「犯罪は『芸術』なんかじゃない！！・・・・どんなきれい事で飾ろうと、犯罪は悲劇しか生まないんだ！！」 『金田一少年の事件簿： 蝋人形城殺人事件』
"Crime isn't art! No matter how you dress it up, crimes only bring forth tragedies!"
"The Case Files of Young Kindaichi: The Wax Puppet Castle Murder Case"
Finally saw the live action Detective Conan TV drama special Kudou Shinichi - Kyouto Shinsengumi Satsujin Jiken ("Kudou Shinichi - Kyoto Shinsengumi Murder Case") broadcast earlier this year, part of last year's Kudou Shinichi e no Chousenjou drama starring Mizobata Junpei and Kutsuna Shiori. The first half was a fairly faithful adaption of Shinichi's First Case (though they still managed to mess up canon!) while the second half was an original story about a murder on a movie set of a jidaigeki. There was a sorta interesting locked room trick there, definitely better than most what we've seen of the current TV drama production team, but I still can't stand the cast of the TV drama series! Oh, and things get way out of hand when I think that this famous scene of Captain Tsubasa is less ridiculous than what Shinichi does in terms of kicking stuff in this special!
But enough about that. In better news: Kamaitachi no Yoru is actually getting an English release! I absolutely love the Kamaitachi games (see my thoughts on the first and second game), so quite excited to see the reception of a game that blends so expertly a mystery novel with an actual working game system! Oh, and this brings me to the main topic of this post. Games!
Meitantei Conan - Akatsuki no Monument ("Detective Conan - Dawn's Monument") for the GameBoy Advance is a very flawed adventure game featuring our kid detective. Which is a bit of a shame, because the story is actually quite good. Mouri Kogorou is asked to investigate rumors of the 'suicide village', which say that a whole town commited suicide. A gigantic hotel-apartment is built on the place the village used to be, and the owner of the building, Fujii Hidemi, thinks she was deceived by the construction company by not being informed about those rumors before investing in the building. Mouri and the gang arrive at the hotel disguised as guests at the opening reception, when suddenly a man falls from the top of building down on the main stage of the reception hall. And this is just one of the many, many murders (including locked room ones!) that are commited that night.
Like I said, this game is very flawed. It starts with the game-system which ties all actions to a time-limit. Doing something wrong depletes your time limit meter and running out of time means having to restart the chapter. The problem here is that everything costs time. I have seen this time-limit system quite often in adventure games when you are asked a question (forcing you think fast when answering), but it really makes no sense to give time limits to all actions, including examining items and changing locations. Why would I run out of time by going to the window?! Why am I punished for re-examing something, just because I wanted to re-read the description?! It means that you basically have to know exactly what to each chapter, as one or two mistakes usually means that you have to start all over again.
Removing almost all of the player's freedom also means that this hardly feels like a game at times. If I can't choose my own path anyway, I might as well read a book! I mean, the music isn't that great either! And no review of this game would be complete without refering to the awful, horrible, terrible mid-section of the game, where you are forced to interrogate twenty four suspects. All of them. One after another. And they all have basically nothing to tell you. You are forced to ask every suspect for their alibis for every murder (like I said, there are multiple murders) and because it would make sense to make this into one question ("What's your alibi for the murders"), you have to ask every suspect their alibis for every single murder ("What's your alibi for the A murder?", "What's your alibi for the B murder?" etc.).Twenty four times. And some other questions too. This part easily ranks amongst the top 3 bad game sequences of all games I've ever played. And I've played quite some games.
The story of the game is quite interesting though, with locked room murders and even a great alibi trick I've never seen before (but sadly enough, this also translated to a very bad game experience). The murderer is quite easy to guess though and I have to admit, this story felt less like a Conan story, but more like a Kindaichi Shounen story. Which brings me to the next game...
Sega Saturn), but I am definitely tempted to get a Saturn and Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo - Hoshimitou - Kanashimi no Fukushuuki ("The Case Files of Young Kindaichi - Stargazing Isle - The Sad Monsters of Revenge"), having seen several awesome playthroughs of this game. This is naturally an adventure game based on Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, but the twist here is, and I think that this is a first, that you actually play as the murderer! Yes, none of that waiting until a murder happens and slowly gathering hints until you get to reveal the identity of the murderer: here you slowly plan your murder and try to get rid of all the evidence! Can you outsmart the grandson of the famous detective Kindaichi Kousuke?!
It is sort of an inverted mystery, in the sense that you see all the events leading up the murder and the consequent investigation, with the big difference here being that you are trying to avoid the final confrontation with the great detective where he points out the little mistake you made. The concept is really original and actually perfect for Kindaichi Shounen. Yes, nearly all of the murderers in the series commit their crimes because of some great tragedy they had to undergo because of their victims and this is getting a bit stale after 20 years, but to literally see it from the other side: it's really a great motive to commit all these murders. Making things personal always works for these kind of stories.
As you start the game, you get to choose between two scenarios, which are related and play out like alternate universe versions of each other. In both stories a party is held on Stargazing Island, with guests like the idols Hayami Reika and Nagisa Chiharu, as well as some people from the press and of course Hajime and Miyuki. But there are potential murderers amongst the guests too (depending on which scenario you choose): the 'disappeared' idol Nao, who had to leave the showbizz world after getting involved a made-up scandal by some scheming journalists and Takuya, the fiance of Nao's manager who commited suicide after the scandal. Having found out that those responsible for the fake scandal are present on the island you, as either of the persons bent on revenge, try to get in to the Hall of Fame of Kindaichi Shounen murderers.
The game develops as a normal adventure game, where you have to collect information and make the right choices to advance the story. For example, you can get information useful for coming up with an alibi trick by talking to another person, or you might find out some useful habits of your victim if you choose to interact with him or her. The only difference here with a normal detective adventure is that you're the murderer now, but that makes it that much more fun. The meaning and impact of Hajime's catchphrases like In the name of my grandpa! or the murderer is among us! really changes when you're on the other side of things and whereas it usually gives a feeling of relief in the original manga, hearing those words here makes you think only one thing: GAME OVER.
The game is actually full of bad endings, which are not just simple game over screens. You have a range of possible murder methods for the victims, but while there is only one 'good' murder method per victim, the storylines featuring 'false' methods are developed quite comprehensively, each having its own denouement scene with Hajime and it might take quite some time for the player to notice that the murder method itself is wrong, rather that he is doing something wrong while committing the murderer. It sure lengthens the playtime, but in a natural and amusing way, as seeing Hajime solving the case doesn't feel like a 'normal' game over. Such game over scenarios are technically nothing more than orthodox inverted mysteries and thus feel 'complete' and not really as a game over. Compare to when you would play the detective and then fail to solve the case!
And the concept is worked out in hilarious ways too. Whenever you get a game over screen, one of your 'murderer' seniors, i.e. murderers featured in the series, give you hints on how to progress, almost mimicking the senior-junior relation we see in the series between Hajime and Saki (1 and 2). And because of the way the game is set up, you win when you succeed in killing all your victims without being found out. Which leads to the problem of someone else being caught as the murderer. Which is both scary and hilarious at the same time.
This was the only Kindaichi Shounen game to utilize this concept, but I sure wish there would be more of these games! Yes, there are tons of games where you kill people, but it is seldom this private and personal. It might feel a bit strange to take up the role of a planning murderer, but it really works in the world of Kindaichi Shounen.
So, with all this Kindaichi's 20th anniversary stuff, a new drama special and a new anime special... can I ask for a new game too?
Original Japanese title(s): 『名探偵コナン 暁のモニュメント』, 『金田一少年の事件簿 星見島 悲しみの復讐鬼』