『ゲームセンターＣＸ 134: 解決しろ！「探偵神宮寺三郎 新宿中央公園殺人事件」』
"A Lark cigarette? Was there a suspect who smoked...? Jinguuji is the only one smoking!"
"Game Center CX 134: Solve it! Detective Jinguuji Saburou Shinjuku Central Park Murder Case"
So this might be because of the whole connection with Japanese culture and the average age of bloggers out there, but is the only blog dedicated to detective fiction that actually discusses (detective) games at all? Am I the only one who uses a 'game' tag? I really can't see why a mystery fan wouldn't try the Ace Attorney games for example...
Anyway, I have discussed my random thoughts about observing other people while they are tackling a piece of detective fiction earlier, using the fantastic program Game Center CX as an example. In the program, section chief Arino Shinya (of comedy duo Yoiko) is locked up with a retro (and usually hard) videogame in a room, which he needs to beat. He has challenged detective games earlier, but luck has it that this week's episode was actually of the section chief playing Detective Jinguuji Saburou - The Shinjuku Central Park Murder Case, the first game in a series I absolutely love and have mentioned quite often here. In fact, I have sorta reviewed the game here too, so for the basic game mechanics I refer to that post. Anyway, as a fan of both the game and the program itself, I was really interested to see how section chief Arino would handle the role of the hardboiled detective and the case of the mysterious murdered girl who was found in the middle of Shinjuku Central Park.
What makes the Game Center CX's episodes with graphic adventure games so fun is the fact that Arino is forced to talk a lot more than usual. In most episodes, Arino's challenges concern action games and humour is derived from the fact that Arino is, to put it lightly, usually not very good at those games. And with not good I mean that is very likely that he will get stuck for hours on on just one level. Maybe just one part of a level (looking at you, Castlevania III episode!). Thus much time of a episode is spent on just watching Arino falling from a cliff again. Or walking into an enemy. Or accidently forgetting to press continue. Or forgetting to equip the super special awesome rare sword he spent hours forging, making him unable to fight back and die miserably. Which makes it seem likes Game Center CX is only fun if you have like to see others fail, which isn't true. It is so awesome because Arino keeps on trying despite failing constantly.
These events just don't happen often in adventure games though. Though to be honest, I was quite surprised to see Arino getting a game over screen almost immediately in The Shinjuku Central Park Murder Case, because he insisted on treating the police detective in charge of the case as a suspect. Interactivity and unpredicability of videogames at his best. Heck, I didn't even know you could get a game over screen so soon! Seeing him running around looking for 'the disappeared' Youko for a long time in the park only for him to find out that Youko is Jinguuji's assistent and just waiting at the office is just hilarious.
To make up for the lack of action and humour derived from the footage itself in this game, Arino just talks a lot. Usually it is just seeing him making hilarous comments about the game and the dialogue (he is technically a tsukkomi in Yoiko, or at least the lesser boke). But at other times you hear him seriously voicing his thoughts about the case and see an 'actual' detective at work. This is something really fun you'd practically never see in real life: see how a fellow 'reader' (in this case a gamer) handles a piece of detective fiction: how he interprets the evidence, how he thinks about the suspects, how he connects the little puzzles of the plot into one cohesive net of murder. To aid the TV audience, but especially himself, Arino for example has the neat habit of writing everything down on a whiteboard in a chart. He organises all the evidence, testimonies and his own suspicions in a grand scheme, with arrows pointing here and there. I know that some people indeed sometimes write these things down when reading detective fiction (I tend to keep it all in my head), so it is really funny to see how someone handles a detective story.
Which is made even more clear by the fact that this is a videogame. While there are limits to your freedom within a game, especially in older adventure games, it is still clear that Arino moves according to his deductions. He visits the people he suspects first and is clearly less polite to them (there is a threaten command in the game) than to people he thinks are innoccent. There are some psychological researches on how people handle detective fiction, looking at how people come up with deductions and hypotheses based on the story itself, experience with the genre and knowledge of tropes (see the attic for some Japanese sources). Because of all these parameters, very different interpretations are made of the same situation and it is within the realm of interactive detective fiction that you really clearly see what for results this can have. The way the plot develops in The Shinjuku Central Park Murder Case is relatively an on-rails experience, but here it was clear that Arino did same stuff different from me. I for one didn't get a game over screen five minutes in the game.
Arino makes some big deductions during the episode and is asked to make his final thoughts clear just before the big finale. Receiving a pack of chocolate cigarettes of the director Inoue (the legendary assistant director who only seemed to work against Arino when in cooperative play), Arino mimicks the smoking private detective Jinguuji and actually comes up with some great deductions during his play of the game. Or were it guesses? Fact is that he has an impressive track record with detective games (Kamaitachi no Yoru and Ohotsk ni Kiyu) where he keeps on solving cases long before the finale. Seeing Arino actually being incredibly good at games is also fun at times.
It was strange to see no in-game smoking scenes though, even though there is a special command to smoke. Yes, you can actually opt to choose to smoke in this game series and sometimes, it is even required to advance in the game.
Anyway, it was interesting to see in details how someone else solves a detective story. And even better that it was a game I know and like, in the setting of a TV progam I love.
Original Japanese title(s): 『ゲームセンターＣＸ 134: 解決しろ！「探偵神宮寺三郎 新宿中央公園殺人事件」』