Saturday, May 18, 2013

運命の交差点

「怪人が飛べて、探偵に飛べんわけあるか!」
『名探偵コナン マリオネット 交響曲(シンフォニー)』

"If monsters can fly, there's no reason why detectives can't fly!"
"Detective Conan: Marionette Symphony"

Oh, I finally got my gigantic stack of books! And with gigantic, I mea that if I were to read one detective novel a week, I'd still have enough for more than a year. And that is ignoring the non detective materials. Anyway, it's finally back to reviews of mostly (but not exclusively) Japanese detective novels again! But first, a videogame.

Detective Conan: Marionette Symphony (Nintendo 3DS) is set at Clover Hill, a huge building complex designed after a four clover leaf. The whole of Clover Hill is in a festive mood because of its first anniversary. A foreign prince has come to display a regal heirloom in one of the towers of Clover Hill, the television studios located in another tower report on the event too, etcetera. But not all is well, it appears, as the owner of the buildings wants advice from famous detective Mouri Kogorou on some hush-hush issue. It just happens that at the same time Kogorou, his daughter Ran and their 'parasite' Conan are visiting Clover Hill, high school detective Hattori Heiji is present at the television studios of Clover Hill for an interview, a gang of meddling kids (the Detective Boys) are hoping to discover the truth behind a rumor of a flying man at the same building and phantom thief KID is planning to steal the regal heirloom on display. Considering Conan and the rest of the crew have been attracting murder and other crimes for almost twenty years non-stop now, one can guess that something bad is about to happen. The terrorist group Flowers of Liberation bomb the only bridge to the mainland and take over Clover Hill, with everyone inside as its hostage. The whole Conan gang, though seperated, has to work together to overcome the terrorist attack and solve some murders on the way too.

I wasn't too much a fan of last year's Detective Conan: Prelude from the Past, so I was not particularly enthusiastic when Marionette Symphony was first announced, but then the trailer mentioned Spike-Chunsoft and the inclusion of the Zapping System and I was on board. Chunsoft (who merged with Spike last year) is the developer behind videogames like Kamaitachi no Yoru, Danganronpa and 428, which rank among the best adventure games ever. The Zapping System is one that has features in several Chunsoft games, and has the player zapping between several protagonists on the spot, with actions performed by one protagonist, having influence on the world of another protagonist (i.e. protagonist A steals protagonist B's car; protagonist A is able to proceed, but protagonist B is left without a car, resulting in a game over for that particular character). Chunsoft had already used the Zapping System for the fairly orthodox detective game Kamaitachi no Yoru X3, but it was the first time such a system would be used for a Detective Conan game (for a more detailed explanation, see the 428 review).


The system is a bit different in Marionette Symphony though. This time, Conan, Ran, the Detective Boys, Haibara, Hattori and KID (and several other characters) all make use of the so-called Truth Card system, which is basically an application which allows the characters to share information. Characters have to use this shared information to overcome their own problems. For example, early in the game the Detective Boys want to listen in on a group of terrorists in the room next door, but they can't just walk in the room. However, another character happens to receive information about the airducts being wide enough for children to get into and shares that through a Truth Card, allowing the Detective Boys to crawl through the airducts to reach their goal. The player has to manage the information flow between all the characters and sometimes you'll be unable to proceed with a certain character, because you haven't acquired the necessary information with another character.

Another new system is the so-called Detective Time, where you'll find yourself in a pinch. You're given limited time to decide on the right action to undertake (while accidently choosing wrong actions will result in a time loss). A slightly cheap way to invoke thrills, but nevertheless effective. The moment the music starts, you will feel tension and it does match the slightly more action-based, movie-like setting of the story to have such moments. Other changes are the exclusion of the minigames and quizes found in the previous two games and the inclusion of an AR mode, where you take pictures of a Conan come alive through a augmented reality card (which also functions as a hint mode for when you're stuck in the game).

As a game, it is at times a hit and miss. The system forces you to zap way too often, sometimes from one character to another in the same location at the same time, which has no practical use at all! I couldn't care less whether I am seeing the same situation from Kogorou's or Ran's point of view, especially if neither of these characters are able to interact in meaningful way with said situation! Watching the same scene from a different angle can be interesting at times, but only if something new is offered. Not the case here. Story progression is also very linear, despite the possibility to jump between perspectives.


The story too at first feels a bit generic, but it becomes really good as it nears the end. The previous two Conan games (Rondo of the Blue Jewel and Prelude from the Past) both featured several seperate cases, which were only loosely tied by a main storyline. In Marionette Symphony, the terrorist attack is the most important aspect of the story, with the murders you have to solve in between (yes, the detectives find time to solve murders even during a terrorist attack) almost feeling like a sidequest (though still very relevant to the main story). It takes a while for the story to get momentum, but when it's on a roll, everything works. And Marionette Symphony has one of the greatest endings of detective fiction I've seen in the last few years: I don't mean that in the sense of most surprising ending, a suddenly revealed narrative trick, or a complex logical chain or anything like that: but the moment the person responsible for everything is revealed, the intention of the creators, everything they wanted to accomplish with this particular game becomes clear. Points I thought strange suddenly made sense and I can only admire what Spike-Chunsoft tried to do with this game and the way in which they accomplished that. Their own Super Danganronpa 2 had something similiar, but as a whole, I'd say that Marionette Symphony did it better.

Marionette Symphony is also great as a Detective Conan game, because the characters act like you would expect to them to do. The Detective Boys are very different characters from Ran, and the way they cope with the terrorists are naturally also not similar at all. The way everybody has a bit to contribute invokes a movie-esque atmosphere, which is absolutely fine for such a game. In fact, the story feels quite suitable for a movie and you wouldn't see me complaining if it was remade/rewritten for a special or movie...

Short story: definitely a must play for Detective Conan fans and those who have played Chunsoft's adventures. The game is naturally more fun if you know a bit of the Conan-lore, but it is a decent adventure on its own and shouldn't be ignored just because it is based on a license.

Original title(s): 『名探偵コナン マリオネット交響曲(シンフォニー)』

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