Judgement was one of those games that I tried because *everyone* seemed to be talking about how good it was, even though I didn’t actually fancy it all that much at the time. The result? It ended up being one of my favourite games of 2018, with its blend of a dark detective story and the anarchic humour that the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio are known for making for a brilliant and memorable experience. Naturally then, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Lost Judgement ever since its reveal earlier this year, with the latest adventure for Takayuki Yagami one that I was simply not going to miss.
The game brings with it the same high quality of its predecessor too, with the engaging narrative, varied gameplay mechanics, and beautiful visuals proving that the original was no one-hit wonder.
Check out a galley of screenshots down below:
Lost Judgement acts as a follow-up to the original game with some recurring characters and plot details carrying over, but it’s not a necessity to have played it to follow the story – you just might appreciate some of the finer details of the plot if you’re in the know.
Once again, detective Takayuki Yagami finds himself involved in a murder case, with this one revolving around a grisly death that has been linked to a police officer. It also ties into an additional case that involves bullying taking place at a school; it might seem an unusual connection, but one that could be pivotal given that the police officer’s son had previously attended it. There’s more to it than that, of course, with the way that Lost Judgement puts all of the pieces of its narrative into place ensuring that the conspiracy behind the events of the murder remain riveting from start to end. It’s a proper crime thriller at its core and players are at the heart of it all, but I don’t want to spoil the details of that here… just know that there’s some excellent storytelling that keeps the pace of the tale moving nicely.
“Lost Judgement acts as a follow-up to the original game with some recurring characters and plot details carrying over, but it’s not a necessity to have played it to follow the story.”
Players can expect to spend some time at the aforementioned school during their time with the game, with Yagami actually acting as an advisor for the ‘Mystery Research Club’ – this involves taking part in other clubs throughout the school and finding out more about them. Whilst this leads to some wacky and fun antics in-game, I feel it’s worth pointing it out immediately just to emphasise the changes of tone that the game goes through with its narrative. At times, you’ll be examining murder cases that carry with them some violent and dark themes, whilst other times you’ll be partaking in silly little tasks that’ll bring a smile to the player’s face. It’s par for the course really, especially if you experienced just how bizarre the first game could be, but it’s something that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re new to the studio’s titles.
You’ve got to embrace Lost Judgement’s lighter side though, especially since it brings with it some of the game’s most memorable moments. Like other titles from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, there are PLENTY of side tasks to dive into in the game, whether that’s partaking in additional mysteries around Yokohama, competing with others in video game tournaments (better sharpen your Virtua Fighter 5 skills), competing in things like golf, darts, or drone racing, or simply skateboard around the city. That’s just scratching the surface of what the game offers too – I haven’t even mentioned the fact you have your own SEGA Master System in-game, which comes with Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in (just like mine when I was a kid).
“There are PLENTY of side tasks to dive into in the game, whether that’s partaking in additional mysteries around Yokohama, competing with others in video game tournaments (better sharpen your Virtua Fighter 5 skills), competing in things like golf, darts, or drone racing, or simply skateboard around the city.”
It just packs plenty of fun into the experience and it’s easy to find yourself distracted from the main story just to see what the game offers next. Heck, I found myself addicted to the boxing and drone racing for hours on end, with the crime caper going on behind the scenes and taking a back seat to my enjoyment of just about everything else I could do in the game. Best of all, everything has a purpose, with characters and stories tied to each task to give it more meaning in the overall world. It’s great.
Of course, whilst the side tasks are addictive, the main story is packed with brilliant moments too. Yagami’s detective capabilities are tested further in the game, with all new investigative elements included in Lost Judgement to flesh out your sleuthing skills when compared to the first game. It makes it easier to feel more involved with each case, with a bit more nuance demanded when it comes to clue gathering. Tailing has been improved in the game too, with it a lot easier to hide yourself from your target when they become suspicious of your presence – I didn’t actually find this too problematic anyway the first time around, but it does make what can be a tiresome gameplay trope a lot more accessible for players.
“Of course, whilst the side tasks are addictive, the main story is packed with brilliant moments too.”
Yagami will also face situations where he’ll need to get his hands dirty and dish out some beatings, with Lost Judgement once again embracing beat ‘em up-style mechanics when it comes to combat. Players will utilise and upgrade three different fighting styles in the game, with Crane ideal for taking out groups of enemies, Tiger ideal for picking out individual targets, and the newly introduced Snake giving Yagami some more defence-orientated manoeuvres. It’s easy to change between the three styles on the fly with a button-press, with some quick-flicking the ideal way to take out enemies as you try to play to your strengths. EX moves return too, so you can dish out some heavy damage when your meter is filled.
Combat is a lot more flexible when compared to the original, with fights offering a bit more variety and feeling more refined outside of simply piling enemies your way. It ensured I kept looking forward to each battle encounter, rather than simply thinking ‘not another group of enemies to beat up’. It offers plenty of accessibility for newbies who might not be experienced with the style of game, but also has the same of amount finesse for veterans who want to lay down the smackdown on their foes.
“Combat is a lot more flexible when compared to the original, with fights offering a bit more variety and feeling more refined outside of simply piling enemies your way.”
There’s so much to be found in Lost Judgement’s rich gameplay experience that you can expect to spend a ton of hours playing, with it taking over forty hours for me to roll credits – I’ve still got plenty of side stuff to dive into too, so I’m nowhere near done with the game. Nothing felt like it dragged out either, but instead made the game’s world feel all the more alive. Both Judgement and the studio’s Yakuza series have been known to pack in extras across their worlds in the past, but Lost Judgement really pushes it to the next level. It’s brilliant.
However, there were a few things I wasn’t a fan of. The stealth sections? They were a little lame and predictable, with each proving to be a little too easy and just there to add some cinematic pizzazz. It could be argued that some aspects of the story could drag out a little too, especially during the opening few hours as you’re introduced to different aspects of the school. This never became too much of a problem, especially when the story really got going and exciting new developments occurred on a regular basis, but it could feel like it played second fiddle to everything else you can do at times.
“There’s so much to be found in Lost Judgement’s rich gameplay experience that you can expect to spend a ton of hours playing, with it taking over forty hours for me to roll credits – I’ve still got plenty of side stuff to dive into too, so I’m nowhere near done with the game.”
I can’t end this review without mentioning the visuals, which were absolutely top notch throughout. I played through Lost Judgement on the PlayStation 5 and was constantly in awe of its world, with the city packed with vivid sights and the character models and animations looking sublime. Add to that the 60fps frame rate (which is at a 1440p resolution I should add) and it’s clear to see that this is one slick looking game.
Lost Judgement Summary
Lost Judgement improves upon the already brilliant original in multiple ways, ensuring it stands tall as a must-own PlayStation 5 title.
Between the gripping narrative, the excellently varied gameplay (that can be outrageous with its tasks), and the slick presentation, Takayuki Yagami’s latest crime caper will tick all of the right boxes for players. The story will take you to plenty of dark places as you unravel the mystery, but you can expect to have a damn fun time seeing it through to its end.
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One