Review – Lost Judgment

You all know I love me some Yakuza. Even the weakest titles in the franchise are, in my opinion, great games, like Yakuza 3 or Dead Souls. Judgment, their first major spinoff not starring best daddy Kiryu, was an excellent game, but compared to its predecessor, it felt less captivating and soulless. I wanted to like the game more than I did, mostly due to how little I cared about its protagonist, Yagami. Lost Judgment, a sequel to the 2019 game, fixes most of the issues I had with that title. In fact, I can easily say it’s now one of my favorite Yakuza titles of all time.

Lost Judgment High School

Lost Judgment is a cathartic power fantasy if you hated high school.

Lost Judgment takes place a while after the predecessor, but you can more or less play it without having played the first game. Yagami, the lawyer-turned-detective-who-knows-kung-fu and his buddy, Kaito, are still trying to make a living as private investigators in Kamurocho. That is until a horrid event in Yokohama (the setting from Yakuza: Like a Dragon) forces the duo to move there for a while in order to aid an investigation centered around a preppy high school.

You read that right: a high school. The murder mystery is centered around people connected to this school, which means that Yagami spends a lot of time pretending to be a member of the school’s staff in order to have free access to the school’s grounds without being seen as a creep. He ends up befriending and counseling the school’s mystery club, as well as other students. He also gets into trouble with some other students, meaning he has to occasionally teach them a lesson or two with more, let’s say, “archaic manners”.

Lost Judgment Shiba

The best boy.

A lot of people will complain about the fact that Yagami will punch a crap ton of teenagers during the game, especially at the beginning. But let’s just say that every single annoying teen that comes your way is portrayed as the most disgusting and vile human being alive, making you actually want to deliver a few punches and kicks. It’s almost as if Lost Judgment is the unofficial sequel to Rockstar’s Bully we never got. It will be VERY cathartic to a lot of people, especially those who didn’t have a good experience back in high school. There are other activities inside the school, such as being a dancing coach, as well as tons of sidequests.

Don’t worry, this isn’t just a high school drama. The good thing about Yakuza games is that they’re always bipolar as hell: at one point you’re dealing with a serious thriller, then later on you’re bowling in order to get a chicken as a prize. That was actually a thing in Yakuza 0, by the way. Lost Judgment knows how and when to be serious and ultraviolent (don’t worry, not inside of school), as well as funny and ridiculous. In fact, its serious tones won’t please everybody, but I for one think that there is a good message being told at the end of the day with it. It’s one of the best plots in the franchise.

Lost Judgment Skate

Watch out Tony.

In an unexpected turn of events, it’s also occasionally, for the lack of a better word, “wholesome”: Yagami is a lot more likable this time around, being a father figure and a mentor to a ton of the better teens in this school. You can’t help but feel your heart warm up to him once you see the distance he goes in order to stop an innocent girl from being bullied by some jerks. His voice actor also delivers a better performance in here, making him more of a character of his own, and not someone desperate to prove he’s not meant to live under Kiryu’s shadow.

As per tradition, the main story is just a mere fraction of what you can experience in Lost Judgment. We have a ton of sidequests, as well as cases you can accept via a bulletin board in your detective agency. You can also walk a shiba inu around and literally sniff for cases. Your go-to minigames, such as mahjong, cards, and batting, also make a comeback. You can date girls (don’t worry, not the high school ones), and even skateboard around town. Not only can you use the skateboard to move even faster than your average sprint, but you can also partake in extreme sports minigames. It’s no Tony Hawk, but hey, it works.

Lost Judgment Combat

Nothing like beating the hell out of some degenerates.

This might also be the best game in the series when it comes to the amount of Sega arcade games included on the side. There’s Virtua Fighter, Fantasy Zone, Super Hang-on… you know, the classics, the ones featured in every modern Yakuza game. Some new additions include Fighting Vipers, Sonic: The Fighters (yes, that terrible but amazing Sonic fighting game is here!), a brand new original House of the Dead called Hama of the Dead, and a Master System. As in, the console itself. You can collect and play tons of different Master System games in here, and I can’t express how nostalgic that feels to someone who lives in South America, the bizarro dimension where “Sega won the war”.

Hama of the Dead

The sequel to Kamuro of the Dead: Hama of the Dead!

Yakuza: Like a Dragon ditched the series’ staple combat system in favor of a turn-based RPG system, but Lost Judgment is a return to the franchise’s roots. This is a beat ’em up just like any other Yakuza, with the added benefit of running like a dream thanks to the power of next-gen hardware. Taking advantage of the Dragon Engine’s capabilities at 60fps, be it during exploration segments or combat encounters, is excellent. Loading times are minuscule, and the level of detail is as good as it has ever been, but with slightly better textures and the added benefit of a much smoother performance. It is clearly a cross-gen game, let’s not fool ourselves, but it still looks pretty good, all things considered.

Lost Judgment Panties

I just want to leave this here, out of context.

Lost Judgment won me over. I used to consider its predecessor a good game, but one of the weakest titles in the Yakuza universe. This one is the complete opposite. It stands right next to Yakuza 0 and Like a Dragon in the pantheon of greatest titles in the series. The story is captivating, the combat system has been improved, the benefits of playing it with an improved framerate are excellent, and most importantly, I finally started giving a crap about Yagami. He is finally a protagonist worthy of having a series of his own. This is yet another hit by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, and I can’t wait to see what they’re doing next.

Graphics: 8.5

As a whole, Lost Judgment looks like any other game running on the Dragon Engine, which means it’s pretty amazing to look at. Even if it doesn’t push next-gen visuals to their limits, the amount of detail is staggering, and the always constant 60fps make this a joy to play.

Gameplay: 9.0

An even better combat system than the one from the first Lost Judgment, with the added benefit of 60 frames a second. A ton of minigames and side activities on the side, all of them featuring more than serviceable controls.

Sound: 9.0

Lost Judgment features an excellent soundtrack, even if it’s not as memorable as in previous Yakuza games. The voice acting, on the other hand, is much better in here than in how it was in its predecessor.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Lost Judgment is leagues better than the first Judgment. The story is more captivating, the characters are WAY more likable, and the gameplay is more fluid than ever before. Yagami is finally cool!

Final Verdict: 9.0

Lost Judgment is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox Series S.