Review by Rebochan

Reviewed: 12/20/04

The Girl in Back beckons...

Remember Ayumi Tachibana, that cute girl in a Japanese sailor-suit school uniform you got as a trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee? Now you can find out just where she came from.

Famicom Detective Club Part II is the 1998 remake of the Famicom Disk System classic, which is actually a prequel to the first title which apparently starred Ayumi. Yes, you read that right. 1998. This was released over the old Satellavision network in Japan, a system that allowed you to take blank Super Nintendo cartridges and download games onto them via a satellite network. The system failed and the "Part Three" hinted at in the game's conclusion never came to be. But if this is all we ever get (Japan got two direct GBA ports of the original Famicom versions), then we're not at a complete loss. This game is more than capable of standing on it's own.

STORY:

This game places you in the role of a gumshoe in training, a 15-year-old runaway boy who becomes the apprentice of a well-respected detective. You're investigating the murder of a high school student, which leads you to both her best friend and partner Ayumi, and to the tangled past of a town affected by an unsolved murder fifteen years ago and the story of a ghost that haunts the high school.

FDC is at it's heart a visual novel. You can't die during the game, the storyline is almost entirely linear, and little changes due to your actions. Thus, this game would be dead in the water if the storyline couldn't hold it up. As a detective story, it is amazingly complex, throwing plenty of clues, suspects, and red herrings your way. Even if you do figure out the identity of the murderer, the plot is more than capable of throwing surprises at you, right to the last exciting moment. Detective novels are notorious for let-downs. After all that suspense and mystery, few stories can lead us to a truth that is as satisfying as our imagination has invented. FDC delivers an ending that will leave you breathless, taking the various stories of the suspects and the very history of the story and wrapping it all together in a brilliant conclusion. Surprisingly enough, the game never leans entirely towards the supernatural or the purely logical when answering the final questions, allowing the player to draw a conclusion of their own.

GAMEPLAY:

As this is mainly a visual novel, the interface is designed for ease of navigating the storyline. You're given the images of your surroundings inside of a window, surrounded with a menu on the right and a dialogue box on the bottom. It's a simple interface, reminiscent of the NES classic "Deja Vu", but gets the job done. You are occasionally given a cursor to more closely examine your surroundings, which can make some parts of the game more difficult. In addition, the game doesn't always give you enough of an idea of how to progress. You'll run through all your lists again and again, hoping to stumble on the option you need, and these are not necessarily tests of your detective skills. At one point, all your options seems useless and the solution actually requires you to select the option to quit your game. These obstacles are less clever than frustrating, but as you have a limited number of options to select at any given time, you can use the process of elimination to progress, thus significantly decreasing the difficulty.

A unique addition to the game is the role Ayumi plays. Buried inside a game with a detective bent is a dating sim - your statements and actions will affect Ayumi's feelings for you, which slightly alters the ending you will see.

GRAPHICS:

This was made for the Super Famicom, and that system's limitations do show, but what shows even more is the amazing breakthroughs with the hardware that are on display. This game WAS made in 1998, almost a decade after the system's release, and Nintendo pushed it to it's limits. The characters are given an anime-inspired, handrawn appearance which is suprisingly well detailed. When you converse with characters, the mouths move on the character portraits. The backgrounds are a little stale due to hardware limitations, but you are given a variety of areas to look through, so they don't exactly get old either. There are a few animated portions, but for the most part, much of the "cinematics" are actually a series of detailed stills that, while motionless, are gorgeous to look at. A scene early on overlays text over the ghostly silhouette of a school girl, creating a truly eerie image.

MUSIC:

Naturally, you're going to be hearing a lot of inbetweener music filling the moments where you have to figure out how to proceed with your investigation. Simpler pieces are used for these, and while they're repetitive and will probably get stuck in your head due to the sheer number of times you hear them, you probably won't be turning the volume off simply to keep playing. The scenes involving the storyline are quite memorable, always perfectly enhancing their scenes, be they somber, spooky, jovial, or tense.

REPLAY:

Obviously, little changes on a second playthrough of FDC. If you didn't score so well with Ayumi, then that's a goal to achieve, but since there's only one path to the ending, one playthrough is virtually identical to all subsequent plays. What you will play again for is the incredible storyline. Much like a good novel, you'll find yourself coming back to it later, anxious to follow the story's twists and turns again and truly appreciate it on deeper levels.

Overall, this is a fantastic game if you like a good storyline and can handle being separated from the action. While it's not exactly kid safe due to the violence and mild sexual content (quite racy for an in-house Nintendo title!), it's nowhere near as graphic as your average visual novel or hentai game. It's definitely worth at least one playthrough for the story alone. Highly recommended, and here's hoping someday we get that Part III they taunted us with.

Rating: 10

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