Judgment is back and better than ever. I really enjoyed my time playing through the upgraded PS5 version of the original game released earlier this year and it’s about time I jump into the sequel.
Okay – so for those unaware, Lost Judgment is a sequel to 2018’s Judgment – itself a spin-off of the larger Yakuza series. The developers decided to split the franchise and make future Yakuza games turn-based while using the new Judgment series for action-based gameplay.
That said, you don’t need to have played any previous Yakuza games to play this one and really, the game does a good enough job that you can probably get by without even playing the original Judgment – although I would still recommend against going that route, the story in the first game is some good stuff and having that spoiled would be a waste.
Anyways, Lost Judgment is ultimately a sequel that makes many notable improvements, but also has some elements worse than the original game. That and it continues some of the same problems from that first game.
Starting with the good though: the combat. It was an absolute blast in the first game and is even better here. Now, instead of just your two fighting styles – crane and tiger – you get a third one – snake. This fighting style is a lot of fun to play around with, focusing on quick parries, grabs, disarming moves, and is just a nice overall defense-focused style to complement the other two offense-based ones.
It fixes one of the problems I had in the first game where it felt like one style (tiger) was vastly superior to the other. In this game, I was constantly swapping between the styles, using snake when my HP was lower and I needed to parry, tiger when I was taking on some bigger enemies, and crane to take on larger groups (crane actually doesn’t feel as useless this time around).
There’s also an additional 4th fighting style that is arguably my favorite of the bunch – the boxing style. This one places much more focus on quick jabs, punches, hooks, and evasions. It may lack the parrying potential of snake or the wide-reaching attacks of crane, but it was my go-to when in one-on-ones and is an absolute godsend for boss fights. The only downside? Well, I didn’t find out until later that it’s actually DLC. An absolute shame that they locked such a fun fighting style behind a DLC paywall, but I can’t deny that it made my experience a lot better.
Aside from that, the combat carries over pretty much everything that made the first game great. The plethora of unique skills and abilities to use, that nice sense of weight behind each and every attack, the parkour elements seamlessly thrown into the mix, and even the absurd consumable extracts that allow you to do stuff like force chokes and kamehamehas.
That said, the combat also maintains some of the same problems from the first game – most notably the lackluster enemy variety. The enemies you fight at the beginning of the game are the same you will be fighting at the end, just maybe with a different melee weapon on hand. The AI is also the same and it’s not uncommon to see enemies (and even your own allies) just kinda standing there.
At least the boss fights are still cool – I think I actually liked them more this time around (the final two in particular are easy favorites). So yeah, I would say the combat is an overall improvement over the first game.
What hasn’t improved though is the detective stuff. They at least cut down on the number of trailing missions (by a lot actually), but in its place introduced these tedious stealth missions. Now instead of slowly following a target around, you slowly sneak around and throw coins to distract enemies. It’s the same basic concept, just with a different coat of paint on it and I can’t say it’s any better than the boring trailing stuff.
That and they introduced all of these other mechanics that feel like they were wasted in the grand scheme of things. An electronic sniffer to find bugs and such, a sound sensor to listen in on faraway conversations, and even a dog to sniff out certain evidence. That all sounds great on paper, but they are hardly used and the game instead falls back on the same “inspect the environment in first-person for clues” method instead.
The new parkour mechanic is kinda similar. It’s fun initially, but eventually just becomes a boring chore because of how slow it is and how unnecessary it is. That applies to a lot of the new detective stuff really – implemented to give the guise of more to do, but being so underutilized or shallow that it doesn’t really change much. So on that note, I would say the detective elements are mostly the same, if not a bit worse than the original game.
On the story front – Lost Judgment is solid. It takes a very different approach from the first game, but manages to maintain that same balance between being serious mystery detective stuff and just being a goofy Yakuza game. Whereas the first game had you investigating a series of murders where each victim had his eyes gouged out – Lost Judgment instead has you looking into a bullying case at a local high school. Sounds simple, but there’s a lot going on there and it delves into topics like suicide, sexual assault, conspiracy – the whole slate really.
It feels a lot closer to home this time around, something that maybe could have happened at your school or neighborhood and less like the serial murder case in the former that you would see on some detective show. And I feel like this makes the story more engaging. At least in this game, I still loved the side content, but I couldn’t shake that feeling of just wanting to power through the rest of the main story because it was just that compelling.
Just like the first game, it is very tightly written. These seemingly unrelated characters and events become unwound as it goes on and this massive web forms. Plot threads pop up at a steady pace and are (mostly) resolved at the same pace, leaving ample room for suspense and for the emotional moments to have that right amount of impact. And I say “mostly” because the ending (final two chapters or so) are a bit rushed compared to the rest of it and may have become a bit too ambitious too quickly. The game could have used another chapter or two to flesh things out a bit – especially given that it’s a bit shorter than the first (around 15% or so).
That and I was a bit disappointed that one of my favorite characters (Kaito – the protagonist’s partner in crime) had far less screen time this time around. Instead, the developers have opted to give him his own DLC side story of sorts that is supposed to come out this upcoming Spring. A bit disappointing, but at least that’s something to look forward to.
Outside of that, I don’t really think I have any other story complaints. The characters are interesting, the protagonist, Yagami, is still as cool as ever, the mystery is engaging, and it still has that classic Yakuza charm to it through its ridiculous fight scenes and comedic bits. The change of setting to include both Kamurocho from the first game and an entirely new city (where the school is located) serves the narrative well and I enjoyed the story more as a result, even if it has its downsides.
The new map – Yokohama – is also notable on its own because it practically doubles the size of the game world. You commute between the two via taxi (which can now be called from anywhere on your phone, a really nice change) and there’s a cool new skateboard feature that allows you you ride around on the streets and get to where you need faster than you would on foot (and yes, you can do some tricks too).
I can’t deny that it doesn’t feel nearly as dense as Kamurocho though. It’s more spread out (hence why the skateboard is introduced here) and not quite as lively. It’s still a nice overall addition, but it would have been cool to have more stuff to do here, more buildings to go into, more people roaming sidewalks.
Then there’s the side content, which Lost Judgment has a literal mountain of – it just wouldn’t be the same game without it. Whether you’re helping some high school students track down UFOs, taking over as instructor of a dance class and jamming out in a rhythm minigame, or just putting your detective skills to work at the school’s mystery research club – there’s a lot to do and those few examples are just from ONE location.
There’s the different minigames, school side stories, arcades with FULL versions of past Sega games, and a very handy in-game app cataloging all of the game’s various challenges and whether or not you have completed them. It’s a completionist’s dream, not just because there’s a lot of stuff to do, but because that stuff is genuinely fun to do. Not all of the side missions may land, but there are some good stories to be experienced there and it’s for that reason that I’m still coming back to the game even after completing the main story and this review.
Lost Judgment is a fantastic followup to the original and one of my favorite games of the year. It fixes some of the issues from that original while making several other improvements across the board, including more diverse combat and a more engaging storyline. That said, it does take a bit of a dive when it comes to the detective elements and while I did like the story more, it isn’t without its own issues. Still, it’s a solid game and a must-play if you liked the original or really any other Yakuza game – just be sure to have played that original first.
Quote: Lost Judgment is a fantastic followup to the original and one of my favorite games of the year. It fixes some of the issues from that original while making several other improvements across the board.
Lost Judgment retails for $60 USD on the PlayStation Store. It is also available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.