A big part of why I was interested in Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE was my deep love of the Ace Attorney series. I honestly can’t remember who or what turned me onto the Nintendo DS rerelease of Phoenix Wright, but I do remember the late nights of whisper screaming “objection!” into the microphone. I had never really played a visual novel before, and the game’s incredible mixture of intriguing mysteries and logical deduction made it irresistible.
Naturally, when I saw Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE, I was immediately sold, looking like a fast-paced, action RPG mixed with the crime-solving elements of Phoenix Wright. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving as Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE is a frustrating mishmash of ideas, styles, and overall tedious design that made me want to stop playing with the same intensity that Phoenix Wright kept me hooked.
In Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE, Players take on the role of Yuma Kokohead (yes, really), a Master Detective who is stricken with amnesia after making a deal with a shinigami named Shinigami. All he knows for sure is he must head to the Kanai district, as the city is under the despotic control of the Amaterasu Corporation and plagued by a cavalcade of unsolved mysteries. Together with the other Master Detectives and Shinigami, Yuma must unravel the city’s many mysteries and solve the case of his own missing memories.
“I got to a point very early in Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE where I was just skipping through the dialogue because none of it was interesting and most of it was just repeating things I already knew.”
Unlike Ace Attorney, where the dialogue always felt like it was advancing the plot or adding flavour to it, I reached a point very early on in Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE, where Iv just skipped through the dialogue because none of it was interesting and most of it just repeated things I already knew.
I was hoping that once the gameplay happened—about four hours in—that it would make up for the gruelling dialogue and lethargic plot. But unfortunately, even that was a constant barrage of eclectic mechanics that just started getting on my nerves after a while. Much like Ace Attorney, Yuma must collect evidence during investigations in order to point out contradictions in certain suspects’ testimonies. However, borrowing a certain amount from Persona 5, this doesn’t take place in a courtroom or on the mean, rain-slicked streets of the Kanai District, but rather in Mystery Labyrinths, which, much like the Palaces in Persona 5, are the manifestation of unsolved mysteries.
Mystery Labyrinths are somehow simultaneously simple and needlessly multifarious. Players will walk along linear corridors—which only exist to facilitate dialogue—only to be stopped repeatedly by what are essentially minigames, none of which are particularly fun and all of which function essentially the same. One moment you’ll reach two doors that are marked with potential possibilities for getting a step closer to solving the mystery, another you’ll be riding down a crazy minecart with forks that are marked with potential possibilities for solving the mystery, and another throwing darts at letters on a barrel to find a potential possibility for solving the mystery.
The problem is, as I said, none of these moments are fun, and so often, they just reiterate things you already know in a way that borders on obnoxious. Sometimes, much like in Phoenix Wright, they try to throw you curveballs to make you reconsider the evidence for a certain statement, but since this is done in a timed action sequence, you don’t have much time to think and will make mistakes based on a lack of information.
Thankfully, since Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE wants to try to be an action game, mistakes only result in players losing a bit of health—except for when they result in a Game Over for some reason—so the punishment for messing up is usually minimal, or having to sit through unskippable dialogue which is annoying at worst.
“The problem is, like I said, none of these moments are fun and so often they just reiterate things you already know that it borders on obnoxious.”
But of course, there’s the main gameplay element, the “Reasoning Deathmatches.” These moments play the most like Phoenix Wright, where players must use their evidence to point out contradictions in a suspect’s reasoning. However, unlike Phoenix Wright, players must physically dodge the words coming out of the suspect’s mouth and slash at the faulty statements with their Solution Blade.
While I do like this style of gameplay conceptually, it too feels somewhat simplistic and needlessly complicated—as players need to manage their dodges Punch-Out style and cycle through the several Solution Keys they are given, all while paying attention to what’s being said by the suspect in order to slash the right bit of dialogue.
And the lack of a solid gameplay hook really detracts from everything else. The game has an incredible aesthetic – again, somewhat borrowed from Persona 5—and I kind of love the goofy, Gamecube-era graphics in the cutscenes. And the soundtrack is pretty good too, with a cool synth-jazz sound that fits the techno-detective vibes perfectly.
“There’s just something about it that never really felt fun or fully fleshed out and it doesn’t help that battles just kind of abruptly stop when you get enough solutions.”
But I genuinely hate how anime everything has to be, from needlessly repeated exposition to the overcomplicated yet pathetically basic character designs—Shinigami especially who goes from being a cute Yokai Watch ghost to a buxom Lolita girl in one of the most boring outfits ever for the labyrinths, complete with Sailor Moon transformation sequence. It also doesn’t help that Shinigami is kind of needlessly over-sexualized—to the point where she’s kind of hitting on Yuma who is an actual child, and it just comes off as super creepy, or how she’s put in a bikini for the barrel minigame, and gives you a “sexy” pose for winning it, that doesn’t remotely fit in with the tone of the game.
And that’s before you get to the end of a chapter that has you assemble a manga with all the plot points of the chapter you just experienced, only to get a LONG, UNSKIPPABLE cutscene recapping the entirety of the events you JUST. NINJA-FLIPPING. WITNESSED.
I have no doubt that there’s an audience for Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE, or perhaps the game is more than the sum of its parts. But for me, it just doesn’t work. Games like Final Fantasy XVI have a few extraneous cutscenes, but they are balanced by flawless and focused gameplay. Games like Yakuza have a lot of gameplay variety, but it feels organic and blends well with the main mechanic.
However, this feels like an amalgamation of ideas that never quite come together, and in the end, Master Detective Archives: RAINCODE just wastes your time. Just play Ace Attorney instead, you’ll have a much better time.