In Kamurocho’s war on crime, the worst criminal offenders are pursued by the detectives of the Yagami Detective Agency. These are their stories.
I played through (and loved) the first Judgement game on PS5 earlier this year (you can read the review here: https://qualbert.com/2021/05/08/judgement-review-playstation-5/). In short, the detective/legal focus on the tired Kamurocho playground of the Yakuza series was a breath of fresh air. The city was absolutely jam-packed with things to do, people to meet and side quests to complete.
Not only was the original Judgement an excellent experience, the timing for me to play the game was perfect as during my playthrough I was greeted with the news that a direct Judgement sequel was deep in development.
Well now it is here.
Does it live up to the high standards of the first game? Or were the developers unable to identify what made the first game so magical despite the clues that were right in front of them?
The opening cutscene of the game is a dark portent of the events to come in the game. We are shown a decayed body being discovered by some fire-fighters, but no context is provided. All of this happens before the main protagonist even appears for the first time…
Lost Judgement picks up the story of the ex-lawyer come detective Takayuki Yagami three years after the events of the first game. Yagami and his partner Kaito are still running the Yagami Detective Agency in Kamurocho, Tokyo – a fictional area based on the real world red-light locale of Kabukicho. Things are slow, but the action is kicked off after Yagami receives an offer for work from a couple of his colleagues (returning characters from the first game). They get in touch to request assistance with a difficult case they have picked up in their own brand new detective agency set up in Isezaki Ijincho, Yokohama – also fictional but based on the port district of Isezakicho.
This new and difficult case that requires the skill and expertise of the ex-lawyer Yagami and his ex-Yakuza sidekick Kaito involves…school bullying. It is a very strange start to the game and does feel somewhat disjointed from the tone of not only the first game, but also the opening cut scene I referred to above. Obviously the school based story does eventually tie in neatly with the themes we would expect from a Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio title – including gangs, Yakuza and political corruption. There are plenty of moments in the School area (and associated side-quests) that really just made me feel uncomfortable, not least of which is the 38 year old Yagami getting into fights with, and absolutely pulverising, school children. Yes, the bullies always start the fight with Yagami, but even then it just feels a bit weird. The other event that almost made me put the controller down was an early and unskippable story based quest in the game that involved Yagami installing security (read: spy) cameras on the school grounds…
Fortunately, after the 1st act is finished we leave the school and it is not a requirement to interact with the students further, although by doing so you would miss out on many of the side-quests and fun activities that Lost Judgement has to offer.
It is difficult to get into further detail about the plot without introducing spoilers, such is the nature of this game. However, I did very much enjoy the latter half of the game. The standard Yakuza/Judgement humour is still here, and is smartly used to break up the seriousness of a game that touches on bullying, suicide, murder and corruption. There are some excellent and unexpected storyline twists here, and the various characters’ personalities do very much draw us into the world and drive us to solve the mysteries therein.
You certainly don’t need to have played the first Judgement game to understand what is going on here. Many of the characters of that game return here, but there are only fleeting references to the events of the previous game. However, there are certainly a number of call-backs that you will appreciate if you played the original.
I praised the combat of the original Judgement as a strength of this game two different fighting styles available to Yagami to dispatch his foes. Lost Judgement brings back the Crane style (for crowd control) and the Tiger style (for one-on-one combat) and introduces a third method of fighting called the Snake style. The Snake style is another style that is more suited to one-on-one fights with strong opponents. However, where the Tiger style is a hard-hitting offensive style, the Snake style is a defensive mode of fighting that can be used to disarm weapons and counterattack your opponent.
Whilst the standard ‘random encounter’ style fights that occur on the streets of Kamurocho and Ijincho soon become extremely repetitive due to the weak nature of the enemies, Lost Judgement does present us with a variety of battle situations related to the progression of the story that require not only the use of all three styles, but the smart switching between styles within the same battle. As before there is no end to the number of environmental objects that can be used to your advantage, from traffic cones and trash cans to shop signs and bicycles. Also returning are the ‘EX’ finishing moves that cause devastating damage and look absolutely brutal. With the introduction of the defensive Snake style of fighting, we now also have a series of ‘mercy’ EX attacks that don’t do any damage but will immediately cause one (non-boss) enemy to give up fighting due to pure fear.
Unfortunately, there is not much challenge in the fights, with the game increasing the ‘difficulty’ level by simply increasing the health of enemies, or by increasing the number of additional foes in the mob. I actually found it hilarious through the ending sequences of the game with the massive number of enemies the game throws at Yagami and his small crew. Yes, Yagami and friends are fighting machines, but we literally mow through dozens and dozens of people that are holding knives, baseball bats and guns to get to the big bad boss. In addition to this there is an ‘extract’ system that provides access to some items that completely break the difficulty of the game. It does require some work and efforts to create these extracts, but if you are willing to do this then the fights become a breeze.
Just like the Yakuza series before it, the Judgement series has elected to introduce a brand new area of Ijincho into its sequel to keep things interesting. This allows about 50% of Lost Judgement to take place in a brand new locale. Just like the Kamurocho we know so well, Ijincho is filled with restaurants, bars, video-game parlours and other places of interest that provide an insane amount of variety to the gameplay.
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio are known for a stupid amount of content within the Yakuza series. Once again Lost Judgement does not disappoint. SEGA arcade games, baseball batting cage, darts, casino games, shogi, 3D Drone Racing and a the crazy virtual board game from the first Judgement game all make their return. The ‘School Stories’ portion of side quests also provides some brand new activities for Yagami including a DDR type dancing game (similar to the ‘Karaoke’ from the Yakuza Series), Motorbike racing, Boxing and Robot wars. It is almost like the developers don’t want you to actually finish playing the main story as there are literally dozens of hours of games and side-quest content available as a distraction.
One of my favourite additions to Lost Judgement is that Yagami has gotten into a bit of Retro Gaming. He has picked up a working Sega Master System for his office. Just like in real life, this system comes built in with a copy of the classic Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and Yagami can also pick up a bunch of cartridges from various stores and side quests including some very good titles such as Fantasy Zone 1 and 2, Darius 2, Alien Syndrome and Global Defense.
Keeping the Detective theme going outside of the arcade are a few other gameplay variety additions. Just like in the first title these are a bit hit-or-miss. Not because they aren’t ‘fun’ or functional, but more because they are generally slow, wear out their welcome by dragging on a little too long, and simply break up the pacing of the game including at some otherwise high-octane parts of the story. ‘Search mode’ returns where Yagami is presented with a situation where he must solve some sort of puzzle by highlighting the clue.
‘Tailing mode’ is also back where Yagami must follow a suspect or person of interest through the streets of Kamurocho or Ijincho without being identified. This is virtually the same as in the original Judgement though this time Yagami has worked out that if he turns his back on his mark and pretends to look at his phone he somehow becomes invisible.
‘Chase mode’ is back as well in which Yagami chases a person around streets and/or through buildings (fortunately this time he doesn’t need to chase a random wig being blown away by the wind). As before this is only a glorified quick-time-event button-press-a-thon. What was frustrating for me here is that each chasee has an obvious set path that will lap around on itself. Even if you get all of the button inputs perfect, in almost every chase you will go around the same area multiple times. Just make the chase shorter if you don’t want to program an new area for us to run through!!
Finally, one of the brand new additions here is a climbing mode. It is smartly used to get Yagami to places he would not otherwise be able to go. This is clearly a step down from games where the traversal is a focus such as Uncharted or Horizon, but it is functional and works well, particularly when combined with the investigation mode.
I really cannot praise the visuals for Lost Judgement enough. Once again the ‘Dragon’ engine is used here to bring the people and places of the Yakuza/Judgement series to life. Both Kamurocho and Ijincho are designed in gorgeous detail that really give a quality feeling of realness. From the neon-light signs to the grimy gutters in the back alleys, everything here looks great.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku are able to produce some of the best facial animations that can be found anywhere in the world of video games. But what really stuck out for me in playing Lost Judgement was a focus on TEXTURE. From the skin on the faces of all the main characters to the stiches on their clothing, there is a quality here that I have never seen before and it is one of the many elements of the game that helps to provide a real-world feeling the game.
As stated above, combat can get absolutely insane in Lost Judgement with literally dozens of enemies in the one battle, plus weapons and objects that can be picked up and thrown, plus the animations of Yagami’s attacks that include auras of effect and nutty particle effects. Judgement is just a supremely programmed title that despite the insanity on screen seems able to maintain a solid 1440p60FPS. Throughout my time with Judgement there were never any obvious issues with the visuals that dragged me out of the experience with the exception of some textures seemingly ‘popping in’ or increasing resolution when reaching a certain distance from the screen. That being said it definitely wasn’t a game-breaking issue. My personal colour-blindness issues that I reported in the original game did not appear to be a problem in the sequel, which was good to see.
The voice cast from the original game all return and once again provide an absolutely stellar performance. As before I played through all of Lost Judgement with the original Japanese voice acting. Though if you prefer you can play the game with English voice acting. The statement I made with the original Judgement still stands – if you are playing a Ryu Ga Gotoku game with the English voice acting turned on, just like with anime, you are doing it wrong.
The overall presentation in regards to sound is very well done. Walking around these lively locales really makes you feel like you are in Japan (I wish). The ambient sounds of traffic, Pachinko parlours, outdoor eateries and school life bring a sense of realism to the world. While the scrape of a skateboard on the pavement, the clunk of a bat hitting a baseball, and the crunch of a fist hitting a face hitting really make you feel like a part of the action.
The soundtrack and music play more of a background role here, just as in the original Judgement. There is nothing in particular to praise here, but it is all serviceable and helps to build and maintain the tension of the developing story. Smartly the developers know the high quality of the voice cast and their excellent performance is given the focus it deserves, with the music being the background support rather than the main attraction in the mix.
Lost Judgement continues the high quality output of the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio over the past few years. Yakuza 0, Yakuza 6, Yakuza Like a Dragon and Judgement are all excellent titles and Lost Judgement is on par with these. If you enjoyed any of those titles, then obviously you will enjoy this one too.
A focus on the main story will still take a good 20+ hour time investment. However with everything you can do here there is well over 80 hours of gameplay. Not only are there fully fleshed out minigames such as Drone Racing, Boxing, Dancing and Motorcycle racing, there are also at least 10 full Sega Master System games here, plus some classic Sega arcade ports.
Simply said, this game is exceptional value for money.
The story does falter early on and can almost be uncomfortable at times, but once it gets going its a twisting and turning ride right through to the end. Despite a large variety of things to do, the core gameplay can make Lost Judgement feel more like a small evolution of the original rather than a complete revolution. However, the excellent writing and supreme presentation and voice acting make this an adventure well worth experiencing and seeing through to the end.
Oh, there is also a Shiba Inu detective dog…if that doesn’t make you buy the game, I don’t know what will.
So, why should you play it?
- So you can experience some of the best visual presentation and voice acting anywhere in gaming
- You enjoy standing up for the little guy and knocking out the teeth of the school bully
- So you can
solve the mysteries of Kamurocho and Ijinchoplay Alex Kidd and Fantasy Zone
- Shiba Inu detective dog!
But, why shouldn’t you play it?
- You tried the first Judgement game and didn’t enjoy it – this one won’t change your mind
- A short streamlined game experience is more your style
A review code on PlayStation 5 was provided for the purpose of this review.