CW: Suicide, bullying
CW: Suicide, bullying
High School for many was not a fun time, filled with constant stress and pressure to do well from your parents, to not be seen as an outcast among your classmates, to fit in. For many, bullying was a constant struggle at school. But when coming home to a safe environment, we were able to switch off from the constant judgment and be transported into another world with the comfort of video games. An escape from reality as we become our favourite gaming character. But as video games have progressed and evolved throughout the years, the lines betweens the virtual world and reality begin to close. We see a closer reflection of real life being showcased in our games, heavier topics being explored, and now that we’ve moved on from high school Lost Judgment gives players a way to reflect and relate to an issue found all over the world.
With the release of Yakuza Like a Dragon we saw the Yakuza series take a dramatic shift in its gameplay style, what once was a real time action JRPG had become that of Turn Based. A risky gamble that paid off immensely, bringing in new fans and audiences with the new main character Ichiban. But when it came time to create a sequel to the critically acclaimed spin off Judgment. RGG studios decided to stick with the traditional Beat em up action to allow both gameplay styles to thrive side by side. But having to develop two separate gameplay mechanics would potentially be a hindrance, not allowing either to expand and evolve. That’s not the case, as Lost Judgment takes everything from the previous title along with some aspects from Like a Dragon and creates what is without a doubt, RGG’s best game yet.
Set in 2021, a rotting corpse is found in an abandoned building in Ijincho, maggots crawling all over the decrepit body, firefighters horrified at the sight they have witnessed, at the same time in Tokyo, Akihiro Ehara is being tried for his involvement in a sexual harassment incident, and as the verdict is layed down upon him, he reveals something that drives the story of the game. He is aware of the rotting body in Ijincho, and identifies him as Hiro Mikoshiba, a young student teacher that Ehara had a personal grudge against. Confused and shocked by the connection, Genda Law Office put the main character, Yagami, to work. How are these cases linked, and did Ehara have something to do with the killing of Mikoshiba. Yagami finds himself getting deeper down the rabbit hole as he becomes a consultant at the school Mikoshiba taught, uncovering the troubled history of bullying within the school.
The plot of this game is done masterfully, not holding back on the themes and issues it wishes to address such as bullying and suicide. That being said, if you are sensitive to topics such as these, I would highly suggest treading carefully with the game or potentially skipping out on this one. But if you wish to experience what can only be said as one of the best crime drama storylines in gaming, there is no better choice than Lost Judgment. With some of the most engaging and interesting characters you will see from the world of Kamurocho, there are plenty of heart wrenching moments and comedic quips that will have you remember these sets of characters for years to come.
And just like any RGG game, there are plenty of side stories or cases in this case that lightens the mood from the intense main story, taking up cases from the streets, through the Buzz researcher app that has you searching through social media posts to find current misdoings or though the new School stories, that sees you consult for the schools Mystery Research Club. Getting behind the truth of school drama and helping out in the dance club or robotics club here and there….. Oh, and then there’s the Detective Dog! As always, these side missions are filled with comedic elements and great storytelling which only occasionally overstay their welcome with dragged on dialogue. Though I was too hooked to the main storyline to complete many of these extra cases, I’m looking forward to going back in the premium adventure to continue to help the people of Kamurocho and Yokohama.
First seen in Yakuza Like a Dragon, Yokohama returns in Lost Judgment along with the series staple Kamurocho. Both jam packed with extra things to do, such as the Yakuza mainstays like Baseball, golf and darts. To the now Judgment mainstays of Drone racing, House of the Dead-Esque game and Motor Raid found within Club SEGA! Also within the arcades is Super Hang on, Space Harrier, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown which I was surprised to see after the recent release of Ultimate Showdown, Fighting Vipers and a welcome new addition Sonic the Fighters, a variety of SEGA master system games are also available to play at Yagami’s office which is a great little addition. Quite a lot of the side games however are hidden behind side quests so I unfortunately did miss out on a variety of them, but it will reward those who go out of their way to see more of the game. Meanwhile at the school there are a variety of side games you can play, such as a rhythm mini game in which you build up the school's dance team, boxing similar to the boxing event found in the Olympic video games and finally a robot combat game which I wish was a bit more like Robot Wars and Battlebots.
In the original Judgment, unfortunately the trailing missions were the weakest part of the game, slow, clunky and not particularly fun, though in Lost Judgment RGG studios have completely reworked it into a much more enjoyable experience. Seamlessly hiding behind walls and cars, being able to seem inconspicuous by checking your phone and even throwing coins to distract thugs where need be. This is first shown off brilliantly in the opening prelude, which does a fantastic job at introducing all the game mechanics you will see throughout. Even the investigate segments of the game that were originally rather confusing have been adapted to be more accessible allowing stuck players to be given hints or where they may need to be looking. One new aspect of traversal while a nice new addition, could have used a bit more time being fleshed out and that is the climbing mechanics which while it does the job, does feel a little clunky and slow which is a bit disappointing to see when other series like Assassins creed has been doing it at a high standard for over 10 years. Something not slow however, is the ability to be able to skate throughout Kamurocho and Yokohama to your heart's content, a riveting way to explore these cities with ramps and rail grinds scattered throughout the cities.
Combat is an important part of any RGG game, whether that be the traditional beat em up style or the new Turn Based mechanics, and with Lost Judgment, the Beat em up format has never looked and played better. The fluidity of punches and combos is something unlike any other action game, you take control of one of three main styles, Tiger, A precise fighting style used for single-target takedowns due to its power and ability to break guards. Crane style – A flashy fighting style with long range and area-of-effect moves, best used for enemies in a group. And finally the Snake Style – A counter-based fighting style that uses an opponent’s flow of energy against them. Though mainly sticking to Tiger style will be all you need for the majority of the game, only switching to the others very rarely, it would have been great to see more moments where the other styles were necessary but the combat is so satisfying I didn’t mind just sticking with the one style.
For me, someone who became hooked onto the main story, completed the game in around 18 hours, only stopping to do a few side cases and extra activities, but for someone looking to complete most of the side missions you can see that time tripling if not more. Playing the game on the Xbox Series S you have the option of Performance or resolution mode, I stuck with performance that while it did result in some shimmering of further away objects, it did allow for a silky smooth 60FPS experience. Though if you value graphics more, the Resolution mode boosts the visual fidelity in favour of 30FPS. The game is dubbed in both Japanese and English and while I stuck with the absolutely fantastic Japanese dub, the returning English voice actors are also a great cast so that will just come down to your personal preference.
And it wouldn't be RadioSEGA without discussing the soundtrack, I always found the original Judgment to have a stand out OST out of all the Yakuza games, and Lost Judgment is no exception. Some brilliant new battle music is found throughout, suspenseful music during key moments, slower somber tracks that really add some emotional punch where necessary and the theme song of the game is an absolute banger. I highly suggest giving the OST a listen when it releases.
Lost Judgment is the peak of the Yakuza world so far, with only a few nitpicks holding it back such as the clunky climbing mechanics and some recycled content. But these small setbacks cannot ruin what is a masterclass in storytelling and beat em up combat which has been progressively being fine tuned and perfected with every game. If Lost Judgment is this good, I can’t wait to see what RGG has in store next.
Requests between 23rd Jan and 29th Jan