Release Date: June 30, 2023
Developer: Spike Chunsoft / Too Kyo Games
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Waking in a strange storage room, our protagonist dusts himself off and finds himself without memory. Unsure of who he is, or what he was doing beforehand, he quickly investigates his surroundings. With a strange voice echoing now and again, sometimes seeming to guide him, he finds a letter in his pocket. Perplexed, worried, and with just his name and destination in mind, he exits out into a train station in a rush to hopefully make the journey to learn of himself and his fate. This is Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, the latest game from the creator of Danganronpa.
Video games have long been a unique form of entertainment. With so many different genres and ways to tell a story, it’s no small wonder that titles like Master Detective Archives: Rain Code exist. With a heavy focus on the narrative experience and a bit less on action-packed gameplay mechanics, Spike Chunsoft’s latest endeavor is a bit of a mold breaker when it comes to what most players are used to. With a mix of adventure, mystery, and visual novel, Rain Code is very text-heavy, but with a lot of voice acting to make the characters and world that you’re exploring come to life. The core experience will revolve around investigating and gathering clues in an attempt to solve strings of murders as a rare “Master Detective.” These interesting and talented individuals possess unique skills that set them apart in the world of sleuthing – mostly supernatural capabilities that give them more than just a competitive edge in the information and fact-gathering world of solving complex mysteries.
Boarding the fateful train from earlier, our amnesiac protagonist Yuma Kokohead is quickly thrust into quite the cruel twist of fate. Several murders have been committed, and the sights have all been set on him as the culprit. The strange voice from earlier has been revealed to be Shinigami, a god of death that lends her abilities and assistance to a pacted partner – in exchange for all their memories, of course. With nothing but his name and his new partner to face this adversity with, Yuma is quickly introduced to Shinigami’s unique powers (and interesting true form) that could allow him to unravel the mysteries surrounding the mysterious corporate-controlled Kanai Ward.
Investigation is a key and crucial part of progression, with the game having some rather mature themes and not being afraid to get cheeky at every opportunity it gets. When you do investigate, different points will have a small reticle indicating that the player can interact with them, making it easy not to miss anything. When interacting with an investigation point, the player will be awarded with Detective Points. Acquiring them allow you to “level up” in a way, gaining Detective Ranks. The higher your rank, the more you’ll be able to do later on, so it pays to be nosy and investigate every single thing that you can. Answering investigation questions correctly throughout your adventure will also reward Detective Points, so making sure to pay attention and connect the dots whenever possible also has substantial payoff.
Shinigami’s unique ability and partnership grants us access to the second key component of progression in Rain Code – that being The Mystery Labrynth. After revealing her other form and getting us out of a pinch at the station where we arrived in the Kanai Ward, Shinigami proves to be not only a bit more cute than previously thought, but also a crucial asset when it comes to solving the toughest cases. Having dominion over this otherworldly space called the Mystery Labrynth, she can also generate keys for progression based on the facts that she and Yuma have gathered over the course of investigations. Interestingly, these keys are acquired by Shinigami literally vomiting them out, complete with bright colors and a bit of sparkle.
Boldly strolling through the labyrinth, you’ll encounter monsters that take on the shape of various characters encountered. Usually these are folks who are trying to hide or pin something on someone else, and how we deal with them is a unique type of movement-based combat that involves throwing our collected facts and data towards each falsehood in order to take down the falsehoods and claim victory via facts and data. Making sure to select the best refute will deal damage to the Mystery Labrynth’s version of your adversary and allow you to prove the truth, thus showing Shinigami’s true power.
Repeating this process throughout your investigation of the Kanai Ward, you’ll definitely be thankful for Yuma’s pact with Shinigami. The story definitely has surprising twists and is easy to get completely enamored with. I found myself unable to put this game down for the better part of a week, and was encouraged by being able to easily look over information I had collected to keep myself on track with everything.
There are a lot of brazenly perverse moments with our dear Shinigami, and if that sort of thing isn’t your jam, it could be a major turn off for you. While fan service has never been high on my own list of things I love about gaming, I didn’t find this to be a detractor, but to be more comical than anything else and embraced our crass partner’s approach to life. Who am I to understand a god of death, really, anyway? That all said, Rain Code was the first visual novel style game that I played over eight hours in a single clip, which is something to say for someone with very little free time. Give this one a shot, especially if you have ever wanted to play an anime series.
While it’s hard to follow such an involved series like Danganronpa, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code does a great job at encompassing the witty charm that players have come to expect from Spike Chunsoft’s games. It may not reach the greatness of what came before, but this new adventure definitely proves to be worth a look. The influence of past titles is very apparent, but what’s new is also good, and hopefully there will be more where this comes from as Master Detective Archives: Rain Code seems to be the natural evolution of what a good visual novel will become.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.