We love Judgment – especially on PlayStation 5. While it’s the starting point of a spinoff franchise, we’d go so far as to say that it’s hands down one of the best yakuza games – and that’s how its sequel, Lost Judgment, comes up the point high expectations. There is no doubt that this is a bigger and arguably more ambitious release. The sheer amount of varied side content in Lost Judgment is impressive – even by Yakuza standards – and it’s a game that you can lose yourself in for hours, pursuing all sorts of optional objectives alongside a complex main story. But at times that expected continuation can feel both stretched and bloated; far less coherent and focused than its predecessor. Bigger is not always better.
If you’ve played Yakuza: Like a Dragon you will know the main setting of Lost Judgment very well. The diverse cityscape of Yokohama is your turf, which has been slightly repurposed to facilitate the adventures of private detective Takayuki Yagami. The protagonist travels to Yokohama to celebrate the opening of a brand new detective agency, but as you can imagine, it doesn’t take long to get back to work.
It turns out that Yokohama has a problem with bullying. Teenagers at a local school are causing trouble in the hallways and streets, and Yagami is hired to get to the bottom of things. It’s a slow start to a typically tangled narrative, full of twists and turns that will leave you guessing. Aside from a few references and the occasional flashback, the story of Lost Judgment has no direct connection to that of the previous game. However, multiple characters return – some more important than others – and if you’re unfamiliar with the original verdict, you’re missing out on what drives them.
For the most part, the plot is predictably gripping and carried by a range of intriguing characters. Yakuza takes it for granted, but in some places storytelling is hampered by noticeable bouts of redundant dialogue. Some narrative strokes are repeated over and over while Yagami goes through the current situation with different characters. While it certainly isn’t enough to ruin the story, it hurts the game’s dynamism. There are chapters where it feels like the plot has barely taken a step forward, and while reflection is important in detective literature – often a way to ensure the audience is informed – there’s a lot in Lost Judgment too much of it.
Frustrating stuff, but at the end of the day, this is still a story that beats what you’ll find in most other games. The whole thing is peppered with unforgettable moments and well-acted cutscenes, crowned by emotional performances by the main actors. Whether you play with the original Japanese voices or the English dub, you will experience a thriller.
The main story isn’t short either – it will last around 20 to 30 hours – but just before that means skipping some of the game’s most fun activities. When Yagami examines the school, he takes on the role of an external advisor who enables him to delve deeper into the problems of the institute. These side-cases are ridiculously profound, with Yagami making friends with the school’s various after-school clubs. From helping the dance club reach the national finals to taking pictures for the photo kids – completing all of these optional storylines can easily add another 30 or 40 hours to your game – it’s just that big.
Almost all of these investigations come with their own mini-games, but some are far more entertaining than others. For example, when you join the local boxing studio, you get access to boxing – you guessed it – and it’s incredibly fun. Honestly, boxing has enough going for it that it could be an extension on its own – but other activities don’t quite reach the same heights. The robotics club, for example, revolves around puzzling matches against other eggheads, in which you control small machines using a grid. It can be a nice change of pace, but as one of the side stories that requires quite a bit of sanding, it loses steam long before it’s done.
Despite the ups and downs of school life, there’s no denying that Lost Judgment is one of the most content-packed yakuza games out there. You are getting a lot for your money here and the effort put into even the dumbest side quests is admirable.
It’s hard not to feel like all of this content is slowing down the pace of the game, however. Since parts of the main story can be dragged out like this – as mentioned earlier – the idea is that you can break things up by delving into side activities. But the depth of these optional cases means you can almost lose sight of the core plot. It’s a tricky balancing act that Lost Judgment doesn’t always get right – especially when it forces you away from the main story to introduce a new gameplay gimmick or certain type of side quest.
Speaking of gameplay gimmicks, Lost Judgment is full of them. We understand what RGG Studio is trying to do – it wants the Judgment games to be more than just yakuza spinoffs – but all of the sequel’s new gameplay elements are either under cooked or underused. Stealth, for example, is borderline cinematic. Yagami can flip a Hitman-style coin and sneak past a distracted guard – but in this track action, camouflage begins and ends. There are now about three platform sections in the entire story – little more than caravan lining.
Just like in Judgment, the sequel opening hours promise a lot of variety in gameplay – but the reality is that most of the story chapters and side quests, as usual, end in classic beat-’em-up violence. Not that we’re complaining. The action combat system in Lost Judgment has been given a little more depth, and most of the fights will keep you busy.
Yagami’s crane and tiger postures are returning, but both have evolved in some ways. Crane is even more evasive than before – perhaps to an almost fractional degree later in the game – while Tiger can absolutely melt enemy health bars with properly timed attacks. A third stance – Snake – has been added and focuses on parries and fatal throws. Snake isn’t a massive game changer – the enemy design is largely the same as in Judgment – but its inclusion freshen things up, and it’s always fun to use a bat’s own momentum to fly it across the screen permit.
Bottom line, the crunchy combat system is still a highlight of the experience, and it only gets better as you unlock more of Yagami’s skills. Sure, it can feel a little sloppy at times – as it does with Yakuza – but intense boss fights and battles against huge groups of enemies are the perfect answer to long spells of slow, character-driven storytelling.
Before we wrap things up, it’s worth noting that this is the Third RGG Studio release from 2021, after the PS5 versions of Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Judgment in March and April respectively. If, like us, you’ve played both games earlier in the year then be warned that Lost Judgment is exactly the kind of long and winding title that could completely burn you out. Simply put, this is not a game for the impatient.