The Kanai Ward needs you in our Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE review!
The Danganronpa series was an interesting exploratory visual novel series that enraptured players with its dark stories and investigations. Players who enjoyed the game and its spin-offs have been eagerly awaiting the next game from Spike Chunsoft.
Danganronpa has gone from a niche Vita game to Spike Chunsoft’s flagship series.
This patience has paid off with the arrival of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE. Published by Spike Chunsoft and developed by Too Kyo, this game promises new dark and twisted mysteries to solve set in a dark and foreboding world. So, how does this new game fair?
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE Review – Story
Looks like there’s a new mystery to solve. Rain Code takes place in a fictional pseudo-sci-fi world. Players are introduced to this by the character, Shinigami, a somewhat ghostly-looking creature with a cutesy anime voice however, she is not the protagonist. The second scene of the game is in a small room where the main character, Kokohead Yuma, wakes up. He seems to have total amnesia and is only snapped into action by a note in his pocket from the WDO, the “World Detective Organisation”.
The game’s heroes, Yuma and Shinigami.
What follows is a whirlwind welcome chapter where the tutorial is presented and a somewhat dark, gruesome mystery involving deaths of multiple people occurs, unfortunately claiming the life of many interesting characters. The story from there expands hugely offering more freedom and interesting characters to interact with and of course a multitude of mechanics.
Story is the main focus of the game, with a significant portion of gameplay devoted to dialogue and slower exploration. Almost all the dialogue is voiced in both English and Japanese, making it quite accessible even to those who are partially sighted. Every character, as is customary in anime-style titles, has a voice and script to reflect their personality.
Shinigami in one of the game’s more humorous moments.
This is excellent at giving players a first impression that is often accurate, yet what the game does with these characters can often be subversive for that edge-of-seat feeling. Unfortunately, in comparison to the Danganronpa series, the character roster feels a bit bland overall. While they can be enjoyable, the main team don’t play off each other in particularly meaningful ways. Many of the game’s scenes give players a limited amount of input, which allows for slightly differing dialogue, but completely deflecting the story trajectory is not possible.
The overarching plot is also quite intriguing and manages to avoid being overly cliché. This is threaded throughout various story events pulling all the chapters into one single whole, that has some great twists that offer up a fantastic payoff for players who stick out the entire game. Another interesting aspect is how the game works the narrative into every aspect of the gameplay.
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE Review – Gameplay
Some of the mystery narrative is trackable by the player, allowing you to visualise the contradictions and possibilities. The game presents the case information in a new unique element: Mystery Labyrinths! These eclectically designed areas are how the main character and his companion can piece together a case and ultimately come up with all of the answers.
These dungeons are linear affairs but offer up questions and answers the player should be able to put together themselves. The main draw of these areas is definitely the plot-driven questions and revelations rather than the gameplay itself, as traversal is very straightforward and limited.
Mystery labyrinths can be visually interesting even if they aren’t complex.
These areas also house the game’s “battle” system, which is yet another unique take. Fighting is all about dodging and thinking about the case. Players have to dodge statements being made by the enemies and then slash at contradictions to unravel the mystery.
However, to slash contradictions players need to equip the correct clue which can be quite challenging, especially in the later parts of the game. There are special abilities too that can affect the flow of battle, offering better opportunities to survive. It employs just enough strategic elements to be engaging while remaining simple enough to be fun.
The one thing it isn’t, however, is hard. The game employs quite a pleasant difficulty curve that keeps gameplay just challenging enough to be satisfying but easy enough to avoid game overs, except where they are instant. The main part of the game to offer game-overs was actually one of the minigames where players spell out words but with a short time limit, this can be quite frustrating as upon death players have to watch the preceding cutscenes again.
The game ranks player after cases and it can be quite harsh.
These labyrinths only make up about a third of the experience, with the rest taking place in explorable areas in the real world. Here players need to explore and investigate aspects of the mystery by speaking to people, taking note of unusual clues and covering lots of ground in stylish environments.
These all range in size with the first being as small as a train station lost and found to a major chunk of the city. The rest of the game plays out more like a traditional visual novel, with plenty of dialogue to listen to and read but with the added bonus of plenty of incidental animation work and fully rendered cutscenes.
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE Review – Visuals
RAIN CODE’s cutscenes really bring out the best of the visual design. Its use of stylistic characters and “realistic” environments has things looking slick and interesting. Utilising whatever brunt the Switch has left, this game squeezes a lot of graphical interest out of Unreal engine. With nice shiny materials that reflect in a decent way as well as environments packed with small details, it is a wonder how well it plays. These realistic but stylised area designs are a wonder to behold and at times look super cool.
Some of the more surreal areas just look mindblowing
Characters benefit from anime stylings, with pretty high-detail character models and expressive faces. Their 3D models match the 2D art perfectly bringing them to life with gorgeous animation work. Even though they are rendered so differently to their environments, the way the lighting works and the effects work means they are grounded in the scenes and don’t feel awkward. There is of course slow down when there are a lot of 3D elements on the screen, but this is thankfully not a common occurrence. The game has a tangible atmosphere, bordering Noir detective flicks, though this is attributed to the sound design too.
Unfortunately, the switch can occasionally crumble under the weight which the game tries to fix by lowering the resolution. But instead of managing to fully circumvent the issues, it just smashed the visuals into a pixel-y, blurry mess. This is especially visible when using the Switch in handheld mode. Luckily, the stylised characters are always visible even in “soup” mode.
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE Review – Audio
RAIN CODE has a killer soundtrack for the most part. The classic brass instruments and low strings of detective thrillers are ever present and some of the more action-packed themes like battling are quite adrenaline-supporting. It’s a wide and varied soundtrack that really cements the game’s atmosphere by making each scene thematically different and distinct. The composer Masafumi Takada makes great use of synthesised and real sounds to highlight the more cyberpunk-esque aesthetic and it is truly great to listen to.
Detectives’ Theme perfectly fits the atmosphere.
Funky noir vibes in “Crime Scene”.
When it comes to sound effects, most of these are great too. The main discovery sound is satisfying especially when the player hits the level-up chime. However, where the sound can struggle is with voice acting. As stated earlier most characters sound great but some can really grate. This is especially true of the English dub, the actors do a decent job but some characters just feel odd and the lip-synch is unfortunately pretty poor, however, players can change to the original Japanese voices which removes the majority of the issues.
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE Review – What Else?
There isn’t a huge amount of side content in Rain Code that isn’t directly tied to the main story, but it does have collectable memory shards that unlock memories of the main character and contribute to the options available in the Labyrinths. They are numerous and worth collecting where possible for their usefulness.
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is an incredibly intriguing experience. It offers a solid set of mysteries and a fun and somewhat unpredictable overarching plot. The unique way the story is presented and the cool gameplay elements like piecing cases together and the battles really make this a fun time. It’s not perfect, but it is a solid recommendation for Switch owners looking for a dark and mysterious title that will make their brains work hard.
So, why should you play Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE?
- Fantastic story that really makes you think at times
- Fun gameplay systems that tie into being a detective
- Really cool art-style and music
- You enjoyed Danganronpa
- It’s a unique experience that isn’t comparable to much
But why shouldn’t you play Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE?
- Very linear labyrinths
- Some boring characters
- Can be dark and gruesome
- You dislike a lot of reading
- Some performance issues and soupy visuals
A review code was kindly provided by Nintendo Australia for the purpose of this review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check our review The Great Ace Attorney and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us all about RAIN CODE!