Back when Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio revealed Judgment (Judge Eyes in Japan), I was surprised and glad to see that it was already confirmed for an international release. At that point, we had already come a long way from the uncertainty around Yakuza 5‘s localization and the wait for Yakuza 0. Fast forward to today and Lost Judgment is not only getting a simultaneous worldwide release, but it is also shipping on 4 different console platforms at the same time during a pandemic. It is safe to say that future Yakuza and Judgment games will see international releases now.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been playing Lost Judgment on PS5 and have spent 50 hours with it going through the game’s narrative, multiple side cases, and a wealth of mini-games and side activities. Lost Judgment is a big improvement over the original with some key additions and improvements to the gameplay alongside a better-paced narrative. If you’ve not played Judgment yet, you can still enjoy Lost Judgment, but I’d definitely recommend it because the original Judgment is a fantastic game that is available on most consoles right now. It will also help you get a bit more out of Lost Judgment. Either way, Lost Judgment is yet another great entry point into getting into the Yakuza games.
Lost Judgment’s narrative goes into a lot of places I didn’t think it would through the 25 to 30 hour long main campaign runtime. It is set in December 2021 and begins with a groping incident trial that slowly opens up to reveal a much more sinister overarching plot. Without getting into any spoilers, it deals with bullying, blackmail, trauma, death, suicide, and a lot more. Every bit of the story and how some plot points are interconnected is handled tactfully. The localization team has done a fantastic job with the plot here and each of the main characters including NPCs are well-written and memorable.
Just like in Judgment, Lost Judgment has you taking on the role of lawyer-turned-detective Takayuki Yagami, and will find yourself exploring not just Kamurocho, but also Ijincho here. There are many story beats that have Yagami in Seiryo High School dealing with bullying, suicide, and how the justice system failed for some. What made the story in Lost Judgment stick with me more than most of the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio game stories is in how grounded it is. There are returning characters from the original game, but also really great new characters that carry the story here. Lost Judgment does a great job of introducing everyone so even absolute newcomers will not feel lost despite this being a direct sequel to Judgment.
When it comes to how all the plot points come together, this might be my favorite narrative since Yakuza 0 with how brilliantly it was handled. Whenever I felt like I knew where things were headed, Lost Judgment threw something unexpected at me and reminded me of why I love these games and the writing. Despite the grounded nature, this is also a pretty dark story that doesn’t pull any punches. There are a lot of light-hearted moments in the side cases and mini-games, but this is very much a serious story that will have you on the edge of your seat. It is pretty crazy that the quality of this story’s localization feels as good if not better than past games and the team had to do all of this while working on a global simultaneous release with work from home being enforced in so many parts of the world.
While Yakuza is now a turn-based series, Lost Judgment’s combat is an enhanced take on the brawler-style combat in Judgment. Structurally, it has you going through tailing people, photographing people, examining evidence, investigating crime scenes, and a lot of battles. Lost Judgment builds on the original by making some of the more annoying mechanics there, tolerable. Chasing is much better here with added mechanics while a lot of the exploration portions of the story have parkour, stealth, and tailing. While the opening hours of the game feel like too much of a tutorial with how these mechanics are introduced one after the other, the game itself was paced very well with gameplay and story. I never felt like a specific chapter was padded because of too much tailing or chasing. I also like how none of the side activities were shoehorned to the point of being annoying in the main story like in past games.
Lost Judgment’s new mechanics like parkour and the various gadgets like the detective dog are great additions to the core gameplay. Sadly, the stealth mechanic here feels tacked on. Some areas require you to stealthily reach your destination through obstacles. You have access to things like coins to distract enemies or smoke bombs, but the implementation is very poor with how linear the gameplay is here. A lot of these also have you retrying if you are spotted and I despise instant fail stealth sections in games. I’d have preferred having to fight rather than just be pushed back to a checkpoint when detected. Maybe a future game could let players have some more freedom on how to approach these small sandbox-like areas a-la Hitman.
Combat in Lost Judgment is easily my favourite across all Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio games. It expands on the original with faster switching, the ability to cancel from a move into another style, a new combat style, some hilarious and over-the-top EX actions, and more. As usual, you have the freedom to upgrade skills and abilities as you please adding even more customization. The three styles you have access to from the early parts each have their own strengths and switching appropriately depending on the encounter or enemy types is key here. I ended up trying a lot of new things with combat here versus the original. It also helps that the combat at 60fps was superb. I had no noticeable performance issues in the 50 hours I’ve played so far either barring some cut-scenes. If you’re excited for some new interesting boss battles, Lost Judgment delivers in spades. I obviously won’t get into names but one specific character battle is one of my favourites in the series so far.
It isn’t a Yakuza or Judgment game without some fine side activities and Lost Judgment has you covered for the most part. I’m still disappointed at the lack of karaoke but the dancing mini-game is excellent. Yagami can take a break from the serious story to do a wealth of side cases that can be taken on from the office or randomly while exploring, school clubs, skateboarding, the paradise VR board game experience, drone activities, and so much more. Yagami also has access to a Sega Master System at home where you can play various games you unlock through different means in the game.
The skateboarding in particular is a great addition because it not only serves as a side activity, but it also makes traversing through the city a lot of fun. You can even boost and do tricks. I also like that there’s a nice rumble on the DualSense controller while riding on the skateboard. The skateboard and new gadgets added to Yagami’s repertoire enhance Lost Judgment quite a bit and make it hard to go back to the original. Now that I’ve played Judgment a few times on PS4 and PS5 and put in a lot of time into Lost Judgment, I can safely say Lost Judgment has the best feeling movement and traversal in a Ryu Ga Gotoku game.
On PS5, you can play Lost Judgment at 60fps or 30fps with a higher resolution. The combat and movement felt too good at 60fps to sacrifice the fluidity for a much higher resolution. Visually, it feels like there have been a few improvements compared to the previous entry, but it could’ve used better anti-aliasing. The character model hair in particular looks a bit fuzzy. Barring those things, both Kamurocho and Ijincho look fantastic, especially at night. The draw distance is also quite good with very few areas with noticeable popin for me. The park is where it is most noticeable alongside drone racing. On the performance side, I only had problems with a few cut-scenes that had trouble maintaining a stable frame rate for a few seconds. The performance in the normal mode with the 60fps target was excellent on PS5.
Lost Judgment’s audio design is great. The new combat songs and boss themes are fantastic while the voice acting is superb in both English and Japanese. As always, I played through the first hour with Japanese and then English to see which one I like more. I ended up going with English for my first playthrough but have now switched to Japanese for my second playthrough. Sega of America localizations have great dubs usually and Lost Judgment continues the tradition. I’m very glad a chance was taken on dubbing Judgment with dual subtitle options back on PS4 because it has made it easier to recommend these games to newcomers. I’m very excited for the soundtrack to release later this month as well. The opening theme in particular is a check nusic stuff
One thing to note is the English dub option will still have certain NPCs and battle banter from enemies remain in Japanese. I’d rather have these voices disabled rather than have random greetings in Japanese when everyone else has been speaking in English for an hour in some story beats. It breaks immersion. I understand that it might have been too much to get those sounds and lines also dubbed, but it is a noticeable change and I’d rather have no voices for those NPCs when using the English option.
Given that this is the first new game from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio that has been released on PS5 alongside other platforms, I was interested to see if the developer would go the extra mile with PS5-exclusive features. Lost Judgment supports PS5 activity cards to jump back into activities like the main story or The Gauntlet. It also has decent DualSense features. These include haptic feedback in various things like skateboarding, use of the controller speaker for a few things, and even adaptive trigger support in activities like drone battles. While the haptic feedback isn’t as well-implemented as something like Ghost of Tsushima, it is a nice step up over the PS4 version which I also tested.
I adore Lost Judgment but it has a few flaws in its current state. The first is the stealth mechanic. It feels very tacked on. Had this given players a bit more freedom on how to approach certain situations, it would’ve been a nice addition to the abilities Yagami has. Sadly, it just has you needing to do a fixed set of things more or less to reach the next area with failure throwing you back to retry. The other issues right now have to do with the English lip sync. Some specific cut-scenes don’t have proper lip sync and one of them even had the character in question talk without any lip movement. This is likely a bug that will be fixed. Barring that, I noticed only a handful of minor performance issues in some cut-scenes. The rest of the game is very good technically on PS5.
When it was originally announced, I was slightly concerned about Lost Judgment. Despite Judgment being one of my favorite games of the PS4 generation, I was a little concerned about Lost Judgment because I thought it might feel like how Yakuza Kiwami felt for me after playing Yakuza 0. Thankfully, it has exceeded my expectations with its superlative narrative, enhancements to combat, additions to exploration and traversal, and plethora of side activities. While it might not win you over if you aren’t a fan of the brawler games from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, Lost Judgment is one of the best games from the developer and a strong contender for Game of the Year. With Yakuza: Like a Dragon going turn-based, it is great to see the developer’s brawler-style series live on and improve so much with Lost Judgment.