happens next, after all, and also three more potential friends just popped up on the map. And also, you really want to play VR again.
I’m approaching the grand finale, and I can’t wait to see how everything shakes out in the end. Play this game, guys. If only because I need more people to talk about it with.
Don’t forget to check out all our x Thoughts in x Hours posts! Next up from me will likely be Fire Emblem: Three Houses. And if you’d like to follow more of my thoughts on Judgment, I have a whole Twitter thread of notable moments.