Judgment continued action RPG gameplay while the main series went turn-based. With Judgment possibly ending, Yakuza might need to rethink the change.
The as yet short-lived Yakuza spinoff series Judgment may be coming to a premature end, as Takuya Kimura, the actor who portrays Judgment protagonist Takayuki Yagami, works under a talent agency that is opposed to PC releases. This is certainly not a guarantee that the series will end with Lost Judgment, but if Judgment is ending, there is a strong argument that the mainline Yakuza series should return to its action-with-RPG-elements roots. Yakuza: Like A Dragon changed the series’ protagonist, and also its gameplay format, shifting from a 3D beat-em-up combat system to a full turn-based JRPG. Sega had previously announced that Yakuza would continue as a turn-based series going forward, with Judgment carrying on the action legacy of earlier Yakuza games. Without Judgment maintaining the real-time action tradition of early Yakuza titles, the Yakuza series may need to leave the turn-based approach as a one-off, rather than a permanent shift.
The first seven entries in the Yakuza series, including Yakuza 0, featured real-time combat, with combos, blocks, dodges, and a variety of weapons in addition to unarmed brawling. This signature Yakuza game style placed it as a spiritual successor to classics like River City Ransom, as well as Sega’s Shenmue and Streets of Rage titles. After Yakuza 6 provided a final adventure for series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, the next main installment swapped in the new hero, Ichiban Kosuba, and also introduced turn-based JRPG gameplay.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon was well received, and as Judgment featured the more familiar real-time action combat of prior Yakuza titles, both series seemed set for a good trajectory. With Judgment possibly coming to an early close, the ninth main entry in the Yakuza series may need to decide which game style to maintain, as having both may no longer be an option. Turn-based RPG titles are rarer than action-based RPGs, and real-time action open-world games are abundant, making it arguable that Lost Judgment ultimately finishing the series should not reverse the decision for Yakuza to stay turn-based. Still, Yakuza’s style was about more than imitating other open-world crime games, or other action games with RPG elements. They were also a modern vision of the classic beat-em-up, particularly the Kunio Kun series’ niche as a quirky urban brawler with RPG elements. If only one Yakuza gameplay format is going to carry on, there are good reasons why it should be the original.
Losing Either Yakuza Game Style Is A Blow For Series Fans
The issues surrounding a possible PC port of Judgment causing conflict with actor Takuya Kimura’s talent agency, Johnny’s, are not the first time real-world events have impacted the series. Hiroki Marimiya originally portrayed one of Yakuza 4’s playable characters, the earnest policeman Masayoshi Tanimura. After allegations of drug abuse emerged regarding the actor (ultimately proven false), the character was recast as Toshiki Masuda, with the character model replaced and all dialogue re-recorded. A similar situation happened with Pierre Taki and the first Judgment game, who was also replaced. If Sega’s desire for PC ports and the talent agency’s reticence to embrace PC products do become a sticking point, the developer could certainly opt to recast Takayuki Yagami and continue on.
It is still too early to tell if Judgment will be seriously impacted by these issues, and if Sega opts to end the series, a different Yakuza spinoff featuring a new protagonist is another possibility. With seven Yakuza games and two Judgment titles featuring action-based combat, some could view that format has run its course. There are fewer high-profile turn-based games in the current gaming era, as Final Fantasy has shifted to an action RPG format, leaving Dragon Quest, Persona, and lower-profile series like Trails of Cold Steel, maintaining JRPG tradition.
On that level, Yakuza continuing as a turn-based RPG, regardless of what happens to Judgment, could be of benefit to gamers. There are fewer AAA traditional turn-based RPGs today, but there are also no action games quite like the earlier Yakuza games. Losing out on either style is a blow to the gaming community and series fans, and time will tell whether Sega is forced to make the choice of which gameplay style carries on – and which is left behind.
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