Lost Judgment is a direct sequel to 2019’s Judgment and once again stars detective Takayuki Yagami. Not even a year after the release of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, we’re going back to Yokohama to solve a groping case turned murder mystery. Where Judgment dealt with gritty gangland murders involving corrupt officials, Lost Judgment brings the narrative closer to home with story threads involving bullying, school life, social hierarchy, and victimization.
Though the story is very different from what we saw in the last game, Lost Judgment feels very similar to its prequel to the point where it’s sometimes detrimental. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio did a lot to reinvent its formula with Yakuza: Like a Dragon, but gameplay-wise, Lost Judgment feels more like a game-length expansion pack than a proper sequel. Fortunately, the developers once again crafted narratives good enough to overlook many of Lost Judgment’s flaws, and despite momentary frustration, I wasn’t deterred from pushing forward to see what was around the next bend.
Lost in Yokohama
Lost Judgment opens with Yagami and his partner, Kaito, trying to make ends meet. A few years have passed since the Mole killings, and the detective game isn’t paying too well in Kamurocho. Fortunately for the Yagami Detective Agency, Sugiura and Tsukumo have started their own PI firm in Yokohama and they have a case they need assistance with.
Simultaneously, Saori and Hoshino from Genda Law Office are representing a man accused of groping a woman in a subway. At his sentencing, the man identifies the location of a dead body and the deceased’s identity, stating that it was a man who bullied his son into committing suicide five years earlier. Coincidentally, the job in Yokohoma that Yagami takes on centers around the school that the man’s son and the homicide victim attended.
The original Judgment contained some gruesome material, but it mostly centered around gang culture and politics. Lost Judgment takes on some more volatile material. Much of the first part of the game concerns the layered causes and effects of bullying and its myriad victims. It does a great job of portraying the fact that many bullies are victims of abuse themselves without excusing their actions.
Too much of a good thing
While Lost Judgment has the full complement of substories that fans expect from a Ryu Ga Gotoku game, it also introduces a separate storyline called School Stories. This puts Yagami in the middle of a school club that needs help. These each introduce unique mechanics that do a great job of mixing up the gameplay.
Many activities carry over from Judgment as well. Drone racing makes a return, and there are the usual arcades to visit and tons of other activities that fans of the series will be familiar with. Yagami can travel between Kamurocho and Yokohoma (fairly) freely, so there are two cities to explore.
Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like there’s too much going on in Lost Judgment. Between substories, the main story, and side activities, it can feel overwhelming at times. The main story itself is a good 20-30 hours, and a completionist run would be at least 2-3 times longer.
Part of what makes Lost Judgment feel a bit long-winded is the constant fighting. It’s not that combat isn’t enjoyable. I love Yagami’s new Snake Style, which resembles Aikido and concentrates on counters. It just seems uncharacteristic for Yagami to constantly resort to violence when he’s posed as someone who uses the law and his intelligence to resolve situations. This is especially true when he’s beating up teenagers in the halls of a high school.
It feels like the Judgment series really wants to pull away from the Yakuza formula, but Ryu Ga Gotoko Studio isn’t quite sure how to make it work best. I think future entries would work much better as combat-lite, condensed adventures. The plot and characters definitely have a different, more gritty and serious feel that’s distinct from Yakuza, and I hope to see the gameplay take a departure at some point as well.
Lost Judgment: The final verdict
Lost Judgment is another excellent game from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. Few companies can steadily produce quality titles like this, and it’s a testament to its expertise that Lost Judgment has an excellent, engaging plotline and tons of things to see and do.
This game’s biggest fault is that it has too much going on that detracts from the main plotline. I’m hoping Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio keeps taking risks with exploring gameplay outside of the Yakuza norm, and our next outing with Judgment (or another spinoff) will go further toward distinguishing itself as a unique property.