You don't need to have played the original Judgment -- or, indeed, any of the Yakuza games -- to easily get into this non-numbered follow-up. Lost Judgment lays out all the franchise history players need (which isn't much) early on, providing relevant information about Yagami's past while organically introducing us to his key associates through the cases he takes. By the time players become enmeshed in the game's major mystery, they'll feel like they know everyone. And they'll probably like most of the main cast, too. They're a ragtag crew of interesting characters who -- unlike some of the morally ambiguous mobsters of the main Yakuza series -- are easy to root for, since their goal is to do right by their friends and clients and serve justice to some clearly bad folks. Even combat, which is gratifyingly cinematic thanks to some creative and unexpected choreography (chopsticks make for remarkably effective weapons), doesn't blemish Yagami's charismatic aura, since, unlike most action game heroes, he aims to subdue rather than kill his opponents, even if they're trying to kill him. In some fights, he simply scares them into submission.
It would have been nice, though, to have a little more freedom of choice in how Yagami's investigations turn out. Trailing suspects, gathering clues, and even foot chases are all very controlled, with players shoehorned into doing specific things to progress or succeed. It feels more like acting out clearly arranged scenes rather than creating them. That said, working through cases -- especially the side stories set in the school -- are still an awful lot of fun, thanks to some great twists and engaging interactions with memorable characters. Yagami and his friends are unusually thoughtful protagonists, and the story doesn't gloss over difficult problems, such as how to help a student coping with unrelenting bullying, but instead makes an effort to understand and deal with these thorny situations in ways that almost seem realistic. Don't be surprised if, as the story builds to its climactic conclusion, you find yourself saddened at the thought of your time spent in this marvelously lifelike world filled with both intrigue and action coming to a close. Lost Judgment is a great option for more mature players looking for something a little off the beaten path.