(Content disclaimer for mentions of sexual assault)
Is revenge ever justified? Can a person take justice into their own hands and live with whatever weight they choose, or do we always have to rely on a flawed justice system that can and will betray the people it is meant to protect? These are the fundamental questions at the heart of Lost Judgment, the latest game from developer Yakuza Ryu Ga Gotoku and the sequel to his detective game Judgment in 2019.
The story of Lost Judgment centers on two major topics: justice and revenge. Yagami’s Journey explores how these two concepts relate. For dozens of hours, the game examines what people are willing to do to seek justice, the failings of the criminal justice system, and how society often fails victims of violence and abuse.
Lost Judgment deals with difficult topics like bullying, murder and suicide. Although he shows the often brutal and tragic realities in excruciating detail, he approaches sensitive issues with care and empathy. Lost Judgment highlights real world problems, how they affect people, and offers potential solutions to these problems. The game’s cast, full of new and returning characters, brings the story to life through well-played cutscenes. I especially liked the Antagonists, who have always been painted sympathetically despite their evil deeds. I found myself sympathizing with them, even though I disagreed with their actions. The care and grace of Lost Judgment in navigating these topics is refreshing, and I enjoyed playing through a story that treats them maturely and intelligently. With one major exception.
Lost Judgment’s handling of sexual assault is a mess. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a plot point that casts doubt on the veracity of a victim’s story is, frankly, irresponsible and reinforces negative opinions towards women who tell stories of abuse. Using sexual assault as a plot, in this case, seems weak and shocking to shock. This is especially glaring when the narrative throws this character aside after its usefulness as a plot device is over, forgoing any resolution to its character arc. I found this plot to be incredibly underwhelming in a game that otherwise took care of sensitive storytelling. It cast a shadow over the rest of my game, helping me with a story I liked otherwise. I really hated engaging in all of those moments in the game.
The action should be familiar to you if you’ve played other RGG games, such as the Yakuza series or Judgment. You spend a lot of time wandering around two open worlds – Kamurocho and Ijincho – engaging in brutal street fights and chasing stories around town. Judgment’s investigative mechanics carry over from the previous game and remain largely unchanged; you look for clues and later present those clues as evidence which, like the first game, is a good way to break up the combat-oriented sections.
Lost Judgment introduces two new mechanics to the series: stealth and parkour. Both are poorly implemented and tedious. The stealth is rudimentary and linear – go to this hideout, throw a coin to attract the guards, rinse and repeat. Parkour is somewhat engaging, but the game often requires you to go into investigation mode to find the grips you need to move around an area. It kills the pace, especially during the game’s climax where I was constantly stopped so I could figure out where to climb.
Combat is the highlight of Lost Judgment gameplay. Yagami is smooth and fast, and the inclusion of the first game’s three different combat types, which you can swap on the fly, is fantastic. I loved meeting a room of enemies and using all three fighting styles to consistently take out each person – especially Snake, which allows for quick kills and the ability to disarm enemies. RGG’s iconic thermal stocks are back, and they’re just as brutal and over the top as ever. I enjoyed the fight in Lost Judgment so much that I often found myself walking around the open world looking for trouble.
By the time the credits rolled, I struggled to sort out my feelings. On the one hand, the story of Lost Judgment is very moving and I enjoyed exploring the emotions of the characters. And there were parts that I just loved to play, like beating baddies in hell. But at the end of the day, Lost Judgment commits some unforgivable sins. Its handling of sexual assault is extremely irresponsible, and the new gameplay mechanics do little to help it stand out from other RGG games. If you are already invested in the Judgment series or RGG games in general then I would say check it out anyway. But don’t expect this trip to the underworld of Japan to almost have the impact of a game like Yakuza 0 or Like A Dragon.
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