After the total dissolution of the Tojo clan and with the lesson learned in Judgment and Yakuza Like a Dragon, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio returns stronger than ever. Toshihiro Nagoshi launches a new armchair but continues to do what he does best and refines his formula to offer what is undoubtedly his best work to date. Far from the sobriety of the yakuza, Lost Judgment manages to talk about everyday crimes and criticizes one of the darkest aspects of our society: bullying and its consequences.
With Lost Judgment, Toshihiro Nagoshi moves away from the yakuza and returns to the protagonists of Judgment as heroes of a new plot that forces the player to become aware of the serious problem of bullying and its fatal consequences. Starting from the atrocious figure that exceeds 300 annual suicides among children and adolescents in Japan, Nagoshi once again makes a harsh criticism of the established powers and their corruption in a title that brings the problem closer to the player, taking advantage of the proximity of a subject with which all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, have been in contact.
Showcasing that convoluted narrative of which Nagoshi is a master, Lost Judgment starts from different threads mixing their stories until they are entangled in a complex plot that, in the end, how could it be otherwise, ends up reaching the point where everything is connected. Parents who do not communicate with their children, centers that turn a blind eye, a police headquarters that is not willing to look bad before the next elections, and a judicial system that is still characterized by an almost medieval rigidity will become the worst enemies Yagami and his companions when it comes to discovering the truth.
Kamurocho In The Future
Lost Judgment brings us back to Kamurocho a little bit in the future, specifically in December of this year. The layout of the streets remained the same as more than fifteen years ago when the first Yakuza went on sale, but we continue to observe those small changes that are always noticeable with each new installment of the Yakuza saga and, now, Judgment. A demonstration of the work of RGG Studio to keep their scenarios up to date and make their games the most faithful possible copy of reality.
The mastery they have achieved with the dragon engine stands out from the first moment, with an impressive staging in which the lighting, animations, and facial expressions deserve special mention. In the version tested on Xbox Series X, Lost Judgment is a veritable beast that performs outstandingly at all levels. Production of the highest quality that is the prize for a lifetime designing games makes this new installment of Yagami’s adventures the game Nagoshi has wanted to make for years. Cinematic sequences worthy of the best filmmaker make sense in a visceral and very realistic setting. As the actors, the characters set the tone for a story with the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio seal of quality.
The streets of Kamurocho now feel more real, more organic, overcoming that feeling of seeing the same characters wandering with the sole motivation of being an obstacle for Kiryu or Yagami. The night takes on special meaning in the play of lights in the neon signs and the shadows of the alleys, and the appearance of the rain make Kamurocho the perfect setting for the intrigues of Lost Judgment. A police tapestry that also includes the second location of the game, Ijincho in Yokohama. A way to take advantage of all the hard work done in Yakuza Like a Dragon to give a new scenario to Yagami and his companions that perfectly adapts to what the studio wants to tell us.
The hallmark of the Judgment saga
Once again, and as it happened in the first installment, the recycling of locations manages not to feel repetitive thanks to a different approach from the one we could see in Yakuza Like a Dragon, which goes beyond characters, history, or combat modes. Visually and melodically, Lost judgment has little to do with the Ichiban Kasuga story. The game demonstrates this at each measure with a darker use of colors and shadows, very different gameplay mechanics, and a more solid, closer look that smells like a detective movie. The same happens with the songs chosen and the melodies accompanying each scene of Lost Judgment, which make up a distinguishable whole from previous works.
We can say something similar about the dialogues, with a luxurious dubbing in Japanese -also available in English for sacrilegious pagans without conscience- and localized texts into Spanish that once again perform authentic feats to adapt to the funniest moments of the game. Yagami and his group radically distance themselves from Ichiban and Kiryu with their way of speaking, a different code of ethics than the ex-yakuza, and, of course, many mechanics that make Lost Judgment the game that it is.
Mini-games and Sub-stories
At this point, we have to talk about what we all look for in a Toshihiro Nagoshi game: the secondary ones, the mini-games, and the sub-stories that give that point so crazy and absurd, but at the same time so realistic and mundane to all his works. In this sense, it must be recognized that they take a while to appear in the game, but once they do, they are the best by far of all their sagas. Lost Judgment introduces its sub-stories and sub-stories with great elegance, going beyond the streets’ collisions that some remain and making them depend on Yagami’s role as a detective.
Thus, some sub-stories will appear when Amasawa, one of the girls from the institute, makes us certain orders; others will appear when searching in chatter -the game’s Twitter-. The most gratifying latter will arise when we ‘sign up’ in the institute’s clubs, as assignments from the Genda law firm or, as happened in the previous installment, as external assignments for the Yagami detective agency. Once again, our role will be to ‘help people in the harsh streets of Kamurocho,’ this time extending our area of influence to Ijincho. Prepare once again for ridiculous assignments, hilarious stories, fights at full speed, and bream dialogues that lower the tension of the main story with moments as hard as they are bitter.
The combat system returns to the beat’em up formula with new animations and a new fighting style that suits Kempo karate mixed with jet kun practice by the good old Yagami. The snake style focused on turns and dodges and, with some touches of aikido, turns each confrontation into a very rewarding visual spectacle at the controls that includes ‘scare’ movements to incapacitate the enemies and disarm them without causing serious damage. In addition to the animation improvements, there are improvements in the detection of hits, dodges, and blocks that make blocking and counterattacking less complicated than in previous installments. This makes combat look better and live up to the Like a Dragon JRPG system.
Along with the combat, Yagami will receive new gadgets to help him in his investigations and improve his performance as a detective in the different assignments. Once again, without wanting to gut anything, there is a gadget that we have to mention yes or yes because it radically changes the way we move around the city. And yes, I mean the skateboard, skateboard, skateboard-board, or whatever you want to call it. We can use skateboarding in different missions, skate parks and even move around the city if we don’t go on the sidewalk.
This makes moving around Kamurocho or Ijincho much faster, funnier and helps us avoid groups of thugs who will not bother us when we go on the board. It may seem like a small change, but it is surprising how you see the city varies depending on whether you go on foot or the skateboard. This gives Lost Judgment a different and much-needed point when it comes to accomplishing secondary objectives or just getting from A to B in a fun way without using a taxi.
I like the most about Toshihiro Nagoshi’s games since his work collaborating with Yu Suzuki on the first Shenmue is the minigames, the activities, and everything that can be done beyond the main plot. I remember that at the beginning, in the first Yakuza, making a list with all the activities was almost an obligation. However, it is impossible to tell everything you can do on this occasion, and you will find when playing, clearing yourself from the main mission and having a good time with one of your potential girlfriends.
Beyond the use of skateboarding, Lost Judgment includes many activities and mini-games, whether related to high school clubs or in the form of arcade machines, dartboard, batting court, golf course, and the famous Master System we have at the Yagami detective agency in Kamurocho. It is a complete emulator that will allow us to buy games from the legendary SEGA system and enjoy them quietly or find them as a reward for other activities. And yes, relax; Alex Kidd comes pre-installed on the console so you can start playing from the beginning.
So, here is the big thing, if you like the extra activities and the mini-games prepared because there are many. The investigations of the Mystery Resolver club will lead us to enjoy preparing the dance club to win the regionals, learn boxing in an almost clandestine joint, prepare our motorcycle for authentic SEGA-style death races or even participate in robot battles. And these are just some examples, very few, of everything that the Seryo institute has to offer you as you pass through its classrooms during the investigation.
After 6 numbered installments with several spin-offs, a reboot, and a Judgment installment, it is surprising that Lost Judgment offers something very different and goes beyond a simple evolution in its formula. The creator of a saga that 10 years ago was defined by some as ‘a dating simulator’ has become one of the most valued Japanese creatives thanks to his way of telling stories and that method he uses to get closer to Japanese culture and get us to experience it almost first-hand through the screen of our gaming platform.
In Lost Judgment, Nagoshi maintains his usual tropes but adds that incentive of high school life that changes the rules of the game and gives a different dimension to his work. Added to this is greater sensitivity in posing the feminine presence in the streets of Kamurocho and Ijincho with increasingly strong female characters and, let it be said, also more undercover. The search for a better way of telling things leads the study to this dead-end for the bullying victim, and this is how Lost Judgment portrays it, bluntly, without frills, as one of the greatest social problems there today. The conspiracy that is created with the player when fighting against this scourge of education and the amount of light and dark that arise during the game is configured as one of the most mature stories of the study, despite having protagonists teenagers who move away from the now-classic corrupt politicians and octogenarian yakuza.
In short, Lost Judgment is the masterpiece of a studio specialized in creating better and better games. The variety of situations and how he adjusts his gameplay so that they do not pose a stumbling block for the player who wants to get to the point in the main story show us a pampering that goes beyond the need to tell something. We rarely see in the current catalog a desire to get the player to enjoy the work and the need to establish a bond of complicity between studio and user. Good for them.
Lost Judgment is Toshihiro Nagoshi's best-undisputed work. What started with Shenmue and Yakuza takes on special importance in a delivery that polishes all the details into something very special whose criticism and argument will conquer your collaboration as a player.
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