SEGA’s RGG Studio has really made a name for themselves as the premier triple A studio within SEGA. What’s more impressive than the quality of the games, which have all been pretty great, is how many games the studio seems to be able to release. This year the studio has brought us a sequel to Judgment, which is a spin-off to the Yakuza franchise, where instead of playing a Yakuza, you play as Takayuki Yagami, as you can tell from his cool wallet chain, tight jeans, shaggy hair, and leather jacket, this guy doesn’t play by the rules. He’s a Ex-Lawyer, Turned Detective for Hire that just happens to be well versed in Kung Fu. The first Judgment was a enjoyable experience, but it did come off as a bit janky towards the end. Did Lost Judgement fix these issues? Let’s find out!
One thing I really appreciate about the Judgment series is how it’s formatted like a Detective TV show, with each game being a sort of, stand alone season. Don’t get me wrong, Lost Judgment has plenty of returning faces, but you don’t need to play the first game to appreciate the story in Lost Judgment. The team does a good job setting up their characters for newcomers in a few sentences within the story. While Judgment, the first game, was revolving around a personal case to the main character, Lost Judgment story revolves around the themes of bullying and vigilante justice. I’ll be honest, when I heard this game was going to be centered around a High School and bullying, I was thinking that SEGA was going to screw it up and they didn’t. RGG walked a fine line and pulled off a story that has great comedic, sweet moments; like the franchise has been known for but also pulled off a darker story with some great sympathetic villains.
While the backdrop does have bullying and schools, the main story is actually a murder mystery that’s very tightly written. RGG Studios has really fixed a lot of issues fans had with previous games, for example Lost Judgment actually actually let’s you get into the gameplay rather early on and doesn’t make you sit through an hour cutscene before you get to play. The studio has also done a good job in their writing, I really felt like Yakuza: Like a Dragon hit a whole another level and Lost Judgment is right up there with it. The game does a good job of introducing plenty of new characters, plot threads that all get tied up nicely in the end. The twists and turns make sense and are well earned, which I can’t say for all previous Yakuza titles. The first Judgment game had a great story as well, but some of its late game set pieces from a design standpoint seemed to fall apart, I can say that Lost Judgment fixed that. The final chapter for Lost Judgment is probably one of the top three finales in the studio’s history, it’s that well executed.
Just like the first Judgment and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Lost Judgment also has a really superb English dub, with facial movements re-done to match the English voice cast. The English voice actors also do a superb job in their roles, especially glad to see the main original voice cast back. Also Todd Haberkorn knocked it out of the park as Jin Kuwana, which as quickly became one of my favorite character in the franchise. Of course if you want to play the Lost Judgment in its native tongue, the original, Japanese All-Star cast is there as well.
Now that SEGA has confirmed that the Yakuza series will be turn-base combat from here on out, Judgment has taken over as their real time combat game. While on the surface the first Judgment was quite similar to Yakuza games, some of the gameplay changes just didn’t sit well with me. The big one was the mortal wounds system, where an enemy would glow and attack you with a move, if hit, part of your health bar is locked away and the only way to unlock your full health is by visiting a doctor or getting expensive medical kits. This system has been done away with in Lost Judgment, the bad guys still have an ultimate move that takes a lot of damage, but its just regular damage and is healable.
Lost Judgment brings back both crane and tiger fighting styles, but have been pretty much revamped. Now movement is completely different, animation is way smoother and the combos flow together a lot better than the first game. As you know from the previous game, the crane-style was meant to be used in fights with a lot of enemies, while tiger-style is more for one-on-one fighting. Lost Judgment introduces a 3rd fighting style, this one called Snake Style Snake style is more focused on parrying, disarming opponents and counter-hits. Even though each style has its cool factor, for example the crane style now has this really cool matrix like move that allows you to dodge bullets and the snake style’s parrying system is fun to use; its hard to beat Tiger Style. Tiger Style has really high damage fierce strikes, if you can chain them all together, you can do massive damage .Another great addition that’s a life saver is the ability to set an item on your d-pad, allowing you to heal at two clicks even when you’re being attacked. A minor complaint about the combat would be that some boss fights have QTE sections that have to be done correctly to complete the fight. I personally can’t stand QTEs during fights, so it’s something I hope they remove in future installments.
While the story and fighting are the biggest components for Yakuza series games, RGG Studio added more gameplay elements to break away from fighting. The first is a new Climbing System that looks like they got inspired by a Sony developed game but added the grip bar from Zelda: Breath of the Wild. At first I didn’t know what to think of the system, but seeing how they delivered some decent climbing set pieces later on in the story mode, I actually left wishing the studio did more with it. Imagine being able to explore new areas in the city because you discovered a secret climbing section? The game also went in and revised its stealth elements, which aren’t a strong point. My main issues stem from how sensitive the enemy’s senses are, how basic the stealth sections are designed and how easy it is to get through. Are they terrible? No, just serviceable. This is a gameplay mechanic that still needs more time in the oven and hopefully it’s something that gets further reworked or just set time to design more interesting stealth sections in the future.
Japanese city life is part of the Yakuza series’ charm, the first game Judgment took place in Kamurocho, this one takes place in both Kamurocho and Isezaki Ijincho which was introduced in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. While both places have been in previous games, Ijincho actually opens up Lost Judgment a lot and has allowed RGG to literally allow you to skateboard around the cities. It works best in Ijinchos big open streets compared to Kamurocho, but it works as a faster way to maneuver around. Sadly you can’t skate on sidewalks because that might hurt pedestrians and we wouldn’t want that! Also if any object or person gets in your way, it stops the skating mechanic. While the team added some rails and a half pipe, I really hope the next games takes advantage of the skateboarding mechanic and adds more things to do with it.
RGG also added the full fledged, fully explorable Seiryo High School, allowing our hero to become club advisor and unlock some character driven story missions with the Mystery Research Club which cracks dark High School rumors going around and even the Dance Club that features a rhythm mini-game. Which are great additions to the game. But the game isn’t done there, it still features over 40 side quests which have returning minor characters from the previous games and even introduces new characters all putting themselves in silly situations. Lost Judgment also gives you the ability of taking a Detective dog around you in the city to find cases and secret items. It seems that RGG studio really focused more on introducing more High School club stories instead of mini game spots around the city, not that there isn’t anything new, but a lot of the arcade games for example are returning titles.
SEGA Arcade features one new game, the underrated Sonic the Fighters which is a good addition to the other big scale 3D games available in Lost Judgment including Fighting Vipers and Virtua Fighter 5. I know a lot of people aren’t going out to get Lost Judgment because of its arcade titles, but it would be cool to change some of the 80s arcades that have been used since Yakuza 6.
SEGA now allows you to have your very own SEGA console within the game. The SEGA Master System! It can play a slew of great Master System titles including up to eight titles you’ll be able collect in the regular version of the game including Penguin Land, Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Fantasy Zone; but if you have the Deluxe version of the game, you get additional titles like Fantasy Zone II, Alien Syndrome and Global Defense. I’ve always wondered in the past why no Yakuza character ever owned a old SEGA console, owning a SEGA Saturn in Shenmue was one of my favorite features in the game and Lost Judgment did a good job with this addition since they also includes Japanese versions of the roms and even has save states! A minor complaint is that the system is only available to play in Yagami’s Detective Agency building in Kamurocho but the game spends most of its time in your Ijincho base of operation, wish the Master System was in both locations for easy access to play Fantasy Zone.
If this wasn’t enough, SEGA has also added ‘The Gauntlet’ a way to play certain sections of the story missions but with conditions that makes it more challenging, some of these missions are time based races and some are beating bosses with certain conditions. This is a cool way of giving us a little extra when we beat the game, I hope they do more challenge stuff like this. Maybe in the future, intergrade it into the hub world. When the first game was being marketed, the biggest features was the drones and disguises. The drones are still here, including drone racing, but the ability to use the drone anywhere in the hub world has been removed. Disguises are here, again, and yes there are more to collect but the issue is you can’t wear these disguises whenever you want. Not even in Premium Adventure Mode, which is a disappointment.
RGG Studios continues to deliver high quality engrossing stories with Lost Judgment, while packing the game to the brim with extra content, adding tons of new additions and even reworking older systems. Lost Judgment also has one of the best finales in recent memory and well worth the playthrough since the game delivers a tight narrative. It’s nice to see that the team added new ways of traveling with the skateboard, allows you work with a cute detective dog and even lets you own a SEGA console. Believe the hype Lost Judgment is a great game that’s worth playing. That’s why I’m giving it a B+, even with minor gripes with some of the stealth sections being undercooked, it’s hard to deny that Lost Judgment is a big step in terms of quality compared to the first game.
- Combat is smoother than ever
- Impressive story, tight writing
- Filled with great side content
- You OWN a Master System!
- Stealth Sections
- Only 1 New Arcade Game
- Disguises Can’t Be Used Whenever
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