Lost Judgment Review: The Boys Are Back in Town

When the original Judgment first released back in 2019, it became my first experience with Sega's Yakuza franchise. Like many others who have dipped their toes into this expansive world in recent years, I quickly fell in love with Judgment and it became one of my favorite games of the console generation. As such, when Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio announced a sequel, Lost Judgment, earlier in 2021, it immediately shot up my list of most-anticipated titles. Now, with Lost Judgment finally here, I have found myself greatly enjoying a return trip to this series, even though I am a bit disappointed by its lack of improvements to returning features from the first installment.

In a general sense, Lost Judgment is very similar to the game that came before it. The story once again centers around detective Takayuki Yagami and his pals who are investigating a recent murder in the region of Isezaki Ijincho. While the case that Yagami is trying to crack starts out as very straightforward, it only evolves over the course of the game and proves to be part of a more nefarious scheme. 

That being said, the story of Lost Judgment is perhaps the aspect that disappointed me the most in this sequel. The first Judgment featured a story that I found myself quickly engrossed with from the jump, and over time, only became more invested in its plot the more I played. With Lost Judgment, the inverse is true. While the story that is being told here isn't bad by any means, it does suffer from some pacing problems. Notably, the opening hours of Lost Judgment are quite slow, and it takes a bit for things to ramp up. The story as a whole has its high points, but they feel fewer and further between compared to the last game. 

Despite my qualms with the main story in Lost Judgment, all of the mini-stories surrounding the throughline narrative continue to be one of my favorite aspects of this new installment. RGG Studio has always found a way to make the side missions in its games equal parts compelling and hilarious, and that continues to ring true with Lost Judgment. One of the things I liked the most about a number of side quests in Lost Judgment is how they tie back into events from the first game. If you're someone who completed a number of side activities in Judgment, you're essentially rewarded with a number of great moments and callbacks to the original. 

There are also a handful of new activities that Yagami can take part in this time around as well in Lost Judgment that all provide a reprieve from the story-focused missions. Whether it be skateboarding around town, dancing with an entourage, building a fighting robot, or cracking mysteries for school kids, there's still a ton to do in this game that is all fun in its own unique way.

Likely my biggest issue with Lost Judgment in a general sense is that most of the gameplay mechanics and systems in the game have only been slightly tweaked compared to the last entry. Although many of these changes do somewhat improve the overall experience, the updates don't feel all that substantial. For example, chase sequences and trailing missions, both of which were present in Judgment, return in Lost Judgment. However, the new additions to each don't spice either activity up in the slightest. Chase sequences allow you to simply now wither down someone's stamina bar, while tailing sequences only add new ways for you to blend in with your environment. In the end, this leads to each recurring gameplay section feeling dull and monotonous.

This lack of notable new features is also present in some of the side activities, too. Drone racing makes a return in Lost Judgment, for instance, but there haven't been many tweaks to the format that made me feel like pouring my time into the mode after having already done so in Judgment. The same is true for other secondary activities such as Paradise VR, too. I'm totally fine with seeing these aspects make a return in Lost Judgment, but I wish RGG Studio would have made some more sweeping changes to make these activities more compelling to those who may have already played the previous game.

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The one thing that has been drastically improved in Lost Judgment though happens to be its combat, which is great given how often you'll be partaking in fisticuffs. Yagami now has three different fighting styles at his disposal, all of which are quite different from one another. One style is suited to taking on larger crowds, the second is more for one-on-one engagements, and the third, which is new to Lost Judgment, is more centered around defensive tactics. 

At this point in time, I have played a decent number of games in the larger Yakuza franchise, and Lost Judgment might very well boast the best combat mechanics of any of them. Compared to many other entries in the series, Lost Judgment feels much more fluid and offers up a number of different ways to take down baddies. Not only does each fighting style feel great in its own way, but the addition of a number of new EX finishers makes each encounter feel visceral.

As a whole, Lost Judgment is yet another strong outing for developer RGG Studio. Although this sequel is largely only a half step up compared to its predecessor, there's still so much to do in this world that can easily keep you entertained for hours on end. Even though I would have loved to see some more drastic improvements to many aspects of Lost Judgment, I still can't deny that I've had a great time in this second outing with Yagami, and I hope to see the series continue well into the future. 

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Lost Judgment is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One. A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review and the game itself was played by the reviewer on PS5.