Lost Judgment Review: Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost
Having the Judgment games release on PC is a dream for fans, not only because it means more people can play them, but because of what it means for the series’ future. There were reports over the last year that due to complaints from the agency of Takuya Kimura, who serves as the model of lead character Takayuki Yagami as well as his Japanese voice actor, these games could not release on PC, which cast doubt on whether Sega would continue them at all. It’s wonderful that whatever the truth may have been behind the scenes, it has been worked out, because Lost Judgment improves on the original Judgment in almost every way. It would have been a real shame to see the series end here, but fans who are having their first chance to play it are in for a treat.
Three years after the first Judgment, Yagami and his partner Kaito are still running their detective agency despite work being slow lately. They’re called in for support on a case by their friends Sugiura and Tsukumo, both returning from the first game, who have set up their own detective agency in Ijincho, which fans of Yakuza Like a Dragon will recognize as the setting of that game. A local private school has concerns about bullying that go back several years but which they want to finally get to the bottom of, and they’ve turned to these detectives to figure out what is happening.
A Disturbing Admission
Meanwhile, the Genda law firm also returns from the first game, and they’re representing a man accused of groping a woman on the subway. It seems like an open and shut case which even they don’t feel they can win, but after conviction, their client stands up before the court and announces a body has just been found. He knows the victim’s identity, despite the police not yet identifying them, and his arrest gives him an alibi for the time of the murder.
It should come as no surprise that these two cases intersect in a story that involves themes of bullying, suicide, assault, and more. While Lost Judgment can be incredibly funny and lighthearted at times, it isn’t afraid to get very dark, either. There are content warnings at the start for a reason. Some of the series’ best twists are a part of Yagami’s latest case.
Carrying A Legacy
I’m so glad Judgment is still here to carry on the traditional Yakuza style of gameplay now that the main story has sought to explore a different style. I loved Like a Dragon but Lost Judgment executes this formula better than any game in the series to date. While you still spend a fair amount of time in Kamurocho, most of your time will be spent in Ijincho. Despite this, neither city feels short-changed. You can travel freely between them, and both are filled with side activities and things to do. Most of the time, when a Yakuza game jumps to a different city, it’s just for a short visit, so it was great to see Lost Judgment balance its locations so well.
Meanwhile, the combat here builds upon even the excellent fighting in the last game. Gone are the frustrating mortal wounds, and in is a third fighting style for Yagami, snake style. Snake style is mainly meant to be used against enemies with weapons as a means to disarm them, but it was by far my most used combat style in the game. It just flows so well and feels amazing in practice. You still have crane style for crowds and tiger style for individual enemies, though, which you can freely swap to.
Back To School
All of the mini-games and side content players expect are back to, with one major twist. Because a lot of Lost Judgment takes place in a school, you spend a great deal of time there, even becoming the mentor to a school mystery club. This leads to a series of school stories, special mini-games revolving around an investigation into a mysterious professor character manipulating students.
This means infiltrating even more school clubs, ten in all, which leads to a variety of mini-games. These are almost all good. A rhythm game for the dance club, boxing, a robot battle game, skateboarding, and more. They’re some of the best content in Lost Judgment and even can be taken outside of these stories, with the skateboard, in particular, being a fantastic new way to get around these huge cities a little faster.
Room To Grow
One nagging issue remains from the first game, though. While this is at least technically a detective game, most of the detective activities you do remain some of the weakest content in Lost Judgment. There are fewer of them, mind you, with tailing missions in the main story only showing up a few times, for example. Searching for clues in the environment is still here but doesn’t show up that often for most of the game, though it does a lot in the final hours. While they’re less frequent, though, they’re not any better. If anything, they’re worse. The new cover system in the tailing missions is actively worse than the first game’s. It seeks to make things more contextual instead of only being able to take cover at specific locations, but in practice, it just feels harder to control and easier to slip out of. New stealth missions are so braindead that there’s simply no need for them to be here.
It would be really nice to see a game advertised as a detective story nail the detective side of things, but it feels like the developers realized they weren’t great, so they minimized their inclusion. I don’t want less of a bad thing; I want something good.
While I’d love to see the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio nail the detective side of things in a potential sequel, Lost Judgment is still a fantastic example of what its series can be. And with the addition of school stories, it does stand out from the Yakuza series more than its predecessor, even if not in the way I would have expected going in. With fantastic combat, great cities to explore, seemingly never-ending mini-games and side content, and a story that took my breath away, players should absolutely get lost in this one.
While a few issues remain, Lost Judgment improves on its predecessor in almost every way and is a must-play for fans of the Yakuza series.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Stadia; Publisher: Sega; Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio; Players: 1; Released: September 15th, 2022; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Lost Judgment provided by the publisher.