REVIEW – Judgment was an excellent surprise when it was released in 2019. Given the critical and commercial success of the spin-off of the Yakuza saga, Ryu ga Gotoku and Sega studios have started work on a sequel: Lost Judgment. Is the action-adventure game Lost Judgment a worthy successor to the adventures of Takayuki Yagami and Yakuza: Like a Dragon?
The story of Lost Judgment begins several months after the end of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Takayuki Yagami is back on duty for a seemingly straightforward investigation, a case of assault on public transport that turns out to be much more complex. The private detective from the Tokyo district of Kamurocho ends up kicking the anthill, as usual and provokes a chain reaction that will set the world on fire. This is the starting point of Lost Judgment. The script tackles strong contemporary themes – school bullying, suicide and revenge – with sincerity and accuracy and opposes two visions of justice without falling into Manicheism.
Like a crime thriller movie
The main story, dubbed in Japanese or English and subtitled in English, follows the typical twists, turns and revelations that Ryu ga Gotoku studios are fond of. The latest heir to the Yakuza saga is openly inspired by the yakuza movies and draws from the works that made the glory of thrillers and gangster films. The cinema flows in its veins, which is felt in its direction, never forgetting its roots. She keeps this propensity for the epic counterbalanced by a touch of absurdity. Unfortunately, the link with the Yakuza saga, beyond a few references and winks, is somewhat weakened.
The strength of Lost Judgment lies in its setting as much as in its writing. Screwing the scenario to a school was an unexpected, and above all refreshing, masterstroke, able to dust off an essentially mafia-like saga. Moreover, the quality of the acting and the precision of the facial animations add an extra dose of credibility to this story that manages to keep players on the edge of their seats for twenty hours… provided that they finish the adventure in a straight line. In addition to this, there are dozens of side missions, such as the secondary cases entrusted to the detective agency or the high school intrigues, which represent as much if not twice the playing time. Takayuki Yagami has his work cut out for him.
The graveyard of morals
Ryu ga Gotoku studios have made a speciality of recreating some of the iconic places of the Japanese archipelago on a 1:1 scale. If Judgment was limited to Kamurocho and only Kamurocho, its direct sequel alternates between the previously mentioned Tokyo district and Isezaki Ijincho located in Yokohama city. Lost Judgment invites players to virtually visit these two cities to the point of knowing them like the back of their hand and to immerse themselves in them. The artists have not done things by halves once again. Kamurocho and Isezaki Ijincho have two distinct atmospheres that belong only to these two districts.
Day and night, these urban centres come to life in the most beautiful way. Onlookers are going about their business, the many activities available (SEGA arcades, shogi, mahjong, golf, drone races, darts, etc.) to pass the time, the multitude of restaurants to eat and not forgetting the excellent atmosphere… the partial reproduction of the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama are blatantly accurate, and that’s not surprising. Nevertheless, the Dragon Engine is not young anymore. Although the in-house engine developed by the studios is solid in many respects, thanks in particular to several notable technical improvements, it has certain limitations in 2021. Technically speaking, Lost Judgment follows in the footsteps of Yakuza: Like a Dragon… nothing more, nothing less.
Once a lawyer, always a private eye
Takayuki Yagami, once a defense lawyer, now makes his living as a private detective. To solve the cases entrusted to him, he can count on his many investigative skills, but not only. Lost Judgment is unsurprisingly equipped with the gameplay mechanics integrated into the previous opus, namely tailing, infiltration, clue-finding, chases, etc., which are now added Parkour phases. The old systems are slightly reworked, sometimes even added, to enrich the experience and make it less rigid, but this does not prevent these sequences from keeping this (too) dirigiste approach.
The same goes for the Parkour skills mentioned above. Our hero can easily climb particular building facades, but always in a specific context. Generally speaking, Lost Judgment, like the Yakuza saga, leaves little room for manoeuvring. A situation is resolved in a certain way without really giving the player a choice. Conversations that are supposed to gain depth through the presence of options turn out to be “linear”. In truth, they have no impact on the story. This action-adventure game stands out by its generosity, sometimes clumsy, but which manages to entertain us, and that’s the desired effect.
Fists against walls
Being a detective in Tokyo’s red-light district is no picnic. Fortunately, Takayuki Yagami knows how to defend himself against the local underworld. He can rely on his knowledge of martial arts to defeat his enemies. In addition to the two fighting styles used in Judgment, a third one is enjoyable to use. The style of the Snake, designed to face an armed threat, perfectly complements those of the Crane and the Tiger, which are effective respectively against a group of individuals and in 1v1. The hero’s fighting skills are thus born from the alternation between his different martial approaches. Our private detective shows a formidable efficiency and uses as always his environment to survive.
The fighting system has not changed much since the previous episode. The EX gauge and the EX actions are still an absolute guilty pleasure. These “over the top” moments give the confrontations an exceptional flavour, an inflated sense of epic inherent to the Yakuza saga and its spin-off series. As the adventure goes on, Takayuki Yagami, fortunately, unlocks new skills, whether stat boosts or new techniques to try out in the street. These newly acquired skills will not be too much to overcome the detective and the actual obstacles. Finally, the detective can spend his hard-earned money on equipment, which results in various passive bonuses, a feature that remains in the background.
Another win for Ryu ga Gotoku
Lost Judgment is the legitimate sequel to Judgment and does as well as its predecessor on most points. The faithful reconstruction of Tokyo and Yokohama is an invitation to explore while the fights keep the intensity and technicality of the franchise.
As for the scenario, it literally takes over. The high school setting and the thematics perfectly compensate for the lack of a strong link with the Yakuza saga. Shame that some of the gameplay mechanics are too directional, and the absence of a new geographical area is to be deplored without ruining the game experience. The title from Ryu ga Gotoku studios once again proves its talent with lots of energy.
+ The high school setting and the contemporary themes addressed
+ The investigation dimension and the gameplay mechanics linked to it
+ The cinematographic staging
– The lack of a new city to explore
– The gameplay approach is sometimes too directional
– The technical limitations of the Dragon Engine
Developer:Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Release date: September 21, 2021