It’s nice when a developer takes criticism on board, delivering a sequel that’s better in every possible way.
Lost Judgment smooths over most, if not all of the problems you could levy at its predecessor. Tailing missions, for example, are now a little more dynamic, and if caught out in the open, you can act natural for a while so as to put your target at ease. Also, they’re now more confined to the game’s optional side cases; during the main story, I think I tailed a target once, maybe twice?
Coupled with chase and investigation sequences also being less frequent and more enjoyable overall, Lost Judgment has a lot more forward momentum if you stick to its storyline. Though don’t go thinking that means you’ll blast through it any faster: with new gameplay elements added, like traversal and rudimentary stealth sections, it’s still going to be at least 20 or so hours hours until you’re watching the credits roll. It just simply means that Lost Judgment has a better grip on your attention.
Be warned, though, that at the heart of Lost Judgment lies a story that might just hit a bit too close to home for some. It’s a tale of what is seemingly the perfect crime: literally just found guilty of sexual assault, a police officer named Ehara reveals details – currently unavailable to the public – of a man found dead just days prior to the courtroom.
Meanwhile, Yagami has been called to Yokohama by Tsukumo and Suguira, characters which fans of the first game should remember. They’ve set up their own detective agency since the events of Judgment, and need help with a case that involves bullying at a school. It soon transpires that both cases are linked, with revenge being the probable motive. The murder victim drove Ehara’s son – who attended the very school that Yagami is currently investigating – to suicide years ago. But how could Ehara have anything to do with it when he was in custody at the time of the murder?
As ever, nothing is as simple as it seems. And even when it is, without evidence, what action can be taken? And so begins yet another problematic case for Yagami to crack. Along with his friends, of course; pretty much every ally Yagami acquired in Judgment returns, and he makes some interesting new ones during his time in Yokohama. Has there been a miscarriage of justice? Can it be corrected? Those are the questions that need answering. But things end up becoming very complicated indeed, and also very dangerous.
Those who simply play Lost Judgment for the story will certainly enjoy their time with it providing they aren’t squeamish or too sensitive to the topics covered – it can be pretty grim and graphic at times. Thankfully most of the side-cases and additional activities found in the game work great at lightening the mood – and there are loads of them, as usual. Yagami needing an ‘in’ at the school even presents some new opportunities classed as School Stories.
As advisor for the school’s Mystery Research Club, yet more cases will fall on Yagami’s lap. It’s during these cases that he may have to infiltrate or investigate other clubs around the school, too, leading to some varied and often amusing activities. Yagami teaching his own kung-fu based dance routines is certainly a highlight, but other activities are worth sinking your time into too.
The school stories will eat up a considerable chunk of your time if you try to complete them all, and alongside other new optional activities they make Lost Judgment a very generous offering. How could you resist taking a Shibu Ina for a walk, sniffing out any mysteries along the way, for example? And if you hear a lot of buzz as you wander the streets of Kamurocho or Yokohama, it’s enticing to whip out your phone and investigate what people are talking about thanks to a custom app made for you by IT whizz Tsukumo.
Lost Judgment is a game that wants you to absorb yourself into its world. There’s just so much to do as you run – or even skateboard – around town that it can be bewildering. And then of course there’s the combat. Some will be glad to hear that the encounter rate has been reduced somewhat, allowing you to move around with less interruptions. Even better, the combat has also been dramatically improved.
Even ignoring the fact that Yagami has a new, more merciful Snake stance, the combat in Lost Judgment feels more dynamic and varied. There are more moves to unlock and quirks to learn, leading to combat that feels deeper and more enjoyable. It also just simply feels tighter; the combat in Lost Judgment is the best in the series yet, and I include Yakuza in that. It helps that you gain SP at an increased rate, allowing you to quickly amass a range of skills and upgrades.
Tense fights against powerful foes present Lost Judgment at its peak, with excellently choreographed scenes playing out when health bars have been suitably depleted. But equally as exhilarating are the times where you find yourself up against 10+ enemies armed to the nines. Get into rhythm of switching stances to disarm problematic enemies equipped with powerful weapons, taking out groups with flamboyant moves that affect a wide areas, and singling out more formidable opponents one-on-one, and you have the recipe for violent bliss.
There are some gripes you can swing Lost Judgment‘s way, but they’re all fairly minor. As mentioned previously, the new stealth and traversal sections are fairly rudimentary, for example, and the tailing and chase sections still aren’t great. But a concerted effort has been made to improve everything across the board, with new gameplay features added to dilute those that were previously overused.
It truly is impressive just how much has been crammed into Lost Judgment – it’s a game in which you might find yourself playing SEGA Master System games, hunting down treasure with a directional microphone, skateboarding through town, trying to solve a case involving a cursed cat statue, and punching goons in the face all within an hour or two. Yet everything feels coherent and polished. It’s commendable.
For those who have played and enjoyed Judgment, the decision to pick up Lost Judgment should be a no-brainer. With a brand new story that’s just as engaging (if not more so) than the first, as well as many gameplay improvements and a bucketload of new content, it’s a fine example of a sequel done right. It’s like a lucky dip where every time you load it up to play you’re never sure what you’re in for – but you’ll rarely, if ever, be disappointed. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and Lost Judgment might just be the spiciest game I’ve played this year.
Lost Judgment Review – GameSpew’s Score