Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Raven Chaser

「三郎、思考の樹を育てろ」
『ダイダロス:ジ・アウェイクニング・オブ・ゴールデンジャズ』 

"Saburou, nurture the Tree of Knowledge"
"Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz"

Last review of the year (not the last post)!

Tantei Jinguuji Saburou series 
1: The Shinjuku Central Park Murder Case (1987) [Nintendo Famicom Disk System]
5: The Unfinished Reportage (1996) [Sony PlayStation / SEGA Saturn] 
6: At the End of the Dream (1998) [Sony PlayStation / SEGA Saturn] 
7: Before the Light Fades (1999) [Sony PlaySation] 
8: Innocent Black (2002) [Sony PlayStation 2]  
9: Kind of Blue (2004) [Sony PlayStation 2]  
10: The White Phantom Girl (2005) [Nintendo GameBoy Advance] 
14: Ashes and Diamonds (2009) [Sony PlayStation Portable] 
15: The Red Butterfly (2010) [Nintendo DS] 
16: Rondo of Revenge (2012) [Nintendo 3DS]
17: Ghost of the Dusk (2017) [Nintendo 3DS]
18: Prism of Eyes (2018) [Nintendo Switch/Sony PlayStation 4]

00: Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz (2018) [Nintendo Switch/Sony PlayStation 4]

Novels
The Ghost of Shinjuku (2006)
A Bright Future (2007)


It was only a full month after the death of Jinguuji Kyousuke that his grandson Saburou learned of the death of his beloved grandfather, and to his utter shock, he also found out Kyousuke had been murdered. Kyousuke had been considered the black sheep of the Jinguuji clan, head of the Jinguuji Konzern, as he had moved away from Japan to New York in his younger days to escape the power struggles within his family. In New York, Kyousuke had become a well-respected and much loved private detective. Saburou suspects his grandfather's murder may have to do with his job, so he decides to fly off to New York to find out why his grandfather was killed. In New York, he is reunited with old friends he met at summer camp when he was a kid, but also with new allies, like Kyousuke's assistant Dan and police detectives Joshua and Hal. As Saburou learns more about the life his grandfather had in New York, he also stumbles upon the last case his grandfather was working on, which may have led to his death.  With the words "Daedalus" and "The Cursed Town" as his only clues, Saburou sets out to find the murderer of his grandfather in the 2018 Switch/PS4 videogame Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz?

The Tantei Jinguuji Saburou series (also known as the Jake Hunter series) is a long-running mystery adventure game series which started in 1987 with the Famicom Disk System videogame Shinjuku Chuuou Kouen Satsujin Jiken ("The Shinjuku Central Park Murder Case"). The series revolves around the titular Jinguuji Saburou, a private detective who operates from Shinjuku, Tokyo. With the support of his assistant Youko, Inspector Kumano of the Yodobashi Police Station and other friends, Jinguuji has managed to solve many, many cases over the course of thirty years of game history. The hardboiled crime stories often have a focus on human drama and lean towards the social school of mystery, but will also occasionally feature puzzle plot mysteries and other classic tropes, resulting in a very eclectic form that at least greatly entertains me. The most recent game in this series is Prism of Eyes, which I reviewed in August of this year.


But before the release of Prism of Eyes, it was already announced that we'd see another entry of this series soon, though in a completely different form. Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz is the first prequel/spin-off game the series has seen in its more than thirty years old history, and is set about 10 years before the main series, portraying a younger Jinguuji Saburou as a student, long before he became the ever-smoking private detective we know of the other games. From earlier games, we knew he had taken after his grandfather and that like his grandfather, he had also lived in the United States and that during his time in New York, he had first met his future assistant Misono Youko as both got involved in a certain case (as mentioned in the PSX entry Yume no Owari ni), but we never got any details about this past. Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz, which is written by the same scenario writer as of Yume no Owari ni, gives us the details of Saburou's time in New York.


Why Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz is touted as a spin-off title rather than as the newest numbered entry in the main series, becomes obvious the moment you look at the game. It looks nothing at all like the previous games. Sure, the character designs are always different each game, and I really like the character designs this time. But gone are the old-fashioned commands like "Look" or "Talk" which you use to interact with static screens featuring static characters, as now each location is depicted as a 360 degrees panorama picture. It's pretty to nice to actually be able to move the camera now and look all around you. Instead of choosing the "Look" command, followed by "Telephone" like in all the previous games, you can now directly move the camera towards the telephone and select it to interact with it. Functionally, it works actually precisely the same as in the old games, but it certainly looks flashier. (If you're thinking of Sherlock because of the floating text: Sherlock takes a lot of cues from game grammar). I guess the idea is that these changes allow the player to really experience the world through Saburou's eyes, interacting directly with everything and everyone, rather than using commands. I love the use of the panorama view based on real photographs by the way, which reminds of the real photographs used as backgrounds in previous games like Yume no Owari ni and Tomoshibi ga Kienu Ma Ni.

Gameplay-wise though, Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz is almost the same as the other games, providing a fairly linear experience. It's a mystery game, but most of the time you'll not be able to do any thinking yourself, as much of the story is streamlined: you can only continue in the story if you go to the right location to talk with the right person/find the right piece of evidence, and only then can you continue to the next location, etc. It's a fairly stress-free experience, but there's not freedom here. This game also introduces a so-called "Stance" mechanic (where you can react to a person with different attitudes), but in reality it's nothing but a multiple choice system, as there's usually only one correct stance to pick, and the game will eventually always force you to pick the correct stance.


New in Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz are the end-of-chapter confrontations, where Jinguuji confronts a person of interest with his findings. These confrontations are fairly simple, as you're basically asked a few questions, which you answer to with the discoveries you already made over the course of the chapter (basically, it's just checking whether you paid attention). Though these are one of the few moments where you can get a game over screen (besides a few select other points in the games), which is fairly surprising, because I don't think the series has featured a game over screen since the very first game!

So despite all the flashier looks, Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz doesn't really differ from the other games mechanically, focusing much on telling a mystery story, rather than really challenging the player with game mechanics that allow them to think for themselves, but how does it fare as a mystery story? Well, I really want to like it more than I do. I quite like the new chapter structure, with Saburou solving a major incident at the end of each chapter (previous games were more like one long story), but these incidents are usually incredibly straightforward. When you find the proverbial bloody glove with the fingerprints of a suspect, you can be sure that the clue means the murderer was indeed the owner of those fingerprints, and that it's not some kind of red herring. These far-too-simple chapter cases seldom make feel like you've uncovered something big like in the previous games, which usually started with a small incident (a missing woman or something like that) which eventually are discovered to be part of a bigger case (often involving organized crime etc). Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz does become a story with scale eventually, but the smaller chapter cases are far too short and simple, with very few shocking surprises awaiting the player. What doesn't help is it often feels like there are holes in the storytelling and direction, as if scenes or lines had been cut. Sometimes things are mentioned as if we had heard about them before (which I'm sure we didn't or at least vaguely) and sometimes, the direction of scenes is just too vague, making it unclear what actually happened until they discuss it afterwards ("Oh, so thaaat's what happened). It's especially the moments where they treat a fact as commonly known, even though it's only been vaguely alluded too earlier, where Daedalus feels off. The overall story of Daedalus has some really good emotional moments, but also some choppy moments because of this uneven storytelling. It does become a bit silly at certain points regarding the backstory, but overall, I did enjoy the story. Warning though: Deadalus starts incredibly slow and the first chapter, set in the past when Saburou was at summer camp with his friends Abby, Leo and Ben, is arguably the worst one too, so you have to make your way through that until it becomes more interesting.


Though I have to mention this: the events of how Saburou and Youko first met in New York as depicted in Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz, don't exactly match the story alluded to in Yume no Owari ni, even though they're written by the same writer! Which is more than a bit strange considering the concept of this very game was to give the details about the incident that brought them together! Also: Youko is depicted very differently from how we know her in the other games. She's almost... tsundere! Funny is how Saburou is still a minor in this game, so he doesn't smoke nor drink, which are like the two things he always does in the main series (heck, the main series has a dedicated "Smoke" command, which usually functions as a "Hint" command).

The subtitle The Awakening of Golden Jazz refers not only to the awakening of Saburou as a detective, but also to the fantastic jazzy soundtracks that are a staple of the series. To be honest, at the start of the game, I thought the music was okay, but not really fitting to the series, but as you progress in the story, the music also changes and by the time you get to the end, the music does really sound like something you'd expect from the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou series, so the 'awakening' of jazz as you proceed in the game was a really nice touch! The music of the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou is my default 'writing' background music by the way.

To be honest, at first I wasn't really looking forward to Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz, as the idea of a prequel game simply sounded rather uninspired to me. Having now played the game, I think my hesitations have shifted focus. Overall, I did have fun with this game, more than I had initially expected, and I am most definitely a fan of the graphical and music style they chose for this spin-off, but this game could also have been much more enjoyable if the storytelling had a brush-up, as many moments don't come across as intended because of clunky direction at times. I think the overall story works quite fine as a mystery story that doesn't quite feel like it would work in the main series, but perfectly as a spin-off prequel, but had the developers had more time to flesh out the seperate chapters too with more depth, I think this could've been a much, much better game.

Original Japanese title(s): 『ダイダロス:ジ・アウェイクニング・オブ・ゴールデンジャズ』

No comments :

Post a Comment