Lost Judgment (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 02.11.2021 3

Review for Lost Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

With the Yakuza franchise now floating freely in the mainstream, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio turns its focus once again to stern detective Takayuki Yagami in Lost Judgment. A direct sequel to 2018's Judgment (or Judge Eyes in Japan), Lost Judgment offers more sleuthing action in the vein of RGG Studio's action-packed adventuring. The original Judgment made only a few missteps in its excellently crafted mystery, so the question is: Is Lost Judgment another case breaker… or merely a red herring?

Lost Judgment needed to be great. The Judgment series is now RGG Studio's flagship action-adventure franchise, with the beloved Yakuza games henceforth being transformed into a turn-based RPG series following the excellent Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Sadly, Lost Judgment is one of the studio's weakest offerings to date - despite the spectacular combat it houses.

The fighting gameplay is the most fully realised RGG Studio experience yet. The move list, the flow, the progression, the synergy between the 3 distinct fighting styles; it all comes together to make Yagami feel like a kung fu Swiss army knife. Weaving a devastating tattoo of punches, kicks and throws as you scythe through your enemies is as satisfying an experience as any you'll find on the latest generation of consoles.

The Crane and Tiger styles have been buffed and given new moves and animations to further distinguish themselves from each other, while the new Snake style excels at turning foes' attacks against them. Experimentation with Yagami's move list is rewarded every time and battles are seldom dull experiences. You'll see many a brawl throughout Lost Judgment's campaign but it will never feel like enough. Battles always seem to last just a moment too short, leaving you perpetually wanting more. And it's a joy to go out looking for another fight just to experience that thrill all over again.

Screenshot for Lost Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

Lost Judgment's story, however, is a more difficult topic to unpack. The plot is a meandering and engaging one, seeing the Yagami Detective Agency venture to Isezaki Ijincho (also the setting for Yakuza: Like a Dragon) to look into a case of suspected bullying at a local school. Yagami becomes a student advisor to the school's Mystery Club in order to track down leads pertaining to the bullying and the stakes very quickly escalate from there.

As Yagami peels back layer upon layer of the mystery, it becomes a deep and convoluted tale tainted by Yokohama's seedy underbelly. It's a dark, gritty, tragic and daring tale to tell - and the stumbling block that prevents it from sticking the landing is the school element itself.

School bullying is a central focus of the narrative, and while this is a fresh take on a winning formula, it also brings the narrative to a screeching halt at almost every turn. So many of the story beats just don't translate well to a Western context, instead feeling heavy-handed and painting the protagonists in an unsavoury light.

Take Yagami's endless willingness to beat up groups of delinquent kids. Fair enough: it can be satisfying teaching a bully a lesson, but it becomes a bit much after a while, particularly when the vehicle of juvenile justice is a middle-aged man. There's also a sequence where Yagami tries desperately to convince a school girl he's not a pervert - and perhaps this is merely the English translation, but his argument smacks of perverse coercion. Maybe that's meant to be the joke, but even if so, it's not one that contributes to Yagami's likability.

Moments like these are scattered throughout Lost Judgment. At one point, Yagami's right hand man - Kaito - verbally harasses a female teacher. Even though her apparent discomfort is animated, the sense of unease it instilled in this reviewer was not. Inappropriate jokes at poor times, like when investigating a student teacher's suicide, fall embarrassingly flat. While it's true that many of these moments might be explained away by the cultural context they're set in, it's still enough to break the immersion for a Western audience, which unfortunately can't be ignored.

Screenshot for Lost Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

The story also brings some disappointing perspective to Yagami's character on the whole. Where he was likeable in the first Judgment by virtue of being a key focus of the story, his detached demeanour and deadpan delivery cause him to fall tragically flat in Lost Judgment's plot given that it's not centred around him. The sad reality is that he simply isn't a very compelling character. Not even his relentless altruism can counterbalance his simply boring personality elsewhere.

Still, there are genuinely impactful story moments involving Yagami, with tear-jerking and humorous sequences in equal measure. Juvenile bullying is just such a tricky topic to cover in a fictional story, and it's a crying shame that Lost Judgment doesn't get it right. In the end, the trail of bodies left in the wake of the story makes it feel disjointed and macabre given the subject matter, and while flashes of RGG Studio's personality shine through at times, the story is too often bogged down by an overly sullen tone. It takes risks but simply stretches the series' balance between silly and sombre a little too thin.

Nevertheless, Lost Judgment's story is still compelling enough to see it through to the end - misfired story beats be damned. What helps here is the new School Stories - an entirely optional side narrative that takes place within the school setting. The focus here is on uncovering a shady figure operating behind the scenes to transform students into delinquents. It's often more playful than the main missions, making it a welcome respite from the intense tone of the core narrative.

Alongside the title's other assets, this makes Lost Judgment, like Judgment before it, addictive and compulsively playable. It's great to return to Isezaki Ijincho once again, this time in a more action-adventure-esque experience. The graphics are mostly stunning on the Series X, with character models stealing the show with their excellently rendered mannerisms and expressions in cutscenes. Lost Judgment is a true sequel, being larger in scope than its predecessor in almost every way.

Screenshot for Lost Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

Elsewhere, it's clear that feedback on Judgment was taken on board. Many of Lost Judgment's core systems and mechanics are streamlined and polished versions of its predecessor's, with fewer investigative mini games to wade through during moment-to-moment gameplay. There are new stealth and parkour sections - neither of which are very good - but they're infrequent enough to only be a welcome distraction whenever they crop up.

The increased scale of Lost Judgment also contributes to its downfall, however, belying a sad lack of polish in some key areas. Isezaki Ijincho can feel surprisingly empty despite the slew of colourful characters and excellent mini games scattered throughout the city. Additionally, the stiff and dated animations outside of pre-rendered cutscenes are starting to grow stale. Sure, they've been part of the franchise's personality for a while, but it's a jarring contrast in an experience where the combat flows like fine wine. Put simply, Lost Judgment often feels like a case of quantity over quality beyond its stellar combat and complex story.

This isn't to say it's an irredeemable misstep. Lost Judgment is RGG Studio's first title to have had a worldwide release date, with the English localisation being developed alongside the original Japanese version. This is an immensely promising sign for the popularity of the series, and RGG Studio deserves all the recognition it gets for its phenomenal influence on video gaming as a whole. Lost Judgment is not a completely bad experience by any stretch - it's just an example of a risk being taken with the plot that doesn't pay off. The combat is incredible and well worth experiencing if you've been a longtime fan of the series, and the exciting distractions peppered throughout Kamurocho and Isezaki Ijincho are worth getting lost in - even if the story leaves a dull stain on the canvas of an otherwise serviceable experience.

Screenshot for Lost Judgment on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Lost Judgment is a bittersweet event. The story aims for a mature tone but is too often a macabre, morbid misfire that strays too far from the balance between silly and serious that the series is famed for. It's not a poorly developed title, though; the outrageously brilliant combat and sandbox distractions are clear evidence of that. It just struggles to tell the sort of meaningful, believable and sensitively weighted story that players have come to expect from this talented team.

Developer

Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I felt Like a Dragon had similar dips in polish level in the city, maybe Ijincho is just too big for the dev team to handle? I mean Yakuza 6 is absolutely gorgeous and polished throughout and yet the newer games seem to be losing that attention to detail. Enjoying this on PS5 though!

Good point. I thought Like a Dragon got away with it as a JRPG but the city definitely needs some TLC on the whole - hopefully if they stick with it as a setting they'll refine it more and more until it hits that Kamurocho benchmark! But yes, Lost Judgment is still good fun despite its shortcomings!

juzzy said:
Good point. I thought Like a Dragon got away with it as a JRPG but the city definitely needs some TLC on the whole - hopefully if they stick with it as a setting they'll refine it more and more until it hits that Kamurocho benchmark! But yes, Lost Judgment is still good fun despite its shortcomings!

Deffo! I also love some of the wee visual flairs they've added like Ruffle sin Yagami's coat and things. Just little bits that make you go, ooh they did make a new character model XD

I think a 6 is justified especially give the first game's 8/9~ish score. I think the investigative stuff in game 1 was fun as it added to the detective side of the story (even if they were a bit pace breaking sometimes)

( Edited 03.11.2021 10:48 by Sandy Wilson )

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