For the long-running Yakuza series, fans have always been used to the combination of a meaty main narrative adorned by excellent side activities that help flesh out a unique world of its own. The same formula had been replicated to great success with the spinoff Judgment, and all things point to the sequel, Lost Judgment, as being the same. It then comes as a surprise that the optional content outshines the main dish this time around.
That’s not to say that Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s latest title is a subpar follow-up, but it most certainly does not live up to the high standards set by its predecessor when it comes to successfully marrying its main and subplots in one complete package.
The return of lawyer and private investigator Takayuki Yagami (played once again to perfection by Takuya Kimuya) sees a seemingly impossible case of murder unfolding before the public’s eyes. With the main suspect having a solid alibi of committing a different crime when the supposed murder took place, the case is one that hints at a mystery full of twists and turns, a familiar setup that should heighten fans’ expectations.
Just as before, Yagami and his crew will be discovering secrets, uncovering evidence, and attempting to untangle this web of mystery. The initial portion of the main narrative makes some compelling drama, and allows Lost Judgment to play to its strengths. However, getting to the good parts requires some clumsy additions on the players’ end.
The additions to Yagami’s arsenal of investigation tools and techniques will come into play fairly early on, with a few questionable returns. If you were not fond of the chase and tailing sequences from the original, then you will continue to find these activities tiresome. At least the latter has improved with the new feature of blending into the crowd, but it takes little away from the almost unnecessary gameplay inclusion.
Lost Judgment also features new parkour climbing action, stealth sequences that involve too much coin-throwing to distract guards, and more gadgets to help investigations. Being able to eavesdrop on hushed conversations, coupled with the use of the Buzz Researcher app to look into keywords and phrases and establishing the next point of investigation is one of the better additions, but things still feel weirdly out of place.
There is no harm in trying to implement the idea of investigative work more into the game, but these changes are hardly, well, game-changing from the original’s formula of spotting helpful clues in the environments. Perhaps more of the same would have sufficed for this part of the gameplay.
On the other hand, the combat in Lost Judgment continues to fly the flag for the series high. Despite Yakuza: Like a Dragon embracing the turn-based system, Yagami is still all about swift combos and hard-hitting martial arts.
Both the Tiger and Crane styles return, allowing our hero to deal out concentrated damage or manage crowds effectively. The new Snake style is designed for those who love parrying and counter-attacking and adds even more fun into an excellent formula. Every attack still feels utterly satisfying, and the ever-stylish EX attacks are always a marvel to behold.
One of the areas that combat does falter a little bit would be the enemy variety and consequently, the challenge involved. Street thugs are always going to be street thugs, even in increased numbers, but they are going to look the same when they are lying face down on the floor. Lost Judgment would have benefited from an increased roster of villains to beat down and serve justice to.
In between cleaning up the streets and progressing the main story, Lost Judgment’s assortment of side activities continues to astound. Mahjong, batting cages, shogi, the flying drone league, drone shooting, darts, golf, casino games, and of course, Club SEGA arcade games and even SEGA Master System games are all there for players to enjoy. There are also many secrets to be found and even hidden activities that may not always be so apparent.
Just as the development team has done before, these are substantial experiences that can occupy players for hours on end. If you ever needed a break from beating up gangsters and discovering hard truths, Lost Judgment has you covered.
These are complemented by a selection of side cases as well, with those taking place at Seiryo High School being the standouts. With Yagami going undercover, players will have the chance to see through a different lens while trying to uncover more clues to suspected criminal activities.
Heavier themes such as bullying and even suicide are given enough airtime during these sections as well. While they may not be as central to the game’s story as the murder mystery, these topics could easily function on their own as well in DLC or even future sequels.
Back to the school, you could have Yagami posing as a dance choreographer, partake in esports tournaments, or join in a boxing match or two. A total of 10 different school societies await your participation, and even without the accompanying fanfare of the main narrative, the side content is remarkably entertaining and well worth experiencing, even more so than the main story.
For those intrigued by the addition of a high school setting, it would be good to know that Lost Judgment features not just Kamarucho as a playable space, but also the new city of Yokohama. The same level of quality can be seen in both cities, with details popping and the lights of the night shining with dazzling beauty.
At the end of the day, Lost Judgment continues the legacy of the franchise that has built a solid foundation of excellent storytelling with meaty side content to create a delectable dish of fun. Even though the more interesting stories are part of the high school drama side of things, there is still enough to keep players driving forward to see the game to its conclusion.
Together with the many fun surprises and engaging activities that players will inevitably be drawn to, Lost Judgment will still be a delight for fans who have been yearning to see Yagami in action again. Let’s just hope that Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio can manage the balance a little better next time around.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The new additions in Lost Judgment are a hit and miss, with the main plot being less well-developed than previous outings. However, the side content takes centre stage this time around to great effect.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 8/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8.5/10