It’s already been 2 and a half years since players were captivated by Judgment, a new IP set in the same Yakuza world fans know and love. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and SEGA also took risks with bringing the Yakuza franchise into the turn based JRPG genre. While Yakuza: Like a Dragon delivered a great experience, players were eager to return to that action-combat system with the Judgment series. The highly anticipated Judgment sequel is here and re-introduces combat that Yakuza fans are accustomed to. Lost Judgment brings a strong narrative, innovation to Yakuza’s combat system and immersive content that makes for one of the most ambitious titles developed by the studio.
Calm Before the Storm
With the Tojo Clan being dissolved during the events of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Kamurocho became a “tame” city. Yakuza that roamed the streets to control the underground were no more. Takayuki Yagami’s job became mundane with civil cases and little detective work unlike the events of the original Judgment game. As a result, Yagami and Kaito are looking to find some new work elsewhere to prove themselves. A phone call from Sugiura and Tsukumo takes the aforementioned duo to Yokohama where the new “Yokohama 99 Detective Agency” is established. A school of deceit and the boiling underground of Yokohama awaits with crime and mystery.
On the other hand, Genda Law Office is still hard at work with cases. Saori and Hoshino are working a case that takes a groper, Akihiro Ehara, to court after being detained and recorded in public. The verdict is already cast on guilty but Ehara continues to plead innocent. A shocking turn takes the court by surprise with Ehara taking the stage, announcing that body was discovered in a Yokohama warehouse, rotted and covered in flies. The police and court system didn’t even know of this discovery. The rotting man found is Hiro Mikoshiba, a student-teacher and former bully of Ehara’s son, Toshiro. Toshiro was driven to suicide 4 years ago and revenge took the teacher down into a gruesome demise. At the same time, Yagami and crew are investigating a local high school with a bullying epidemic. Many twists and turns await Yagami in ways he can’t see just yet…
Building Off of Predecessors
Following in the footsteps of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Lost Judgment is set in both Kamurocho and Yokohama. The events of the previous games left their mark in subtle ways that become clear for returning players as the game progresses. That being said, Lost Judgment also builds off of what the games introduced and improves them. Mini-games galore, many gadgets both old and new, side quests and unlockables await players just like previous games. For instance, the Paradise VR mini-game has new elements, a new setting and questline. Side quests are also integrated with the new “Buzz Researcher” feature which makes the city feel more alive with NPC conversations, posts and more. The original Judgment lacked this and made Kamurocho feel condensed since it was the only explorable city. Lost Judgment ensures that Yokohama is busy with a lot of content to explore just like Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Additionally, Yagami has a ton of new gadgets including noise amplifiers and detectors. A detective dog even joins along to help him out across the city!
Yagami’s combat styles are improved and offer a more diverse range of abilities similar to Kiryu and Majima’s arsenal in Yakuza 0. Style switching is faster and includes the brand new combat Snake style that Yagami trained himself in the years between Judgment and now. Tiger style specializes in more powerful attacks, Crane focuses on kicks and evading while Snake disarms, counters and tackles opponents. Combat feels more refined and responsive compared to Judgment and there are more combo paths as well. Controlling Yagami is even more fun than ever as I experiment with combos, switching styles and earning more SP to unlock even more skills. On top of improvements to combat, Yagami’s movement has been upgraded. Yagami may scale up walls and perform parkour to reach areas during investigations.
Although I mentioned the improved combat system and content offering, Lost Judgment provides an experience that truly feels made for next-gen consoles. Facial animations are enhanced, spot-on and even make NPC conversations more engaging in side quests. This translates into an immersive, cinematic experience that provides a showcase of PS5 and Xbox Series X’s cutting edge technology. Lost Judgment retains the whimsical nature of the Yakuza and Judgment series while maintaining a serious narrative with twists and turns. The subject matter dives deep into emotional distress and the heart of crime in ways many games don’t touch on right now. Suicide, social politics and bullying are just some of the subjects that Lost Judgment weaves into a cohesive story highlighting the criminal underworld and grey area of the justice system. As a result, it make players such as myself question what’s really going on and implores them to investigate from different perspectives.
While Yakuza and Judgment divides its content into main story, side quests and mini-games, Lost Judgment combines the three into a new set of content called School Stories. School Stories are branching questlines that involves the students of Seiryo High School and their involvement in Yokohama’s underworld. It also introduces a whole new suite of mini-games, stories and a community-like system that connects with progression. At the same time, it incorporates many aspects of Yagami’s detective work and traits. Yagami’s attributes such as “appeal” and “guts” plays a role into gaining the trust of students in this system. I seriously enjoy this new dynamic and would love to see similar questlines in future Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio games. It’s a departure from the money-crushing business of Ichiban’s Confections and Kiryu’s Real Estate, but it’s a welcomed one that I spent tens of hours in.
While Lost Judgment improves on many aspects from the original Judgment game, future games in the series can be even better. Kamurocho feels less active in Lost Judgment thanks to the inclusion of Yokohama in the game. Although there’s still a lot of content to explore in Kamurocho, the original Judgment just had a lot more to do there. I’d like to see the content between cities be on par with each other so that one doesn’t feel overshadowed. Performance of the PS5 version during this review was flawless and proves to be one of the best next-gen experiences yet. Future Yakuza and Judgment games have high expectations to meet!
On the topic of DLC, I would have liked to see more of this included in the base game since the activities were already present in Judgment and Lost Judgment. Lost Judgment provides a ton of content already but DLC such as extract recipes, additional girlfriends and SEGA Master System games should have already been included with the base version. The Kaito Story DLC does give fans another reason to revisit Lost Judgment in the future though and I personally can’t wait for that. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio games provide tremendous value and I’d like it to stay that way going forward.
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s Triumph
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio takes their work to the next level with Lost Judgment. Every aspect of the game is improved compared to Judgment and just saying so feels like an understatement. From improved cinematics and an upgraded combat system to a plethora of content, Lost Judgment delivers one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences for the newest generation of consoles. The thrilling story kept me on the edge from start to finish with uncovered secrets, tragedies and lessons learned. If you are a Yakuza fan and/or played the first Judgment, picking up Lost Judgment is a no-brainer.