Lost Judgment Review

Richard Walker

For some, school days were something of a trial. For others, they were the best days: a halcyon time that can never be recaptured. Going back to school in Lost Judgment falls into the category of the former. The sequel to 2018's hardboiled detective yarn spends a sizeable portion of its story confined to the corridors of Seiryo High, a place inextricably connected to a murder investigation, sparked by the discovery of a horrifically decomposed corpse in an abandoned building in Ijincho, Yokohama. As an opening image, a tarpaulin being pulled back to reveal the fly-ridden body, its face being slowly devoured by maggots, is disturbing, but the mystery that unfolds thereafter is equally distressing. Lost Judgment takes some time to get going, but once it does, shit really hits the fan.

Lost in Ijincho.

Revolving around school bullying and its traumatic aftermath, Lost Judgment's story goes to dark, somewhat difficult places, dealing with themes surrounding suicide, mob mentality, and even sexual harassment. As such, it's not the easiest experience to engage with at times, but the game manages to keep a mostly even tone throughout, keeping its more humorous, offbeat moments confined to Side Cases and School Stories. From its third chapter onwards, developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio slowly but surely turns the screws, connections layering on top of one another, pulling returning private detective protagonist Takayuki Yagami deeper into a murky case that's far muddier than first thought (in true Ryu Ga Gotoku fashion).

Every bit as noir-tinged as the first Judgment, Lost Judgment is split between Kamurocho and Yakuza: Like A Dragon's Isezaki Ijincho, in Yokohama (where old friends Sugiura and Tsukumo have set up their own detective agency), encompassing former teachers and pupils, and a criminal faction known as 'RK' – formed from the ashes of defunct yakuza organisations the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance. Initially, what looks to be a cut-and-dry case involving the murder of a former student-turned-teacher at Seiryo High School spirals into something almost unfathomably complex, and watching it all gradually unfold becomes something of a rollercoaster ride, following a fairly slow beginning. And as beating up delinquent students (yes, really) gives way to a much more sinister criminal element, with masked Liumang in Ijincho and the brash, brutal RK in Kamurocho, Yagami finds himself embroiled in a life-threatening, serpentine scenario.

Thankfully, he's used the intervening years since bringing a serial killer to justice in the first game to learn a few new tricks, including a fluid, defensive combat style to complement his old Crane and Tiger styles. Snake style, described by Yagami as “kind of my own style”, takes in elements of aikido, enabling you to parry and disarm enemies, or cause them to surrender without subjecting grievous bodily harm. Combat is generally one of Lost Judgment's most enjoyable aspects, although some abilities unlocked from the start in Judgment have to be relearned via an expended Skills page – the wall vault will now cost you a few thousand SP (Skill Points). Yagami also has useful new skills for tailing, including the ability to act casual to avoid suspicion, but you won't get many opportunities to use them, as tailing sections – despite a number of improvements - have mercifully been scaled back significantly.

Instead, you'll be engaging in running chases more often to compensate. Oh, good. Still, at least your investigations are more involved, with Yagami now in possession of several gadgets and a Shiba Inu 'detective dog' to help you track down the source of sounds, odours, and electronic signals. It's nice to see that Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has expanded your repertoire of sleuthing skills, enabling you to have a bit more involvement in picking through crime scenes, although events occur in a linear fashion, regardless of your choices and input. Doodads like the noise amplifier and electronic detector can be accessed at any time, facilitating the discovery of various secrets around Kamurocho and Ijincho, denoted by squirrels painted on the walls or reports found via the new Chatter-powered 'Buzz Researcher', which uses social media posts and keywords to highlight areas of activity.

Both Kamurocho and Ijincho are ripe for exploration, the latter in particular a sprawling location made smaller by Yagami's acquisition of a skateboard, which he can whip out at any time, as well as a newfound ability to use parkour to scale buildings, and stealth to evade, distract, or creep up on criminals to choke them out. In between narrative beats and rug pull revelations, you can also take ample time out to befriend cats, play arcade games, swing away at golf or baseball, hit up the revamped Paradise VR, and engage in the thing that no one asked for more of: drone races. Seiryo High also plays host to several clubs, like the Mystery Research Club and Robotics Club, as well as the Boxing Gym, and silly Dance Class (with rhythm action sequences to master). Before you know it, you'll be having fun chasing down UFO sightings, leading the Seiryo Rabbits to dance competitions, climbing into the ring, confronting biker gangs, and building your own battling robots.

Smashing thugs, Tiger style.

At the centre of the story itself, meanwhile, compelling characters enter the picture with questionable or occasionally unknown motives that eventually become clear. New faces like self-proclaimed Ijincho handyman Kuwana and RK leader Soma are especially interesting cogs in an expansive and intricate machine. The role they have to play in Lost Judgment's tale, in the midst of an investigation into the murder and harassment case that provides the spark that ignites the game's narrative touchpaper, is never anything less than completely engrossing. With Yagami's expanded combat abilities and a broader range of side content alongside a story that'll suck you right in, it's impossible not to be enthralled.

A more than worthy sequel, Lost Judgment strips away certain elements like friendships, waters down other aspects like dating but adds a slew of meaningful fresh stuff to discover. It's also a follow-up that stands on its own, rewarding those who've played Judgment (and the previous Yakuza games) with little callbacks and easter eggs. If this is your first visit to Kamurocho and Ijincho, you're in for a real treat, but if you're coming back for more of what you demand and expect from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, then Lost Judgment won't disappoint.

Lost Judgment

If you need additional proof that developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio is a master of its craft, then look no further. Though slightly flawed in places, Lost Judgment is, nonetheless, yet another deeply compelling detective story, brimming with murder, mystery, intrigue, and more twists than a bag of pretzels.

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Memorable tunes and excellent voice performances across the board (whether you're choosing English or Japanese audio) ensure that Lost Judgment always sounds fantastic.


Quite possibly the best-looking Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio game yet, which is no mean feat, given the high bar of quality. Characters and environments alike look stunning.


Combat feels more fluid, Yagami's options expanded with the addition of the Snake style, while investigations are slightly more involved. Lost Judgment is good fun.


A bigger game than its predecessor, with a skateboard for getting around Ijincho, a dog, and stray cats to make friends with. Some elements have been scaled back or nixed, but there's more than enough new stuff on offer to make up for it. There are extras on the main menu, too, like 'The Gauntlet', in which you can replay certain sequences against the clock.


A very good list that covers practically everything in Lost Judgment, although the return of the obligatory Legend difficulty playthrough and 100% completion are still quite daunting.

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