Lost Judgment is the latest game in the Yakuza series, which are action-mystery titles known to mix crazy side activities and stories with a serious main plotline. That means you get games where the main character is simultaneously investigating a mystery that deals in very dark, disturbing subject matter while dancing his heart out and parkouring over buildings like a champ.
Lost Judgment is the sequel to Judgment, a Yakuza mystery spin-off. It's the more serious cousin to recent Yakuza games such as Like a Dragon, but it still retains some of that strange tonal difference. While some find this tonal difference offputting, if you're a fan of Yakuza games, then you'll find this is a great new entry in-line with that ethos.
In this entry, former lawyer-turned-private detective Takayuki Yagami is looped in to investigate the murder of a young teacher. The victim's body was identified after the most likely suspect, the father of a student who committed suicide thanks to the victim's bullying, is convicted of a crime that took place at the same time as the murder in another part of the city. In other words, the only person who initially appears to have a motive also has a rock-solid alibi.
Yagami goes on an investigation into the school where the victim taught, Seiryo High, and uncovers an unsavory web of lies and crime within its walls. While I won't spoil the content of the game, I will say it gets into some very heavy subject matter very quickly. If the topics of bullying, suicide, or sexual assault are triggers for you, then you should probably avoid this game.
Bottom line: Lost Judgment is a great mystery game with the signature Yakuza flair. If you're a fan, or even if you're not, you'll have a fun time with this game despite its dark subject matter.
- Great combat that's typical for the series
- Tense, enjoyable mystery with dark themes
- New gameplay fits well with stuff from first game
- Sometimes too serious
- Tone is all over the place
Lost Judgment: The great stuff
If you're a mystery fan, then you'll probably enjoy Lost Judgment's story more than its predecessor, if only because the setup is more of a classic mystery trope. This is a crime where the most obvious suspect is ruled out right away, meaning that the detective has to dig deeper to find new motives. It's tense and enjoyable, and the subject matter, while potentially distressing for some, is treated fairly seriously.
|Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
|Xbox Series X
As with Judgment, the high points of the game are when Yagami gets to show off his detective skills. Almost all of the stuff from the last game, including clue investigations, tailing suspects, and questioning witnesses returns. However, the game really takes off when Yagami gets to the school, Seiryo High. This is where you'll find a lot of the side activities, including school-specific stories and clubs in which Yagami can partake. I'm not crazy about the fact that Yagami spends most of the early missions knocking the seven bells out of groups of school children; it feels like he's literally punching below his weight, no matter how gross the kids are.
But speaking of fights, the action gameplay is as good as it's always been. Yagami now has a third fighting style to go alongside the two he had in the last game, called Snake. I don't care how many times I do it, picking up a chair and going to town on the head of some fool who thought he could test me will never get old. It lacks Yakuza: Like a Dragon's fresh take on the series combat, but those who were missing the old-school Kazuma Kiryu face-smashing way of doing things will see this as a return to form.
There are one or two gameplay features that are here that weren't in the last game. The one most worth mentioning is parkour. That's right, Yagami can now freeclimb up the sides of buildings while in pursuit of leads. It's not Assassin's Creed — don't expect to just scale any building in Yokohama at will — and it's limited to specific sections, but it does add a new wrinkle to the gameplay, especially when Yagami has to use it to pursue suspects.
Also, the voice acting in both the English and Japanese voice tracks is excellent. Both actors who play Yagami manage to sell him as a noir-ish detective who nevertheless isn't afraid to expose his humorous side. While he lacks Kazuma Kiryu's stony immunity to nonsense, he's still an appealing foil to the game's crazier elements. Also, while it's not as spectacular as some of the other games available on the console, Lost Judgment is beautiful on Xbox Series X.
Lost Judgment: The not-as-great stuff
As good as Lost Judgment is, the story does at times rely a bit too heavily on coincidence, at least at the beginning. Yagami's investigation into the school and the murder of the teacher are initially two separate cases that converge because Yagami's old law firm happens to be representing the suspect, and the Yokohama-based detective agency staffed by Yagami's friends just happens to be the one called in to investigate Seiryo's bullying problem. I don't think Japan's that small.
The main Yakuza series having ended, the franchise has now split into two halves. If Yakuza: Like a Dragon is Yakuza's wacky, irreverent half, then Judgment is its more dour, serious half. And one of the few complaints I have is that it kind of suffers in comparison to Like a Dragon, for example. One of the upsides of Ichiban's crazy adventure is that it has a lot of passion and heart, and Lost Judgment can at times seem a bit less wonderful than its counterpart. This comparison is exacerbated by the fact that this game moves Yagami from Kamurocho, the series' traditional setting, to Ijincho, Yokohama, the same setting in Like a Dragon.
The differences are especially apparent in their protagonists, as Yagami's world-weary, almost too-cool-for-school (literally) attitude is a far cry from Ichiban's earnestness. This means that when the game does indulge in its crazier Yakuza impulses, they feel a little dissonant. For example, when Yagami first arrives at the school, a student accuses him of being a creeper. Her plan for making him prove he isn't is to drag him to the school's female dance troupe and make him dance with them. It leads to a decent rhythm game, Lost Judgment's substitute for Yakuza's customary karaoke minigame, but still, her plan to make this stranger prove he's not creeping on high school students is to make him dance with a bunch of teenage girls? We get what the developers were trying to do, but the effort doesn't always land.
Lost Judgment: Should you play it?
Lost Judgment is about as typical of the Yakuza series as you're going to get: serious story, silly side content, fun fighting action, and very good character performances. Yagami feels a bit more like a detective this time, and the mystery in which he finds himself embroiled is tense and interesting. The few extras added to the gameplay don't change the game in any fundamental way, but they are fun anyway.
Again, I want to stress that, if you're at all uncomfortable with the topics of suicide, self-harm, sexual abuse, and bullying, then you should not be playing this game. They delve into these topics very frankly and very early in the game, and it could be upsetting if you're not prepared for it. It also just doesn't live up to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which was one of the best games of 2020, so if you're expecting it to, you might be disappointed. However, if you're looking for a good mystery with some parkour for good measure, Lost Judgment might be the way to go.
Rachel Kaser is a Windows Central gaming contributor, who's been writing since 2013 and gaming since the age of five. She's covered everything from gaming news, reviews, and analysis -- if it exists in gaming, she knows about it. She also contributes to Future's other sites, iMore and Android Central. If you want to hear her opinions on games, pop culture, tech, and everything in between, follow her on Twitter @rachelkaser.