|Developer||Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio|
|Platforms||PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One|
|Release Date||September 24th, 2021|
Judgment was first released in Japan on December 13th of 2018 and worldwide in June of 2019. I didn’t experience the adventures of the Yagami Detective Agency until later that year, thanks to a B2G1 sale at Target around Black Friday. As a newcomer to the Yakuza franchise, I enjoyed the spinoff and looked forward to Lost Judgment when we got news of the sequel earlier this year. However, in my “Review in Progress” article, I expressed the concern that the story wouldn’t live up to the first game. Now that I have completed the story, I have concluded that it misses the mark in some ways, but goes in a bold direction and deals with heavy topics in a way that no other game can. In this story, the lines become blurred between good and evil, and everyone seems to have their own definition. For that reason, the sequel makes some strides that rise above its predecessor.
Spiritual Content: In one of the side cases, characters believe that a family heirloom is cursed.
Violence: Players take on the role of a detective and fight multiple gang members at a time. The main character uses martial arts and uses blunt objects and items around the city as weapons. Blood spatter effects occur during specific sequences when the player uses finisher moves. Early on, players will have to face a group of delinquent students, but the main character uses merciful finishing techniques that don’t harm the students, like those against street thugs. Two scenes of greater violence are worth noting. One is when a character is tied to a chair and badly beaten. The other depicts a man getting his throat cut. Lastly, at the beginning of the game, a very decomposed dead body is discovered.
Sexual Content: A significant focus of the story is a groping case. Another side case deals with a “sugar baby” relationship. An early sequence involves tracking a man that tricks women into working in the sex trade at clubs. During one of the side cases, players catch a man who was stealing women’s underwear. Another sequence shows a man with his butt exposed. One final moment worth mentioning is a dress-up sequence that returns from the first game; it’s harmless but may be uncomfortable for some players. The main character can go out on a date tied to one of the side quests.
Drugs/Alcohol: Players have the option of visiting bars and host clubs, at which they can buy drinks and chat with hostesses or bartenders. It’s possible to get the main character drunk, along with designated spots where he can smoke cigarettes for players to restore the EX gauge.
Other Negative Content: Some scenes depict students engaging in acts of bullying—harming one another and saying hurtful things to one another. The topic of suicide because of such acts is a significant factor in the main story.
Positive Content: Lost Judgement tackles the heavy topic of bullying. We see bullying occur, but we also get to see some students stand up for their classmates. This game handles the subject quite well and shows people’s right and wrong paths to seek out justice.
Lost Judgment takes place a few years after the first game. We join Yagami and Kaito upon completing another case before they get a call from a few familiar friends to join them on another case in Yokohama. This is only the first time RGG Studio has brought one of their games to the new location following Yakuza: Like a Dragon. What brings the crew to town is a bullying case, which leads players to spend some time in Seiryu High School. The addition of the school brings new side missions called “School Stories,” which are in addition to a slew of side cases that Yagami can discover around the city. Depending on how much you want to engage with the extra content, your playtime will clear around 25 hours and increase as you spend more time with all of the available activities.
If you love the minigames in the Yakuza series, Lost Judgment has doubled down in that area. The School Stories offer minigames like Dancing, Boxing, motorcycle street races, and more. Returning activities include Dice & Cube, Drone Racing, and Club Sega Arcades. In addition, there are several Master System games now that Yagami owns a Sega Master System instead of a pinball machine. There is so much to do that you could play this game as a life sim. I spent much of my downtime trying out the new arcade games like Sonic: The Fighters and Fighting Vipers. I only scratched the surface because I wanted to finish the main story promptly.
Along with the hours of extra content, Lost Judgment comes with a handful of new gameplay mechanics. In this latest case, Yagami climbs buildings and sneaks through a few areas. The climbing and stealth sequences are scripted events that tend to feel janky. However, the engine likely wasn’t built with such mechanics in mind, so their implementation is a valiant effort to spice up the action. Climbing has a grip meter that brings a fun tension while the stealth sections stay relatively simple. I was surprised that I did much fewer tailing sequences than I did in this sequel as well. They were my least favorite thing to do in the first game, but they seem like an essential part of being a detective, so I never expected that mechanic to take a back seat.
If you enjoy the combat of this series, you’ll feel right at home. Like a Dragon took the Yakuza series into JRPG territory with turn-based battles, but Lost Judgment sticks to its guns. The new snake style is a welcome addition, along with the ability to execute parries to subdue your enemies. Some of my favorite parts of combat are the team finishers that Yagami performs alongside Kaito or other allies he may be fighting alongside. The series staple of unlocking new attacks and upgrades via skill points has returned and is unchanged. I didn’t find any of the encounters, random or scripted, to be very difficult either. I only died on a few occasions where I wasn’t paying attention to my health bar. Some may feel that the standard difficulty will be too easy, but there are settings for higher skill levels if players want a more significant challenge.
One of my favorite new features is the skateboard. Likely due to the famous scene in the first game, Yagami acquires a skateboard to travel across the cities. While it isn’t instrumental in the crowded streets of Kamurocho, it was beneficial in Yokohama, which is a much broader and spread-out city. Skateboard races are yet another activity in the list of things to do that I didn’t engage with much, but I enjoyed grinding rails and busting tricks on parts of the map. The skateboard is a fun addition and may help you get away from the sometimes excessive random battles much easier.
I wasn’t impressed by Lost Judgment’s story until late into my playthrough. I believe that’s because I was a huge fan of Hamura, one of the key villains in the first game. What eventually grabbed me was when I realized that there isn’t a clear-cut antagonist and that multiple characters have their own brand of justice. Another aspect that disappointed me about the story is that the High School eventually gets left in the dust. It sets the stage for the story and the new activities, but I never felt the need to go and do the school stories if Yagami himself wasn’t spending time there. I would’ve liked to interact with some of the characters and students more, but most of those activities are entirely disjointed from the main plot. The location of Seiryu High School ends up feeling like a plot device and an excuse for the developers to add more content.
What kept me going throughout the story were the returning characters. For me, characters are the highlight of the franchise as a whole, and I was glad to see a few of them return. Lost Judgment introduces a few that I could see potential returning if this series becomes a trilogy, but there isn’t any confirmation that it’ll happen at this time. It was a treat to have the supporting cast at Yagami’s side in combat too, which had me curious what it would like to step into their shoes in future entries of the series or get a chance to control them in combat, i.e., Like a Dragon. If you were a fan of the characters introduced in the first game, Lost Judgment is a journey worth taking.
While there are specific ways I think Lost Judgment could have been a better sequel, it was overall a satisfying experience. I have yet to explore so much of this world and side stories that I need to go back and experience. While the idea of jumping into the Yakuza series may seem daunting at this point, this series only has one entry prior that newcomers should play before coming to the sequel. This series is a fantastic crime drama full of action and adventure that I think many people are currently missing out on. My expectations for Lost Judgment were likely too high, but this sequel is far from a letdown and one that fans shouldn’t miss either.
Review copy kindly provided by Fortyseven Communications and Sega
The Bottom Line
Lost Judgment is a solid entry to the spinoff series that fans shouldn't miss.