I’m Out Of Lawyer Puns
HIGH It’s still the best way to beat the hell out of people in modern gaming.
LOW Some of the original Judgment‘s nagging issues are still present
WTF …Is this series really ending because of pig-headed Japanese talent agents?
It is quite possibly too good a time to be a fan of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. This is now their third game to release on next-gen hardware, and these machines haven’t even been out for a year.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon was a Series S/X launch title, which means this majestic developer can now also lay claim to creating one of the greatest launch games of all time. They followed that up with a PS5 version in March and a poorly priced (but competent) remaster of their exceptional gumshoe simulator Judgment in April. Between those titles and the recently released Lost Judgement, I would estimate that at least half of all the hours played on my PS5 have been dedicated to titles from Sega’s new golden goose. While I am thankful for their bountiful efforts, I must say to Ryu Ga Gotoku studio — Please, in the name of all that is holy, take a vacation. Or at least get a nap in!
But before they do (and I really hope they do), a hearty pat on the back is in order for yet another exceptional release.
While the sprawling Yakuza franchise is one of the studio’s greatest strengths, Judgment seems to be moving in a more episodic direction. Lost Judgment isn’t the middle chapter in a planned trilogy (or, in the case of Yakuza, a heptalogy), this is The Continuing Adventures of The Yagami Detective Agency. While it certainly helps to have the background information from the first installment, new players can easily jump here thanks to how strong these characters are and how little the events of the previous game are actually brought up.
Lost Judgment‘s story centers around the murder of a teacher at a wealthy private school with a dark history, so it’s up to former ace-attorney-turned-ace-detective Takayuki Yagami and his burly backup Kaito to crack the case. There’s quite a bit more to it than that, but it’s a magnificent tale with all the twists and turns one would expect.
The highlight of the experience is Seiryo High School, where much of the campaign takes place. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it essentially becomes a wonderful homage to the film Kindergarten Cop. As a high school teacher myself who also worked at a Japanese school, I absolutely adored untangling this yarn alongside the hilarious and often touching “School Life” side missions. This title nails what it’s like to work with teenage students in a way that few pieces of media achieve, and this made the experience significantly more memorable from a personal standpoint.
Mechanically, Lost Judgment is very similar to Judgment in that it’s essentially the same game with the rougher edges polished up. It’s still a third person open-world action game absolutely brimming with mini-games, side content, vintage Sega arcade cabinets, and an endless supply of rapscallions waiting to have their heads kicked in increasingly wonderful ways. It’s very much a Yakuza-style affair, but Lost Judgment adds being a detective to the mix, which means there’s investigating crime scenes, interrogating witnesses, and it generally takes a more grounded, methodical approach compared to the all-out frenzy of Yakuza.
The investigation aspects of the original Judgment needed the most TLC, and the sequel delivers on that front. Tailing suspects is both a more engaging and less frequent affair, and the first-person crime scene investigations are also improved due to a wider assortment of gadgets to investigate with, including a directional microphone that can be used to listen in on conversations.
The first game had two distinct fighting styles (one for fighting large groups while the other was meant for individual opponents) but neither felt distinct enough to prioritize using either one. Now there are four styles, and each one is different enough to justify mixing it up based on the situation, so the core brawling here is possibly the deepest and most rewarding Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has delivered.
The developers have made their intentions clear that Judgment (as a franchise) is taking the ‘action game’ mantle from Yakuza while it goes on a Dragon Quest-induced spirit journey into the realm of turn-based combat. On top of all the punching fools Yagami has to do, there are now stealth missions thrown in for good measure. It ain’t Metal Gear, but they’re infrequent enough to be a decent diversion without overstaying their welcome. They’ve also added Uncharted-style climbing up to various rooftops that features a grip meter to keep players on their toes, and considering Yagami’s flair for Parkour, it’s a natural fit.
Lost Judgment also quite beautiful to look at. While it still uses the core assets from other Dragon Engine titles released on PS5/Series X, they’ve significantly enhanced the lighting, which really does a lot to make the visuals pop. The shadows add great definition to the detailed character models, and it runs at 60FPS in 1440p on next-gen hardware, silky-smooth the whole way through.
There are, however, a few lingering problems left behind from the original Judgment.
For example, the ‘smartphone’ menu interface and upgrade system is unchanged from Judgment, which means it’s still poorly laid out and overly-dense. While the investigative aspects are better, there are still a few tedious ones here and there, such as an extended segment where I had to painstakingly count fifteen different cameras in three sections of a subway station. Thrilling, it was not. However, issues like these do little to detract from the overall experience.
Lost Judgment is a fantastic success. It expertly builds on the foundation laid by the first game while also continuing to differentiate itself from the Yakuza franchise in smart ways. It’s still very much a Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio Joint, but their brawling mechanics have never been sharper, their graphics have never been better, and this is one of the strongest stories they’ve ever produced. It’s a no-brainer purchase for fans, and new players will find it surprisingly accommodating.
Lost Judgment is one of the very best games of the year, and I pray that jerk-ass talent agents won’t ruin a good thing.
Disclosures: This game was developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by SEGA. The game is available on PS4/5 and XBO/X/S. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS5. Approximately 44 hours of play were devoted to playing the game, and the campaign was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and features Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol and Sexual Themes. Lost Judgment is a Mature title. It’s not as overtly grotesque as other M-rated games, but it tackles difficult subject matters head-on. The main story centers around school bullying and teenage suicide, which could be triggering for some players. Furthermore, given its methodical pacing and long conversations about things like the Japanese legal system, it doesn’t strike me as a game that a pre-teen would be particularly interested in. Even for parents who aren’t concerned with their kids playing M-Rated games, this may be one to hold off on.
Colorblind Modes: The game features no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game features voiced cutscenes, and the dialogue is presented in white font. The size of the text is not remappable. All dialogue and instructions are provided in text, and there are no necessary audio cues. I’d say it’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The game’s controls are not remappable, but both the camera and first person perspective mode can be inverted.