First revealed in February’s Nintendo Direct, the announcement that two well-received Nintendo classic titles were making their way to the Switch platform took everyone by surprise, and for good reason. The visual ‘duology’ of novels, Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir & Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind, were originally released in Japan only. But now with a complete graphical and sound overhaul, the 1988 and 1989 Famicom murder-mystery games are coming to Nintendo Switch both singularly and as part of a money-saving bundle.
For those not familiar with these visual novels, both games task the player with stepping into the shoes of a young and eager detective to solve complex murder cases that have occurred in a small Japanese town. The Missing Heir is the one you want to play first with The Girl Who Stands Behind being the prequel to the former. Both games play almost identically (from what I’ve seen so far) and while actual gameplay is kept to a bare minimum, those looking for a classic point-and-click, menu scrolling adventure will relish in their simplicity. Nintendo is taking quite a bold move here as both stories are unaltered which will please fans of the original. However, with games such as Objection!: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, Neo Cab, and One Night Stand on Nintendo Switch, the classic Japanese games from way back when will need a bit more muscle to get noticed outside of the die-hard fan group.
For the purpose of this preview, I’ve been playing both games simultaneously up until the end of Chapter 5. These first few chapters provide roughly 45 minutes to an hour each of playtime, with some taking slightly longer than others given the ambiguous direction at times. So far, the games look stunning on both handheld and TV modes, thanks to the gorgeous artwork presented in each scene. Taking a quick look at how these current games differ from the original Famicom and re-released Super Famicom (or SNES, in the West) versions, the care and attention to detail to recreate every single scene is staggering. Instead of monotone, static investigations where your imagination would have had to work a little overtime, both titles boast detailed and colourful backdrops with some subtle yet effective animation overlays. It’s particularly noticeable in the faster-paced sections. For instance, there was a genuine feeling of exhilaration as my character chased a suspect from behind the school. This was after I caught them eavesdropping on a particularly significant conversation.
Both The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind focusses on a complex murder case that pushes the player to uncover secrets, interrogate disgruntled folk in a sleepy town, and ultimately make sense of the creepy happenings that plague the townsfolk while disturbing the status quo. However, as of this moment, the prequel is offering a sharper and more intriguing story. The Missing Heir is constantly tugging me between a ton of family members who, for the most part, just want to blame each other for the late Kiku’s untimely death at the family’s manor. While it’s too early to make concrete judgments, The Girl Who Stands Behind, which makes for a much creepier ghost story crammed with atmospheric flashbacks and graphic murder scenes, is certainly more gripping.
I am finding some frustration, though. Both games equally highlight points of interest in a conversation that urges the player to question a certain person in a specific way with no real outcome. I’m often left to aimlessly click through every selection repeatedly in each sub-menu to trigger a scene, which then progresses the chapter. I spent far longer just pushing through the same dialogue options only to find that I had to choose something twice on the same selection. While the experience seems fairly straightforward, I hope the frustration eases as I make my way through the storylines. And there’s only so many times I want to hear characters repeat the same ‘…’ phrase with an audible sigh.
Having played roughly 8 hours split across Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir & Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind, it’s already clear that each story holds some grizzly twists and turns. While the prequel hones in on the ‘eerie bloodsoaked schoolgirl’ hook, the first installment is running at a slower pace and doesn’t feel quite as intense, but that’s not to say things won’t pick up which I hope they do. Each is providing me with the same feeling of ‘just one more chapter’, like stumbling on a fantastic new book. And with their carefully recreated backdrops, reimagined music, and full Japanese voiceover, I’m genuinely excited to see how each case concludes.
Copies of Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir & Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind for preview purposes were provided by Nintendo UK. A full review of both games will be published in due course