Master Detective Archives: Rain Code Review (Switch)
Kyahahahaha! Down the rabbit hole we go!
Available on: Switch
Genre: Detective Mystery Adventure
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Man, what could be better than just completing Danganronpa 2 and then diving into a new game Kodaka (and one that takes a lot of mechanics from Danganronpa too)! Picking up Master Detective Archives: Rain Code (say that five times fast!) was a no brainer for me, as I love mystery detective games and I already trusted the team behind it to put out a great, compelling game. Even taking away Danganronpa from the picture, I already played and enjoyed Too Kyo Games’ previous two games. So, did this game live up to my expectations?
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code has us following a young man who wakes up with amnesia in a station’s lost and found closet. Luckily, we do find out some of our protagonist’s info as we find out he’s part of the World’s Detective Organization (or WDO), his name is Yuma Kokohead, and he’s being sent to Kanai Ward’s Nocturnal Detective Agency. Kanai Ward has been isolated for three years and since then, Amaterasu Corporation has had an iron grip on the city and it hasn’t stopped raining. With Kanai Ward having it’s own “Ultimate Secret” and a lot of unsolved mysteries, including being behind the Great Global Mystery, Master Detectives were sent to use their specialized power (aka forte) to bring out the truth.
Yuma just barely manages to get on the train before it left the station and he’s greeted with four other Master Detectives from the WDO that was sent to Kanai Ward as well. However, Yuma ends up being the only one that steps off the train and able to meet up with other Master Detectives that were sent here. Well, the ones that also survived. This is also where you find out Yuma is actually a trainee rather than a Master Detective.
So who are the other Master Detectives that managed to get into Kanai Ward unharmed? There’s Chief Yakou who, while doesn’t have a forte, is still a WDO detective due to how excellent he is. He prefers staying out of trouble and quiet so Amaterasu’s Peacekeepers won’t have more of an excuse to mess with his agency, but you can tell how much he cares for the others. Especially as the running gag is Yuma getting in trouble and Yakou stressing over him. Next is Halara who is pretty analytical and straightforward, but only believes in money and it will cost you a lot of money to hire Halara. There’s Desuhiko who is the resident goofball perv that hits on all the girls and desires to become a superstar detective. We also have a resident sheltered airhead in Fubuki who is as sweet as she is forgetful. Though, I’m still not sure whether she’s dumb or just playing it up so her enemies underestimate her. And saving my favorite for last, Vivia who is pretty lazy and likes cozying up in unlikely places, but is hardworking when it counts. All four of these guys have their own forte, but it’s best to have them reveal it in the story than to look it up. Oh, and you can’t forget Shinigami! She’s the adorable, teasing, troublesome, needy, and kind partner that Yuma is stuck with (literally). Shinigami is my favorite out of all of them and she and Yuma plays off of each other really well. Though, I do see how she can be annoying to some (I even got a bit annoyed at her a couple times).
Across the game’s five chapters, you’ll be learning about what has been going on in Kanai Ward, helping the people that live here, solving any murders that happen, and butting heads with the Peacekeepers. You will be teaming up with a different Master Detective each chapter, as well as a different Peacekeeper becoming a threat, but you will always have Shinigami by your side…and Yomi gunning for you.
Overall, I really liked Master Detective Archives: Rain Code’s story and characters. I know a lot of people hate the amnesiac main character, but I do think this game executed it well. Especially when you learn of the twist at the end of the game. I liked the pacing, which I was so surprised that it didn’t waste time in getting right into it, and the story was compelling. I also liked how the various cases calls for you to think up of theories and solve it along with Yuma and Shinigami. Not to mention that the end of the game even had me tearing up and I was not expecting that. Oh the ending! I’m definitely not going to spoil the ending, but I will say that I was a bit worried about it and I’m here to say to throw it out. The last chapter is really good, the last Mystery Labyrinth is especially good, and the epilogue is good too despite the sequel bait. I had my own theories for why Yuma made a pact with Shinigami, which I was so wrong and yet I loved the actual twist and how it was revealed.
I also really like how the game handled the characters and I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers knew the Master Detectives won’t all be loved. If you end up not liking a character, even after they team up with Yuma, you gain respect for them. As someone that will totally drop something if I don’t like a (main cast) character, I really like this approach as respect is the second best thing. Though, I do wish we got more time with these characters and that’s including the Peacekeepers. The Master Detectives at least have Gumshoe Gabs, but it is weird that the Peacekeepers disappear after their chapter appearance. It also didn’t help I liked the Master Detectives in Chapter 0 and still want more from those characters.
Sadly, this also has the continuation of the Chapter 3 curse. I do like Chapter 3 as it does give us more insight on Kanai Ward and its people, but I feel like it’s the weakest chapter. I almost felt like we needed more time with the new characters Yuma meets and the motive for the killer seemed like it came out of nowhere. Not to mention the Peacekeepers featured in the chapter barely appear. The Mystery Labyrinth is also really easy. Like tutorial easy as I found it was easier than the actual first Mystery Labyrinth you do in the game. I do get the reasoning behind it, as it mirrors Chapter 2’s case and to serve as a “calm before the storm”, but it couldn’t have hurt to have it harder.
Anyway, each chapter has two distinct parts to it, the first half being in the real world and the second half being in the Mystery Labyrinth. During the first half you’ll of course be sliding into that chapter’s storyline and case, but you do get some free time where you can wander around and help some people by accepting and completing their requests. Requests are basically this game’s sidequests and they’ll usually have you finding something for them or talking to another character in another area (or annoyingly enough have you go to four different places). Some are even tied to characters from the previous chapters. Completing them will grant you Detective Points (DP)-which you also get through analyzing everything, talking to everyone, and at the end of Mystery Labyrinths-and will raise Yuma’s Detective Rank. However, requests are only tied to their chapter and will disappear in the next one if you don’t do them. Luckily, while there isn’t a dedicated free time section, you can do these anytime you can freely move around and you do get a notification for the chapter’s point of no return. Personally, I did requests as they unlocked so it wouldn’t ruin the story’s pacing too much.
You’ll of course also be investigating crime scenes with both Shinigami and whichever Master Detective is joining you for that chapter. You’ll be able to interrogate those surrounding the murder, look at all the evidence, having Shinigami turn anything notable as Solution Keys, and formulate theories.
Once you finish investigating all that you needed to and you get cornered by the Peacekeepers, it’s time to go into the Mystery Labyrinth! Shinigami will freeze time and will transform into her true form like a magical girl. This helps the portal to form and Yuma will be kicked into the Mystery Labyrinth where he more or less lands on his face. This also applies to the Master Detective that joins you for that chapter, but they do end up losing their memories of the case and will lose their memories of being in the Mystery Labyrinth. Shinigami will then puke up all of your Solution Keys (aka evidence) and Yuma will be able to bring out the Solution Blade (which also has a nice cutscene with it). The Solution Blade can cut anything here and, with the right Key, will slice through any contradiction.
You’re ready to go, so it’s time to solve the mystery! This is in the form of various minigames, which anyone that has played Danganronpa will be very familiar with. Each Mystery Labyrinth is also unique as the theme correlates with the case. You’ll run across questions where you have to select the right option to progress and do spot selection where you have to find a spot in a photo (or location) that answers the question. The one you’ll do the most is Reasoning Death Match where a Mystery Phantom will block your path. Mystery Phantoms are a materialization of someone in the real world trying to bury the truth, featuring a whole new look perfect for the Mystery Labyrinth, and you need to confront it. Wielding your Solution Blade and some Solution Keys, the Phantom will attack you with their statements. You’ll need to dodge these statements to avoid damage and to get past the encounter you’ll need to pick a correct Solution Key and slash through a contradiction. There’s also noise that will get in the way which you can destroy or not, but some will be able to hurt you if it’s one that flows straight to Yuma. I really liked Reasoning Death Match, but it is a bit annoying when you’re looping back to the beginning after wanting to hear everything the Phantom had to say as you still need to actively dodge. Especially if the contradiction you need to slash is at the very end. I’d say half of the times I got damaged in RDMs is when I was fast forwarding through it on the second (or more) time around. Luckily, you can get temporary invincibility by using Assist.
Shinigami Puzzle will also occasionally pop up where you’ll need to answer a question by spelling out the answer. Though, going with Shinigami’s personality, you do this by throwing your Solution Blade at letters on a spinning barrel Shinigami is standing in. Oh and it’s on a beach and Shinigami is wearing a cute bikini. This is timed and any mistake will result in time loss. Though, there are Solution Keys floating around that you can feed to Shinigami to get a hint…well if you pick one relevant to the question. Forgive me for bringing in a Danganronpa comparison, but weirdly enough I found these harder than Hangman’s Gambit. The only reason for this I can think of is that this game doesn’t really lead up to the Shinigami Puzzle like Danganronpa does for Hangman’s Gambit. Instead of it leading up to it, Shinigami Puzzle is used more as a jumping off point if that makes any sense.
To end off the Mystery Labyrinth, you’ll do Deduction Denouement and GOD Shinigami. Deduction Denouement is where you lay out the truth like a manga. You just have to place each panel in the correct place and while this doesn’t include false panels, most are locked until you place a certain amount. And afterwards, Shinigami and Yuma will narrate what (most likely) happened. I really liked this as well, though I really wished it was hand drawn rather than using in-game models. GOD Shinigami, which generally end a Mystery Labyrinth, will have the Mystery Phantom desperately protect the truth. Shinigami will become mega-sized, with Yuma riding inside her crown, and she’ll be able to jump, ram, kick, or solution slash any obstacle the Phantoms throw at you two. Not gonna lie, I loved this as it is very fitting for a last stand confrontation.
You have to be careful though, has Yuma does have health in the form of his Stamina. You can lose Stamina when you incorrectly answer something or during Reasoning Death Matches and running out means you have to at least start from the last checkpoint.
There are some more gameplay elements both in and outside the Mystery Labyrinth, like QTEs and crime scene reconstruction, but a lot only pop up once or twice.
Once you reap the culprit’s soul, you will then be graded on how well you did in the Mystery Labyrinth, gain DP, and exit the Mystery Labyrinth where the story will continue. And Yuma and Shinigami has to somehow convince the Peacekeepers to leave Yuma alone and those that randomly fell down and died are the real culprits.
Oh and remember Yuma’s Detective Rank? Well, this is where it comes into play. Each rank up you’ll get Skill Points (SP) and your Memory Cap will expand. The SP is used to unlock skills with will help you in the Mystery Labyrinths as they range from increasing his stamina to taking out some of the incorrect Solution Keys. You can then equip them as long as you have enough room on your Memory Cap, though I never found myself not having room
To get between the set pieces and minigames, however, includes a lot of running in a straight, looping hallway that alters its appearance in each section as you get closer. For a labyrinth, you will pretty much be running forward a lot without turning (there’s really only one labyrinth that I remember that has you turning and twisting through it). This was something I honestly could have done without or at least give us an auto-run option. It did get a bit better once I figured out that you can just wait until all the dialogue is done and then start running so I can quickly get to the next area whether it’s the next hallway section finally giving us the door or the game just doing a quick timeskip to when Yuma gets there. There was only one time this didn’t work (meaning I had to run all the way there anyway) and it was the last Mystery labyrinth.
There are also collectibles you can find as you’re playing through the game called memory shards. These are just blue balls of light floating around which you can pick them up, despite there not being an interaction pop-up, and are revealed to be statues of Shinigami in her spirit form. These are used so you can see memories of short interactions Yuma had with the other detectives that weren’t shown in the main game (or Gumshoe Gabs). Each Master Detective has five memory shards each for a total of 25 memory shards for you to find. Though, while some of them are in places where you can get them any time before the last chapter, some only appear in one chapter or during/after certain events. You do get hints on where each memory shard is in the Gumshoe Gabs menu and after you finish the game it adds what chapter they pop up in. I’m kind of torn on whether or not to use a guide as only a handful are hidden well, but then a handful are set deep within a chapter and the way skipping is here makes it annoying (especially when you miss it because a certain guide mislead you).
Are Gumshoe Gabs worth it though? Well, kind of. These fall in line with how Free Time Events were like in the Danganronpa series, though it looks like the team couldn’t find a good way to include them in the game so set it aside as collectibles. I’m not just saying it because I’m comparing it to Danganronpa, but because Shinigami has a “looks like you two became closer” line at the end of each Gumshoe Gab. Nonetheless, if you’re someone that liked Danganronpa’s FTEs or like quick interactions that give you some more insight on characters, you’ll probably like Gumshoe Gabs.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code performs pretty well on the Switch. There were a few instances where it slowed down for a second or two, but for the most part it runs smoothly. Though, with how pretty the game is, it does make me a bit sad this was a Switch exclusive as there is a bit of a blur on everything in handheld mode (which I prefer generally, but especially for visual novels).
And on that topic, I have to say how amazing this game looks. Everything is so pretty and I absolutely loved the artwork, the character design, and the design direction for Kanai Ward. The voice acting here is also so good. Everyone does such a good job and they fit their characters really well. They add a lot to the text and can be pretty funny. I even wished we got more of the Peacekeepers as I enjoyed their voice acting that perfecting fit as antagonists. Especially Guillaume Hall who perfectly does the “Oh you think you know this, but actually you don’t” tone. My favorite out of everyone, though, is definitely Shinigami.
Though, I did notice that it could have done more audio normalization as there were some lines that would be loud compared to all of the other voice lines. Like Yuma’s “huh” line that happens when interacting with stuff or talking with random people in Kanai Ward. Also while I do love Seth, his lines where he’s speaking through his megaphone could have been lowered a bit. It’s also a shame that lip syncing is off for the English dub during cutscenes. Half the time it’s fine, but the other half there’s just awkward pauses and you lose the gestures and the few visual gags that’s suppose to happen as they’re talking. I will say, though, that I do appreciate that they didn’t try to stretch the dialogue.
I guess a quick and easy way to describe this game is that it’s a mix of Danganronpa and AI: The Somnium Files. It has a lot of elements from Danganronpa, while also having a partner that always sticks by you, plays well against the main character, and does put you into another location to solve the case (someone’s subconscious in Somnium Files and Mystery Labyrinths here). There are some gripes I had with it, no game can be negative free after all, but I loved Master Detective Archives: Rain Code. From its artwork and music to its compelling story, it definitely reached my high expectations that I had. I especially loved Shinigami and all of her cutscenes when she’s in her true form. They’re all so weird and I loved it (and them being perfectly in line with her character was a plus).
So, for any of you mystery detective fans looking for a new title or Danganronpa fans that’s craving a game with the same feel, you can’t go wrong with Master Detective Archives: Rain Code. Just don’t expect this to be like Danganronpa or have any connection to Danganronpa (come on guys, lets respect Kodaka and his decision to move away from Danganronpa and death game stories). I really hope we get a sequel too and if it does happen, it’ll for sure be a Day One purchase for me.
I know we are getting four DLC chapters and it looks like each Master Detective is going to get a dedicated DLC since the first one is focusing on Desuhiko. Will I pick these up? Maybe. I think I’ll wait and see if these are worth it, but even then I’m planning on waiting until they’re all out. Though, personally, I wished these were featuring the Master Detectives in Chapter 0 since we didn’t get much time with them (and I honestly found them more interesting in some aspects).