CONTENT WARNING: Lost Judgment deals with high school bullying and suicide, which I talk about in this article. Which honestly is more of a content warning than the blumming game gives you!
For the past generation the Yakuza team has been my favourite developer working today. Yakuza 0 to 7 and two Judgment games, they produce hit after hit with only the odd misfire here and there (shout out to Fist of the North Star). One of the games I think sadly gets overlooked was Judgment, despite solid reviews it always felt like it was forgotten slightly, even moreso in a post Yakuza: Like a Dragon world. Which is a shame because both games feature some of the best writing in video games, and sadly it’s largely ignored by the mainstream.
The first Judgment told a story of an alzheimers cure that was being worked on with experimentation of human subjects. I know it’s quite common to say, but the best villains really are ones that see themselves as the hero of their own story. In Judgment, our antagonist saw himself doing what’s right for the greater good. The human experiments were being done on Yakuza’s, and in the eyes of that stories villain, who would miss a bunch of criminals? It handled the tough subject matter with care and while, as is the case with all games in the franchise, the tonal whiplash when you go from the main story to side mission hijinks is bizarre, it still all worked as an overall package. And so we come to its sequel, Lost Judgment. Time to go from medical malpractice, to high school bullying.
While I want to try and keep this as spoiler-lite as possible, it’s inevitable that I will talk about certain story beats that are may venture into spoiler terrority. So consider this your last spoiler warning!
There’s a lot of talk from certain places that Lost Judgment revels in beating up high school kids a little too much. Much like previous games, just walking around you not only see Yakuza or people just itching for a fight, there are also random schoolkids who randomly attack. Then there’s the story critical moments where you also have to drop kids on their heads. Maybe it didn’t affect me as much because I’ve had many a fantasy at doing this to bullies I’ve known over the years, or the fact that the schoolkids in this look about the same age as they do in your usual CW teen drama (in their 20’s). Either way, whenever a fight would break out between Yagami and the kids, I just ended up doing a PartridgeShrug.gif. And like any over the top PG-13 action movie, despite being battered with chairs, once the fight scene is over, the cut scene plays and the kids all have their teeth still in their mouth!
The main story however delves deeper into the bullying angle. And features suicide, so yeah, there should definitely be a content warning with this game. The whole story kicks off as Yagami must investigate a high school that has become a hotspot for bullying, including a suicide that happened a few years prior. As the story progresses it’s clear that there is bullying going on, and ontop of that bullys from the schools history are finding themselves either going missing or being murdered. One thing leads to another and you find it to be a man who is essentially working as a vigilante-like figure, working for grieving parents who lost their children to suicide or attempted suicide caused by their high school experiences. It’s a plot point that if a creator, such as a David Cage for example would attempt it, it would lead to a slight gritted teeth moment. However, the Yakuza team once again proving they can handle the tough stories.
As someone who has had bullying experiences in the past, it was hard when I was tasked with stopping the “villain”, if this was a traditional role playing game and honestly, the mood I was in at the time, I would’ve just left the guy to do his thing and walked off into the sunset. But Yagami is a better character than I. There are moments during the story where side characters would say, “is what he doing really a bad thing?” and I was thankful for this as it actually gave two sides to the discussion. Story progresses and once there is, shall we say, collateral damage, it’s clear that he must be stopped.
It’s the type of story that just made me think to myself, “am I a good person?”. Wanting to hurt these people who had made those underneath them suffer so much. I suppose them being virtual people in a video game made it easier for me to distance myself from it all. I can’t say I haven’t had thoughts about hurting people who hurt me decades ago.
In the end it’s a story that is likely to stay with me for a while. And many people might disagree with my thoughts on this, but I guess that’s what makes the story so great. Oh, and the gameplay is pretty good too!