Lost Judgement Review - Uneven Judgment
Updated: Jul 7
Lost Judgment is the sequel to Judgment, and like that game is a Yakuza series spinoff focused on the private detective work of Yagami and friends. It primarily uses the same Ijincho map as Like a Dragon, but don't expect much in the way of references to that game. Outside of a very subtle cameo and a few nods to reused locations, there's almost nothing shared between the games, and you can definitely get by here having only played Judgment. Almost all of the major characters are returning faces from that game, and while you might still be able to have a good time if you started here, you'd be missing out on both a great game and a ton of background.
So, assuming you're already familiar with Judgment, what's different here? Far and away the biggest change, at least outside of the new map, is the focus on Seiryo High School. After a series of contrived and deeply awkward shenanigans a few hours into the game, Yagami ends up as a counselor at the school and will work with almost a dozen different clubs over the rest of the game if you want to complete the main side quest. Each club has its own minigame, which range wildly in content, depth, and quality. The eSports club is merely yet another way to access Virtua Fighter 5, for example, and the robotics club only looks deep until you realize how bad the AI is at it, but the boxing gym is a brand new 1v1 fighter with loads of different opponents and special moves. The good news is that the best of these are quite fun and most of the clubs have entertaining stories to go with the minigames. The bad news is that several of the clubs easily take 4-5 hours to complete and there's no choice but to do them unless you would rather give up on seeing the end of the entire school side story. It would've benefited greatly from having fewer minigames that got more dev time each, or from making the clubs just take less time.
Speaking of systems that needed more time in the oven, the worst offender by far is stealth. I am someone who loves stealth games and regularly plays them on the hardest settings, but the stealth in this game is so indefensibly awful that I started dropping the difficulty to "simple" every time it came up instead of bothering to engage with it. It's completely linear and provides zero player choice, so there's no satisfaction to overcoming a section, and worse than that it's insta-fail if you're ever spotted. Nevermind that the goons you're sneaking around can hardly scratch you in a normal fight, once you start sneaking, they're suddenly capable of one hit KOs. These sections are at least only used a handful of times in a 60 hour game, but they are truly offensively bad.
My other big problem is more subjective. Judgment mostly had you dealing with yakuza bosses and corrupt officials, so you never felt too bad about harassing them for your investigation. This time around, Yagami spends a lot of time being annoyingly persistent with teachers, teenagers, and other civilians who are a lot more sympathetic when they just want to be left alone. It can get uncomfortable. On top of that, while the story does end up somewhere satisfying, it suffers from some pacing issues in the middle and relies on one specific incident for Yagami's motivation so heavily and constantly that it starts to feel silly. This would've been on the edge of not earning a recommendation if it hadn't recovered in the last couple of chapters.
All that out of the way, what you're left with is a lot of the same strengths as other games in this series. Combat is generally very satisfying, although it feels like the new Viper style completely outclasses the existing Tiger and Crane styles against a lot of the hardest enemies. It's full of quirky characters and silly moments that'll usually earn a laugh. The main antagonists, once you finally know who they are, create some great set piece boss fights. The one strong point that's less familiar is the school stories, which mostly offer refreshingly lower stakes and more wholesome content than what you're probably used to. It's good to take a break from all the murders and conspiracies to just go coach a dance team for a bit.
Lost Judgment is, in the end, a frustratingly uneven experience. At its best, it puts Yakuza and Persona in a blender with Phoenix Wright and somehow comes out with a coherent product. At its worst, it's wasting your time with half-baked subsystems or plodding pacing. In a lot of games, I'd be able to rate it largely on the good parts and recommend avoiding the bad, but here you're forced to either engage with everything or miss a great deal of the content. As a result, it has to earn a significantly lower score than its predecessor. For all the little ways it improves on Judgment's systems and fleshes out its characters, there are just too many smaller missteps.
Time to beat: 60 hours to complete the story and all 42 original quests. The DLC quests included in the Steam release might add another 5-6 hours.
MSRP: $60, although I'd strongly recommend just buying the bundle with the first game and the Kaito DLC.
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