A tortured body is found in an abandoned warehouse, it belongs to an individual despised by ex-police officer Akihiro Ehara, a man on trial for sexual harassment who seems know an awful lot about the death. How does did he get his hands on this information?
If the Yakuza gaming series had a delinquent cousin who hadn’t quite reached the same heights of unlawful activities yet, this cousin would be the Judgment saga, a series now receiving a second entry: Lost Judgment. Published by Sega and developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku, Lost Judgment should be ready to play by September 24th. Often enough, spin-off series lack the spark or gravity that its mother show/game possesses, but this doesn’t seem to be the way of things in Lost Judgment; this game takes plenty inspiration from the source, but has charm enough to stand alone comfortably.
What is the game’s context?
We take the reins of Takayuki Yagami, a Saiyan-haired, smouldering, leather jacket donning police detective as he is sought out to investigate two primary locations, Kamuracho and Isezaki Ijincho, infested with criminal activity. Lost Judgment uses a twist-and-turn narrative style primarily surrounding a single murder, as well as revolving around the man who seems to be the culprit, shamed police offer turned vigilante named Akihiro Ehara. Those who have played a Yakuza title before know all is never as simple as it is made out to be, telling some stories as gruesome as they are gripping – Lost Judgment is no outlier here, proving to potentially surpass both series’ flair for a thrilling narrative. A crime-mystery action drama that takes the form of a TV series, Lost Judgment is saturated with suspense and underpinned by some imposing writing.
What else does gameplay entail?
As with any worthwhile play, Lost Judgment contains a myriad of alternative side quests referred to as School Stories, consisting of boxing competitions, science fair robot-building tasks as well as a groovy dance competition, all light-hearted ways to flesh out the primary narrative. All tough guys have to let their hair down and break dance every now and again! All is not doom and gloom in Takayuki’s world; he gets to investigate some abhorrent crimes with a very good boy, a Shiba Inu, by his side who reliably sniffs out some shady people and other suspicious objects, giving Takayuki hints as to where to look next. Otherwise, we follow targets from the shadows, take photographs for evidence, disguise ourselves so as to infiltrate as well as employ other gadgets, like a sound amplifier and a signal detector, to build up cases and break down crime syndicates - Lost Judgment doesn’t skimp on the detective’s toolbox, but at the same time leaves nothing to be superfluous; each gadget comes in handy at some point.
How well-designed is the combat?
OK, here’s the bones of the matter – how do we go about giving those baddies a good slap about? We know it’s going to happen at some point - it has to, doesn’t it? Correct, it takes about 15 minutes for Yagami to get involved in a brawl. Lost Judgment gives us several modes of close-quarters attack to use against those interfering with our forensic analysis, Crane style to exercise control over a mob of enemies, Tiger style to inflict some deadly blows, and Snake style to counter any incoming attacks with a paralysing takedown – it is said that once upon a time Takayuki’s hands were registered as lethal weapons, and understandably so. Much of Yagami’s attack is based around spinning roundhouses and capoeira kicks; combat within the crime-adventure game is just so cool, with slow-motion knockout sequences and choreographed fight scenes that have come straight out of a John Wick movie; Takayuki can fight (and usually beat) anyone and everyone, especially student gangs - he’s the king of physical retribution. Yagami can fight in skinny jeans and a leather jacket – don’t ask me how, but kickboxing and brawler mechanics are still second nature to our diligent detective, using both schools of martial arts to deplete our enemies’ health bars until they are neutralised. If you were to ask me to sum up Yagami in short, I might say it is as though Bruce Lee gains a legal conscience, becomes an edgy undercover cop and somehow earns some magical fluorescence that trails his every kick, probably out of veneration for their power. How does that sound?
How does the game look?
Running parallel with an infinitely satisfying combat approach and a narrative of addictive proportions is a world-design that invites you (without allowing you to say no) to spend hours exploring it. Lost Judgement gives a worldly take on Japanese culture and architecture, infusing it with the game’s plot, resulting in a work of metropolitan magnificence. If you are a fan of Japanese animation styles, the milieu of the game’s cities, Kamuracho and Isezaki Ijincho, is nothing short of infectious – you can’t help but feel as though you’ve lived there your whole life. Talk about immersion! By daylight, Lost Judgment’s surroundings are an innocent cityscape hosting many thousands of untroubled consumers and denizens, but there is almost a palpable sense that in the shadows lurks a criminal plague, a feeling contributed by the continual references to the lore of Yakuza games. Better still, Yagami, his detective crew, clients and the panoply of side characters he encounters are immaculately designed both in visuals and persona – Lost Judgment is another of these games written as though it was a film or a TV series, it has at least enough sharp corners in its writing to be so. Put all these tributary factors together and you have yourself an estuary where a game is capable of pulling you in as would the tide; crime, combat, parkour, gripping plotlines and a tidy Japanese world design – what’s not to love?
If you haven’t deciphered the game’s depiction of the legal system by the title, it’s storyline will tell you as much; Lost Judgment is an interconnected web of individuals and decisions, some of which is made up of lies and deceit. If you have been waiting for a game that promises to lose you in a gulf stream of politics, violence, death and intrigue – Rya Ga Gotoku's Lost Judgment is on paper the game for you, and you won’t be sat idly for long as it comes out on the 24th of September.
Images sourced from Sega.