While playing Famicom Detective Club, comprising two 1988-89 releases newly remade for Nintendo Switch, I found myself sucked into a routine. I would load up the game, enjoy the charming imagery and listen to the pleasant soundtrack as I attempted to uncover the many mysteries within the bundle's two titles. This repetitive process began as a cheerful experience, with quirky characters to interview against the soothing backdrops of the in-game world. Before long, it devolved into a frustrating chore as familiarity bred contempt while I learned firsthand that being a detective is a gruelling, arduous life.
See the game's trailer here
As I mentioned in my preview, there are two different games in this Famicom Detective Club package. Both games play identically, offering distinct yet equally in depth stories, while sitting somewhere between the simulation and visual novel genres. I started with The Missing Heir as it's the first in the sequence in terms of original release dates. Here, you play as an amnesiac detective, trying to uncover your own memories while getting to the bottom of a suspicious death. This is the instalment I put the bulk of my review time into.
The way Famicom Detective Club produces endless mystery and intrigue is genuinely impressive, although I should point out that there are some seriously morbid subjects within. As you delve deeper into the dark, mysterious narratives, each answer seems to bring more questions. For fans of classic detective stories, there are tales here to ponder intently as you go over case notes, explore scenery and talk to persons of interest. The problem is, the whole thing takes too long.
At times, the progression in Famicom Detective Club seems illogical, which is unforgivable for a game where you play a detective. Too often I was left with no alternative but to go over the same dialogue options again and again until the next step eventually appeared. There were times where I could only progress the game if I asked a character the same question multiple times in a row, which was, frankly, agonising. There are good stories in Famicom Detective Club, but trying to extract them can be painfully tedious if you don't enjoy the slow, methodical manner required to uncover what's going on here.
When you do figure something out in Famicom Detective Club, it's great. Characters reveal intimate details. Crime scenes offer up evidence of fascinating events. There are moments where the whole experience comes together in a wondrous way. Sadly, these moments are often broken up by confusion, frustration and a soundtrack that becomes more annoying with each loop until you're left with no option but to turn off the sound, if not the game itself.
There's a good game here - two, indeed - with fascinating stories and enough things to enjoy overall, but only if you're a patient, analytical soul with the perseverance of a merry Sherlock Holmes. Otherwise, Famicom Detective Club is up there with the most frustrating things I've ever done, and I worked in the Civil Service.
Pros: charming art style, pleasant music, intriguing stories
Cons: repetitive, slow, illogical progression
For fans of: Phoenix Wright, Professor Layton, Root Letter
Famicom Detective Club releases for Nintendo Switch on May 14 2021. Game code provided by publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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