Game Primers

So you want to get into the Like a Dragon Series: Judgment & the Future

So you want to get into the Like a Dragon Series: Judgment & the Future

Hey, Does This Seem Like A Lot? Try Judgment!

There are times when we all get a little tired of our daily routines and want to switch things up. It seems like RGG Studio reached that point back in the late 2010s, deciding that it was time to stretch their muscles and create a brand-new IP for the first time since the original Yakuza. But what could it possibly be about?

Hmmm, how about a series exploring the impact of organized crime in modern-day Japan? Why, what an original concept!

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Platforms: PS4, PS5, PC, XB1, XBSX, Stadia
Original Release: December 13th, 2018 (JP), June 25th, 2019 (WW)
Our Reviews: PS4, PS5

Yagami holding a very small object in Lost Judgment.
Something that will look familiar to any Ace Attorney fan.

A minor subsidiary of the Tojo Clan is in crisis! Takayuki Yagami, a former defense attorney and current private detective, has been hired to help clear the clan’s captain of a murder charge. Yagami’s investigation will take him far beyond the world of yakuza into the equally shady realms of government, law enforcement, and medical research. What he discovers will challenge his reasons for leaving the legal profession, put his closest friends in danger, and may even change the future of Kamurocho forever!

Judgment is a standalone experience separate from the rest of the franchise, treating the mainline Yakuza games like they barely existed. This makes it an ideal jumping-on point for those looking to get into the style of game offered by RGG Studios.

Though Judgment (known as Judge Eyes in Japan) was developed as a fresh start, it still serves as an excellent example of what the series offers without the intimidating library. Gameplay is very similar to Yakuza. In other words, you’re still performing horrifying kill moves on your enemies which magically don’t kill them and completely ignoring the critical path to do massive amounts of side content littered around Kamurocho (don’t miss the incredible reference to Yakuza: Lost Souls with the Kamaro of the Dead light-gun shooter in the SEGA arcade)!

This new series also pulls inspiration from another beloved (and frequently bizarre series), Ace Attorney. The courtroom sections are never as in-depth as an Ace Attorney game, but you are asked to use your wits more than you normally would in a Yakuza title. Clocking in at under fifty hours for most playthroughs, Judgment is (relatively) bite-sized compared to the monster that is the mainline series. And if you’re still hungry for more of Yagami’s adventures after completing the game, there’s good news! It has one (and only one as of this writing) sequel.

Lost Judgment

Platforms: PS4, PS4, PC, XB1, XBSX
Original Release: September 24th, 2021 (WW)
Our Reviews: PS5, PC

Yagami hanging out at the skate park with the high school club in an investigative sidequest in Lost Judgment.
Little girl! Stop! Look, I need to borrow your… Hover Board™?

Seiryo High School is in crisis! Bullying at the exclusive Isezaki Ijincho private school is out of control, leading the desperate Chairman to hire Yagami and the detectives of the Yokohama 99 detective agency to help root out the troublemakers. Meanwhile, an apparently unrelated groping case handled by the Genda Law Office is thrown into chaos as the perpetrator reveals impossible knowledge of the murder of a student teacher at the school. As the two cases converge, Yagami goes undercover as a student advisor to find the deeper connections between the murder and the bullying. What he uncovers will challenge his belief in the law, put his closest friends in danger, and may even change the future of Japan’s justice system forever!

With the release of Lost Judgment, it appears that RGG Studio definitively split the Yakuza series in two. The mainline series, starting with Yakuza: Like a Dragon, would explore a turn-based JRPG combat system, and the Judgment series would continue the traditional brawler combat that the series is famous for.

Yagami’s combat skills have grown significantly since the last game, as he’s added another form to his repertoire, one based on dodging and counters, similar to Tanimura’s in Yakuza 4. The influence of the Ace Attorney series is still there, but the game feels much more like a traditional Yakuza game with its incredible amount of side content, including a massive side case investigating bullying at Seiryo. Here, you will find the bulk of Lost Judgment’s minigames, including a dance club rhythm game, a robotics club combat strategy game, an esports club where you play Virtua Fighter 4, and much more. (There is, unfortunately, no Mahjong Club at Seiryo. Clearly, this school doesn’t care about their students’ education.)

Lost Judgment also features a sizable piece of DLC called The Kaito Files, featuring Yagami’s best friend and detective partner, Kaito. Some have speculated that this story could be the launching point of Kaito as the default Judgment protagonist (and Kaito cameos in other Yakuza games seem to confirm this), but we will need to wait and see who the spotlight follows in future entries.

The Future of the Franchise

Kiryu in the midst of battle sending an opponent flying toward the viewer.
Enjoy your time on the streets of Kamurocho!

It’s a good time to be a Yakuza fan! Believe it or not, we’re still only scratching the surface when it comes to Ryu Ga Gotaku. There are books, movies, radio dramas, TV shows, and even a stage play! And despite some dramatic changes behind the scenes, its popularity in the West only seems to grow with each new entry.

In 2021, Toshihiro Nagoshi, the creator of Yakuza, left his position as the chief creative officer at RGG Studios to form his own venture, taking long-time series director Daisuke Sato with him. These departures did little to slow down the breakneck success of the series, as RGG producer Masayoshi Yokoyama took the role of overseeing future titles. This shift has also apparently resulted in a long-overdue name change for the series. Yakuza no longer, the series is now known as… Like a Dragon, just like it is in Japan!

With the recent critical success of Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the future appears bright. With luck, the RGG team will continue to try new things with this 20-year-old series, delivering the same incredible mix of melodrama, absurdity, and sense of fun that we know and love. (And, you know, keeping in a mahjong mini-game would never hurt anyone!)

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Jonathan Logan

Jonathan Logan

Jonathan (he/him), or Jono for short, is the host of Random Encounter and the Reviews Manager for RPGFan. While reviewing a game, he has been known to drink up to 10 cups of tea to keep focused (Earl Grey, milk, no sugar). Fun fact: Jono holds a Masters of Music Theatre degree, which is only slightly less useful than it sounds.