- Total Score - 9/109/10
Lost Judgment’s great combat and excellent story make it a case easily worth solving.
Developer – Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios
Publisher – Sega
Platforms – PlayStation 4|5, , Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X
Rating – R18+
Judgment was a spinoff of the Yakuza series, from critically the acclaimed Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios team. Knowing their stellar history is important in many ways. Judgment was the culmination of all of their previous games, ideas, and concepts combined into one stellar title. Lost Judgment looks to pick up where the previous game left off, while evolving the series in a multitude of ways.
On the surface many people would classify Lost Judgement as an action RPG. It’s so much more than that once you dig a bit deeper under the surface. It’s one part action, one part narrative adventure game and one part the detective game everybody didn’t know they wanted.
You once again play as Takayumi Nagami, defense attorney turned private investigator who has gone back to solving petty crimes and cases after the sprawling investigation that happened in the previous game. Of course, it doesn’t take long before he is thrust into a world absolutely drenched with murder, mystery and corruption at all levels. Similarly to Like a Dragon, Kamurocho is slightly featured, but the vast majority of Lost Judgment It takes place in Yokohama.
Everything from the games visual style, the expressions on peoples faces and even the music help sell the feel the series is known for. People are shady, always with more beyond the surface, and various elements are always at play. From local police, the judicial system down to the Yakuza themselves. The world and the inhabitants are layered and darker than in any previous RGG title by quite a bit.
Right in the midst of this city are the elements of the Yakuza crime syndicates, but the spotlight is far larger on elements of corruption within the local police and courts this time around.
Lost Judgment delves deep into a different, darker side of the criminal world proper. After the game’s grisly opening, elements of sexual assault, torture and more kick off an explosive and heavy story to take in. It’s absolutely the most mature story they have created. It’s especially jarring after Like a Dragon and how light it now seems in comparison.
Lost Judgment features callbacks a more grounded, real version of the crime, even down to courtroom drama and hearings. You will once again find journals and have discussions where the other side of the criminal element are represented in multiple facets. From court hearings, plea bargains, and Yagami’s opening statement. “In Japan,99.9 percent of criminal trials end with a guilty verdict.”
Without giving away too much, the grim opening murder scene is quickly blamed on a man named Akihiro, but he is also under investigation for assaulting woman in public at nearly the same time. It’s up to Yagami to investigate whether or not the sexual assault was a cover up for a more heinous deed, and either defend or prosecute everybody responsible.
As you can imagine, the themes carry a much heavier weight than before. elements of bullying, suicide, molestation and murder are core to the game’s plot and even some sub stories, which makes the traditional balance between goofy side quests and heavy hitting drama tenuous.
Previous titles could deftly weave between the whimsical and the drama, but with themes that are this troubling, investigating the games themes such as bullying and then saying screw it to hit the skate park feels and looks odd, even in the context of this franchise and RGG’s history.
However, the story keeps up the suspense and hits many high notes through out, Yagami’s supporting cast, many whom return from the previous installment are just as awesome as always. As part of the investigation, Yagami has to infiltrate a high school, and this seemingly small step in a case is easily Lost Judgment’s best addition.
The high school has it’s own itinerary of activities and a slew of characters. One in particular is essentially your high school sidekick, and she is fantastic. I don’t want to give much more away, but high school Yagami is a treat and the depth found in this whole part of the game can be explored and developed even after credits roll on the core story.
The core gameplay is back with the most amount of additions in quite a while. Unlike Like a Dragon, Lost Judgment returns the real time and fast paced brawler action the Yakuza series was known for. It’s nice to have it back, and although I loved the turn based nature of Ichiban’s adventure, having Yagami pick up the real time combat slack is a perfect balance and differentiator between the two branching series.
The combat system is RGG’s most advanced and refined. Equipped with a multitude of fighting styles, Yagami can adapt and switch up to tackle any and every situation he encounters. Skateboarding allows a quicker way to navigate the two different locations. Various mini-games are back, and essentially unchanged from previous games. Batting cages, arcade classics, all of that and more return. If you weren’t a fan of them before, nothing in Lost Judgment will change your mind on the subject.
That same sentiment can be said about the whole package. If previous games were never your cup of tea, nothing here will convert those fans, but for those who are into it, Lost Judgment has tons to offer veteran players.
The English dub is fantastic, with RGG’s first global release pulling it off in a massive way. The game also looks stunning and it shines on next generation platforms. Load times are minimal, and the frame rate never dipped regardless of how many school desks I slammed into some rowdy kids. New parkour and stealth elements are nice additions, albeit a bit shallow. Detective work however, has been ramped up considerably.
In the main case and investigation, player agency is still quite limited by the general plot the game wants you to follow. In various side cases, the toolbox is really open and allows players to solve or find clues in various ways. I’m hoping that if this series continues they find ways to incorporate more of the player agency into the main narrative.
Lost Judgment is a fantastic sequel. The combat and high school undercover side stories are absolutely incredible. The main story is well told, even with the limited nature of the investigative aspects. Lost Judgment is absolutely worth playing, as long as you keep in mind the game carries a very mature tone.