Famicom Detective Club Part 2: The Girl in Back Review (Super Famicom)

Murder mystery, Nintendo style

Although I do review mainstream games like Fallout New Vegas and Pokemon, I like to think the goal of this site is to inform about wonderful hidden gems that most of us just haven’t played. In that light, this review is dedicated to the translation efforts of multi-talented ROM hacker Tomato and the rest of the staff at DemiForce for their pronominal translation of this forgotten Nintendo masterpiece. Wither you’ve heard vague details or know nothing of it, Famicom Detective Club Part 2 should be a game every serious Nintendo lover checks out. Why? Read on.

Story

Although the second game in the Famicom Detective Club series, The Girl in Back is actually a prequel to the first game and as such is a better place to start off with.

A 15 year old orphan (player named) in search of his parents meets a private detective named Shunsuke Utsugi and develops a bond, becoming his apprentice. Only a few months later, Utsugi puts the protagonist in charge a crime scene investigation.

Yuko Kojima, a 15 year old highschool girl attending Ushimitsu High, has been discovered dead floating in the local river. According to Yoko’s best friend and classmate Ayumi Tachibana, the two had formed a “detective club” and were investigating mysteries across town. Prior to her death, Yoko had been investigating an eerie ghost story turned urban legend in her highschool called “The tale of the girl in back”

Determined to find Yoko’s killer, the protagonist vows to solve the case and partners with Ayumi and sets out on his task. Little does he realize the truths that lay hidden and the true scope of the mystery…

Graphics

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is a menu driven adventure game from several decades ago. As such, there’s not as much eye candy as you might hope, but nevertheless the Super Famicom remake of the game looks fantastic. For the most part, the game focuses on talking heads from the shoulders up againstg backdrops of their surroundings which can be investigated for greater information. If you’ve played any of the Phoenix Wright or countless other Adventure games you’ll know exactly what to expect.

At a few key moments in the plot however, the view will expand to show much more detailed, beautiful portraits. The use of transitions makes the game almost into an interactive anime at some points! These scenes are very cinematic, almost like cutscenes you can savor by choosing to advance at your own pace.

Audio

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was composed by Kenji Yamamoto, whose other works include Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, almost every Metroid game including Super Metroid, Fusion, Zero Mission, Prime 1, 2 and 3, Mario Kart Super Circuit and most recently, Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Much of the music in Famicom Detective Club Part 2 compliments and enhances the gameplay. There are songs for every situation from somber music that plays when Ayumi expresses the grief over her best friend’s death, calm and cool music that plays as the protagonist cruses around locations in search of clues, dramatic music that plays with there’s a critical situation and more.

A few of the tracks damn near give me goosebumps, such as this one.

The original game made excellent use of the Famicom Disk System’s expansion audio, but the Super Famicom soundtrack is even more remarkable.

Gameplay

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is a point and click adventure game that focuses in large part on menus. The game is mostly told in first-person from the young protagonist’ perspective.

For most situations you can look around, speak to various people around you, present items to them, think about the situation and save. You do this by selecting the option you wish and pressing A. Think of the game as an evolution of a text only adventure game, but you can actually easily understand what’s going on.

As you play you’ll need to sometimes present items to characters, although doing so isn’t always such a good idea. Showing off Yoko’s photograph to Ayumi for instance usually results in the poor girl tearing up.

There are some situations where after you are told something, you’ll need to think about it. Thinking is the game’s way of allowing the player inside the protagonist’s mind.

The game is divided up into chapters like a novel, presenting the game in a manner best suited for play sessions that can last from anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. When you choose to save and quit the game, the next time you return to it you will have the ability to review all that has happened recently. This is is an excellent feature that is sorely missing from many modern RPG and adventure games.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful translation DemiForce and Tomato did. All conversations sound natural and with a script of I’d estimate of at least 20,000 words, there are only a handful of spelling or grammar errors. Like Mother 3 fan translation, it’s so well written you will find it hard to believe this is a fan translation!

Controls

Given it’s Famicom Disk System roots, the game doesn’t use most of the buttons on the Super Famicom controller. All you will pretty much ever use is the D-pad and the A button.

D-pad: Choose options in menus
A: Advance text, confirm
B: Cancel
Y: No function
X: No function
L: Close Scrapbook
R: Open scrapbook
Select: No function
Start: Pause

Frustration

There are some points in the game that demand arcachic trail and error gameplay in order to advance. For instance, there are literally several points in conversations which force you to ask everything you can possibly ask about, present everything you can possible present, then think about the situation, and then try every option again in search of a new response.

Newer games such as Phoenix Wright address this by having the word “new” appear next to a conversation path you have already had to give the player some way of knowing what to do next. Not here! This isn’t a constant problem, but you will find yourself scratching your head more often than you rightfully should.

Availability & Price

The original Famicom Disk games can be found relatively easy, but remember they were originally sold separately, and you’ll probably have to buy them separately, increasing your cost.  The Super Famicom version reviewed here was only available for the Nintendo Power Data Cartridge service in Japan, and Data Cartridges containing this title seem to be exceedingly rare, even in Japan. If I had to hazard a guess on price, based on other SFC Data Carts, expect to pay $70 or more for an original copy. The GBA port of the FDS disks can be found the easiest at around $30. In each of these cases though, you’ll be getting the Japanese versions.

I am currently inquiring into the possibility of a reproduction cartridge, but as of this writing, I’m not sure if that’s even possible. I don’t like to promote piracy, but the translated version does play perfectly on the Super Powerpak…

Audience

Fans of the Phoenix Wright series will eat this game up. The whole game feels like one giant Phoenix Wright case, complete with plot twists and more exciting dialogue than you can throw a novel at.

This game itself involves death, despair, the supernatural, has people smoking, drinking and soliciting sex and more; definitely not the typical child-friendly Nintendo game. In fact, Famicom Detective Club part 2 is the only Nintendo first party game that carries a parental warning and CERO rating of 15+!

History

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was originally released for the Famcom Disk System in 1989. the original version spanned two disks, and used each side to the maxim capacity. Detective Club Part 2 is a direct sequel to the previous year’s Famicom Detective Club which starred the same characters. In 1998, the game was re-released on the Nintendo Power data cartridge service.

The Super Famicom Data Cartridge Service, ran between 1996 and 1999 in Japan, allowed consumers to purchase special blank cartridges from vendors at a reduced rate and then either go to certain retailers or mail the cartridge to Nintendo through a service called “Nintendo Power” (had absolutely nothing to do with the American magazine).

The service offered a dozen or so titles, some of which had shown up as broadcast Stelleview games and were the only way of getting cartridge versions of these games. Some of these games included Super Picross, Super Wrecking Crew, Super Famicom Wars, and as mentioned, a remake of Famicom Detective Club Part II.

The Super Famicom remake of Detective Club Part 2 offered vastly improved graphics and sound and slight tweaks to the gameplay and story, as well as add in the dating sim element with Ayumi. Review’s advice: although randomly grabbing Ayumi’s chest is fun, its not the best way to win her affections.

For the third wave of titles marking the 20th anniversary of the Famicom in Japan, the FDS version of Famicom Detective Club Part 2 was released on the GBA. This version is the most readily available version and is probably also the cheapest.

Overall

Good

-Extremely well written

-Beautiful portraits and art style. As the protagonist states early on, Ayumi is cute

-The entire translation feels natural, keeps the Japanese names intact and through hours and hours of scrolling text, there are only a couple of spelling or grammar errors. That’s better than my track record to be sure!

Bad

-Trial-and-error gameplay; sometimes  you literally have to scan through EVERY option you have to advance the game.

-No SNES mouse support. Why the hell not?

-Occasionally confusing

-Finding a way to play it can be difficult

Conclusion

Famicom Detective Club Part 2 is an amazing experience and is much darker than you would expect a Nintendo game to be. It’s a shame that the series never really continued, but if you are looking for an engaging adventure game to sink your teeth into, look no further. There are some noticeable flaws regarding the trial and error gameplay of some situations, but this is indicative of the genre itself.

Data

Platform: Famicom Disk System, Super Famicom, Gameboy Advance

Genre: Text-based Adventure

Original Release Dates: May 23, 1989 and June 30 1989 (FDS), April 1 1998 (SFC), August 10, 2004 (GBA)

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: There’s not much out there from Nintendo in terms of games like this. Not in English, at least.

Similar games: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Game Length: ~10 hours

CERO: B

Buy, rent or skip: Buy if you can, emulate if you must, but damnit, just play it!

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8 Responses to “Famicom Detective Club Part 2: The Girl in Back Review (Super Famicom)”

  1. Well done. I’ve been working through this via my Droid while riding the subway over the last few months and I’m really enjoying it. It’s filled the void left by my need for something after Snatched and Policenauts.

    Great review.

  2. You have spurred my interest, sir. I will put this on my long, and awesome queue.

  3. Yoni van san Says:

    Hi !

    Very good review.

  4. http://mensengagementrings.ca Says:

    I visited a lot of website but I believe this one has got something extra in it.

  5. The music in this game is a straight tribute to almost shameless rip off of Dario Argento’s 1975 horror film, Deep Red/Profondo Rosso composed by Goblin.

    Check it out!

  6. Hi, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this post. It was practical.
    Keep on posting!

  7. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you,
    However I am encountering troubles with your RSS. I don’t understand why I cannot join it. Is there anybody having the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!

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