alex9234’s Sunday Review
Back with another review, and this time I’m going to review a game from a series that Nintendo NEEDS to bring back from the dead. Which series? Famicom Detective Club. It’s a little known visual novel series from Nintendo where you are sent to investigate murders, and find out who the culprit is. This series borders on horror and mystery, so be prepared for some really scary moments, especially at the endings. There have technically been 3 games in the series, two on the Famicom Disk System – Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir (1988), Famicom Detective Club II: The Girl in Back (1989 – a prequel to the first game), and one, oddly enough, on the Satellaview which is called BS Detective Club: Lost Memories in the Snow (1997). I’m unable to review the first game because neither an English patch or script exists for that game and my Japanese is not that great, nor Lost Memories in the Snow because the Satellaview service was discontinued back in 2000 (Why, Nintendo?! WHY?!). But the second game was remade for the SNES via the Nintendo Power service in 1998, and got an English patch, so I’ll be reviewing that one.
FDC Part II follows the story of a nameless protagonist (which the character can name), who is running from 2 police officers. After running into what appears to be a businessman, the cops catch him, but the man says that he can take care of the boy. The cops recognize who the man is, and lets him take care of the protagonist. The two of them then go to a coffeehouse. The man introduces himself as Shunsuke Utsugi, a private detective, and he convinces our protagonist to become his assistant.
A few months later at the Utsugi Detective Agency, Shunsuke and our protagonist receive a phone call from the police to investigate a crime scene. When they arrive at the crime scene, they learn from the police that the victim was a 16-year old schoolgirl named Yoko Kojima, who attended Ushimitsu High School. Shortly after, a teacher known as Tatsuya Hibino, and a schoolgirl, both from Ushimitsu, see Yoko’s body and erupt in fear, making Shunsuke and the protagonist unable to question them.
The day after, the two of them go to Ushimitsu, and run into the schoolgirl from yesterday. She introduces herself as Ayumi Tachibana, who is also Yoko’s best friend, and that she and Yoko were investigating a supposed ghost story called “The Tale of the Girl in Back”, which had been going around the school for 15 years <strong>(or since 1983 if you consider when the remake came out)</strong>. Rumor says that if someone is in the hallway with the mirror alone, they will hear a voice calling from behind them, and when they turn around, they will see a schoolgirl covered in blood. Our protagonist then learns that this rumor originated in 1983 when Shinobu Asakawa, an Ushimitsu student, supposedly disappeared.
Our protagonist then learns that Yoko’s murder is linked to another murder case from 1983, that of businessman Genjiro Kaneda. Another connection is discovered to the Girl in Back tale – When Genjiro was murdered, Shinobu was the only eyewitness, and since the statute of limitations case on the Kaneda case is about to expire soon, the protagonist must investigate that case as well.
Our protagonist then meets another teacher from Ushimitsu, Hisako Hayama, who was the originator of the Girl in Back tale when she was a student at Ushimitsu in 1983. Hisako says that when she sneaked out of her house to head to school to grab some forgotten homework (which was also the same night Kaneda was murdered), she heard a voice call out to her, and when she turned around, she noticed a blood-soaked girl in an Ushimitsu uniform. We are then introduced to the school’s janitor, Toshio Tazaki. He acts very suspicious around the protagonist in the first half of the game. He becomes even more suspicious when it is revealed that Tazaki had owed a lot of money to Kaneda around the time he was killed. However, he has an alibi, as when Kaneda was killed, he was plastering a wall at the school, which was confirmed by the school’s principle, Tadashi Urabe, who is constantly worshiped by everyone at the school.
Hisako then reveals that when she was running away from the girl, she passed by the wall that Tazaki was plastering, but didn’t see him, and that the wall was unfinished. This means that Urabe lied about Tazaki’s alibi. Tazaki eavesdrops on the two of them when Hisako reveals this to the protagonist, but is spotted by the protagonist and runs off. Back at the detective agency, the protagonist runs into Ayumi. She and the protagonist have some coffee, and our protagonist soon learns that after a sip of his coffee, that Ayumi drugged him, and as he falls asleep, she runs off to find the culprit, believing that it is Tazaki. After he wakes up, he goes after Ayumi. He then tracks her and Tazaki in Marufuku village, where Tazaki is seen holding Ayumi hostage with a knife. Tazaki breaks down shortly after, and lets Ayumi go. He confesses that he did indeed have a false alibi, but he didn’t kill Yoko or Kaneda. Back at the school, Urabe reveals that he did provide a false alibi for Tazaki, but says that he gave him a false alibi anyway, as he felt that protecting an innocent man is worth lying for. As stated above, it’s revealed that Urabe is constantly worshiped by everyone at Ushimitsu, but why?
Famicom Detective Club II’s gameplay is like that of any other visual novels. You navigate through menus with many different choices, such as Ask About, Check, Open, Show, etc. Some choices only show up at certain points in the game, however. Also, you have to constantly “trigger” the next event by picking the correct choices in the menu, which can get very tedious and you can sometimes get stuck because you’re picking tons of choices and don’t know which one is the right one. Sometimes you have to try the same choice more than once, which can get really annoying.
New to the SNES remake is is the memo feature, which contains notes on every character that you come across in the game. The memo feature is used to quiz the player and to investigate leads.
The Protagonist – Age: 15 – The main character of the game, whom the player can name at the beginning of the game. He ran away from an orphanage to find his long lost parents (which the first game covers more of), but ended up being detective Shunsuke Utsugi’s assistant and works at the Utsugi Detective Agency. He is tasked with solving the murder of Yoko, Shinobu’s disappearance, and Kaneda’s murder.
Shunsuke Utsugi – Age: 36 – A private detective who is the founder and head of the Utsugi Detective Agency. He is highly respected by the police and is constantly called in by them to investigate cases. He is also working on the Kaneda murder case as its statute of limitations is about to expire.
Ayumi Tachibana – Age: 15 – Ayumi is a student at Ushimitsu High School, and was good friends with Yoko Kojima before she was killed. She is also a member of the Ushimitsu detective club, which investigates mysterious events that happen in the school. She works with both Shunsuke and the protagonist on the murder case in hopes of finding the true culprit. Ayumi is also the only Famicom Detective Club character to have a trophy in the Super Smash Bros. series, mainly Melee, which can be unlocked:
It was also rumored that an Ayumi’s schoolgirl uniform was planned to be included as a costume for the Wii U version of the original Bayonetta, but was scrapped at the last minute.
Toshio Tazaki – Age: 58 – The janitor at Ushimitsu High School. First assumed to be the murderer of Kaneda because of proper motives and a false alibi, but reveals that he didn’t murder Kaneda or Yoko (which turns out to be true). He becomes an important character later in the game as his information helps the protagonist track down the culprit.
Hisako Hayama – Age: 32 – A biology teacher at Ushimitsu High School. She is the originator of the Girl in Back tale, but is embarrassed because of it, so she keeps it a secret from the rest of the school. She also provides the protagonist with valuable information later in the game to track down the culprit.
Shinobu Asakawa – Age: 16 (in 1983 disappearance) – A former student of Ushimitsu High School who disappeared 15 years prior to the events of the game. The only witness of the Kaneda murder case, her whereabouts are unknown.
Tadashi Urabe – Age: 57 – The principal of Ushimitsu High School. He is constantly worshiped by both teachers and students alike, not just as a principal, but as a man, as he constantly looks out for all the students and staff of Ushimitsu.
Tatsuya Hibino – Age: 31 – An English teacher at Ushimitsu. He was also Yoko Kojima’s homeroom teacher. At first, he is very disturbed and shaken by Yoko’s murder, and doesn’t speak to the protagonist until much later into the game, making him one of the more suspicions characters of the game.
I first discovered this game in a Lets Play on YouTube a couple years ago, and after showing interest in this game after the LP, I decided to get myself a repro cart of this game for my SNES, and I enjoyed this game very much. The story is very well written, with tons of bizarre plot twists throughout the game. The graphics are excellent for an SNES game, and the art, along with the character designs are all highly detailed and very well done. The gameplay is also decent, but problematic, as you are often found looking for the right choices to “trigger” the next event, which can get very time consuming and annoying. Another slight problem is that there is no way to get a game over, which makes the game feel more like an adventure game than a proper visual novel like Snatcher, Policenauts or 999. But overall, this is a very good game, and if you’re someone who is looking for some good SNES repro carts, this one is right up your alley.
Also, I feel that Famicom Detective Club is a franchise that Nintendo should revive sometime in the near future. I feel that a FDC game would work out great for either the 3DS or Wii U, but I think the 3DS would work better since this is a visual novel series, after all. Now that this game has got me in the detective mood, I think I’ll watch some more Detective Conan now. Later!
My score: 8.25/10