Famicom Detective Club review: 30-year-old mystery games still hold up

More than thirty years after their initial releases in 1988 and 1989, both Famicom Investigator Club video games have actually gotten contemporary remakes on Nintendo Change. I had actually never ever played either video game previously, however I entered into The Missing Out On Successor and The Lady Who Guarantees with absolutely nothing however high expectations. These video games are an early example of a category that’s been long lasting: secret visual books.

Unusually enough, playing Famicom Investigator Club in some way struck that classic area for me, regardless of this being my entry into the series. I wasn’t sure why initially, however then it clicked. This was much like Investigator Barbie: The Secret Cruise, the video game that presented me to the category and began my decadelong journey into investigator video games.

I definitely like investigator video games. My earliest video gaming memory includes me playing Investigator Barbie up until the disc might just be categorized as garbage. I took that video game with me (PlayStation 1 consisted of) on every extended journey; I moved it from space to space, home to home. It was a continuous in my life that I had actually totally ignored … previously.

If you’ve in some way never ever played Investigator Barbie, the video game has you play as the world-renowned Investigator Barbie examining a summer season at sea turned murder secret. Don’t get me incorrect; The Secret Cruise is not a visual book. It’s securely a point-and-click investigator video game. All it was missing out on was a text box or subtitling system (that’s a various discussion about availability for a various day), however the parts existed.

A nurse character in Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir

Image: Nintendo

Famicom Investigator Club utilizes the exact same Investigator Barbie mechanics, however takes them 10 actions even more. I have actually played an outrageous quantity of puzzle video games and sleuthing video games, so naturally, I entered into these remakes of 30-year-old video games exceptionally arrogant. Within an hour of beginning each video game, I felt in one’s bones I had actually currently figured them out. However both video games inspected me numerous times and humbled my inner investigator. The story leading up to the reveal is amazing, and the dialogue is compelling and unique to each character and their mood at the time.

Both The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind come with fully animated and voice-acted cutscenes and character dialogue. Neither of those things distracts from the fact that these are two of the most classic visual novels you’ll find. The localization isn’t perfect, and the translation sometimes feels a bit heavy handed and oddly direct, but the intimacy that should be built into any good visual novel is present in both games.

The strongest points of Famicom Detective Club aren’t the updated mechanics but the story, which is charming and genuinely feels like a mystery being led by a teenage investigator. Three decades later, the genre and narrative are still captivating. It’s a supernatural mystery with suspicious characters who refuse to answer questions straight. The games make you work for it. Even if the story being told is as common as a Tuesday, Famicom Detective Club knows exactly how to tell it. It’s the future of visual novels, reinforced by its past.

Two characters have a phone conversation with one another in Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind

Image: Nintendo

Conversations about genre are tedious and contentious. That being said, let’s get into it anyway. Famicom Detective Club is one of the best examples of a visual novel out there. Is it an adventure game? Sure. A murder mystery? Of course. But a visual novel? 100%.

Too often this conversation gets wrapped up in whether a game is too good to be a visual novel, or whether its mechanics are too complex for it to simply be a visual novel. Visual novels are, in my opinion, one of the simpler types of games to define. If a game is text-based, with discussion boxes and choices that affect the narrative and characters’ responses, it’s a visual novel. Famicom Detective Club takes you where you need to go, but the choices you make still matter. While the outcome is consistent, your choices change your interpretation of the story, its characters, and what you as the protagonist feel. The Girl Who Stands Behind has both great and questionable moments that come purely from me messing around with dialogue options.

I know this is starting to sound like a piece more dedicated to visual novels than Famicom Detective Club itself, but I promise you it’s not. The games’ history and their context is just so important. Visual novels aren’t new, and they aren’t unpopular, but still they end up being categorized as a niche genre for specific people, or as “smaller” or “easier” games. That’s wrong, and Famicom Detective Club demonstrates that. These two games take mechanics from visual novels and adventure games of the past to create an immersive, diverse experience.

Detective Barbie was pivotal in my life because it provided an experience I didn’t realize could be a part of gaming. It told a story that anyone could connect with and let me be a direct part of it. I was actively shaping and discovering the narrative in my head while also controlling the pace and movement of the game. Famicom Detective Club reminded me why I love mystery games. It’s also current proof that the genre can be complex in its simplicity, and that it deserves its longevity.

Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Out On Successor and Famicom Detective Club: The Lady Who Guarantees will be released May 14 on Nintendo Switch. The games were reviewed using pre-release download codes provided by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can discover extra info about Polygon’s principles policy here.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.