There aren't a whole lot of games out there that'll gladly allow you to roundhouse kick a street thug to the curb, and then sing karaoke shortly after—knuckles bruised and bloody, and itching for a few rounds on SEGA Rally. Knowing this, and how rare it is to have two polar opposite activities bundled into one action-packed experience, really, is what makes Ryu Ga Gotoku one of the best studios for JRPGs on the block. And yet, even with its variety of absurdly unique IPs to brag about, there is that all-important question that consumers often like to raise: which is better — Yakuza, or Judgement?
One of the most common misconceptions about Ryu Ga Gotoku is that, if you like one of its IPs, then you're going to like its others. And while this is partly true in some respects, there are indeed certain features that set the two apart. Therefore, if you're a complete newbie to the Japanese kingdom of beat 'em up brawlers and aren't quite sure which hurdle to throw yourself over first, then be sure to read on.
To Dub or Not to Dub?
Besides Like a Dragon, it's rare that you'll see a Yakuza game in anything other than its native language, which is Japanese. This isn't an issue in the slightest, but more of an advisory for those who haven't quite sunken into any of its prisms before. But Judgement, on the other hand, does offer you the option to play with an English dub, which of course means you can experience all the same stories, but spend a lot less time scanning over subtitles along the way. And, given the fact that both Yakuza and Judgement go incredibly hard on the story-driven cinematics, this is definitely something you're going to want to take into account before picking up either of the two.
On average, a Yakuza or Judgement game will cost you anywhere from twenty to fifty hours in total. This is, of course, factoring in the main story, as well as a huge helping of the side cases and activities that each series tend to hold dear. On that note, you'll want to make the decision before investing your time into either. Bottom line is: are you okay with subtitles in lengthy bursts, or would you much rather have it all laid out for you?
A Pocket of Japan
Let it be said that neither Yakuza nor Judgement are open world games; on the contrary, they're actually compressed into pocket-sized Japanese cities, most of which let you roam and quest in between brawls, cinematics, and cases. And it's in these moments, believe it or not, where you'll find the most fun, as each building typically has some sort of side hustle, random encounter, or activity to partake in.
There are of course a few things that the two share in common; a wide range of eateries and coffee shops, for one. On top of this, there are arcades, which let you fork over your hard-earned change in for gacha items and a few rounds at some of SEGA's classic arcade games. This is all commonplace, and so if you enjoy the idea of galavanting around a fictional Japanese city doing, well, Japanese things, then you'll surely find either of the two franchises equally as entertaining.
It's All About the Action
Although Ryu Ga Gotoku does like to dress its games in various layers, gimmicks, and oddities, the simple truth is, these are in fact action games at heart. And of course, where there's action— there's gameplay. This is the bread and butter of any Yakuza or Judgement game, and it's certainly no afterthought for either Ryu Ga Gotoku or SEGA, nor is it something that any fighting enthusiast can ever cast in a bad light either, as it is, for lack of a better word, flawlessly inventive and to-the-bone.
It doesn't technically matter which of the two you choose here, as both let you alternate between fighting styles as you play along, just the same as they both offer an abundance of flashy executions and technical combos. Whatever your preference in fighting style is, rest assured that you can pretty much knock an enemy out clean with a bicycle handle in either IP. So, you know, there's that.
It is worth noting, too, that Yakuza leans more towards chaotic brawling on the beat with an odd amount of side activities, whereas Judgement aims to include a fair amount of detective work and evidence gathering. Now, depending on your speed and attention span, you may want to side with one over the other. Or better yet, ask yourself the question: can I withstand thirty hours of detective work, or should I delve into something a little more, well, in-your-face and unforgiving?
Given the fact that Yakuza has been around for a considerable amount of time, whereas Judgement as a series is still very much in its infancy, it's exceedingly difficult to cast even the slightest shadow over the former. It's effortlessly timeless, and it boasts more than enough story, gameplay, and memories to just be referred to as “second best.” That said, there is a lot of baggage that ties itself to Yakuza, and if you don't have hundreds of hours to spare, then you'll definitely struggle trying to catch up with its boatload of chapters plus spin-offs.
Of course, if you're more of a casual gamer, and have only a shred of time to dip your toes into one of Ryu Ga Gotoku's bottomless pools, then it's definitely worth slipping into Judgement. Why? Well, there are only two games to work through — Judgement, and Lost Judgement. Add the fact that you can enable a pretty convincing English dub to the mix, and there are more than enough incentives to make you want to go swimming. If, however, you're a triathlete-in-training, then sure, why not go straight for Yakuza? Just be careful, though — they don't give out armbands for free.
So, what's your take? Do you agree with our verdict? Which of the two franchises do you prefer? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.