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Played in 2024
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Also the developer is a real piece of work so that doesn't work toward this game's favor
+ Still arguably the best story RGG has ever written, everything's so well thought out and the mystery that's built and slowly unraveled is intensely interesting at all times. Nothing that is mentioned is forgotten and everything ties up really neatly by the end.
+ The final long battle and final boss segment is one of the best in the series, the stakes feel incredibly high for Yagami and the stormy setting fits the tone perfectly. I'm also a fan of the little story bit in the middle since it brings the plot back around from Yagami's start, but I know that part's a bit divisive.
+ The English voice cast is amazing and I struggle to think of any particularly bad line reads. The main characters have great chemistry and the VAs definitely seemed like they enjoyed themselves while recording. Yagami, Kaito, and Sugiura are standout performances but I also loved Ayabe and Saori too. All of the antagonists also do an incredible job at being conniving and downright evil at times.
+ The theme of the importance of friends and allies really shines, even with 7 directly following it and using a similar theme. Building up your reputation through both the story and side content really makes Kamurocho feel like it's important to Yagami and vice versa. Scenes like the one after the amour fight or the Golden Mouse side case are great examples of that.
+ The SP and money grind weren't nearly as bad as I remembered, if you're using growth extracts during the story you'll get tons of SP and only need to chug a dozen or so of the expensive hug bombs to top off the required SP.
+ The OST is insanely good from beginning to end, better than most games in the series. Standouts include Destination, Alpha, and It's Showtime, but I'd say every track is really good at worst.
= The combat isn't as frustrating as I remembered but your options are more limited than I remembered, there aren't a lot of heat actions and comboing is limited due to the lack of any useful juggle setups without the use of EX mode and style switching being incredibly slow. Wall grabs are also incredibly overpowered and it feels like you're meant to rely on them waaaaay too much.
= Extracts are cool but their use is still pretty limited, I wish there was more variety and the materials for making them were both less rare and less frustrating to get while also letting you hold more.
= The story pacing is very inconsistent, the first half of the game is glacial in pace (most notably chapters 1, 2, and 3) while the second half is in constant "go-mode", which is when it's at its best.
- Street fights are fucking incessant and never end and the extract to get rid of them is too costly to craft constantly. To add to that, the Keihin Gang system is awful and doesn't add to the game at all. It needed a toggle once you completed a certain side case so you aren't forced to engage in it.
- Damage output is incredibly inconsistent and unbalanced. Having no damage ups in the early game was fine but midgame I needed at least one for a few notable battles. This lead to a certain mid-late game boss getting decimated while the buildup to him was an actual challenge. Late game I decided to max out my damage for Amon and proceeded to crush the final boss. Most Dragon Engine games have this issue, having damage ups as an upgrade is never good.
- Side content sucks in general, the selection of minigames is incredibly weak, uninteresting, and unrewarding. The side cases don't fare much better, I'd argue 3/4 of the side cases are forgettable at best and downright boring at worst. There are a handful of standouts but I'd say they don't outweight the bad ones.
- Yagami's characterization in the side content is incredibly inconsistent. They sometimes just decide he's a perverted creep for no reason and act like it's a funny joke, then you play the story or do another activity and he's nothing like that. The girlfriend system also sucks and none of the women are written in an interesting way, plus it feels creepy for 39 year old Yagami to be dating a 19 year old.
- Some incredibly important skills are unlocked waaaaaay too late, with chapter 5 and 6 being the main point for a lot of them with the requirement of Quickstarter. I shouldn't need to go through almost half the game to be able to increase my Heat Gain or get Re-Guard, and I can't imagine how frustrated I'd be if I missed getting Double Quickstep since if you miss it in chapter 1, you can't get it until chapter 5.
- Tailing is downright miserable and used far too much. I don't think a single tailing mission is fun despite the fact you do more or less at least one per chapter in the story alone. The one you do in chapter 12 is a desperately miserable example of the mechanic at its worst, with the tailing mission lasting nearly ten whole minutes.
- The Amon fight is terrible due to inconsistency. His gimmicks are neat but he's either a brick wall that's a frustrating ordeal to even get to phase two or he decides to be incredibly docile and you can nuke his ass from orbit in seconds. The reward for beating him also isn't worth it since you can easily get ¥1,000,000 from a single good King Koro-Nyan in VR.
- Too many enemies have too many stun attacks. Some bosses can decide to stunlock you by repeating them over and over and you can't even block them with Re-Guard once you've been hit by the first one. Some of the Keihin Gang members and the final boss are notable examples of this.
- The completion process is downright terrible. KamuroGO formats store completion TERRIBLY and makes it annoying to keep track of every location. I desperately wish it was an alphabetized list instead of a grid, but it's at least separated between restaurant and minigames. City completion is even worse, with garbage requirements like "Defeat 1000 enemies with each style", "Play 300 minigames", "Destroy 1000 objects in battle", and "Use EX Actions 300 times". I love 100%ing this series but I genuinely did not enjoy 100%ing this game both times I've done it.
All-in-all, Judgment is really damn good. I think the game's a must play for the sake of the story alone and it stands as a really solid entry in the series, but the side content isn't something worth bothering with aside from a handful of decent side cases. Definitely a solid entry in the series but I'd struggle to find where I'd place it in order from best to worst.