Famicom Detective Club Games were one of the surprise announcements of this year and revealed in a Nintendo Direct. These games were originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and remained exclusive to Japan. They are primarily a visual novel but with minor gameplay usually revolving around investigating the environment. The first two Famicom Detective Club Games have received a remake on the Nintendo Switch and were first announced back in 2019, but they were never localized by Nintendo until this year.
The first thing that immediately drew my attention to these games is the art style. It looks neat and clean, and you can’t help but appreciate the aesthetics that give it classic Japanese anime vibes. As a fan of the visual novel genre, the murder mystery angle of these games was a big draw for me. While these games have been completely remade from the ground up with splendid artwork by MAGES, the gameplay system hasn’t been given a major uplift so it can feel slightly antiqued. Although, I found it part of the charm for this collection. Since the original games are quite old and released during the third console generation, there are a lot of games since then that had copied, or even improved upon the gameplay formula; in that sense, there is often a feeling of déjà vu.
Nintendo has released these two games separately but they can also be purchased in a single bundle. The first game to play here is The Missing Heir, followed by The Girl Who Stands Behind. The second game was a prequel to the first which is confusing at first. The ideal way to play through these is to go through them in the order of their original release. In both, you will explore murder mysteries, talk with characters and investigate crime scenes to look for clues. All of this sounds wonderful on paper but it feels even better when you play through these games.
You are the main protagonist, a nameless hero, named after anyone you want. The stories in these games usually deal with a Japanese myth and can take a turn into supernatural, but they are still mostly focused on the murders and solving their cases. You must piece together the facts by visiting several locations and interrogating suspects, witnesses, and anybody with a link to the victim to find out precisely what led to the murder. Players must press their subjects’ buttons to elicit the information they need, just like in games like Ace Attorney or other interactive mysteries. However, possibilities to find true clues are so poorly marked in Famicom Detective Club that you finish up feeling more annoyed than clever.
The struggle to find out clues is a big problem with the game. There is no visible sign where a clue will appear so you are left wondering with a slow cursor and have to click random spots on the picture hoping to get to the next sequence. This problem is further exaggerated by the fact that you don’t have any choice to speed up the cursor. The main reason this system fails is due to its implementation. Sometimes, hovering a cursor over an object of interest will display their name but this is not always the case. You will encounter this problem right from the first crime scene and will have to deal with it until the end of the game.
This issue is also present when you conduct interviews with characters of interest. You have to utilize every option given to make some progression and the result is not immediately clear. I anticipated interviewees to drop indications in their alibis or recollections of events that would piqué my interest and prompt me to ask further questions. However, I was often puzzled as to exactly what to say or ask throughout both games included in this bundle – The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind – and ended up cycling through the many alternatives until I obtained the response I was hoping for.
Both The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind have a framework and tale that works in their favor. The games do a good job at weaving the strands of clues and building up the underlying mystery. The primary protagonist isn’t particularly memorable, but he has just enough going for him to serve as an interesting viewpoint character, aided by his growing relationship with the characters in both games. Although there aren’t many star characters, the ensemble casts all have the required secrets and personality qualities to keep such murder mysteries interesting.
Overall, if I would wholeheartedly recommend these games to anyone who is looking into playing through visual novels. The theme of murder mystery suits these games well and the story manages to keep your attention long enough that you will never feel bored. I am glad that Nintendo has decided to bring these games with English localizations because they are truly a hidden gem deserving of their cult-classic status.
Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher
- Final Score - 8.5/108.5/10
Famicom Detective Club Games can feel dated, especially with their gameplay, but there is still so much to enjoy here from gorgeous artwork and likable cast to a thrilling story and intriguing atmosphere.