Not that I’m complaining, but the frequency of western releases from Sega’s Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio is fast becoming hard to keep on top of. Last year we got three – by my count, at least – fully-fledged games, from the anime-themed Fist of the North Star, the handsome remake Yakuza Kiwami 2 and, in Yakuza 6, we saw Kazuma Kiryu’s farewell.
You could, if you wanted, fill a whole year by playing through them all, and who could blame you if that’s what you elected to do? There’s an exuberance to these things, a swagger and polish that’s the result of the same studio tracing the same path for well over a decade. You’ve heard the comparisons between Yakuza and Shenmue before, I’m sure, but at this point in the series’ life they’ve become something else. What if Shenmue was a success, and that Sega spent 15 years investing heavily in near-annual instalments that keep on embellishing the formula more and more?
Well, you’d likely get curious spin-offs like this. Judgment is an all-new entry, with an all-new star heading up an all-new cast – the perfect starting point, perhaps, if you haven’t already succumbed to the Yakuza series’ charms. And in Judgment, those charms are entirely intact – because, if you’re returning to the series, there’s an awful lot that’s familiar.