Master Detective Archives: Rain Code Review
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is an eerie and darkly funny exploration of murder, systemic injustice, police brutality, and capitalism. Think of it as Persona 5 meets Danganronpa with a cyberpunk aesthetic. It’s slick, it’s grim, and it’s often hilarious. This game took me to some dark places and I laughed the whole way.
Yuma Kokohead finds himself on a train with no memories and a letter from the World Detective Organization. He’s been dispatched to the Special Autonomous Zone of Kanai Ward, where he must work with the Nocturnal Detective Agency. Unfortunately, none of them know who he is, and they don’t exactly respect him.
The Master Detective Organization is an extra-legal organization dedicated to solving unsolved cases. It has worldwide reach and its investigators are called Master Detectives. Each has a supernatural Forensic Forte that helps solve crimes. But Kanai Ward belongs to Amaterasu Corporation, and the company isn’t interested in anyone investigating its holdings. The other detectives are eccentric at best and hideously maladjusted at worst. And the death god Shinigami took Yuma’s memories in exchange for power.
Add in a corrupt police force and a mysterious massacre, and things look very bad for Yuma. And that’s before Shinigami starts stopping time and dragging him into dangerous Mystery Labyrinths that manifest unsolved cases… cases that, left untouched, could begin affecting the real world. To make matters even worse, solving mysteries means reaping the souls of the guilty. In other words, to see justice done, the true culprits must die.
Go Forth, Proud Detectives
In the closed-off corporate-owned environment of Kanai Ward, Yuma must rely on his wits and Shinigami to seek the truth. And he’ll have to act fast. The dark secret of Kanai Ward may already be affecting the world. Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is a darkly comic adventure full of twists and turns. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers because this is a game that really does need to be experienced properly.
Suffice it to say that if you’ve played Danganronpa, the story beats will be familiar. And if you’ve played Persona 5, the themes of injustice and frustration with a rigged system will be familiar. Two great tastes that go well together.
The banter between callous, carefree Shinigami and vulnerable but perceptive Yuma is the backbone of the game. If you don’t enjoy their dynamic, you may not enjoy this title. There is a lot of dialog in this game and cutscenes lurk around every corner. Most of them star Yuma and Shinigami chatting, arguing, and trying to solve cases. I enjoyed them, but if you aren’t fond of the characters the game could lose its charm fast.
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is a Stylish Dark Comedy
Visually, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is a manic, surreal experience. Its visual style feels like Persona 5 meets Danganronpa meets The Nightmare Before Christmas. The result is a mix of neon colors, slick gothic art, cute characters, and ornate backgrounds. I’m quite fond of how this game looks. I just wish it had animated cutscenes to take full advantage of the unique visual design. The character designs are nice, but the 3D character models are stiff and often blurry. Kanai Ward is gorgeous and the choreography can be brilliant. The long, scenic pans over the city are absolutely breathtaking.
The soundtrack is as fun as it is eerie. Perfect for a stylish and playful game about colorful characters solving horrific murders. I’m especially fond of the haunting intro song and the dance tracks found in the Mystery Labyrinth. The character designs are stylish and memorable. However, the anime character portraits are far more expressive than the 3D character models. And while some cutscenes are fluid and gorgeous, the in-game animations can be quite stiff. The speech animations don’t match the voicework at all. The voice acting itself is pretty good, if a bit cartoonish. This matches the over-the-top characters, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Even in gameplay, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is dedicated to its aesthetic. Especially in the Mystery Dungeon, a manic journey into a surreal landscape of imagination and, well, mystery. I’ve complained about games with tons of minigames in the past. But this title makes it work. Each step of the Mystery Labyrinth is solved with its own minigame. This did a great job of keeping me invested the whole way through. And watching Yuma and Shinigami lay everything out after cracking the case is fascinating.
Eliminate All Mysteries From this World
Wandering around Kanai Ward, unlocking new areas and examining every object for Detective Points, is a great time. Everyone has something to say and every corner has something hidden in it. The map isn’t always the easiest to navigate, but I managed to find my way around without issue. And the mysteries are all delightfully complicated.
Reasoning Death Matches, the tense rhythm combat sequences where Yuma fights a manifestation of someone interfering with the case, are especially nice. You must dodge regular statements and counterattack contradictory statements. However, you need to have the right Solution Key equipped for each contradiction. Combat isn’t that hard by default, but you can use Labyrinth Skills to make it easier. And you get a bonus for perfect timing.
At about 40 hours of gameplay, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is not a short game, but it’s not a long one either. The mysteries have limited replay value once solved. However, the game as a whole is so entertaining it’s worth playing more than once. The cast is engaging and I’m eager to see more of them in the future.
All in all, I enjoyed Master Detective Archives: Rain Code and you probably will, too. The presentation is slick, the setting is gorgeous, and the premise is genuinely brilliant. Making rapid-fire deductions while dodging accusations and falsehoods is one way to make solving mysteries a heart-pounding experience.
***Switch code provided by the publisher***
- Fascinating writing
- Strong themes
- Strong visual style
- Makes solving mysteries fun
- Gorgeous environments
- Stiff animations
- Easy to get lost
- Low replay value