Lost Judgment proudly kept the Yakuza brawler gameplay alive when it was released last year and now Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s first-ever expansion is available. The Kaito Files thrusts burly sidekick Kaito into the spotlight, and the ex-yakuza member shows a lot more depth and capability as a leading man than fans might have expected given his role in the first two Judgment games. While not packed with content, this expansion features a more focused story that winds up showcasing that the future is still bright for the Japanese studio after the exit of creative director Toshihiro Nagoshi.
From a gameplay perspective, Kaito brings two combat styles to the table: Bruiser and Tank. These will be quite familiar to fans of the series, as they’re very similar to Kiryu’s Brawler and Beast styles found in Yakuza 0. They’re not carbon copies, though, as Kaito has his own special attacks and a penchant for professional wrestling slams and suplexes thrown in. Both styles have different strengths, with Tank being great for city streets and areas with plenty of items, while Bruiser is more technical and allows for counterstrikes. They both gel together well so players will find themselves switching back and forth, sometimes even in the same battle, as Judgment continues to further refine Yakuza‘s once clunky combat into a system with genuine depth and smooth action.
There’s also a hilarious Primal Focus system put in place that compares Kaito to a wild animal as he apparently has enhanced hearing and smell. His bolstered senses replace the detective gadgets of the series’ main character Takayuki Yagami, so you can still listen in on conversations and track things down, just in a much more primitive (and humorous) manner. In fact, Kaito finds himself doing everything Yagami does in the main game, besides climbing, as he has to go on tailing missions, stealth his way past foes, and even sprint after some fools. Clearly, Kaito’s time working in the detective agency has rubbed off on him, giving the DLC a familiar base to work from.
While the expansion is technically a side story, with Yagami out on a case of his own and only interacting via a few brief text messages, that’s not to say there isn’t important character development here. Kaito’s backstory as a former Yakuza has come up in past games, but his past is more thoroughly explored here as we learn that his commitments to his “family” wound up costing him his relationship with the love of his life. Through some patented Yakuza coincidence, she winds up being at the center of a missing persons case, and her son Jun, who believes Kaito to be his actual father, winds up tagging along for plenty of hijinks as Kaito has to deal with a headstrong teenager that follows his way of acting first and thinking later.
There is plenty of twists and humor throughout The Kaito Files‘ four-chapter story, which lasts about seven to eight hours. While quite compact, and less than half as long as Lost Judgment‘s main story, it winds up being much more focused as a result. While Lost Judgment took pride in playing in the gray area of justice, Kaito’s tale is happy to tell a much more straightforward tale of love, redemption, and betrayal. It all climaxes with two wonderful boss encounters: one against pure evil and another fought with nothing but heart and determination.
While the main story is near-perfect, the side content is pretty lacking given the series’ reputation. Kaito can play some mini-games, but there aren’t any new ones (sadly, karaoke is still missing) and there are no side stories to be found. Instead, there are just some collectibles to be found using Kaito’s senses and a series of extremely tough masked men (who are never actually explained) that can be encountered while exploring Kamurocho, which nicely serves as the setting for most of the story. The secret boss encounter that unlocks after finding all of the collectibles and unlocking all of the skills is pretty fun, given the game’s aforementioned solid combat mechanics, but the lack of any meaningful story drags it down.
Considering the future of the series’ protagonist, who is played by and uses the likeness of Takuya Kimura, is currently in doubt due to demands by Kimura’s management, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kaito take a much larger role going forward. While that would have been worrying, The Kaito Files shows that the lovable brute has plenty to offer and can take the leading role without any fear. Playing more like Kiryu than his partner, he’s also a refreshing throwback to the Yakuza series’ past while also offering his own spin on things. Either way, the future of Judgment seems bright regardless of who winds up being the protagonist.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 9 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.
Disclosure: The critic bought a PlayStation 5 copy for our Lost Judgment: The Kaito Files review. Reviewed on version 1.011.000.
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