The Yakuza series dips its toes in so many different genres that it's pretty much covered every base. From becoming an investor in Yakuza: Like A Dragon to managing your own baseball team in Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, it's incredible how the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio manages to create these experiences in every game that feel fully fleshed out every time. Lost Judgment does the same, this time putting you in the shoes of a student advisor in a local high school, and it's not only the best side activity the franchise has managed so far but perhaps the closest to a Bully sequel we'll ever get.
We touched upon it in our review of the game last week, so this is acting as an extension of that, purely focusing on this singular extra activity which in my eyes, makes Lost Judgment one of the best titles Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has ever delivered. Early on in the game, you'll be tasked to go undercover in a school for story purposes, which in turn unlocks a whole bunch of side activities. You become a student advisor of the Mystery Club, tasked to hunt someone down known as The Professor who appears to be granting any student's wish - no matter how dangerous. It's a compelling narrative and one you can completely ignore if you stick to the main story.
So, what makes it so great and how does it relate to Rockstar's Bully? Well, to work your way up to The Professor and learn their identity, you'll be tasked to infiltrate a variety of clubs. These range from a Dancing Club, all the way up to a dedicated eSports group who play nothing but Virtua Fighter 5. Think of these as being similar to the classes in Bully, but each possessing their own story threads to sink your teeth into. With a lengthy main campaign, it's staggering that this entire additional element is available which almost doubles the runtime.
What makes the school so refreshing is how each club introduces a new gameplay element via a set of elaborate mini-games. Some work better than others, but each packs a ridiculous amount of depth that you could easily lose hours in one alone. The Robotics Club for example puts you in matches with other competitors as you're tasked to battle it out. You're required to use your own robot, which you can customise in a ridiculous number of ways, as you place a set of Tetris-esque blocks down. The aim is to either gain the largest area of the board or extend the blocks far enough to the enemy base to win. It's a simple setup but quickly expands with an impressive amount of depth as you hunt down materials to upgrade your robot or create a new one entirely.
If this doesn't tickle your fancy, then I absolutely recommend joining the Skaters. Here you're put into a variety of skate parks and tasked to beat a series of scores. Not only that, but once you've progressed enough, you unlock twelve(!) skateboarding races, each upping the difficulty and throwing Mario Kart elements into the mix, such as power-ups. This whole mini-game can be completely avoided if you don't touch the school element of the game, which is crazy to think that someone could miss out on this.
As you investigate each club, the story expands and you learn more about the dynamics of the school. It's also a huge area to explore, filled with elements that will take you back to your younger days. Unlike real life, you can even date the school nurse, if that's what you're into. Simply walking around the classrooms, visiting the faculty room or having lunch in the cafeteria makes us think back to Bully. Of course, it doesn't pack the same personality as Bully does. You won't turn a corner to see another kid's head down a toilet or see a pack of six years hurl eggs at third years, but it scratched an itch for me I never realised I still had.
Even outside of the school side story, you'll be tasked to visit on multiple occasions for main story reasons. You get to throw down with some of the students (trust me, they deserve it) and show them who's boss. It's not perfect, but it could honestly stand as its own game and I hope Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio thinks about adapting the formula in the future. If you're tired of seeing Grand Theft Auto V being remastered every generation and are yearning for a throwback to the developer's early days, maybe Lost Judgment could be for you.
Will you be checking out Lost Judgment when it launches on September 23? Let us know in the comments below.