Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Phantom of Baker Street

『名探偵コナン ファントム狂詩曲』

"Behind this chain of events, is a rhapsody performed by a phantom..."
"Detective Conan: Phantom Rhapsody"

A new year, a new Detective Conan game! Looking back at the reviews of previous Conan games, I see they were all posted in May... That's because these games are always released mid-April (to coincide with the annual Conan movies) so add in shipping time and actual playtime, and you see why these reviews appear around the same time on this blog.

Detective Conan Musical Game series (DS/PSP/3DS)
Detective Conan: Rondo of the Blue Jewel
Detective Conan: Prelude from the Past
Detective Conan: Marionette Symphony
Detective Conan: Phantom Rhapsody

Azu Taishou Town is a Taishou period theme park and crucial part of the Azu town revitalization project. The famous detective Sleeping Kogorou has been invited to attend the opening ceremony by local politican (and driving power behind the project Igarashi Kiyoko, who also wants to hire Kogorou to locate a missing jewel for her. But things are not all well in Azu, as several murder cases happen across the town after the opening ceremony. A popular mobile game, Holmes App, and its mysterious developer Luna appear to be sole connection between the otherwise unconnected cases, but as Azu town is sealed off per order of an unknown bomb terrorist and police can't move, Conan and the gang will have to find the person orchestrating these murders themselves in the 2014 3DS game Detective Conan: Phantom Rhapsody.

Detecive Conan: Phantom Rhapsody is the fourth game in the musically themed Detective Conan game series, and the second to be developed by Spike-Chunsoft. Phantom Rhapsody is also a direct sequel to last year's Marionette Symphony, utilizing the same zapping system as its core game mechanic, a system where you need to 'zap' between multiple protagonists in order to help out the other protagonists (see also my reviews of Machi ~ Unmei no Kousaten, 428 ~ Fuusa Sareta Shibuya de and Marionette Symphony for more about zapping systems). Oh, and a fair warning, Phantom Rhapsody refers to the terrorist attack at Clover Hill several times and the big bad of Marionette Symphony appears quite prominently in the story, so you really should play Marionette Symphony before starting with Phantom Rhapsody.

As for Phantom Rhapsody's story, I think it's the opposite of last year's Marionette Symphony: Both games featured several seperate crimes which all tied in with one larger storyline, but while Phantom Rhapsody's individual crimes are quite right and it's fun figuring out who did it and how,  I think the overall story has some major flaws. Marionette Symphony on the other hand had a better overall story, but has pretty boring murders. For Phantom Rhapsody, you can expect a locked room murder, a detective vs detective battle, code cracking stories and even an appearance of the gentleman thief KID. Also, Phantom Rhapsody features the very first game appearance of highschool girl student detective Sera Masumi, who ever since her first appearance in the manga has been a favorite of mine! And yes, she solves a murder!

Last year's Marionette Symphony was not a perfect game, but it did manage to do something what few story-based games manage to do: link the story and the game mechanics (the zapping system) in a meaningful way. The moment it became clear why Marionette Symphony featured a zapping system, was amazing and really made an impression on me. This year's Phantom Rhapsody however is mostly just a rehash of the things we already saw in the previous game, just not as good. Only during a handful of events did I feel that a zapping system was needed for this story: most of the time they could have gone with a normal adventure game like the older Rondo of the Blue Jewel and Prelude to the Past.

The zapping system, and the information sharing Truth Card system, made sense for the story of Marionette Symphony: everyone was held captive in different part of the Clover Hill buildings with no mobile phone network, so it was natural to have multiple protagonists moving at different locations, each of them getting their hands on information that might help someone else. For Phantom Rhapsody however, the zapping system is not really necessary, as most of the time everyone is actually close to each other. The protagonists are mostly moving in one or two clusters, so why would you need to zap between six characters, if they're all standing next to each other?! Also, everyone can just use a mobile phone here, so why bother with the Truth Card system at all... In short, all the game mechanics that made sense storywise in Marionette Symphony, were just copied for this game, without actually having a good reason for that. Which is a shame, because I really liked Marionette Symphony and was hoping Chunsoft would pull something amazing again with Phantom Rhapsody...

As for game mechanics, Phantom Rhapsody has some new additions. Besides a witnesses-start-talking-fast-and-you-need-to-pick-out-an-important-statement system (borrowed from Danganronpa and Profesor Layton vs Ace Attorney's mob trials), Phantom Rhapsody also features Detective Battles, a confrontation system with RPG-esque elements (like in Danganronpa): at times you'll need to protect your Logic Points (=hit points) from random anger bursts of the suspects, but you can also replenish Logic Points and do preemptive strikes (with evidence, of course). The system has some flaws, but I have to admit these sections were quite exciting to do. But another new 'game mechanic' is obnoxious slowdown half of the time when you present a piece of evidence! I'm pretty sure that this game can't be that hard on the 3DS's processor...

In conclusion, Detective Conan: Phantom Rhapsody is an inferior sequel to Marionette Symphony. The elements that made last year's Conan game so impressive are not to be found here, resulting in an average, at times somewhat frustrating game. The seperate murder mysteries are okay, but the overall story, and the way it does not tie in well with the main game mechanics kinda hurt the game. By the way, for those interested in these musically themed Conan games, I think the best is Marionette Symphony, then Rondo of the Blue Jewel, followed by Phantom Rhapsody and finally Prelude from the Past.

Original Japanese title(s): 『名探偵コナン ファントム狂詩曲(ラプソディー)』

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