Lost Judgment Review – A Brilliant Sequel, Slightly Marred
As a die-hard fan of the Judgement/Yakuza franchises, I’m delighted to do this Lost Judgment review. Judgment was a game that took me a while to get into, compared to Yakuza. I enjoy the detective aspect and I adored the story, but the mechanics could be a little frustrating. Constantly having to go buy 20-30,000 dollar (or more) Health Kits when I got critically wounded left me with a very bitter taste in my mouth. Ultimately, I still loved it, but it took a bit more time. Lost Judgment still tackles very timely, gritty issues, and has some content that might be triggering in other people. Bullying, suicide, murder, there’s a lot going on here, but I won’t go spoiling the story.
While playing for our review, Lost Judgment felt very similar to the point where it feels like an expansion rather than a sequel. I don’t say that as a negative though. That having been said, the story is a very far take from its predecessor. In Judgment, we’re tackling a serious, gritty crime drama involving the Yakuza in Kamurocho. We remain in Kamurocho in Lost Judgment but also spend a great deal of time in Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s Yokohama (Izesaki Ijincho). It’s been a few years since The Mole Killings, and we find ourselves in Yokohama to help our friends Sugiura and Tsukumo with a new PI agency. It expertly balances the lighter story (infiltrating a school and helping the various clubs/groups), and the darker story. Like all RGG stories though, it takes a few chapters to really get heated, so be prepared.
We’re not going to talk about the story very much. The joy of an RGG game is the story itself and spoiling it ruins a lot. My focus is the actual gameplay and visuals. How has it improved? Is it all for the better? That’s what we’re here to go over. How does it all stack up at the end of the day? This Lost Judgment review will have you more than covered.
Growth and Improvement:
One of the things I truly love about this franchise is character growth. Most of the major characters from Judgment are back and have grown and changed. Many of them for the better! Some people still feel the same as always (Genda Law Firm jumps to mind) but that’s perfectly fine. The actual meat and potatoes of this story is layered and deep, as I expected. It did not waste any time in tugging on the ol’ heartstrings. The story of bullying and how it affects the world around us is important, and I genuinely appreciate how it was handled.
Friendship is another focus of the Judgment series. In the original game, you had to befriend something like 50 different people in Kamurocho. Each had its own requirements, side-cases, and so much more. Many of these wound up incredibly tedious. Looking at you, Yosuke Saotome. Being constantly harassed to go fight the Keihin Gang also brought me to a boil. Anytime I would go to do something important, I’d need to go fight the same four bosses over and over. Sure, you don’t have to, but then you get a passive-aggressive text message about it. Maddening, that.
During my review game play for Lost Judgment, instead of “Friendships”, I learned you can befriend Cats. That’s right, Cats. You find strays, give them names, give them food, pet them, and just stare deeply into their eyes. There’s even a Pawpularity stat that goes along with it. What’s not to like about this? Oh yeah, and I guess there are high school students too. Through our time as an advisor, we work with a lot of clubs and gain a variety of Persona-Esque stats. The more you work with the clubs and play the games, you’ll take on more side-cases. As you improve your Leadership Stats (Teamwork, Focus, Appeal, Guts), you’ll unlock more School Stories (highlighted in green, instead of blue for the Side Cases). We’ll be coming back to this very soon though.
Be A Detective:
One of the biggest missteps in Judgment was blending detective work and combat. It just didn’t work. Many of the detective tools and techniques we had me as the player pretty confused. You were dumped into an area, given a zoom tool and it said “Figure out what’s wrong here.” While that’s not terrible (we’re supposed to be detectives), I myself am not a detective. Many of the things we were meant to find were pretty difficult to find, and it was seldom clear.
After playing for my review, I found out that detective work has been massively improved in Lost Judgment. It’s far more balanced when you’re looking around crime scenes and giving people the once-over for clues. Plus we now have the tech to assist us, from bug trackers to a crime-solving dog! That part is so over-the-top, but it’s what I want when I play an RGG Studios game. Plus, that dog is crazy adorable. It’s altogether far more balanced. Another improvement was, when you’re searching for clues, you can take a moment and pause, collect your thoughts, and think about the situation. Then, you can get a hint for what you’re looking for.
Tailing is more or less the same, but you can now also hold Triangle to temporarily “act natural”. Tailing is better in Lost Judgment because it’s used a bit more sparingly. You don’t always have to tail and chase everyone in all of Kamurocho. I love the detective story and treating it as such, but the game loop in Judgment could become a bit overwhelming and frustrating. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. We also have stealth missions still, but again, they’ve made a change for the better.
Now we can also use parkour, climb on pipes, make huge jumps, and do all sorts of tricks to sneak and run around. We can throw a coin to distract guards, or simply hit them with a pepper bomb! Stealth in Lost Judgment has more meat to it, and I loved it. I typically hate stealth missions, but I actually had a lot of fun puzzling my way through them this time.
I just said the work/combat stuff tended to not flow together well in Judgment, but that isn’t the case here. The addition of the third style – Snake is such a great move. It’s built around speed and counterplay and out of the three, is the one I use the most. Crane, Tiger, and Snake all have uses and important times to be used. That being said, Snake is still the most fun! Lost Judgment also adds a new feature, EX Surrender. We don’t always want to batter someone senseless, especially if it’s a high school delinquent.
Occasionally, you’ll terrify someone mid-battle. If you have a full meter, you can use a Heat Action to instead activate “EX Surrender”. It will look like a heat action, but he’ll stop before knocking them out. Yagami might make them tap out in a submission hold, or do a stomp, but land right next to the face, and pat them on the cheek. It’s a very cool feature. You still do sick martial arts, jump off walls, leap over people, and smash foes to bits with breakable items. There are also status ailments coming in from Yakuza: Like a Dragon, bleeding, stunned, etc. Thankfully there are also easy-to-buy items to cure these.
Combat flows smoothly, and it’s a bit less of a grind than it was in the previous game. That leads me to another Judgment frustration. The grind for SP was tedious. You pretty much had to be a millionaire and grind the “Hug Bomb” items for SP. Hug Bombs are still in this game (a drink that heals and grants SP), but RGG Studios brought back a feature from Yakuza 0. As you fight, there are optional objectives you can complete that grant bonus SP. These stack up, and the “Bonus SP” skills aren’t incredibly expensive. I had all three of those within the first three chapters of the game.
Now it’s easy to grind. The rewards for completing objectives in the game also feel much higher, making the game feel less of a chore when I want to progress. They also brought defensive equipment over from Yakuza. You have all these shops in Yokohama, so why not pick up some cool gear? You can also buy cool costumes for your dance troupe, or sick new skateboards to cruise around on/do tricks on.
The Persona Problem:
I don’t want to talk about the story too much, because I don’t want to give it away. It’s already common knowledge that we spend a great deal of our time in a High School setting, where Yagami is working as a counselor or advisor to a variety of school clubs/groups. Esports, Boxing, Mystery Club, Dance Club, it’s got it all. There are stories tied to these too, but it’s also a way to introduce our mini-games! Sadly, no Karaoke, but there is a Rhythm/Dance game that’s a blast. This does lead to one of the things that honestly is kind of overwhelming to me.
There are ten clubs at Seiryo High. By Chapter 4, I had access to seven of them. It can feel incredibly overwhelming to try and focus on them all at once. However, many of the mini-games are linked to high school stories. Boxing matches, Dancing/Rhythm game, in-house Virtua Fighter 5 tournaments, the Robotics battles, Skateboarding, and more. It’s so much that you have a “School Diary” app on your phone that shows all of the social interactions between clubs and people in a pretty intricate chart.
I love these stories though. They feel very real and are very heartfelt/endearing. That said, it is incredibly overwhelming again. I have times where I have absolutely no clue which I should focus on to grow my stats. The higher your leadership stats, the more of these stories will unlock for you. The students feel like real students, with real problems. Girls being taken advantage of by awful people, esports players trying to cheat just to keep the club alive, it just goes on.
Each story is well-told, offers pretty solid rewards, and serves as a nice distraction from the overall main story of the game. Every story I’ve gone through here has felt incredibly real. Not all of them are happy endings but ultimately serve to create a world that is fleshed out and genuine. We’re helping these kids grow at a pivotal time in their lives, and it’s wonderful. The high school stuff can be a lot to take in, but it’s worth it. It’s not just “more stuff to do to add on hours”. I really get into this part of the game, almost more than the actual story. Almost.
Is It Worth It? Absolutely – 8/10:
Judgment was a really cool idea – a side-story set in the same world as Yakuza. It was set on the same map, same timeline, and stories, without the crutch of using the main Yakuza characters. It made the world feel deeper, more fleshed out. It had its problems, and every single one of them was addressed, as far as I’m concerned. The music has more variety (and is amazing), for example. All of the detective work feels more enjoyable. Combat is a thrill, and the emotional stakes are higher. Nothing is what it seems, and it just gets wilder and darker.
Lost Judgment is proof this story and cast can stand on its own, without the Yakuza main cast, while also being set in that world. It’s a completely different game and franchise, and the sequel is everything I could have hoped for. It’s my sincere hope that after playing Lost Judgment for my review, it isn’t the last entry in the series either. There’s so much cool stuff in this game that I couldn’t possibly go over it all now. Like DDR-style mini-games? Got you covered. Want to play some SEGA Master System? No problem. Like adorable Shiba Inu dogs that want to solve crimes? Got those, too. Even if you didn’t play Judgment, Lost Judgment is still worth a play.
I’m torn on the overall use of sexual assault as a plot point in this story. On one hand, it is very much rooted in our current socio-political climate. On the other hand, I don’t know if it was handled as well as I would have liked. That said, I did still enjoy the overall story. It was very compelling.
If you like gripping crime drama, gritty storytelling, and awesome detective stories? Even with the negatives, I did love the game and have thoroughly been lost in the story. I appreciate how it shifts between macro and micro when it comes to storytelling. One moment we’re tailing someone who was cheating on a loved one, and the next, chatting up big clients or sneaking into a crime scene. There’s just so much to take in.
- A gritty story that does tackle some very serious, real topics.
- School Stories, while a lot, are deep and enjoyable.
- Overall, the gameplay is still incredibly fun, building on the previous iteration.
- Handling sensitive topics is not always expertly done.
- High School content can feel incredibly overwhelming.
Esports Talk was provided a key for this Lost Judgment review.