What They Say:
Kanai Ward – the city of rain – is gripped by innumerable unsolved mysteries, under the complete control of Amaterasu Corporation.
Master Detectives of the World Detective Organization, a group dedicated to eradicating the world’s unsolved mysteries, rise to the challenge of uncovering the truth.
Yuma and Shinigami must work alongside the Master Detectives to solve unsolved cases.
If you’ve read any of my recent visual novel and story-driven games reviews, you’ll know that I heavily lament the fall of Zero Escape, Danganronpa, and Ace Attorney; the games that made me fans of the genre in the first place. Thankfully, they are finally back with Master Detective Archives: Rain Code.
Unlike the two AI: The Somnium Files games, which are excellent and arguably better than this title overall, Rain Code is straightforward in pretty much being the successor to the Danganronpa series. It comes from the creator, it features a similar but elevated art style, the character archetypes are familiar, and more.
You play as Yuma Kokohead, the hilariously-named amnesiac detective who sets out on the Amaterasu Express to solve a grand mystery in the isolated and rainy city of Kanai Ward. Right from the moment the game starts, it lives and breathes its Danganronpa influence in its witty and goofy dialogue, and fascinating characters like the new lovable mascot in Yuma’s ethereal partner, Shinigami.
Spanning six massive cases, much like its inspiration, this game doesn’t hold back from the start. Its prologue chapter is the second-strongest in the game, despite being a tutorial, making for the best tutorial murder mystery case in gaming history (sorry, Ace Attorney).
It continues the trend from V3 of breaking expectations and tropes from the start while remaining surprising and emotional. This opening chapter also does a fantastic job of teaching you the ropes of its unique gameplay elements, which are both familiar and unique.
You walk around from a third-person perspective, explore, talk to people, gather clues after a murder occurs, occasionally do quick-time events, and then the bulk of the gameplay involves the Mystery Labyrinth. Here, Shinigami helps Yuma to figure out the truth behind the case and bring justice to the murderer.
You do this through a series of minigame-style sections that are very similar to the trial sections in Danganronpa. There are parts where you guess words, times when you simply pick between options, and a battle against representations of villains where you have to pick the right piece of evidence and slash them with it.
The gameplay isn’t too terribly deep or challenging, which I highly preferred in this game. There is a way to level up and upgrade Yuma’s abilities to make everything easier but I played through the entire game just fine without ever doing that.
I definitely appreciated that the Mystery Labyrinth parts, while repetitive at times, didn’t last too long unlike Danganronpa’s trials, which took an unbelievable amount of time to get through. This resulted in a tighter and more well-paced game.
That said, the main problem with Rain Code comes from the cases themselves. It definitely feels like the opening case and the final two cases of the total six were the basis for this game, and then the other three cases were thrown in to give the game more chapters and content.
I would argue that Chapter 0 (the tutorial) and Chapter 4’s cases both outrank 90% of the chapters from the Danganronpa series in terms of writing, twists, characters, and story. But everything outside of those two masterpieces are a bit problematic. In fact, I preferred the more “filler” cases from the core Danganronpa games since they contained more heart overall.
Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 alike are fairly throwaway with unsurprising events and predictable villains. The same goes for Chapter 2, which I guessed easily from the start of the murder, but it at least had better characters, setting, and heart.
And then the final chapter’s case, while emotional and beautiful, is marred by a core mystery that is way too easy to figure out. There was (spoiler alert) some easy room for a murder to happen then to make it more interesting but it chose to go in a less exciting direction.
Even still, I can’t deny that I loved a large portion of Rain Code, as it feels like the natural modern evolution of what Danganronpa did before. It also sets up a far more intriguing sequel in the epilogue that I hope we get to experience in the next couple of years. With characters like Shinigami, Yuma, and high school confidant Kurumi, the future is finally a bit brighter for visual novels and murder mystery games.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is the bright glimmer of hope fans of Zero Escape, Danganronpa, and Ace Attorney have been waiting for. While about half of its cases feel like filler with predictable villains and twists, this game at least nails how to begin and end a story-driven game like this right.
Two of its cases are better than the vast majority of Danganronpa and Ace Attorney murder mysteries, propelled by tight, varied gameplay that doesn’t overstay its welcome and characters that set the stage for a powerful new potential series that I hope to see more of.
Developer: Too Kyo Games, Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Age Rating: 17+
Release Date: June 30, 2023
Platform: Switch (reviewed)
This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.