Title: Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind Review - Rediscovering the Joy of a Genre
Release Date: May 14, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Adventure Visual Novel
Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind is a remake of an investigation game initially released in the late 80s. Players will take control of a young man who a private detective takes in and promptly acts as his assistant.
The Girl Who Stands Behind features a mystery regarding the murder of a girl from a local high school. Locations change swiftly, leaving an impression of the area to prevent staleness. While the background art is not particularly impressive, it avoids being cluttered, so the investigation goes smoothly.
And investigation you will perform. The main gameplay aspect of Famicom Detective Club, as it should be obvious, is finding clues among various scenes. While other detective games have a climax that leads to the conclusion of multiple cases, Detective Club revels in the process. Once you have settled at a location, the investigation goes into full swing.
This process is generally split in two: either talking with a potential witness or finding evidence. The former involves puzzle-like nitpicking of subjects, including their relation to the victim, their alibi, and circumstantial knowledge. This doubles as character development as you begin to understand motive – criminal or not. This is heightened by the reaction you get from the cast as you question them. Some cast their eyes, and others have twitches that last only a moment.
Questioning is more freestyle than other games in the detective genre, allowing you to make mistakes and get cold silence as a response. While this could have been frustrating, with experience, it becomes natural to deduce the flow of the conversation and pick the correct subject to follow up on. Choosing the correct topic several times in a row gives agency to the player, making the talking a much more engaging experience.
Full voice acting is available for even minor characters, and it’s a pleasure to listen to. The tone of voice acting topped off some already great dialogue. The girlish giggle from two bystanding students following their allegation that your character really sounds like a detective helps empathize with how hard he has it as a budding detective. Furthermore, the main character’s voice fits that part, showcasing both his hardened resolve as he fearlessly examines a corpse while still having boyish cracks when he is teased.
The latter part of the investigation involves combing the scene for clues. This is usually the least fun aspect of detective games, but the power is with the player once again. While a classic point-and-click mouse is given, not every available selection is met with a visual cue. An early example includes the investigation of the corpse, where it would be easy to place something in her pockets or have a sign of disarray in her clothes. But the solution is somewhat different – you must first note that her hair obscures her neck, then move it out of the way.
Detective Club’s scene investigation has a fair few more options than standard. You may switch between scene investigation and questioning, press for more details, observe an item, or ponder. Thinking to yourself functions as a hint system, but the last relevant clue hints to the next. Still, the accessibility for newer players is appreciated.
A notebook is available that gives precise details regarding potential suspects and the victim. For long playthroughs or forgetful players, this is a necessary tool. Other detective games usually have this but are too robust to function as a reminder or fail to mention important details. Detective Club’s notebook hits that sweet spot of concise and essential information.
A strength of the swift pacing of a detective game is that it can introduce many interesting characters in a timely fashion. Detective Club’s characters are not the wacky, walking gimmicks of other detective games, but their realistic reactions are far more compelling. There aren’t any emotional giveaways to this mystery. Your detective mentor Utsugi would say that the proper way to solve a case is through logic, after all.
The story is light and focused on the case. The most backstory you receive is between the player character and Utsugi. Despite being a nameable protagonist, the player character has a will of his own and shows reliability far beyond what you’d expect from a teen. That talent is seen in the respect that police officers give him at crime scenes. But if a player would instead project themselves into the story, there is an option to turn off your character’s voice. That is a thoughtful option that is almost exclusively reserved for Otome dating simulators.
Praise is due when it comes to Detective Club’s visual design. Each character has a Live2D model, complete with facial expressions and poses for every passing emotion. These models are even used to animate dynamic action scenes, and by using the same models as the investigation portion, nothing looks out of place. These play a critical role in keeping up the compelling talking portions. Characters are placed in spatially correct ways, making flat backgrounds look roomy. When a character speaks, they turn to face them, make eye contact, and change the camera perspective if necessary. In public places such as a café, there will be denizens going about their day, ordering a cup of coffee, and so on. Special care was taken to make each scene completely natural.
The Girl Who Stands Behind deals explicitly with a threat of potentially paranormal nature. It tends to avoid being dramatic about dreary moods – your player character does not react at the slightest at a dead body. But the light melody helps push the atmosphere when it needs to. The muted retro soundtrack melts away in cases where ghost talk appears and is replaced with a needling march. While this is a murder mystery, expect an airy mood for most of the runtime.
Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind takes a surprising expedition into the investigation portion of detective games. Providing more robust options to fully explore a scene empowers players to embolden their explorative horizons. Both the voice acting and Live2D models offer a lively setting even within the text-heavy genre. As a remake, Detective Club rediscovers both itself and what makes detective games fun.
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