Lost Judgement Review - Lose Yourself in Culture and Crime
There is plenty on these Japanese streets to keep you distracted from the main mission.
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Review copy provided by the publisher
Most gamers have had a lot of fun with the Yakuza franchise and its sister series, Judgement, continues the simplistic contentment of wandering around Japan, picking fights, and indulging in ridiculous but nevertheless entertaining activities. The next chapter in Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s legal thriller series is Lost Judgement, returning protagonist Takayuki Yagami to the investigative scene.
With the formalities covered, a portion of this review’s introductory section must be reserved for a few gushing statements about how stunning the city of Kamurocho and the district Isezaki Ijincho are to gawk at – thanks to the PlayStation 5 version’s 1440p. It was an absolute pleasure, as a weeb in training, to neglect active quests in favor of wandering through and absorbing the meticulous surroundings. Exploration solidifies the appeal of open-world games by transporting you to another world to just simply be that character, instead of being frog-marched straight into the next mission.
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Now that that bout of enthusiasm is off my chest, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of Lost Judgement and present everything that makes it tick – along with a few annoyances that you learn to ignore after being mesmerized by another minigame. In its culture-infused entirety, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s eastern feature has something for everybody scattered around every Japanese street corner and Lost Judgement is also a great example of what a “next-generation” title should look like.
In an instant, Lost Judgment’s graphics are a sight to behold. An even more immediate sight will appeal to animal lovers as a perfectly animated white cat graces the title screen. The somber, reflective music that plays over the menu is nothing compared to the upbeat, buddy-cop cutscene that awaits in the game’s prologue – and therein begins this title’s nuanced tone.
Yagami has to navigate the fine line between honoring the law and taking the law into his own hands, equipped with inner thoughts – displayed for our viewing pleasure – an arsenal of combat moves, and exquisite parkour.
Right off the bat, Lost Judgement presents a gruesome murder scene that’s immediately undercut by a playful conversation featuring our protagonist within, what is to us, a tutorial case. While the sudden shift in tone isn’t inherently jarring, it does prepare you for these tonal shifts that frequent the main narrative. As you indulge in the various activities on offer around the city, it tends to take away from the seriousness of the main case, which could be a little off-putting for hardcore Agatha Christie fans.
The prologue also serves as our introduction to the suave Yagami – lawyer-turned-detective. Bouncing off his partner’s more laid-back approach to investigating, Yagami is the cool-headed kind of guy you’d want to be in high school, and victims of various crimes within the game seem to be at ease around him – unless you’re a crook. Voiced by Japanese icon Takuya Kimura, Yagami has to navigate the fine line between honoring the law and taking the law into his own hands, equipped with inner thoughts – displayed for our viewing pleasure – an arsenal of combat moves, and exquisite parkour.
The multiple Sega arcades dotted around the metropolis are fully accessible and fully stocked with a variety of classic, retro Sega games, and each game you play – for a certain amount of yen – displays full screen with a new set of controls.
Not only is there a shocking, high-profile case to solve at the center, but accompanying this feat is a plethora of side quests, school stories, sports, and minigames to entertain along the way. The multiple Sega arcades dotted around the metropolis are fully accessible and fully stocked with a variety of classic, retro Sega games, and each game you play – for a certain amount of yen – displays full screen with a new set of controls.
Fans of the Tony Hawk series will be pleased to know that Yagami can cruise around the streets by skateboard, which is handy for fun side missions that involve beating a scalper to a limited-edition figure. Like a prepubescent teen who wants to try every club under the sun, you will also be able to catch Yagami in the boxing ring, robotics club, biker gang, and dance club. Thanks to the plentiful array of side activities, it’s easy to forget that there is a main mission to uphold and the magnitude of activities on offer will either delight or deter players from carrying on free rein.
…the range of combat maneuvers on offer is a joy to learn and put into practice, supported by fluid control movements – courtesy of the 60 FPS.
Luckily for me, I was a little less enthused to follow the main story for want of exploring more, with an attitude similar to that of a Monday-morning worker. Nevertheless, the option to control how the dialogue flows during interviews just about keeps you engaged during lengthy cutscenes, although sometimes you miss the action when exchanges become long-winded. Once the chin-wagging subsides, the range of combat maneuvers on offer is a joy to learn and put into practice, supported by fluid control movements – courtesy of the 60 FPS.
While the game’s elegant motion comes in useful during combat, general walking or running from point A to B combined with Yagami’s ultra-sensitive perimeter causes you to bump into literally everyone and everything. Japan has a high population of jostling civilians and the streets within Lost Judgement are no different. Therefore, constantly knocking into people who gasp at you like you’re a 10-foot brute can take away from your current immersion.
Quirks that flavor gameplay includes Yagami’s phone – which acts as your core menu – the purchasing of steamed buns or sushi to fulfill your health, and the opportunity to fly your very own drone over the cityscape. RPG mechanics – with a hint of life-sim qualities – come into play when you realize you can rearrange select furniture in your apartment, or anybody else’s for that matter.
The investigative side of the title offers thrilling chases to capture photographic evidence or follow perps, and the handy feature that allows you to check your notes is a great tool to keep track of the narrative – while you play too much poker or get drunk.
In summary, Lost Judgement is a fantastic game that captures the true meaning behind video games: escapism. Saturated in colorful, pin-sharp graphics and rich culture, the narrative is intriguing enough to follow as you get to know all of the characters – who look staggeringly realistic. As you journey through the eastern expanse in front of you, small niggles are bound to trip up your concentration occasionally, and restless gamers may find the cutscenes a little too drawn-out.
Ultimately, cancel your weekend plans and step into Yagami’s detective shoes for a stimulating saunter around Japanese streets, and don’t forget to experience the games-within-a-game arcade because, let’s face it, work can wait.