Every time Ryu ga Gotoku Studio has taken players to Kamurocho, it has welcomed people to a city that feels alive. Areas are bustling with activity, both innocent and criminal. When we were following Kazuma Kiryu around town in the Yakuza series, we saw him aid people in substories and learn about the city’s seedy underbelly. There’s that in Judgment too. Since Takayuki Yagami is a private detective, he’s seeing the darker side of the town as he investigates. He gets time to socialize with other people too. But throughout Judgment’s first chapter, there’s something else to these interactions. It can feel like there’s an increased sense of depth here, due to Yagami’s interactions with the world and the ways he goes about his investigations.
Part of this stems from Yagami’s established place in the community. Like Kiryu, he has a reputation. But, while the Dragon of Dojima was mostly notorious among authority figures and yakuza, the community in general has a greater awareness of Yagami due to a case he worked on at the Genda Law Office. He got his client off on a murder charge, only for him to be arrested for murdering his girlfriend and setting her. Since getting a not guilty verdict is so rare, Yagami was very well known for his actions, which took on a more negative connotation after the second arrest. He became a private investigator, sometimes also working for Genda’s firm, alongside Masaharu Kaito, an ex-Matsugane Family yakuza.
People are aware of who Yagami is from his prior life as a lawyer, and he’s developed quite a reputation for his work as a private detective too. Since there’s such a greater awareness of him, it isn’t uncommon for criminals, witnesses, and other people in Kamurocho to know who he is. He gets work from Genda because of it. Tender’s bartender offers him insight because of it. A witness in the major investigation agrees to testify, because having Yagami owe him a favor could come in handy. This knowledge helps make his activities and interactions feel more plausible.
Let’s step back and return to Kaito. His presence helps develop a sense of belonging in Judgment’s first chapter. He is Yagami’s number one supporter and constant ally. You consult with him multiple times throughout this initial investigation. During the tutorial, where you trail a corrupt detective and get the money he owes a client, Kaito supports Yagami by starting the surveillance, showing up with the drone, and providing backup. When a trail starts to go cold when investigating an alibi, Kaito is the one who suggests consulting with a corrupt cop he knows. He’ll even be by your side in a fight. While Kiryu certainly wasn’t lacking in allies in Yakuza, the almost constant presence of Kaito keeps Yagami from feeling so alone in a city where he can end up making a lot of enemies.
It isn’t just Kaito that is there and willing to help Yagami out. Not long after you find your footing in the game, Judgment introduces Friend Events. There are people around Kamurocho that Yagami can get to know. As you befriend them, you can end up getting different items or perks that help him get by in the city. For example, your first Friend Event is an automatic one with an informant named Makoto Tsukumo. You pick up a Love Star Figure, a limited edition model, from Ebisu Pawn. Then, you give it to him and learn a little more of his backstory. While his aid is largely automatic in this first chapter, other Friend Events must be sought out. Buying items at Poppo gets you records to listen to in Yagami and Kaito’s office. Which is important. (It’s just for fun.) Coming back to repeatedly help out a barista at a coffee shop will give you an opportunity to get free coffee. Making this effort raises your City Reputation. It can even eventually help you get Side Cases. But, they aren’t one-and-done endeavors, like some of the Yakuza Substories. There’s more of an investment here.
Also, I’d like to think that Yagami is constantly being acknowledged by the cat community of Kamurocho. When you investigate these early areas, you might suddenly her a soft meow as you are looking for the clues to help with your case. Think of it as an additional hidden object challenge. You have the things you are supposed to find and do, with the controller vibrating whenever you come across anything suspicious, and then you have these stray cats that always just happen to be out of sight, trying to strike up conversations with you via polite mews, and awarding you with a few points for using the sound of their voices to track them down.
While Yagami is just a private eye, Judgment’s first few hours helps provide a foundation. Its first moments build a foundation. We get to see him start to form bonds with the community via Friend Events. His early investigations show how he is known among lawyers, yakuza, and even some general members of the public. We see how he constantly works alongside his partner, Kaito, and clients. We even get to see an uncanny ability to somehow show up where cats like to be. These initial moments help show that he isn’t just spending time in Kamurocho, he’s a part of its community.
Judgment is available on the PlayStation 4 on June 21, 2019 if you preorder via the PlayStation Store. It is available both digitally and physically in North America and Europe on June 25, 2019.