The creators of the widely successful Yakuza series are back with another stylish story-driven action-adventure in Judge Eyes, the story of a disgraced lawyer turned private eye who must now forge a new path to justice. Though the gameplay will feel very familiar to Yakuza fans, the game is a polished, fun, detective thriller that’s easy to pick up and hard to put down.
Ex-lawyer Takayuki Yagami (hugely popular Japanese actor Takuya Kimura provides the voice and was the motion capture actor) has left his previous role in disgrace and now makes a living as a private detective. When he learns a former client he successfully defended has committed a gruesome murder, Yagami’s past is set to haunt him once more.
The lawyer who knows kung fu
This wouldn’t be a Ryu ga Gotoku studio game without the signature over-the-top brawling mechanics of the Yakuza series. Yagami is a master of two styles of fighting: a fluid almost ballet-like quick style of strikes that has him darting in and out of battle like a butterfly, and a traditional Chinese kung fu style that focuses on strong, well-timed strikes.
Both feel great to use, and the combat is even more refined and fun to use than the single style Yakuza protagonist Kiryu Kazama was limited to in Yakuza 2: Kiwami. Of course, the silly ‘EX’ actions are also back, and this time players will discover quirky finishing moves (such as flying off a playground swing set and landing a perfect blow) by scanning hidden QR codes around the city.
Detective detecting stuff
A big part of the main storyline is driven by Yagami’s daily duties as a private detective. New gameplay mechanics added to the series include the use of a remote-controlled drone to scope out targets and the ability to use disguises to get into restricted areas.
Early in the story, the player is enlisted to investigate a murder in a hotel and will have to follow up on leads by looking at CCTV footage and interviewing witnesses. The flow of the game feels natural, even if the clues are on the easy side; It’s rather like watching a detective show on TV in which you control the main character.
The big bright lights of Tokyo
The Yakuza series has always been a great way to experience Japanese culture from the comfort of your own home. The faithful recreation of Tokyo’s Kabukicho district recycles the assets from previous games, but it’s still as authentic and beautiful as ever. Go into different restaurants to try many types of Japanese food, explore the SEGA arcade to play retro classics and marvel at the sheer number of different energy drinks that are available from vendors across the city. If a real trip to Japan is not in within your budget, this game really does let you experience the country’s unique culture on a limited scale.
Judge Eyes is more of a spin-off of the Yakuza series than a new game in its own right. But while it reuses basically all of the gameplay mechanics of its predecessors, the new character and storyline are interesting enough to warrant a play-through. And for gamers new to the series, it’s a great first step into the game’s world without having to play all of the previous titles.