Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 ,(Reviewed) Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 Xbox – Available Here $59.99 PlayStation – Available Here
Two years ago when Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio released Judgment, many didn’t know quite what to expect. The long running Yakuza developer had swapped from a life of crime to that of a detective with Takayuki Yagami taking the lead. Not only did this spin-off manage to put a fresh new look on various aspects of the series but also managed to create its own identity to the point that when a sequel was announced, it didn’t come as too much of a surprise. Now with Lost Judgment bringing Yagami’s detective agency back to Kamurocho and now to Ijincho, is this sequel just as strong as the first?
The decaying body of a murder victim has been found in Ijincho whose identity is unknown. That is until the court hearing for a police officer by the name of Akihiro Ehara, who had been arrested weeks prior for molestation on a train, reveals not only the exact location of the body but even the identity of the victim during a shocking sentencing hearing. Although it may seem like an open and shut case, with Ehara already arrested for his previous crime, he has been left completely incappable of committing the murder leaving those around the case baffled as to what has happened.
At the same time, Yagami and Kaito have been called by their friends Tsukumo and Sugiura to help out their budding detective agency in Ijincho as a massive case has just come in that will require not only some veteran skill but a few helping hands. The case this time around involves the local private school Seiryo High School and the team is being hired to go undercover and investigate for any signs of bullying among the student body. With this school not only suffering from a student suicide years prior but also the location where the aforementioned murder victim previously worked, it doesn’t take long before the group find themselves entangled in a web of mysteries and crimes that run far deeper and darker than they first appear.
To go any further into depth for these mysteries would be spoiling many of the major reveals but it must be said that while a high school setting may feel like a huge departure for the series, the themes that the story plays with here are probably some of the heaviest that the franchise has seen. The title does not play around when it comes to discussing elements of bullying and suicide as well as delving into the various subconcious elements that can be involved as well as the various forms that it can take on. This means that those who may feel a bit sensitive towards that type of material may need to be wary here as Lost Judgement does not pull any punches in this regard and does its best to tackle these elements as honestly as possible.
Of course, there are other various crime based activities that take place outside of the school as well but the aforementioned school setting helps give the game a fresh feeling as a result. To make things even more interesting, while there are still a large number of side-cases to take on and numerous side-events that range from being heartwarming to straight up ridiculous, the inclusion of the high school also allows for an entire section of optional storylines that players can explore.
The school stories involve Yagami inserting himself as an advisor to various clubs throughout the school first as a way to try and learn more about a mysterious figure known as “The Professor” who appears to be the source of all the problems inside of the school. These storylines allow players to not only grow closer to the students in each club and help them through their various problems but also give players a variety of minigames to tackle as well. It is interesting to note that some school clubs and progression in certain story events are tied to main story progression or Yagami’s own “social traits” such as guts, appeal, teamwork, etc. that raise when participating in mini-games with the students.
As a result, not only does Lost Judgement manage to provide a breadth of optional side-content that players should definitely invest time into, especially since some great storylines come out of the school stories, but it also happens to feature an engrossing core storyline that tackles heavy themes that rarely get touched upon in games as large as this one.
One of the major elements that helped set the Judgement series apart from Yakuza was the fact that the game features a number of investigative elements and that remains true in Lost Judgment though most of them have been given a few improvements while also adding some new elements at the same time. Tailing missions have been modified slightly with players now being able to act inconspicuously for a limited time to avoid suspicion while still ducking into places to hide and chase sequences now factor in both Yagami and the runner’s health with various objects scattered throughout these chases that can restore health and reduce that of the runner’s to keep chases a bit shorter.
Investigations are handled the same though this time around players can choose to enter the mode at any time they wish, though this rarely comes into play. As for the new detective mechanics, Yagami has been taking classes in parkour and stealth though neither of these are really capitalized on due to their incredibly scripted nature. Parkour will find Yagami climbing the sides of buildings while watching his grip gauge while stealth focuses on sneaking to pre-set areas, aiming either a coin or a smoke bomb at a pre-set target, and potentially choking out a guard or two. These sequences help spice things up a bit here and there but rarely feel like they are fully realized.
In many ways combat has been given a number of refinements though it still plays mostly the same as before as an action brawler. Yagami no longer needs to upgrade his combo speed so attacks come out at a fast pace an flow together incredibly well, especially since fighting styles can now be swapped mid-combo, with the Crane style’s attacks being both fast and far-reaching with an extra ability to dodge incoming blows though Tiger style remains the same as before. The biggest change is the fact that Yagami now has a new fighting style entirely in the form of Snake stance which is meant to be a more “merciful” style as many of its “EX” moves focus on scaring a foe into submission rather than knocking them out but it is brutal enough in its own way as many combos flow seamlessly into throws and it can even be used to disarm enemies wielding a weapon.
Players will still gain “SP” from fighting enemies at random, completing story and side-missions, and completing various tasks in the world itself but players will note that it is easier than ever to earn these skill points from fighting. Fights in Lost Judgement now reward players with various SP bonuses depending on how they performed in a fight such as not being touched, quickly eliminating a foe, using an EX move, and more. All of these come into play in nearly every battle and can feel rather rewarding as a result and help make sure that Yagami never feels like he is falling behind the action as skills can now be unlocked faster than ever.
Outside of combat and solving various side-cases Lost Judgement once again provides a staggering amount of side-content to enjoy. Classic inclusions such as the baseball cages, mahjong, and shogi return while golf and drone racing also reappear though not only do these titles join the many Sega style arcade games that players can take advantage of, including a number of Sega Master System games, but also many minigames based around the school stories. Every school story will see Yagami serving as an advisor for school clubs that all have a unique minigame attached to them. These can range from being ryhthm dancing games to racing and for the most part not only are these minigames fun little diversions but also help drive forward the solid stories attached to each club. A number of club missions do tend to be a bit too repetitive and require far too much grind for their own good but these only put a small hamper on the experience.
Visuals & Audio
Once more RGG manages to make the most of their platform of choice as Lost Judgment is an absolutely amazing looking game. With both Kamurocho and Ijincho given another facelift that makes it look just as detailed as it is familiar at this point, players will adore exploring the world once more even if they’ve already explored these same streets throughout the years. Character models are as expressive and detailed as ever with the fighting styles and EX moves being as elaborate and over-the-top as fans have come to expect from RGG.
Once again Sega has gone the extra mile to make sure that players can play either with a fresh English dub or choose to play with the original Japanese voice track should they choose. The lip flaps are seemingly matched to both audio tracks, and the company has managed to retain all of the previous voice actors that were in the first game and have returned here. It is worth noting that players can swap between audio tracks at any time through the options menu so the option to swap is always there but it is highly recommended to give the English dub a chance.
Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio had a tall order when it came to following Judgement and they have managed to do so in nearly every way. The story Lost Judgement manages to tell is a much more grounded but all the more real feeling tale that is still full of various twists and turns that keeps players guessing while also tackling some rather dark issues at the same time. With some slightly improved detective elements, enhanced combat, and perhaps the most side-content in the franchise so far, players will find Lost Judgement to be a more than worthwhile sequel.
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