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Lost Judgment (PS5) Review

October 21, 2021 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Lost Judgment
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Lost Judgment (PS5) Review  

I’ll start off by saying that Lost Judgment is an extremely odd game. It has a lot of the same elements from Judgment, though some are improved or generally minimized and is a better playing game, at least on a mechanical front. No, the weirdness is more about some of the story and how, oddly enough, this is more akin to a Persona game than anything else.

Lost Judgment has an interesting mix of things going for it. About 50% of the game is the straight Judgment of last time, give or take. You have a main story, side cases, usual assortment of mini-game stuff, etc., to do, but that’s only half the game. The other half is where it gets strange.

The actual story of Lost Judgment is some of the usual stuff we’ve seen before. It opens with a body being found that is tortured and decomposing. Around the same time, a man is on trial for having groped a female train passenger. While at first these two incidents seem unrelated but eventually Takayuki “Tak” Yagami, his ex-Yakuza partner Kaito and the lawyers at Genda Law Office uncover a nefarious conspiracy. You know the drill here.

The fighting system is a bit tweaked in Lost Judgment. In the original Judgment, you only had two fighting styles: Crane (blue) and Tiger (red). Crane was generally used for groups of enemies while Tiger was used for one-on-one fights, typically against bosses or stronger enemies.

Lost Judgment introduces a third fighting style, Snake (green) into the mix. The Snake style is all about countering enemy attacks, and fighting against armed opponents. You can disarm your foes with a simple QTE, which helps limit their damage. You can also fear lower enemies, and if you do an EX move against them, regardless of their health, you’ll scare them so much they are eliminated from the fight.

Some of the more annoying parts of Judgment are either mostly fixed in Lost Judgment, or eliminated completely, with one exception. Take the “Chasing Suspects Around” bit, while not great in original Judgment, it’s slightly better here. It’s just a simple QTE system where you have to press the buttons at the fight time to avoid obstacles/objects, but it’s not hard at all. Or, the drone is another good example. In the first game, it was a major thing to use in your investigations but the controls weren’t good. Here? It’s barely used at all. You still have access to it but you never really need it.

I said “almost” fixed or eliminated because one of the more annoying aspects is still here in Lost Judgment and that is with Observation Mode. This is the first person mode where you have to spot clues or items and then you make deductions based on it. The problem is, it’s still not fun at all, and the game gives you no real feedback or help with it. You just have to slowly pan around a room, looking at everything until the controller vibrates or you can press X on something, in order to check it off some unseen list.

Two examples of this are as follows: you’re in a school stairway with a janitor blocking the stairs up. You’re told to “observe him for ways to get him to move”, or something to that effect. You can see him smoking in one hand and a bottle of water next to him, that’s it. The game didn’t say a damn thing about this, so I then spent 10 minutes trying to go over every inch of this staircase to find something I overlooked because I was sure I missed something. I then left the observation mode, talked to the janitor and it was like “Oh, to get him to move, mention the smoking.” It sure would have been nice if the game told me this! Another example of this is you have to explore a woman’s living room and entry hall, where there like 9 or 10 things to find and the game gives you no help at all about what to look for. You do have basically an inner monologue button which you can press but all it does is have Yagami repeat the starting monologue of the sequence. This should be an actual hint button where you press it, and he gives a vague hint, you press it again, a more specific hint, you press it a third time and then he directly looks at what you need to find.

Most of this stuff, like chasing around people or following them (which is pretty easy, just keep your distance) is handled in the side cases activities. Observations are more story focused so you need to pass them to keep the story moving.

Aside from the main story and side cases, there are the usual mini-games and such that are in all Yakuza/Judgment games. Batting cages, golf, casino games, darts, arcade games (Virtua Fighter 5 and Sonic the Fighters are the notable ones), Mahjong, Shogi, etc. A lot of it is reused from either Judgment or past Yakuza games. Like I said above, this is all about 50% of the game or so, 40% for the main story and 10% for side cases/mini-games. The other half is the School system and this is where it gets really wild.

One big improvement, before I move onto the school system, is the change to the Paradise VR mini-game. This is the mini-game where you play a virtual board game and you earn money for playing it. The hitch is, you either need Playing Passes (which you occasionally find in the game world, or rewards from other mini-games) or you need to find six different Free Pass Vouchers, which you can assemble for an unlimited Free Pass. In the original Judgment, one of these Vouchers was pretty much locked behind paid-DLC, in the form of drone racing. The drone racing became impossible at a certain point and you needed to buy the super drone in some DLC to win it. This sucked. Lost Judgment helpfully fixes this by making all six vouchers actually attainable in-game. This has the effect of, essentially, giving you infinite money in-game, because if you ever need cash you can just play the VR board game. What a helpful improvement.

In Lost Judgment, they basically combined Yakuza with a Persona game. Yagami quickly gets involved in Seiryo High, a local high school, and is roped into becoming an outside advisor for various clubs. There is a lot of corruption going on in the student body and it’s up to Yagami to uncover it all by investigating the various clubs and students.

For starters, like in Persona, Yagami has social stats in the game. In Persona 5 the social stats were: Charm, Knowledge, Kindness, Guts and Proficiency. Each stat had five different levels, so you could have like level 2 in Kindness, or level 3 in Charm. Lost Judgment has only four social stats: Teamwork, Focus, Guts and Appeal but they also have five levels in each stat. Like in Persona also, certain activities and such will be gated based on your stats. So, you may want to progress one school club story but you may only have level 3 in Appeal and you need to be level 4. You only gain social stat experience doing school club activities, which makes it all the more divorced from the main game.

The main club that you get involved with is the “Mystery Research Club” (MRC), headed up by Kyoko Amasawa. She’s the one who directs you to investigate the 8 other clubs in the school and find out what’s going on. She’ll also call you when you’ve leveled up in a social stat to give you a new club lead or mission. This is pretty much where all the new (or occasionally reused) mini-games in Lost Judgment come into play:

• Dancing — This is a replacement for the Karaoke system in Yakuza. It’s basically the same mini-game, only instead of the notes coming from right to left, they come down from top to bottom (like DDR)
• Boxing – This is a weird boxing combat mini-game. You basically fight others in a boxing ring, but the controls are a tad weird. It’s not bad, but it’s just kind of awkward.
• Robotics — The Robotics mini-game is the worst of the bunch. Basically, you control one robot (on a team of 3) and you have to collect Tetris-shaped pieces to either control more squares on the playfield than the opposing team. You win by either controlling the most squares by the time runs out OR you can build a path of pieces to the enemy team base and win that way. The problem(s) are is that it’s just not fun to do, the robot is awkward to control, it’s based on luck, your teammate AI is generally pretty stupid, and so on. It does get marginally easier once you invest in the right parts, but it’s still not good.
• Photography – You have to take shots of school students doing crimes, while following the criteria for good photos (max zoom, in focus, and usually one or two other conditions)
• eSports — Basically, play a round of Virtual Fighter 5 against members. That’s about it.
• Skating – There are two activities here, the first is you skating around a skate park, doing tricks and collecting coins. It’s pretty simple but the controls are a bit unresponsive. The other task is races, you race other skaters on a track where you also have a few kart-racer like power ups to use, like turbos and missiles (fireworks in the game)
• Casino – There’s a club centered around the casino, so playing poker.
• Girl’s Bite — This is the dating mini-game, and “No” you don’t date a high schooler, you’re trying to stop her from working in the club.
• Biker Gang – In the Biker Gang, you play a mini-game where you have to ram other bikers to get to the real racer. Once you do this, you race them around a level of the track, drifting and doing wheelies to earn turbo to use to win. Pretty easy, except for the last guy.

The main goal of all of this is to uncover the identity of the illusive “Professor” who is the one orchestrating all of the criminal events going on in the high school. Like I said though, this is all pretty divorced from the actual main story of Lost Judgment. It’s kind of weird, because Yakuza: Like a Dragon basically used a Persona (or JRPG) turn-based battle system, and Lost Judgment uses Persona’s social system, but in a pretty optional way.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
So is Lost Judgment even really good? I’d say so, in fact it’s a pretty solid addition to the overall franchise, if it is able to continue on. The school stuff are some welcome diversions, the combat is better, the mini-games are now fair, and the story is as bonkers as ever. There are still oddities, like using the skateboard on the streets being useless, or the game really not helping in Observation Mode sequences, but on the whole, it’s an enjoyable game to play. Now, let’s hope Sega is able to make a third one at some point.

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Lost Judgment, Marc Morrison