It doesn’t seem that long since we played the excellent Judgment, but Ryu Ga Gotoku is already back with the next game in the series, Lost Judgment. Here’s our take on the PlayStation 5 version of the game.
Of course, part of the reason why Judgment feels recent is that it received a PS5 remaster earlier this year – the initial release of the game was back in 2019. It did a wonderful job in establishing Ryu Ga Gotoku as a developer that does more than produce Yakuza games, even though Judgment is a spin-off. It was different enough, so it’s great to see another Judgment go into development and be able to explore its unique detective mechanics once more.
These involve stealth and gathering evidence, and that all returns in Lost Judgment, even though there’s still a firm emphasis on combat and exploring the open world of Tokyo as well. The game also adds Yokohama, just like Yakuza: Like a Dragon did, which makes for a far larger world to explore – something you can do at a faster pace if you make use of your skateboard for traversal.
One of the biggest aspects of Lost Judgment when it comes to location isn’t the bigger scope though, it’s the fact that much of the action centers around your work as an undercover agent at a local high school. What starts off as a routine inspection about bullying eventually connects to a large scale homicide case, which then drives the narrative and gameplay further.
What’s interesting about the high school setting is that it allows Ryu Ga Gotoku to seamlessly integrate many of its many minigames into the core gameplay rather than have then as side activities. For example, engaging in the school’s dance lessons or partaking in the Virtua Fighter competition on campus now just feels like part of your job to blend in and observe, although there are plenty of other mini-games to be found as well, including drone races and an on-rail shooter in the vein of House of the Dead.
In addition, Lost Judgment also features a number of classic SEGA arcade games that you can find and play, including Sonic The Fighters, Super Hang-On and Motor Raid. You can also retreat to your own office and boot up a bunch of classic Master System titles like Alex Kidd, Alien Syndrome and Fantasy Zone II. Having these in the game are of course developer staples, but we’d definitely miss them if they weren’t there.
Closer to the core gameplay, Lost Judgment adds a new fighting style to the two that were introduced in Judgment. While you previously had a style for one on one combat and other for fighting groups, there’s now a “Snake” option that lets you disarm and evade enemies before countering. It feels aikido-inspired, and plays so well that it ended up quickly becoming our preferred style of combat.
And where the main story tends to feature dark undertones, with a few grim touches, there is a whole lot of side content to enjoy as well – and that’s on top of the minigames and arcade fun mentioned before. Optional missions that present themselves often have a completely different tone than the main missions do, often featuring silly narratives and unexpected gameplay twists that feel like a nice breather in between the main story content. They present major shifts in the narrative tone of the game, but never to the point where they feel out of place. Instead, they’re opportunities to recharge your batteries, before diving into the main case again.
Lost Judgment is a brilliant sequel that improves on the 2019 game in several ways. It perhaps doesn’t innovate enough and feels like “more of the same”, but with even more content and polish that’s not a bad thing.