Lost Judgment: The Kaito Files Story Expansion DLC Review
Last year’s Lost Judgment blew me away. It was such a vast improvement over its predecessor in many ways, and I still look back at it fondly. Here we are again, half a year after its launch, now with something new once more. A brand-new story expansion brings Yagami’s sidekick, Masaharu Kaito, into the spotlight. While Yagami is out-of-town on assignment, it’s up to Kaito to hold the fort down at their detective agency in Kamurocho.
There are a few things I want to mention before diving into it. First and foremost, this story expansion’s plotline was a lot darker than I expected. I want to give a proper warning that The Kaito Files contains themes surrounding suicide, domestic violence, and abuse. These components aren't explicitly shown on screen for the most part, but the storyline itself does get heavy, especially in the last stretch of the DLC.
I also want to bring up that The Kaito Files is both available as part of Lost Judgment’s Season Pass and $29.99 USD separately, and you need the base Lost Judgment game to access it. The Kaito Files does occur some time after the events of Lost Judgment, so I recommend playing through Lost Judgment first before dipping into it. A thorough playthrough of the expansion took me about 8 hours, though I imagine a more normal pace will hover around 6 hours.
While I greatly enjoyed my time with The Kaito Files, it felt like an uneven experience for me. Although it obviously has a lower price point than the base game, it was a slimmer package than I was expecting. Unlike Lost Judgment which largely took place in Isezaki Ijincho, The Kaito Files brings the focus back to Kamurocho.
As Kaito wraps up a job looking into shady detectives, a new client swings by with an odd request. His wife that’s been pronounced dead for two years, due to suicide, has been spotted around town recently, and he wants Kaito to find her. When Kaito sees a photo of her, he realizes that she was an old flame of his. Initially declining the request, Kaito eventually starts to uncover the truth behind the bizarre circumstances behind this man’s plea as Kaito’s past, even before the events of the first Judgment, begin to resurface once more.
The Kaito Files doesn’t have much to do outside of progressing its main story. Sure, players can still tinker with the arcade games, the Sega Master System back in the detective agency office, and the other minigames that the base game offers, but there are no Side Cases or new side activities to engage with.
There’s one new major mechanic that The Kaito Files offers when roaming around Kamurocho - Kaito can use his nose or his ears to detect collectibles. He comes with his own unique skill tree, and one of his skills lets the mini-map display nearby zones where a collectible is. Kaito can go into first-person view and detect their location via stench or sound. Players are clued into which sense is needed either by a cat meowing or Kaito’s nose sniffing rapidly. Collectibles include consumable items, accessories, skill books, or Matsugane Family Crests, along with a substantial skill point reward.
I liked seeing that Kaito has his own distinct playstyle through the new Bruiser and Tank stances, though it’s a shame that a good chunk of his arsenal is locked because of collectibles. Sure, the Judgment games do lock some of Yagami’s abilities behind skill books, yet The Kaito Files takes this one step further. Some skills are locked behind the number thresholds of cats discovered and Matsugane Family Crests collected. Others are more frustratingly sealed off unless players find Memory Points that are scattered all around Kamurocho with no indicator of where to find them. They do stick out and sparkle when Kaito happens to be near them, but there’s no indicator that specifically shows or hints at their locations. I even ran into the problem of having an overabundance of skill points later into the story expansion and couldn’t spend them because I couldn’t find any more Memory Points to unlock skills.
Besides that, Kaito is a blast to play. His fighting styles may borrow some elements from Kiryu’s stances in past Yakuza games, though they’re generally different enough to give Kaito his own flavor. Yakuza veterans will see that the spirit of Yakuza 0’s Beast style lives on in Kaito’s Tank style as its normal attack strings will automatically carry nearby objects into them, and Tank also has an instant-block deflection mechanic that can raise Kaito’s defense significantly. Kaito’s Bruiser style is more offense-oriented and can parry strikes just by attacking at the same time as the enemy which will raise its attack speed. Both styles are simple, straightforward, and powerful just like Kaito. There are several Heat actions where Kaito gets to show off his love for wrestling too.
Kaito gets the chance to show off his detective prowess without Yagami guiding him around. Much of Lost Judgment’s systems carry over into The Kaito Files. There’s one chase sequence right off the bat and a good handful of stealth sections that function identically to how Lost Judgment handled them. I am sad to inform you all that there is also a tailing segment too - it only happens once, but it is a damn lengthy one. During investigative sequences, Kaito often needs to rely on his nose and ears as well to obtain clues and evidence.
The most alluring part of The Kaito Files to me was simply getting to spend more time with Kaito, the character, alone. Sure he does interact with other existing side characters in a minor way, though The Kaito Files lets players get to know and explore him in new ways, along with other fascinating new characters. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that the ambition and scope of this DLC got cut short during development, though.
The Kaito Files’s final chapter is one of the wildest rides that the Yakuza-verse has seen yet, and not always in a good way. Everything about the nature of the DLC’s plotline is basically exposition dumped in a car ride and much of it comes out of left field. There are scant traces of foreshadowing here and there prior, but truly not enough for players to piece together the entire picture. Judgment’s mysteries are captivating because they lay enough details before the big reveals for studious players to piece it together themselves, and I don’t think The Kaito Files sets enough groundwork to achieve the same effect. A lot of important details never mentioned before are simply told to the player, rather than revealed through deliberately constructed event sequences or setpieces prior, which prevents the mystery from piecing itself together in a more natural fashion.
Aside from this gripe, I think it was a thrilling finale to see go down. The premise of the final boss in The Kaito Files is shockingly a breath of fresh air in the entire Yakuza franchise, though I think the context surrounding it is somewhat a little shaky. Obviously I can’t say anything more because I don’t want to spoil the surprise. If RGG Studio does eventually make a new Judgment down the line, I’m very interested to see how they will address The Kaito Files in it. I think the ramifications of it are too significant to ignore in a future mainline entry.
Lost Judgment’s The Kaito Files story expansion DLC is well worth a playthrough, especially for players who already like Kaito. He is such a fun character all-around and his time away from Yagami here shows a man that has grown significantly from our initial introduction to him in the first Judgment. Of course, I would love nothing more than to see both Yagami and Kaito back as the main focuses in a future installment of Judgment, but if the Judgment series has to go on somehow without Yagami, I think The Kaito Files demonstrates that Kaito can muster up the strength to take over as the main character, despite how divisive it would be.