The end of the year is always busy here at Kotaku. For many of us, it means a string of reviews to write and games to cover. I’ve gone from Monster Hunter to Greedfall and beyond. Getting the time to circle back and play a game that you missed out on is a fun treat. But hopping back into a game after some time away from it often means you’ve lost the plot, which can be particularly tricky if a game like Judgment, which is packed with crimes, backstabbing, and twists.
When Judgment released earlier this year, I enthusiastically jumped in. A new game from the makers of Yakuza, set in the same neon-lit district of Tokyo? A story with murder and fist fights and investigations? Sign me up. Following the tale of private detective Takayuki Yagami as he tangles with yakuza and solve murders was great, but then I had to put the game down to focus on some other games I had to play for work. As a result of that, it’s been a while since I jumped back in, and even though I remembered the broad details, and although the game gives bite-sized summaries of recent happenings at the start of each chapter, I’d lost track of the plot. Alright, Yakuza captain Himura committed a murder but our investigation got him off the hook. Got it. There’s a serial killer called the Mole who is carving out their victim’s eyes. Sure, I remember that. Okay, wait. The masked kid I met was a burglar, and now I have to go to a nightclub to talk to a girl who… maybe knows something? Shit, what was her name? And how is she connected to this? Oh, no. I am the worst detective.
At least Judgment’s plot isn’t as convoluted as something like Yakuza 6: the Song of Life. That game started with a simple mystery: who attacked protagonist Kazuma Kiryu’s daughter-figure and who was the father of her newborn child? It ballooned out, as Yakuza games do, into a complicated affair involving warring triads, vengeful criminals, and some type of battleship hidden in Hiroshima. Those exaggerated schemes are part of Yakuza’s soap-opera charm. Judgment is closer to a crime procedural, so the high-level plot is straightforward. There’s a serial killer and Yagami’s on the case, even as it seems that the murderer is less a random criminal and instead tied to a major pharmaceutical company. The little details are where things get hazy.
Yagami is always in the middle of his investigation, always chasing a lead no matter how big or small. That might mean getting new evidence from a crooked cop or following a suspicious person through the streets. Imagine playing Phoenix Wright and leaving a case half-finished. That’s what returning to Judgment feels like.
I also feel excited when I do manage to remember the details. By returning after so much time, I can experience the sense that I’m not just progressing the investigation but reacquainting myself with likable characters and getting back on the same page as them. Much like getting lost in a big open world can lead to new discoveries or comfortable wandering, resubmerging yourself into a twisty plot offers a chance to let the imagination flex. Judgment is a fabulous game and each new swerve only heightens my investment. Relearning the plot and characters has been a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.