Lost Judgment is a game that I thoroughly enjoy mechanically, but one that has me very conflicted narratively. While it opened on a real high thanks to its wonderfully absurd mix of the mundane and the deeply terrifying, alongside excellent combat and more side activities to take part in than is reasonable, it’s brought down by the handling of its core story.
Note: This is an updated and scored version of our original Review in Progress.
Players once again take control of Takayuki Yagami, the ex-lawyer turned detective who’s now two years older than when he helped resolve The Mole Serial Killings. While Judgment and Lost Judgment both undoubtedly have the same inherent silliness as the Yakuza series, they feel a little bit darker and grittier, mostly due to the focus on investigations and detective work instead of whatever it is Kiryu does.
The main plot revolves around a police officer named Akihiro Ehara, who is accused of groping a woman on a train, but also seems to have murdered someone who they accuse of bullying his kid into committing suicide. This isn’t your case, though; you’re looking into a private school called Seiryo High, where you’ve been hired by the headteacher to try and stamp out bullying. It also seems to be the same school that Ehara’s kid went to.
It’s an absurd set-up, but it mostly works due to the inherent whiplash of the game’s wildly shifting tone. After all, this is a game where you can be investigating a crime scene that you arrived at via a skateboard one moment, and then planting speakers on a desk before taking out a school rugby team the next. I don’t mind the flitting between the darker and lighter moments here. Instead, the issue comes from how some of the subject matter is handled from a story perspective.
There are moments of fairly graphic assaults shown multiple times as part of your investigation, and while we understand that it’s important not to shy away from the abhorrent elements of a story like this, the way that it’s represented in Lost Judgment feels gratuitous and almost as though the game takes pleasure in attempting to make you feel squeamish.
This is especially the case around the way the game deals with sexual assault, which is consistently handled poorly, and really makes it feel more like a fantasy plot point than something that happens regularly, which is fairly unforgivable. While there are lots of sensitive subjects in the game, none of them falls quite as foul as this one, and it makes for a heavily sour note in a story that normally tends towards kindness and empathy.
Outside of that, while the story is a little bit messy and all over the place, it will absolutely pull you through to the conclusion if you enjoy the core gameplay loop of random side quests and generally enjoyable moment-to-moment gameplay. The stealth in the game isn’t great, but doesn’t show up too often or last too long for the most part, and there is something undeniably satisfying about distracting a guard with a coin toss before taking them out.
Snake style is best style
Lost Judgment is at its best when you’re in the middle of a fight though, where you can switch between three different fighting styles at will, and engage in some wonderfully OTT action sequences where you beat someone down with a traffic cone, or kick a desk into them to take them out of the fight. If the game were all combat and no story, it would still be a huge amount of fun.
Well, that and all the arcade machines and retro games as well. A staple of Ryu Ga Gotoku’s games alongside the offbeat side missions, it’s still pretty wild to have everything from Space Harrier to Sonic the Fighters and even Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown available to play in the in-game arcades, not to mention having a Master System in your office.