Lost Judgment is a welcome addition to the extended Ryu Ga Gotoku series. While certainly not a soap opera like Ryu Ga Gotoku studio’s Yakuza series, Lost Judgment embraces its hard-boiled detective drama and delivers a solid storyline revolving around school bullying, murder, and other mature topics.
Started as a spin-off from the long-running Yakuza (Known as Ryu ga Gotoku in Japan) series of videogames, Lost Judgment is the sequel to 2018’s Judgment (Also known as Judge Eyes in Japan).
The new instalment builds upon the foundation of its predecessor and delivers the most ambitious Ryu Ga Gotoku game ever. Even though the new additions are a welcome addition to the game, they certainly are not without flaws.
It is a Yokohama thing
Lost Judgment’s tale is led by Kamurocho-based lawyer-turned-private detective Takayuki Yagami, played by the ever charismatic Japanese actor Takuya Kimura, and his partner, ex-Tojo clan member Masaharu Kaito.
The plot involves them visiting Ijincho to solve a certain school bullying issue on the behest of their friends who started their own private detective firm. In typical Ryu Ga Gotoku storytelling fashion, what starts as a simple school bullying investigation, turns into a bigger web of problems.
The story certainly does not pull a single punch, as Lost Judgment opens up with a gruesome-looking dead body found in a burned building (which is surprisingly well detailed).
The game uses the medium to incorporate real-life problems in Japan, like the country’s 99 percent conviction rate, bullying in schools, wrongdoings in the judicial system and others. Ryu Ga Gotoku studio has time and again proved that they know what they are doing with the stories, and not once does it feel sloppy.
Almost all the cast of 2018’s Judgment makes a comeback in Lost Judgment, like the team of Genda Law Office, and the duo of Fumiya Sugiura and Makoto Tsukomo who started their own private Detective Firm in Yokohama, while newcomers are welcomed with open arms.
Even a lot of side story characters from the 2018 game are either outright there in Yokohama for players to encounter or at least get mentioned. Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s Ijincho makes a comeback, as Lost Judgment takes the player to the familiar streets, letting them explore
Living the high school life
Lost Judgment’s plot takes us to Yokohama-based Seiryo High School for an investigation into school bullying, but that is not all. Ryu Ga Gotoku studio ensures the nicely detailed and well-modeled school isn’t gone to waste as Lost Judgment lets players explore the school building whenever possible, while also adding a storyline that is completely separate from the main game.
If Lost Judgment is a dark, gritty drama, then School Stories, as it is called, is your typical Japanese school life drama. School stories follow Yagami helping an investigation club in the school solve various school-related cases while building trust with students to gather information. Every story revolves around playing side activities and minigames.
Each School Story in Lost Judgment is sufficiently long and covers a myriad of topics, providing a surprisingly fresh change of pace from the main plot. If anything I won’t be surprised if Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio makes a high-school-based spin-off someday, because School Stories proves that it can be a separate game in itself.
Yagami will catch the killer after he gets a high score
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios is well known to add a lot of side content to their games so that players have a lot of things to do. Similarly, Lost Judgment comes jam-packed with a lot of minigames and side activities to keep the players busy while also letting them have a change of pace from the main plotline.
Players in Lost Judgment can pick side investigations, which are separate standalone side-storylines covering various scenarios. New Side Investigations get revealed as the main story progresses, but those can be finished whenever the player wants. Even though the stories are not too long, it makes the players roam around the cities in search of clues.
Side stories are also available in the game, and just like Side Investigations, can be done whenever a player wants. Side Stories, however, needs to be searched up in the game world and covers some very wacky storylines. If anything, side stories are a must to get a feel of what a typical Ryu Ga Gotoku game is like.
And if neither suits a player’s interest, Lost Judgment also has minigames for the player to pass time in. Yagami’s office comes with a playable SEGA Masterdrive which has a total of eight games and three DLC games to play and enjoy. There are arcades with Arcade cabinets to score high scores, Mahjong, Batting Center, Shogi, Darts, VR board game, Drone shooting, and much more.
By far, side content-wise, Lost Judgment is the most content-rich Ryu Ga Gotoku game to date, and the amount of detail and love put into every side story and activity is commendable.
The detective’s toolkit is not without its flaws
The core gameplay of Judgment, and in this case, Lost Judgment, revolves around the investigation. After all, Yagami is a private detective and Lost Judgment makes sure Yagami is ready for his investigation adventures.
Lost Judgment allows the game protagonist to now perform parkour, where Yagami can scale a building using pipes, ledges, and other options.
To help with searching for clues, Yagami now has a Noise Amplifier that helps him listen to people from a distance, a signal detector to search for suspicious signals, and even a cute Shiba Inu dog who helps in finding targets.
The tailing mission and chase sequences are back and improved. Chase sequences don’t drag out too long and have been shortened, and the suspicion bar in a tailing mission doesn’t go down anymore, making it slightly more challenging.
The newest addition, gameplay-wise, is two things. To begin with, Yagami can travel through the cities using a skateboard, which makes traveling the city fun while players do sick flips on the skateboard.
Then there is the addition of stealth sections in the game. In certain moments Yagami has to sneak in at various places to achieve his goals, and the game makes you play through the stealth section, where you sneak in and use coins or bombs to distract the enemies. Though the new tools sound fun, they do come with their own set of flaws.
The Stealth section feels tacked on and more like an on-rails section, ruining the flow of the game rather than making it fun. Even though the intentions were good, it is very bare-bones and certainly wasn’t needed.
Coins cannot be thrown at random places and have to be thrown at designated points to distract enemies, and the failing stealth section abruptly ends the level and resets your progression.
It boils down to going from point A to point B while holding the hands of the player, not letting them make decisions. Similarly, the gadgets are extremely situational and have no use outside of certain points, making them feel more like a novelty piece.
The new gameplay mechanics certainly have a lot of potential, and it will be fun to see how the developers use them in future games.
When talking does not work, some good old Kung-Fu solves it
The streets of Kamurocho and Ijincho are filled with hooligans itching to pick a fight with Yagami. But Yagami is not one to mess with.
Unlike Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which has Japanese turn-based combat, taking turns to beat the enemies, Lost Judgment is a more traditional Ryu Ga Gotoku studio brawler.
The Tiger and Crane style of fighting makes a comeback from 2018’s Judgment, coming in handy in various situations.
Tiger Style is a one-on-one style move-set, favoring a more in-your-face type of gameplay. But what if the enemy is not one but a lot of them? Crane style is geared more towards crowd control and faster, flashier fighting.
It doesn’t end there, as Lost Judgment adds a new style of fighting. Called the snake style, it is similar to Aikido martial arts.
Snake style favors parrying and disarming the enemies and has a more passive style of dealing with them. This move-set was probably specifically added to deal with the school bullies, but regardless, you can switch between all three move-sets during a fight on the fly.
Once the players get the momentum, and the EX meter is full, Yagami can go into the EX Mode. This mode amplifies each of the move-sets, dealing extra damage to the opponent with faster speeds and flashier finishers.
Alternatively, having a filled-up EX bar allows the players to perform finishers on their opponents, dealing high damages. Players can also use the experience points they gain throughout the game to upgrade Yagami’s health and gain more moves for the fighting styles.
The combat certainly adds a lot of identity to the game and has to be the fruit of the labor of improving years’ worth of brawler gameplay from past Yakuza and spin-off games.
Though most reviews have tested the game on a Playstation 5 unit, we specifically wanted to play the game on a PS4 unit, and SEGA was kind enough to provide us with a copy for the same.
The game runs in 900p 30 FPS on a base Playstation 4, with sufficient draw distance. During the 40 hours playthrough, no noticeable frame drops were there in major scenes, even during excessive particle effects on the screen.
There still are some anti-aliasing issues with the hair of characters as they feel jaggy, fuzzy, and not smooth. For smoother gameplay, there are compromises with the item textures, which sometimes don’t look good, and the water reflections are not clear and rather distorted.
However, load times have been improved in Lost Judgment, which, while not as fast as the next-generation version, is still better than 2018’s Judgment. In terms of visuals, there has been no compromise as Dragon Engine still shows all its glitz and glamor in its full glory.
Lost Judgment is the fruit of years worth of hardwork
Overall, as someone who loves the past work of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and has a history of introducing a lot of people into the Yakuza series, Lost Judgment is certainly a great addition to the ever-growing universe.
Surely, the detective tools and stealth sections, some of the major selling points of the game, leave a lot to be desired. However, the minigames, side activities and the main story make up for everything and give players a solid package to sink their teeth into and enjoy. The foundations have been laid, and only time can tell what Ryu Ga Gotoku studio is going to do with those foundations.
Sega’s Lost Judgment, without a doubt, is a must play and is recommended for returning fans as well as new players.
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 Slim
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Release: Sept. 24, 2021