Review by Exhuminator
Insanely overrated, but a great cure for insomnia.
In 1989, Nintendo released "Famicom Detective Club Part II: The Girl who Stands Behind" for the Famicom. It was written as a prequel to the original Famicom Detective Club. Later on this game was remade for the Super Famicom and Game Boy Advance. The 2004 Game Boy Advance version was part of the Famicom Mini series. Whereas the Super Famicom version was released via the Nintendo Power cartridge rewriting service in 1998. None of these versions were ever released outside Japan. However in 2004, the Super Famicom version received an English fan translation. And that's the version that I played through. An interesting fact; the murder and smoking scenes resulted in a CERO (ages 15+) rating for the GBA release, making it the first Nintendo title to receive a parental advisory rating.
To touch on the plot briefly; you are a young detective working for a detective agency. A young girl is found murdered nearby, and you are put on the case. Her murder leads to a highschool, and from there a 15 year old ghost story. As you investigate all the people involved, the tale becomes more complex, and eventually to the point of detriment. By the end of it all the plot will probably be lost on you, but you won't even care. Or at least, that was my experience. I just wanted to see the credits and put this one to rest. At least the plot was sometimes told through well choreographed animated cutscenes.
You see, Famicom Detective Club II is an adventure game in the classic Japanese style. And by that, I mean you navigate the game via a series of menu interactions. Everything you do, be it talking to someone, thinking internally, or searching a room, is all done via menu selection. This style of adventure game was very popular in the 1980s in Japan, and resulted from limitations of PCs during that time. Some people really enjoy this style of adventure game, but I am not one of those people. Endlessly clicking through menus until you hit the right hot button selection, over and over, isn't very exciting to me. You can honestly beat the game just by randomly clicking menu selections until you finally whack-a-mole your way to victory. Not exactly challenging.
What can carry the experience beyond that kind of rote gameplay? That would be fantastic writing, strong atmosphere, and a constant yearning to solve mysteries. It's a shame then that Famicom Detective Club II doesn't nail any of those categories. Sometimes the game grazes them, and gets tantalizing close to possibly becoming competent, but it never quite congealed for me. There is so much filler in this game, so much redundant backtracking and inane recycling of content and conversation, that I found the entire thing to be a slog very quickly. You'd get a better mystery out of any Scooby Doo episode, better atmosphere too, and I've seen better writing in old '80s DOS instruction manuals.
So why did I bother beating Famicom Detective Club II then? Well in 2005, I nearly beat this game (I was bored), but I lost my save game. For many years now I've meaning to go back and finally finish it... so yay? Sometimes we play old games because they are actually fun, and sometimes we play them out of sheer scholarly interest. I mean folks, this is a Nintendo published game with smoking, transsexuals, murder, blood, ghosts, and alcohol consumption in it. That's not an everyday occurrence. And the fan translation was pretty good, while the OST was actually great. And let's face it; there's not a ton of legit adventure games on the Super Famicom or SNES for that matter, so this was a unique experience for its platform. Notice I said "unique" and not "fun". Obviously I found Famicom Detective Club II to be terribly boring. It's no surprise it took me the better part of a decade to get around to finishing it.
Product Release: Famicom Tantei Club Part II: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shoujo (JP, 04/01/98)
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