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access_time June 1, 2021 at 6:00 AM in Reviews by David Poole

Review | Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind

After playing Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir, I set my expectations for the remake of the prequel story. I thought I knew what kind of game I was getting, but color me surprised after playing Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind. It’s actually a better game, and while it shares some of the same issues with The Missing Heir, it compensates for the shortcomings in other ways. Thanks to developer Mages, the three decade-old game gets a pretty faithful remake.

The Girl Who Stands Behind takes place at the beginning of the Famicom Detective Club story, two years before The Missing Heir. Our protagonist is settling in at the Utsugi Detective Agency after being taken in as an assistant by Shunsuke Utsugi. After helping with several cases, the two are suddenly called in to investigate the murder of a young high school girl. With our protagonist being a 15 year-old boy, Utsugi determines him to be perfect to getting to the bottom of the case. This means investigating the school, the students, and the various teachers. Along the way, he’ll meet Ayumi Tachibana, a friend of the deceased who helps him track down clues of this mystery.

What really makes The Girl Who Stands Behind great is the horror themes that elevate the story. A legend in the school spreads like wildfire, getting people to talk about the ghost of a girl. As everyone gets spooked, it makes for some interesting dialogue and overall a more compelling mystery. While I was able to predict the biggest plot points of The Missing Heir, The Girl Who Stands Behind kept me guessing until the final moments. Even after finishing the game, I’m still not sure if everything was as it seemed. It honestly feels like the original developers found their hook for this entry, making for a more interesting game.

Not only does the ghost story element have a big presence, but the game throws you off with more humor and charm. While there was light bits of humor in The Missing Heir, The Girl Who Stands Behind is full of fun moments to break the tension. Sometimes it gets to be a bit much, but it manages to add so much more charm. With the updated visuals from Mages, it really helps to amplify the narrative. Some visual gags, some excellent voice delivery, and even the thoughts of the protagonist provide a good few chuckles. It makes the game feel more like an Ace Attorney game, which balances the serious crimes with the absurd comedy.

While the horror and comedic moments really elevate the game, this prequel does more with the gameplay too. At key moments, characters will ask you to fill in blank lines with a specific name or item. This happened once in The Missing Heir, but it’s a pretty prominent feature here. Other features include speaking with multiple characters at once, or even a hidden personality assessment. That’s right. At the end of the game, players are treated to a personality assessment based on their choices. If they made the “right” choices, then the game determines their compatibility with Ayumi. If they’re not fully compatible, then they’ll be humorously paired up with another girl in the storyline.

It also helps that the protagonist doesn’t have amnesia in this game. Not having to deal with lost memories really makes for a better pace. Of course, there’s still moments where you’ll have to select various questions multiple times to progress. Other situations will require moving between locations to discover something new. Sometimes these methods can truly stump you, but with my previous experience, I was able to push through. In some cases, it felt more straightforward than it was in the previous game. With that in mind, it’s still not great in the game design department. That isn’t the fault of the remake developers, but some quality of life updates are still ideal.

While reviewing The Missing Heir, we made a mistake regarding the cursor movement speed. One of the nice quality of life changes is the ability to speed up cursor speed by holding down the left analog stick. The game isn’t very clear about the improvement, but it’s still nice to have. It makes examinations and investigations much quicker, though it would’ve been nice to have touch screen support. Even an option to set a cursor speed permanently would’ve been better than holding the left analog stick. Either way, The Girl Who Stands Behind just has much more interesting areas to investigate.

One notable thing that makes The Girl Who Stands Behind stand out is the cast. The game offers a much more likable cast of characters, offering students, teachers, a very persistent drunk, and even Detective Utsugi himself. Several characters make the game more interesting, giving more charm to the title. Characters like Hitomi or even a rather friendly escort help to liven things up in an otherwise serious genre. The Japanese voices behind the characters do well to express these charms as well. Everyone performs admirably and gives off the right emotions during the line delivery, and it shows.

Just as it was in The Missing Heir, The Girl Who Stands Behind also offers newly arranged music. Players will have the choice to use either the original 8-bit soundtrack or the new arrangements by Takeshi Abo. The new arrangements bring a solid update to the retro track without straying too far from the source material. I did notice one area with the sound design involving a broken clock that was apparently still ticking. It’s a minor complaint, but I really spent extra time focused on a clock that seemed to create a contradiction.

Overall, Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind provides a more entertaining adventure. The cast of characters give off a lot of charm and humor, and the horror themes add an extra layer of intrigue. With a beautiful update to the visuals and a more modern presentation, those that were interested in the series can now officially play the definitive version. While The Missing Heir stumbles in being predictable and more frustrating, The Girl Who Stands Behind finds a much better balance. With many twists and turns, and a few close calls, this adventure is definitely worth taking.

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10

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