Review by Bkstunt_31
Still working on that perfect 25...
Who doesn't love a good murder mystery!? Lord knows I do! I'm a sucker for any visual novel that requires you to figure out "who did it", and even more so when you're the one that has to collect evidence and piece together what happened. That's exactly what you have to do in "Paradise Killer", which is making its console debut on the Nintendo Switch. Is this a murder mystery worth digging into, or are you better off sipping drinks on the beaches of paradise! Let's get into it!
Who doesn't want to revive gods?! (Story)
First of all, this story is just CRAZY. You take on the role of "Lady Love Dies", otherwise known as the "Investigation Freak" who is being brought out of exile to investigate the murder of the Council. What is the council? I'm so glad you asked!
You see, you're part of a mysterious "Syndicate" who lives on "Paradise"... which is in some sort of dimensional rift. You and the rest of the syndicate members are also immortal, and are working to retrieve and revive various known gods. Yeah... I told you this story was crazy. Your current island, "Island 24" has been infested by demons so everyone is moving to "Island 25" now (one of the syndicate members can literally create islands). Before everyone left though, someone managed to murder all of the Syndicate's Council members in one of their meetings, prompting the Syndicate's judge to recall you from your exile and help solve the mass murder.
So yeah, this story is out there. I was put off at first because that entire summary up above isn't told to you at all when you start the game. Instead, you slowly figure out your place in this crazy world as well as what this Syndicate is all about as you play. It's all pretty crazy, as your group keeps having to move Islands due to the outside world "ruining" your paradise (it turns out trying to contact gods incurs demonic wrath). Still, if you put some time into the game, this crazy story becomes rather interesting, especially as you discover Love Die's backstory and learn about her relationships with the people you'll talk to.
Hope you like exploration(and back-to-back trials! (Game Play)
That leads us right into the game play. This is an open-world island that you'll explore as you return from exile. The Island's inhabitants have mostly moved to the next Island, but a few people still remain and they are, of course, all spread out over the island so you'll need to travel to them and talk to them all. You'll also of course examine multiple places across the items to gather evidence and follow up leads. You know, the usual. What's interesting is you can actually start the trial at any time you wish, but you'll need to do a fair share of investigating if you want to do well in the trial itself.
A big part of this game is exploration. Soon after starting the game you'll meet a minor demon named Shinji who is "too weak" to cause trouble (that and he just teleports everywhere). Shinji has hidden "Blood Crystals" all around the island for you to find that act as the game's currency. You can use these to unlock fast travel points, travel around the island and spend them on drinks and other objects to unlock "relics" (which just usually give you background info on the lore of this world). You can also use rare "foot baths" around the island to unlock new abilities as well, which are extremely helpful.
All in all, the game play is a mixed bag. I enjoy the open world aspect of the game, but it's undeniable that the world is 1000% bigger than it needs to be. Great if you like exploration. The game is tailored for this too, as you will constantly be finding new clues and will need to talk to people over and over again, which means a lot of travelling (and the Blood Crystals you find can sure make travelling much easier).
One of the game's mis-steps is the fact that, aside from the mass murder, you are going to have to look into a few other mysteries. These almost all relate to the murder in some way, but are also their own tracked cases in the menu. What this means in practice is that once you start the trial, you are actually going to have multiple trials in a row. To be clear, that means you're going to spend the first 80% of this game just exploring and investigating, then the last 20% just going through trial after trial. They definitely could have controlled the game's pacing a bit better.
Welcome to Paradise! (Graphics)
Graphically, the game is pretty interesting. The open world is indeed 3D, but it has a lot of 2D items in it, such as the Blood Crystals and the characters you'll talk to. It's a weird and unique mix that rather reminds me of the exploration sections from Danganronpa. Still, you'll be exploring quite a bit here but the vast majority of this world is unpopulated so it feels rather weird. Plus, whenever you "look at" a body, the 3D world just has a chalk outline. Examine that and you'll see a picture of some bodies. Like only the environments themselves get the 3D treatment.
As lifeless as the world is, I did enjoy examining it. To fully investigate, you often have to solve environmental puzzles in order to gain access to clues. This often means finding alternate ways to enter places, or using distraction or misdirection techniques. Whatever works, right? Sometimes you'll need to break into computers for info though, and the game has a "match the picture" mini-game to do so. All in all the graphics here are very minimal... but the game does have a certain style to it all that really does make it unique.
We prefer jazz in Paradise! (Audio)
Something I wasn't prepared for was how good the soundtrack was going to be! This soundtrack is amazing. It takes quite a bit for me to go out of my way to look up game composers, but Barry "Epoch" Topping did a fantastic job on this game. My favorite song has to be "Welcome to Paradise (Stay Forever)", but the game's other tracks are all really good as well. There's a good mix of funky / jazzy music here, which is definitely my jam and makes for easy listening while you're exploring.
Interestingly, one of the collectibles is tape records that expand the music you can listen to (always worth picking up!). You're also able to skip tracks with the Switch's directional buttons, which is something you don't see very often in video games. Very cool. The voice acting in the game is solid, but fairly sparse. This is the type of game where the main characters just say generic phrases instead of the story dialog when you talk to them, but I suppose it is better than nothing!
Who will you accuse? (Re-Playability)
One of the biggest weaknesses in these types of games (mystery titles... especially non rogue-like murder mysteries) has always been re-playability and that's largely the case for Paradise Killer as well. The overall case doesn't change after all and you can still find the same clues and whatnot on any replay. What you do have more influence over though is the trials themselves, as there's often enough evidence on any given case to sway your thinking on "who did it" between suspects. However, since you can save at any time in this game (even between trials at the end of game), you can easily just make a few key saves and see what sort of alternate trials there may be. For what it's worth though, I suspect anyone who enjoys the exploration and questioning everyone relentlessly can easily get 20 hours out of this title.
All in all... I enjoyed my time with Paradise Killer quite a bit. I do love the mystery / visual novel genre of games quite a bit as well! Paradise Killer has a fresh look and a killer soundtrack, as well as a fairly good story with plenty to look into. As good as those things sound, I would still recommend any of the Danganronpa titles (or Phoenix Wright) over this game, as the unpopulated world gets tiring to explore and back-loading all of the trials makes for some poor game pacing overall. Still... if you love the genre and are looking for your next fix, Paradise is waiting for you with open arms...
Product Release: Paradise Killer (US, 09/04/20)
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