Review: Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir & Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind for Nintendo Switch

Review: Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir & Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind for Nintendo Switch

Relive two Nintendo Famicom murder-mystery classics from over 30 years ago that were, until now, never officially released outside of Japan. Meticulously reworked and fine-tuned, both Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir & The Girl Who Stands Behind for Nintendo Switch stay admirably close to their original counterparts and provide some good old-fashioned detective work. If you’re a fan of visual novels, you’ll definitely want to dive into these surprisingly disturbing stories right away.

Both Famicom Detective Club games are written by Yoshio Sakamoto who, after dabbling in story-based, point-and-click games in the 1980s, later jumped ship and worked on the prestigious Metroid franchise. Having someone behind two critically acclaimed murder-mystery stories back in 1988 and 1989 isn’t something to turn your nose up at, and the sinister twists and turns in each title are a testament to his writing skills. As mentioned in our preview, the games never saw the light of day out of Japan, but even with the help of unofficial translations and a remake of The Girl Who Stands Behind for the Super Famicom (or SNES for the Western audiences), it’s only now Nintendo has chosen to breathe new life into them. And it’s a good job they did.

Admittedly, I’ve never played the originals – I regrettably don’t own a Famicom – but was eager to see what all the fuss was about. Thanks to growing interest halfway through my playthrough of The Missing Heir, I decided to go on a YouTube deep-dive to gain an insight into how these games originally played and looked. To absolutely no surprise, both titles look very dated with blocky characters, plain font, and the unmistakable plinky-plonky music from years ago. But the gripping story remained. Things improved exponentially with the resprayed version of The Girl Who Stands Behind on SNES, but both have now been recreated from the ground up for Nintendo’s latest console and they look absolutely gorgeous.

The story and dialogue for each game are almost unaltered and the language used is much the same but slightly tweaked for the modern audience. And, of course, each scene has been redrawn and carefully animated; it feels so refreshing to play two pieces of Nintendo history both in my hands and on my TV. From the much sharper and vibrant character models to the moody and melancholic haunted school in The Girl Who Stands Behind, Japanese video game developer Mages must be praised for their attention to detail and ability to retain the historic but compelling feelings from the originals. It also helps that, spanning across each game, there are a ton of locations to visit and people to talk to. It’s all tightened up with a complete overhaul in the sound department, too. I kept humming some of the most memorable songs while itching to make my way through the 10 or so chapters in both titles.

The Girl Who Stands Behind is a prequel to The Missing Heir, and for the purpose of this review, I’ll be talking about them separately. It’s worth noting here that each shares the same gameplay style and initial story pitch, where you take the role of a young detective to help solve murders in a sleepy Japanese town. It’s a point-and-click visual novel with minimum gameplay input, apart from a swift and short-lived change at the end of one of them (no spoilers here!). You select dialogue options and press in-game characters for information that helps with each case. Thankfully, a notepad function has been added to these remakes, which proved to be of huge help when I got in a tangle, especially in The Missing Heir. Still, the pacing is definitely on the slower side when it comes to gameplay. 

After waking up at the foot of a cliff with very little memory of how you got there, you’re rescued by a kind gentleman who provides shelter and some clean clothes. Dusted off and ready to face reality again – albeit with a very foggy head – you’re assigned a murder case to solve. With the help of your trusty colleague Ayumi, you head to a quiet town to question the members of the Ayashiro family. During the 8-10 hours it took me to solve the case, journeying between the handful of locations, I ran into a few moments where it took a considerable amount of time to figure out where to go or what to do next. 

Sometimes the game will highlight a dialogue option to select. It’s not spoon-feeding your progression, but on the odd occasion it showed me new speech options to choose from that swiftly led to another dead end. Frustration set in but, after exhausting all of my options, I found that selecting the same option multiple times would trigger a memory or in-game event to proceed with. This wasn’t a glaring issue, but it stopped me in my tracks and forced me to revisit situations with a fresh pair of eyes more times than I would have liked.

Compared to The Girl Who Stands Behind, which focuses on a spirit that’s showing up to haunt the teachers and pupils at a school, The Missing Heir has you unravelling the conflicts and motives behind the wealthy family that experienced a prominent death. The multiple twists and turns happily tripped me up; I never guessed the outcome and the pace in the last few chapters ramped up, helping to pick up the slight lull mid-way. But that makes for a great mystery story, right? All things considered, and the fact that this is a story that was written over 30 years ago, I was always compelled to delve deeper into its mystery, even if getting stuck in multiple dialogue loops hindered its otherwise intricately tangled narrative.

Set a few years prior to the events of The Missing Heir, you once again step into the shoes of the protagonist at the Detective Agency. With your memory firmly intact this time around, you set out to solve the mystery surrounding the untimely death of a young schoolgirl. There’s also the rumoured ghost of a former pupil to think about. Fleeting between the classrooms, an ominous old building and a bustling city and more, gathering clues and pointing the finger regularly helped to make this prequel more engaging with every chapter. 

That’s not to say it didn’t house some of the same pacing issues as the first title, but the story moved at a faster pace overall with fewer moments of frustration and shocking discoveries that elicit a ‘NO WAY!?’. Learning more about how the young protagonist progressed with their detective skills and the bond between Ayumi provided some light relief from the otherwise gory and ghoulish novel that never let up. Again, the curve balls thrown kept me on my toes and the conclusion, while not as surprising as what the first title offered, was still a very pleasant revelation. No stone was left unturned.

Our final thoughts

Being a detective was tough business. I was subjected to some uncomfortable murder scenes, countless awkward encounters, and my skills needed to pin down the culprit were stretched. But I had a lot of fun along the way, just more so with the prequel, The Girl Who Stands Behind. And taking a trip down memory lane with games that are deep within Nintendo’s provocative history was fascinating. I implore fans of visual novels to sit tight and sink your teeth into both stories – just be careful of who might be standing behind you watching your every move.

Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir 

7/10

Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind 

8/10

Copies of Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir & Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind for review purposes were provided by Nintendo UK.

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