Lost Judgment review for PS5/4, Xbox Series X/One

Platform: PS5
Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Stadia
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1, 2 (mini-games only)
Online: Leaderboards

When the town of Ijincho was announced as the setting of the 8th Yakuza title, players would wonder if they would ever be able to freely brawl in this new region given the series was in the middle of transitioning to a turn based RPG. Sparks of hope were found when a sequel of the Judgment (A Yakuza side series) was announced on the appropriately dubbed “Judgment Day” and the trailer featured landmarks from the fictional Yokohama town which was the main setting of Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Lost Judgment once again places you in the control of leather clad detective Takayuki Yagami. After vindicating himself in his first adventure, Yagami has not returned to practicing law and continues to be a detective in the fictional red light district of Kamurocho. While the town has gotten rougher due to greater events which occurred in the latest entry of the main series, the demand for detective work did not increase in relation. Opting to assist some friends in setting up their detective agency in Ijincho, he would find himself embroiled in a case involving bullying in schools and it?s long lasting ramifications.

While players will have to partake in plenty of fisticuffs, Judgment is technically a detective title and you will be tasked to do plenty of investigating. The investigations will have you finding clues in environments to build up evidence to present to witnesses to get you closer to the truth. Additional activities will include interviews, photographing people or objects of interest, tailing or chasing suspects, even less than legal activities such as breaking and entering. These activities that were present in the previous entry are tweaked and refined in the sequel. The observation sections can still be rather obtuse forcing players to scan everything hoping for a hit, this is mitigated with a clue system which can trigger an inner monologue providing what should be focused on. Also another annoying aspect of the observation section was removed as cats are no longer hidden in these parts, meaning you won?t be driven mad by constant meowing if you are stuck in these sections.

Tailing missions are less frequent in this entry, but when you do partake in them the game is less hand holding in these activities with less highlighting of hiding places. The ability to “act natural” for a limited time when spotted was added to your repertoire making tailing a bit natural. Chases are also modified in that both the chaser and chasee?s health bars act as a stamina meter and when completely drained the chase will end with either the subject being captured or getting away, which is a preferred change. The oddest exclusion is the removal of bonuses for asking the “right” questions in interrogations and interviews. This feature that was present in the first entry incentivized presenting the right evidence and not choosing the

New mechanics added to the investigation aspect of the game include the utilization of stealth and parkour when breaking into environments. The last game?s break in mechanics was rather rudimentary, usually involving finding a back entrance or using a disguise to walk into a hostile environment, ultimately ending with some kind of fight. The stealth mechanic in the game isn?t anything revolutionary. In fact in some aspects it?s actually somewhat half baked. You can use coins to distract patrolling guards, but if you do not take them out when they are distracted, you will not have other options. In fact there was one stealth mechanic I discovered until after I had completed the main story while playing the gauntlet challenges. Parkour?s inclusion was to make break-ins more dynamic and in a way worked and in a way it doesn?t. Yes, you are no longer just walking through the front door with a disguise or unmonitored back door, however the parkour paths are usually static and a grip meter fails to add tension.

RGG Studio?s greatest strength is it?s writing and characters and Lost Judgment delivers in spades. Characters are fleshed out and their motives feel grounded and believable, but you will also meet plenty of wacky and memorable folks as well. You grow attached to the people you meet in Ijincho and when bad things happen you genuinely hope everyone escapes unscathed. I saw this the most in the School Stories sub mode which serves to be this game?s “B Story”. This mode entrenches you into affairs of the school you were sent to investigate, as you try to uncover a hidden presence looking to corrupt the school?s student body. Unlike the B Stories of previous titles the activities you?ll do to progress are extremely varied, it includes boxing, dancing, skateboarding, competing in robotics competitions and even playing Virtua Fighter. The endgame of School Stories was extremely satisfying. I dare say this mode could stand on it?s own and I will fondly compare it to another game which explored the goings on of a school in Rockstar Games? Bully.

As alluded to in the opening paragraph this game is a brawler foremost and Lost Judgment adds to the competent base of the original. Yagami adds a third fighting style to his repertoire early in the game. Snake style is a deflection based fighting style that also utilizes holds and locks to put down enemies. This style can also disarm enemies which is especially helpful when they start packing firearms. Tiger and Crane style also gets some tweaks making them stand out a bit more. Tiger Style will eventually enable you to block bladed weapon attacks and Crane Style adds a stylized leap that can avoid enemy attacks and give you an opening to counterattack. In the first game I found myself creating a “third” style which is basically finding makeshift weapons and swinging until the weapon breaks or the fight is over. In Lost Judgment, this is rendered useless due to the streets of Ijincho being wider and less crowded with objects to pick up.

This along with experience bonuses for varying your attacks made fighting less of a chore as the game progressed. Yagami is still not the brickhouse that Yakuza mainstay Kazuma Kiryu is and is susceptible to “mortal damage”. This was a punitive mechanic from the first game which temporarily prevents your health from being recovered unless you get treated at a medical facility. While a novel concept, costs of being treated was way too high and if left lingering you can have nearly all of your health bar locked and not refillable. The mechanic returns in an extremely altered form in that mortal damage does not lock your health when received  and can be countered with a “mortal reversal” which skilled players can use to turn the table on the attacker (Mortal Damage dealing attacks could only be evaded or interrupted by EX attacks in the original).

Lost Judgment is a vast improvement to the original but there are some things that still irked me. Ijincho is the star of the game and it shows. Exploring Kamurocho is available, however it is a bit lacking in regards to having side cases. Roughly 10% of side cases originate in the series? 1st city and a couple which originated in Ijincho spill over to the region. Skateboarding was introduced as a personal traversal method however the implementation is somewhat perplexing. You cannot skate on the sidewalks (This game has you beating up teenagers pretty frequently and committing other questionable acts, but being a nuisance on a skateboard is where they draw the line?) and the slightest jolt will knock you off the board. This means skating in Kamurocho will be a rough go due to that area?s narrow and pedestrian packed streets. Lighter more nitpicky complaints include the continued exclusion of Karaoke and the inability to wear disguises outside of required cases. I mean Karaoke I can understand due to machinations from Takuya Kimura?s (Yagami?s Facial Model) talent agency, but if Kiryu Kazuma run around town dressed up as Majima or his persona from that one karaoke video, I should be able to skateboard dressed as a vampire!

With the main series transitioning to a turn based RPG, the original plan was to have Judgment become the torch bearer for brawling games originated from RGG studios. However external circumstances such as clashes with Johnny & Associates over a PC port of the Judgment titles and the possible departure of RGG studios general manager Toshihiro Nagoshi, these plans are cast in doubt. While we hope Lost Judgment isn?t a swan song for a series, it would make  quite the amazing send off. That said, there are plenty of characters on the bench which would take up the mantle of series protagonists. Such as junior attorney of the Genda Law Firm Issei Hoshino or Kyoko Amasawa, the mystery loving president of the Mystery Research Club. Whatever happens  I do have 100% faith in RGG studio?s judgment on how to move forward.

Note: SEGA provided us with a Lost Judgment PS5 for review purposes.

Grade: A-