Saturday, May 7, 2011

「全部分かったで」

「そんなに時間はかからん。女心と違うて犯罪心理はわかりやすいから簡単や 」
『名探偵コナン蒼き宝石の輪舞曲(ロンド)』 

"Won't take long, that! Unlike a woman's heart, criminal psychology's easy to understand, ya know!"
"Detective Conan Rondo of the Blue Jewel"

Suddenly realized that the 15th anniversary of the Meitantei Conan anime is awfully a lot like the 10th anniversary of Trick: we have a movie, a television special and of course, a video game. And me getting caught up with all of it. The Conan game is a long awaited one actually, as it had been a while since an detective adventure Meitantei Conan game was released. Well, except for 2009's the crossover DS game Meitantei Conan & Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo. But that was a crossover, so it doesn't count.

The team responsible for that last, rather fun game is also the developer of this year's Meitantei Conan Aoki Houseki no Rondo ("Detective Conan Rondo of the Blue Jewel"). Mouri is asked to find out who the stalker is of actor Katsuragi Touma, star of the tokusatsu show Onimar. Onimar is a rival show of Kamen Yaiber and its popularity has grown recently because a real life Onimar has been delivering corrupt politicans to the police. Mouri and the kids are invited to the set of Onimar, but tragedy strikes when Katsuragi falls of a high wall during a stunt, dying instantly.

Mouri clearly didn't succeed in his job of protecting Katsuragi, but it seems there is more going in on the set of Onimar and it's all connected to the real-life Onimar (who has delivered a dead man to the police in the mean time) and the mysterious jewel Blue Dahlia. The Blue Dahlia is an Macguffin within the Onimar series, but it seems that an actual jewel named the Blue Dahlia exists(ok, it's a Macguffin within the game too). While Conan investigates the Onimar case in Japan, Kansai high school detective Hattori Heiji is invited by the brother of the king of Andel, together with other famous detectives and treasure hunters, to come to Andel. Here Hattori discovers that there is a connection between the royal family of Andel, the story of Onimar and the Blue Dahlia. It's up to the two detectives to solve this international case. Oh, and Kaitou KID is also on the cover, so yeah, it's not really a spoiler to say he makes an appearence too.

Like the Gyakuten series, or its spiritual predecessor, this game has several chapters, each featuring its own storyline (murder), but are also strongly interconnected through the overall storyline. Also like its predessor, this game switches between chapters starring the two protagonists (Conan & Hattori). Starting with the incident at the movie set, we are also treated to a locked room murder in a pharmaceutical research center, a dead body hanging from a castle tower, a murder within the Shinkansen, a murder seemingly commited in the room of the king of Andel and it all comes together in the Tokyo Sky Tower (=Tokyo Sky Tree). Most of these stories are quite decent actually. While you won't find groundbreaking new tricks here, it's pretty much on par with the (short) stories you'd usually see in the manga.


The stories are just kinda hindered by clumsy story-telling/implementation into the story flow of a video game. Meitantei Conan & Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo had the same problem actually; the individual stories, as well as the overall story were quite decent to actually good, but it was a bit hampered by clumsy game design. The game very seldom allows you to walk around on your own, instead keeping you on a very rigid path. It was like the developers weren't able to translate the story well to a game, so it almost always forces you into a certain direction. You also notice it from the context-sensitive button in the menu, that changes from Conan's suspenders to Conan's skateboard, his wristwatch and more depending on what the story requires it to be. The arbitrary use is very annoying and we don't need a full explanation every time the context-sensitive button changes. The partner selection system seems also a bit abritrary; as I can't imagine that the story would change much, depending on your partner it seems the only things that changes with your partner are a couple of throw-away sentences.

Anyway, the game is like most Japanese adventures; you walk around from screen to screen, interacting with characters to procure information (Three types: character profiles; testimonies; evidence). Sometimes you're forced to combine two pieces of information to create a new one, but it's mostly reading. And then you go into a grand finale of course, explaining what kind of tricks have been used and who the murderer is.

The 'confrontations' with the murderers are quite similar to ones in the Gyakuten series; you usually start an attack by finding a lie in something the suspect says (based on evidence) and reconstruct what happened, slowly filling in a big flowchart that shows the truth behind the case. While I like the idea of a flowchart, the implementation in a video game is a bit dubious: even if you only have an empty flowchart, you can still see that certain relations must exists between items; making it rather easy to just guess what should go into the empty spaces. On the other hand: if you do it like they did it in this game, where it's only possible to see the flowchart when it's filled in completely, then I question the use for it; I know what it says 'cause I filled it in just moments ago. So when is a good time to implement a flowchart in these kinds of games?

All in all it's a decent detective game, but it really feels like that with a bit more polishing this game could have been a great game. The game just has all kinds of design and story-pacing issues that aren't game-breaking per se, but it all adds up. The game is technically and graphically really like its predecessor, from the music to the way of telling the story and even the menus, but it seems the team hasn't improved on it at all. These are all the same problems I had with Meitantei Conan & Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, so it feels like a missed chance.

And the game's a bit easy. I understand that these Conan games are aimed at a rather broad public, so they usually turn out on the easier side of things, but it'd be nice if they would make a more difficult Conan game once in a whole. I mean, even kids of six who started reading Conan from the beginning, would be adults now (ah, eternal youth!).

For the Conan fan, this game also offers some bad mini-games (the same as in Meitantei Conan & Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo actually)15 jigsaw puzzles of the movie posters and (actually fun!), a Conan quiz. Which in contrary to the main game, is really hard! I mean, questions like What's the name of the old lady Kogorou and the others picked up on their way to the Twilight mansion? and Which day of the week did Mitsuhiko skip radio taisou? and What class did Conan transfer to at elementary school?. That's pretty hardcore. Even I say that, someone who has Japanese, English, German, French, Dutch and South-Korean versions of Conan.

Original Japanese title(s): 『名探偵コナン蒼き宝石の輪舞曲(ロンド)』

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