The Famicom Detective Club titles were a fascinating recent arrival on Switch, with The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind both available. Quite a few members of the Nintendo Life team are playing them, and the general consensus is that they’re rather lovely — albeit admittedly dated — experiences. The blend of handsome updated visuals and sound with gameplay that strictly adheres to the original late 1980s game design is both jarring and, depending on your perspective, rather charming.
You do have the option, in both games, of switching out the soundtrack for the original retro beeps and boops, which is a neat feature, although to this writer’s tastes you’re better off with the new audio. Voice acting is another addition but, perhaps exposing the fact that Nintendo initially only planned to release it in Japan and keep the budget low, it’s Japanese-only. Of course, it could be said that this is a disappointing corner to cut — along with the fact they’re eShop-only outside of Japan — but as they’re visual novel experiencesanyway it adds authenticity considering the locations of both games. But still, it’s important to acknowledge that the option to switch voiceover languages would have been nice.
Another feature that might have enhanced the appeal would have been the ability to switch between original Famicom screens and the attractive new partially-animated art. These games are a part of Nintendo history, so that would have been a fun thing to do. Again, this may have been a combination of Nintendo keeping the budget low and actual technical challenges of working in English text (and other languages) into legacy code.
In any case, if you’ve missed them Nintendo has shared some rather nice comparison shots on Twitter showing how the games have evolved (and inadvertently teased what an art-style switching option could have delivered). It’s fascinating to see how original scenes were reinterpreted.
Taro on the Telephone
Our protagonist was clearly more feisty in the original.
Myoujin Mountain Hop
This is a real stand-out in terms of showing the creative effort and thought that went into re-imagining and expanding some scenes.
A fantastic scene in the new version of The Girl Who Stands Behind, definitely a major improvement in atmosphere.
Enjoying a Damn Fine Coffee
Both of these scenes look great, maybe the original coffee shop was a little more visually interesting.
We hope you’ve been enjoying Famicom Detective Club as much as we did, and if you’ve finished both games — or if you’re at least halfway through both of them — then there’s a neat little Easter Egg that you might have already found yourself.
In The Missing Heir, you’re given a speed dial number to reach the office of Kanda Law Firm by the butler, Zenzou. Dialing “*16” will get you through to the assistant, who will usually tell you that Kanda, the lawyer, is out.
In The Girl Who Stands Behind, you find out the number of Bar Sambora late in the plot, and you can call 007-1234 to talk to the bartender there.
But what happens… if you call the number from one game in the other game? We tried, and though it’s not groundbreaking, it’s a neat little surprise for anyone who’s played both games.
Anyone who’s ever played an old-school adventure game with a phone in it has almost definitely come across secrets, Easter Eggs and in-jokes before, so it’s pretty cool to see Famicom Detective Club rejoice in a decades-old tradition.
Famicom Detective Club is brilliant. Famicom Detective Club is also incredibly stupid, sometimes. But it’s still brilliant. It’s both, at the same time, like a child who’s just argued that, if glue is non-toxic, then there’s really nothing wrong with them eating a whole cup of it. Sure, sticky child! You’re technically right, congratulations! But you’ve also just eaten an entire cup of glue, and now your bowel resembles a kindergarten art project.
Famicom Detective Club comes in two parts: The Missing Heir, which first came out in 1988 in Japan, making it almost as old as Mario; and The Girl Who Stands Behind, a sequel which followed in 1989. The two games have never been released in English, other than unofficial fan translations, until now — and the remake, with new art, localisation and voice-acting (only available in Japanese) was a surprise that nobody expected.
Sadly, because nobody expected these games, other than die-hard fans, their reveal on the Nintendo Direct earlier this year flew largely under the radar. Many viewers — this reviewer included — had little idea of the provenance and importance of these two games, and they just looked a bit like another detective game cribbing from Ace Attorney. But, of course, they’re much older, and set up a lot of the tropes that Ace Attorney used over a decade later.
Famicom Detective Club — both parts — are about a young man whose name you choose at the beginning (ours was called “Badguy Murderman” because we are very immature). In The Missing Heir, he’s investigating a suspicious death as part of the Utsugi Detective Agency, despite only being 17 years old, and soon he gets caught up in much more than he bargained for.
The story itself is as you might expect from a Japanese murder-mystery: a dash of the supernatural, a rumoured curse, a question of inheritance, and a whole bunch of familial drama that will slowly ooze out like blood under a bandage. We won’t say too much here, because it’s much more fun to go in blind, but it’s a good story, well told, even if the idea of a 17-year-old detective and his high school sidekick is a little… suspect.
You’ll spend a lot of The Missing Heir alone, although each day will end with you and Ayumi Tachibana — the aforementioned sidekick — recapping the day and speculating on what it all means. Having played both games, it’s a little disappointing that Ayumi gets sidelined in The Missing Heir because she plays much more of a vital role in The Girl Who Stands Behind, but most of The Missing Heir is focusing on the protagonist’s own story, anyway.
Like Ace Attorney’s investigation sections, your time will be spent walking from location to location, looking at items, and mostly talking to people, like Zenzou, the butler of the mysterious wealthy family at the heart of the case, or one of the skittish, miserable family members who want nothing to do with you. But, this being a mystery, there’s an extra twist: you also have amnesia, because of course you do.
Famicom Detective Club shares a lot of DNA with the Ace Attorney series, despite being its predecessor by 13 years, and part of that shared DNA includes the frustration at not knowing what you’re supposed to do. Like other old-school text-based games, The Missing Heir is annoyingly hard at times, not because you haven’t figured out what to do, but because you know what you’re supposed to do, but can’t work out what arcane series of actions the game requires of you in order to do it.
One scene involves yelling the name of a character who isn’t in the scene several times, in order to scare the man you’re talking to into telling you a secret. Another scene might need you to ask someone a question multiple times, getting no answer each time, and eventually that character will say, “wow, you really care about this subject, don’t you? Alright, I’ll tell you.” One particularly annoying solution is to look at an item in the background, which will spur a character into a line of dialogue that has very little to do with the thing you’re looking at.
There’s an informal name for this phenomenon in old games: “cat hair moustache puzzles“, after the infamously ridiculous puzzle in Gabriel Knight 3 that required players to combine cat hair with maple syrup in order to impersonate a man that didn’t even have a moustache. Granted, The Missing Heir is not quite that nonsensical, but there’s definitely still a lot of “how the hell was I supposed to know that?”
But it almost doesn’t matter. The visual upgrades made to the game are above and beyond what you would expect from an under-the-radar remake of a 30-year-old Japanese title. The animation technology used to make characters move and speak is reminiscent of how TV show Archer does it — a lot is achieved with a little, and characters will tilt their heads, smile, and toss their hair with convincing personality. Be warned, though, that the images of dead bodies that pop up from time to time are pretty spooky, with realistic and occasionally gory detail, far beyond the rather gentle corpses you get in Ace Attorney.
A few other quality-of-life improvements include the ability to check the text log (by pressing X) if you need a reminder of pretty much anything you’ve been told — you can play the voice line, too — and, when you restart the game, you can choose to read a short recap of what’s happened so far. There’s also the notebook, reminiscent of Ace Attorney’s Court Record, which contains all the facts and rumours you’ve heard about people, plus their ages, names, and photos (if you know what they look like), and holding down the left bumper will fast-forward through text you’ve already read (if you turn the option on). As a neat little bonus, you can even change the soundtrack to the original Famicom bleeps and bloops — although the modern orchestral version is much nicer.
So, yes, You will spend a lot of The Missing Heir cursing at the game for being so bloody obtuse (although we have an upcoming guide that’ll help with that!) but you’ll also spend a lot of it hooked on the unfolding mysteries and getting to know the various personalities in the game. Once you’ve figured out how the game wants you to play — by repeating yourself, a lot — it’ll get a little easier, at least, and you’ll be able to really enjoy a ripping good murder-mystery.
The Famicom Detective Club remakes are living history, and a chance to catch up on what you missed out on, either by being too young, or not being able to speak Japanese. Though The Missing Heir has its faults, those faults are largely down to “that’s just how games used to be”, and it’s held up remarkably well all the same.
We’ve already covered a lot about the history and provenance of the Famicom Detective Club remakes in our review for The Missing Heir — the first game in the duology, released solely in Japan in 1988 — so you might want to read that review as well if you want the full picture, or you’re intending to get both at a discount.
Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind is quite similar to its predecessor, in that it’s a detective story starring the same protagonist, but, as a prequel that’s also a follow-up to the first game, it does a few things a little differently.
It’s strange to review The Girl Who Stands Behind as a standalone product when so much of it is so closely tied to The Missing Heir, and we really do recommend that you play both, if murder mystery games are your jam. Anyone who enjoys Ace Attorney will enjoy these games, even as they find similar sources of frustration as the way to progress is less than clear.
If we had to pick our favourite of the two, it would probably be The Girl Who Stands Behind. In The Missing Heir, a lot of the side-characters are quite unlikeable, or refuse to tell you anything for most of the game, slowing down progress by virtue of being a bit useless. You might have figured something out early on, but the game will lead you by the hand until it decides it’s ready to reveal it to you. The Girl Who Stands Behind improves on that a little, with a cast of intriguing characters who all seem to have a better motivation than “stuck up rich person who thinks you’re beneath them”, at least — but that linearity is still very much present.
The Girl Who Stands Behind is set in a high school, so you’ll mostly be talking to teachers and students, and circling around the same few classrooms to find new clues. Sometimes it can be a little annoying to be in the teachers’ lounge again, but as you get to know the characters you’ll begin to become familiar with their regular haunts.
Where The Missing Heir is about the main character (who you can name; we called ours “Badguy Murderman”) and a mysterious rich family with a secret, The Girl Who Stands Behind is about a school rumour that might hide something terrible. When a student’s corpse washes up on the banks of a river, finding out who killed her will invite the player into a much deeper story than they realise.
Like the first game, there’s a lot of supernatural weirdness going on. However, it’s a lot spookier — the titular “girl who stands behind” is a rumour going around the school about the ghost of a blood-soaked student, and you’ll spend a lot of the game expecting her to be right behind you at any moment.
A few other improvements have been made to the way The Missing Heir did things, although largely The Girl Who Stands Behind is a new story in an old wrapper, albeit a pretty solid one. The “Remember” option from The Missing Heir, which was tricky to figure out, has been replaced with “Think”, which is much more useful, and easier to figure out where it might come in handy. And, like the first game, you can choose between the modern orchestral soundtrack or the original Famicom music — but The Girl Who Stands Behind also gives you the option of a Super Famicom soundtrack, too!
It’s incredible how well these games stand up, three decades after release. The stories are intriguing, and full of twists, turns, and even an impressive amount of tension and fear (nothing too scary, mind you). The visual upgrade, which we praised in The Missing Heir, is still just as high-quality in The Girl Who Stands Behind, although The Missing Heir has a lot more “beautiful” moments of sunlight streaming through trees. The Girl Who Stands Behind, by virtue of being set in a town rather than the countryside, is a little more concrete buildings and rainclouds, but that’s alright.
There will be moments in The Girl Who Stands Behind where it feels a little like the game is hiding things from you for no real reason, other than to stretch the plot out. Characters will be missing from their usual locations for days at a time, and things that seem really obvious — there’s this one bit with a wall that looks weird, you’ll know it when you see it — often go unexamined for far longer than seems necessary. But Ace Attorney does all this as well, and if we can forgive everyone’s favourite detective/lawyer his weird little quirks, then we can let it slide with Famicom Detective Club, too.
After you’ve finished the game, you may find yourself wanting more of the adventures of Badguy Murderman, and we don’t blame you — but we’re not sure if Nintendo is aiming to continue this 33-year-old series, given that Capcom’s Ace Attorney production has slowed wayyyy down, and future Professor Layton games are all but dead in the West after Level-5 pulled out of their North American office. The future looks dark for murder mystery fans, it seems. But, if Famicom Detective Club does well — and it really deserves to — then perhaps Nintendo will see it as a worthy successor to the throne that it built in the first place. Layton and Wright, watch out: there’s a new, and much younger detective on the block. And he’s older than both of you.
The Girl Who Stands Behind is just as appealing and upgraded as The Missing Heir, and we really can’t recommend one without the other, although you can play either separately. The story in The Girl Who Stands Behind is creepier, and the characters are more likeable, though they’re also a little more forgettable at the same time. This double-bill of murder mystery games is a must-play for anyone who loves the genre.
According to Justice Smith, one of the lead stars of Detective Pikachu, it’s probably best fans don’t get their hopes up. During an interview with Inverse, Smith encouraged everyone to “bury” all hopes, as he doesn’t think it’s going to happen. Of course, if it does end up going ahead, he would “love” to participate. Here’s the full exchange:
Speaking of Detective Pikachu, it’s been a year since you were last asked about the possibility of Detective Pikachu 2. Do you think it’s still going to happen and would you still be willing to participate?
Justice Smith: I would love to participate in Detective Pikachu 2. I don’t know if it’s going to happen. I think we have to just kind of bury our hopes. I don’t think it’s going to happen. I really hope so though. Honestly, I’m such a huge fan, who knows, who knows? I hope so.
Would you like to see a follow-up of sorts to the Detective Pikachu movie, if it was somehow possible? Yes, we know how it ended. Or should Legendary work on some other Pokémon movies? Have you even seen this movie yet? Leave a comment down below.
We’re still weeks away from the Famicom Detective Club remakes arriving on the Nintendo Switch here in the west, but it seems they’ve already been leaked online. This information comes from software developer, gaming enthusiast and Twitter user LuigiBlood.
LuigiBlood shares a little bit more information, explaining how the first game hasn’t been translated previously and the second game only received a “fan translation” based on the Super Famicom remake:
“Yes these are remakes, the story is old, but keep in mind that the first game was never translated, ever, and the second got a fan translation with the SNES remake. The story isn’t really well known (especially the first game) so my point still stands: watch out for spoilers.”
According to a thread on ResetEra, the leak may be tied to preloads for the game going live ahead of schedule.
Sequels generally need to accomplish two things: they need to be bigger and better than their predecessors. Okay, if we’re being picky, they don’t necessarily need to be bigger, as such, but certainly better. Released back in 2017, The Darkside Detective was a surprise hit, boasting gorgeous pixelated visuals, a stellar soundtrack, and – if you’re of a certain age – hilarious pop culture references. Its sequel, The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is certainly a bigger game in terms of scope and overall length, and with small quality-of-life changes and less reliance on referential narrative, we’d also say it’s better.
Taking place right after the first game ends, The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark sees the return of protagonist Detective Francis McQueen. In the first of six new cases, Detective McQueen is on a mission to locate his loyal, dim-witted partner, Officer Dooley, who has been missing and is presumed to be in the ‘Darkside’, a supernatural realm filled with ghosts and mysterious creatures. The narrative tone of the game still feels very much like ‘Twin Peaks’ meets ‘Ghostbusters’, but the world feels far more fleshed out in comparison to the first game, with lengthier cases and a much larger cast of characters.
The gameplay itself feels relatively unchanged from the first entry: in classic point-and-click style you move between static scenes, selecting various objects of interest and chatting with the locals inhabiting each area. Items you’ve collected can be used elsewhere to solve puzzles, and you’ll often need to combine different objects to make entirely new ones. Selecting objects and moving between scenes is done via an in-game cursor, which feels slightly slower and smoother than the twitchy cursor found in the first game. Thankfully, if you do ever want to speed up the cursor’s speed you can move the left and right analogue sticks together in unison.
The six cases within The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark feel much grander than those found in the first game. The first case – Missing, Presumed Darkside – takes place across several different locations throughout the city of Twin Lakes, including an auction house, a TV studio, a junk yard, and an apartment. Occasionally, it does feel like some of the tasks Detective McQueen needs to complete have been included purely for the sake of artificially lengthening the narrative, but for the most part it flows reasonably well. You’re consistently introduced to new characters and areas throughout each case, with each being just as interesting as the last.
The biggest improvement comes with the writing. Where the original relied heavily on pop culture references, its sequel reins this in somewhat, focusing more on unique characters and situations. How funny or entertaining you find the narrative and dialogue is obviously entirely subjective, but there’s no denying that the developers have poured their hearts into making each and every character feel like a part of the world. Furthermore, the locations used in each case are tremendously well realised, and although the graphics are technically rather rudimentary, each and every location feels unique, and the game does a great job of making Twin Lakes feel like a very real – albeit very strange – place.
Unfortunately of course, not everything works as well as the first game. One of the biggest strengths of The Darkside Detective was its outstanding soundtrack, and while the sequel certainly retains the same synth-heavy style of tunes, they’re nowhere near as memorable as those found in the first game. We wish that the main theme from The Darkside Detective was also utilised here, as it felt like a fitting theme for a fledgling franchise, in a similar way to how the Stranger Things theme is now instantly recognisable. Alas, this isn’t the case.
On first playthrough, The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark will probably clock in at around 9 hours or so, with each case taking roughly 1.5 hours to crack. As with any adventure title, there isn’t a great deal of replay value to be found here, and repeat playthroughs will take significantly less time once you know how all of the puzzles work. Additionally, while you can play the game with no knowledge of the first title, we recommend you still play The Darkside Detective before diving into this game; the devs did include a handy recap cutscene at the start, but there are multiple characters and locations that will likely be lost on newcomers.
By cutting back on the pop culture references and focusing more on unique characters and situations, The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is a strong follow-up to Spooky Doorway’s point-and-click adventure. The game is certainly lengthier and grander in scope, and while it occasionally feels a tad bloated with unnecessary tasks, it’s largely an immensely fun ride with the same excellent visuals from the first game. If you enjoyed The Darkside Detective, then its sequel is an absolute no-brainer; for newcomers, we recommend checking out the first game before diving into this one.