WHEN I played through Lost Judgment last year for review, it quickly became one of my favourite games of the year. Its mysterious narrative was thrilling, its characters memorable and well written, and its action brawler gameplay addictive albeit simplistic. Its recently released DLC expansion titled ‘The Kaito Files’ manages to tell an equally captivating tale, placing you in the shoes of ex-Yakuza Masahiro Kaito as he unravels a mystery with a personal connection.
Yagami, the protagonist of Lost Judgment, is out of town throughout the duration of the narrative, leaving his partner in crime Kaito in charge of the Yagami Detective Agency. Despite being the brawn to Yagami’s brain, Kaito quickly has to put his thinking cap on when approached by a rich CEO seeking help finding clues regarding the suspicious suicide/potential dissappearance of his wife.
Kaito initially refuses the job when it becomes clear to him that the woman of interest is his ex-lover from his time in the Yakuza serving the Matsugane Family. He quickly changes his mind however when he crosses paths with Mikiko’s teenage son Jun, who tells Kaito that he may in fact be his son. The two form an alliance in the search for answers, snooping around the familiar streets of Kamurocho for leads.
Like the narrative of Lost Judgment before it, The Kaito Files story is gripping, with its fair share of storytelling twists and turns along the way. It isn’t as long as the base game of Lost Judgment, clocking in at about 7-8 hours, yet the narrative still manages to provide enough backstory and characterisation to the largely new roster of characters.
Despite being a cocky teenager Jun is likeable, while his mother Mikiko comes across as a complete badass in the flashback cutscenes that show the early days of her and Kaito’s relationship.
As to be expected, most of the story focuses on Kaito given his role as the player character, a decision I adore given how much I fell in love with him throughout Lost Judgment. Getting to witness Kaito in his Matsugane Family days and see how his unbridled dedication to the Yakuza led to the downfall of his relationship with Mikiko and more than a decade of subsequent regret is as awesome as it is devastating, in turn making the already mysterious case at hand even more interesting given their past history.
Also impressive is how well the writing team succeeded in building up the primary antagonist (as they did in the main story), making for a character I couldn’t wait to beat down with my fist as soon as I finally got the chance.
Every character’s performance is not only amplified by top notch writing and dialogue, but also solid voice acting across both the Japanese and English dub. While I’m sure most purists won’t give the English dub the time of day, I was again wowed by how good the vocal performances are across the board. All in all, the story of The Kaito Files and the way in which it is presented is stellar. It’s serious and emotional throughout, yet still manages to have zany and bizarre moments as is standard for the Yakuza series.
As Lost Judgment was, The Kaito Files is largely made up of cutscenes, something I personally feel is acceptable given the quality of the narrative, but those who aren’t a fan of lengthy cutscenes beware. They are fantastic to look at though, with impressive visuals accompanying a quality soundtrack that contains both new and original Lost Judgment tracks.
In terms of gameplay, it essentially plays exactly how it does in the base game of Lost Judgment. Instead of the three fighting styles Yagami has in the core experience, Kaito has two – Bruiser and Tank. Bruiser is the first available style and pairs punching with an awesome parry that when timed correctly leaves enemies open to a beating. Tank style on the other hand allows Kaito to automatically pick up weapons such as bikes, bats, and traffic cones. You can also counter enemy grabs with a grab attack of your own. I personally was more of a fan of the Bruiser style given its parry ability, but both styles have their advantageous moments.
The tailing and stealth segments from Lost Judgment return, alongside the issues that hindered them. Tailing missions require you to follow a target from a safe distance and hide in the surrounds to avoid detection. While not a bad idea, they feel awkward, as its never quite clear how far a distance you must be away, and enemies sometimes detect your presence just as well when you’re hidden than they do when in plain sight. They operate fine for the most part, but they aren’t something to look forward to.
Stealth sections require you to follow a linear set of actions, meaning that you can’t freely approach stealth as you can in various other games. They are short and are easy enough to follow, but being robbed of the freedom to plan your own path is disappointing.
When not on a mission you’re free to take in the sights and surroundings of Kamurocho. There aren’t any additional side quests to partake in throughout The Kaito Files, but activities such as Baseball and the Club Sega Arcade are available to play as they were in the core Lost Judgment experience. There are also 20 cats to find throughout the District, with rewards such as new fighting skills on offer. While some sections don’t hit as well as they should, the addictive combat makes up the occasionally cumbersome segment.
In summary, The Kaito Files is brilliant, minor gameplay qualms aside, reaffirming in me the belief that Lost Judgment is an underappreciated and overlooked gem that deserves more eyes on it.
It’s a worthwhile expansion with a story as great as the core game, delivered in a more digestible 7-8 hour serving, providing the same solid gameplay. Whether you’re a fan of the Judgment series or not, I recommend playing this expansion alongside Lost Judgment for the best experience.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron