Master Detective Archives: Rain Code: A Thrilling Mystery – Nintendo Switch Review
It’s no surprise that Spike Chunsoft and Too Kyo’s newest game Master Detective Archives: Rain Code has some big shoes to fill, given that it’s seen as the spiritual successor to the popular Danganronpa series. Fortunately, with its smooth transition to 3D exploration, charismatic cast of characters, alluring visual flair, and tantalizing mysteries, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code stylishly succeeds the Danganronpa series by establishing its own name as an excellent mystery experience.
You assume the role of Yuma Kokohead, a young amnesiac boy who wakes up in a train station storage room with no recollection of who he is and how he got there. To make matters worse, you also discover that you’re haunted by a cute purple death god, named Shinigami, whom you signed a binding contract with prior to losing your memories.
Turns out you’re actually a Master Detective, tasked by the World Detective Organization to investigate the mysterious Kanai Ward, a secluded city controlled by the evil Amaterasu Corporation. The narrative follows this unlikely duo as they embark on a crime-solving adventure.
“Your partner, Shinigami, gives you the power of amalgamation.”
If you’ve never experienced a Kodaka game before, the gameplay of Master Detective Archives: Rain Code might leave you a bit confused. Imagine it as a captivating blend of a visual novel, a dungeon-crawling role-playing game, and a thrilling crime-solving mystery.
Throughout the game, you’ll find yourself alternating between investigating crime scenes, interrogating suspects, solving puzzles, and engaging in various mini-games. And when you’re not working on cases, you’re free to explore the vibrant Kanai Ward and engage in conversations with its citizens.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is broken down into 8 sections: chapter 0, a prologue, 5 main chapters, and then an epilogue. Additionally, there are also 16 side quests scattered throughout the campaign and a handful of collectibles to obtain to change up the gameplay pace. Once you complete the game, a chapter select feature becomes available, allowing you to revisit previous sections and collect any missing shards, unlocking extra cutscenes along the way.
Throughout your journey in Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, you’ll join forces with a remarkable ensemble of Master Detectives, each possessing their own unique Forensic Forte. These skills range from transforming into a ghost to sensing all living beings within a specific radius. Your partner, Shinigami, gives you the power of amalgamation, allowing you to share the abilities of your fellow detectives. They also introduce you to the enigmatic Mystery Labyrinth, a series of psychedelic dungeons recreated to mirror crime scenes.
“Fortunately, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is forgiving when it comes to mistakes.”
The labyrinth serves as the primary setting for deductive challenges in Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, housing a variety of engaging mini-games and puzzles. One such game is the Reasoning Deathmatch, where your Solution Blade becomes your tool to slice through false accusations and logical fallacies, guiding you toward the truth.
As statements are hurled at you, you need to dodge the incorrect ones by moving left and right. Then, you must use the correct Solution Key from your prior investigations to identify the right statements from the wrong ones. Be cautious, though, as incorrect slashes will drain your stamina. Fortunately, the game is forgiving when it comes to mistakes, allowing room for learning.
In addition to the Reasoning Deathmatch, there are other games to encounter within the Mystery Labyrinth. Some involve precision knife throws to fill in missing letters and unravel hidden words, while others feature thrilling chase sequences requiring quick reflexes and timely button prompts.
The game’s RPG elements come into play through the acquisition of Detective Points, which contribute to leveling up your Detective Rank. As your rank increases, you earn skill points that can be invested in a skill tree, allowing you to enhance your stamina or gain advantages in the aforementioned mini-games. This clever progression system ensures that every investigation undertaken by Yuma rewards him with experience points, making you feel as if you are progressing in everything you do.
While the Mystery Labyrinth presents itself as an exciting gameplay mechanic and setting of the game, it quickly loses its appeal with its repetitive environments and mindless walking. Aside from cycling through and solving the recycled mini-games and puzzles every chapter, traversing the dungeon can simply be completed by pressing the forward stick on the joy-con controllers. The lack of exploration or optional paths undermines any claim of being a true dungeon-crawling experience. Instead, it becomes a linear journey from point A to point B.
There are also severe pacing issues with the structure of each chapter. The end segment of the labyrinth revolves around a mini-game known as Deduction Denouement, which essentially requires players to reiterate their deductions in order to summarize the events. This repetition adds to the overall tedium and fails to engage players effectively.
One of the standout aspects of Master Detective Archives: Rain Code lies in the remarkable cast of main and side characters. Yuma is an extremely likable protagonist, and players can witness substantial character growth and development throughout the game. Additionally, the Master Detectives possess their own eccentricities, each showcasing a distinctive personality. By the end of the narrative, the collective team of colleagues and friends genuinely evokes a sense of familial connection.
In each chapter, Yuma is paired with a different Master Detective, introducing a delightful gameplay element as each detective brings forth their own Forensic Forte. This dynamic adds spice and variety to the overall gameplay experience, although, it’s a shame that the antagonists fail to receive the same level of depth and development as most of the protagonists.
“The art direction in Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is simply unparalleled”
On the other hand, I feel like Shinigami will be a hit or miss with many players, as she presents an extremely perverted personality that is very anime-esque. While she takes on the form of a bubbly purple ghost in the real world, Shinigami transforms into her true form in the Mystery Labyrinth, which is a provocatively dressed female that makes far too many sexual jokes.
The developers even went as far as to perfect her jiggle physics, with Shinigami herself referencing her chest size during a conversation with Yuma. I have no doubt that Shinigami cares about Yuma and wants him to succeed, but, sometimes, I’m unsure if she’s trying to seduce him or just be his friend.
For a game that is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, the visuals and graphics are quite exquisite. The ever-drizzling city of Kanai Ward is remarkably designed with its neon cyberpunk aesthetics. The rain-drenched streets, dimly lit alleys, and meticulously designed crime scenes are a testament to the developers’ attention to detail.
From the humorous submarine-turned-base and the visual bizarreness of the Mystery Labyrinth to the dynamic cast of other Master Detectives we meet, the art direction is simply unparalleled and an absolute treat to look at. There are, unfortunately, some performance issues, with frame drops and stutters due to the hardware’s limitations, and the load times are quite long.
“The narrative is excellently crafted and the story comes together at the end cohesively with some unexpected twists.”
The sound design in Master Detective Archives: Rain Code also deserves special recognition. You’ll be delighted to hear that the majority of the game is voice-acted, so you won’t be reading through mountains of text bubbles. The voice actors and actresses bring the characters to life with their impeccable performances, immersing you further into the narrative and setting.
Unfortunately, the English dub does not sync with the lip movements of the characters, as the cutscenes were probably rendered with the original Japanese voice. Nonetheless, the atmospheric soundtrack perfectly complements the visuals, intensifying the tension and heightening the overall experience.
At the end of the day, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is a mystery game. You’ll most likely enjoy it if you are coming from the Danganronpa series or are just a lover of classic crime-solving stories. The narrative is excellently crafted and the story comes together at the end cohesively with some unexpected twists.
There’s clearly a lot of ambition here with a game of this caliber, and for the most part, Spike Chunsoft and Too Kyo Games have succeeded. It’s by no means a perfect experience, so if you can see past some of the duller moments, then I guarantee that you are in for a wild ride.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on Nintendo Switch, code was provided by the Publisher.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code Review
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code stylishly succeeds Kadako’s Danganronpa series by establishing its own name as a solid mystery game. A bizarre narrative full of twists and turns set in a beautifully-crafted, neon-drenched world filled with eccentric characters – what more could you ask for?
Excellent cast of characters
Aesthetic art direction and atmospheric world building
Strong narrative writing with enjoyable twist
Repetitive mini-games and puzzles in the Mystery Labyrinth