By Leah McDonald / July 26th, 2021
|Title||Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind|
|Release Date||May 14, 2021|
|Genre||Murder-mystery, Detective, Visual novel, Graphic adventure|
I recently finished Nintendo’s Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir, which I thought was pretty good for being a 30-year-old game. Nintendo was kind enough to provide me a copy of its prequel, Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind, and while it’s much of the same as its sister game, there’s still plenty to talk about in this engaging ghost story, so let’s get into it.
Set two years prior to The Missing Heir, The Girl Who Stands Behind introduces us to the Protagonist and his first meeting with famous detective, Utsugi, and subsequent solo investigation as a member of the Utsugi Detective Agency. A high school student has been murdered, and it’s up to the Protagonist to find her killer. Thanks to his age, he’s the perfect choice to interview students at Ushimitsu High School, where Yoko Kojima attended. The girl’s best friend is a familiar face to those who played The Missing Heir: It’s Ayumi, and she’s desperate to help find Yoko’s killer. Together, the Protagonist and Ayumi begin to investigate, and in the process run headlong into the school’s legend of The Girl Who Stands Behind. Who is she? Why was Yoko looking into this ghost story? And how does it all tie into a 15-year-old murder case?
This is honestly where The Girl Who Stands Behind shines. While I think Myoujin Village and the Ayashiro estate had the more memorable and charming locales, the mystery of TGWSB is infinitely more compelling. Both ostensibly deal with haunted legends, but the school setting and cast of characters feels way more engaging than a remote village and rich family estate. Maybe it’s the familiarity of it all. Ghost stories are inherently fun, and setting one in a school pits the mundane against the supernatural in a way that hits harder than having that same mystery tied to a single family in a mountain village. And while The Missing Heir‘s cast was slightly more quirky, I connected a lot more with TGWSB‘s characters, probably because of that shared school experience. I found the writing a bit snappier and there were a lot more humorous moments, too. There were also some genuinely creepy ones, so kudos to Nintendo for the chills.
Speaking of characters, Ayumi really has the chance to stand out here. In the first game, she assisted the Protagonist off-screen and would go over the events of the day with him, but here she’s an ever-present member of the group who also has personal stakes in the outcome. It was her best friend who was murdered, after all. You get to see her vulnerability, assertiveness, and ingenuity in equal parts, and I was glad to have the chance to really get to know her as a character. Her voice actress does a great job conveying a lot of her emotions, as well. The entire cast is just superbly acted, honestly. That being said, like its predecessor, this prequel’s story is not the most ground breaking, and I was able to figure out the majority of the plot beats ahead of time, but following through on the mystery and seeing where I was right, where I was wrong, and which red herrings I’d fallen for was thoroughly entertaining.
Gameplay also saw some minor tweaks in this title. The main conceit in The Missing Heir was “Remember” and tied in nicely with the Protagonist’s amnesia. Here, the conceit is to simply “Think,” which makes sense in that the Protagonist is finally proving himself capable on his first solo venture as a member of the Utsugi Detective Agency, but it lacks the thematic cohesiveness I liked in the first game. That being said, deduction in TGWSB is a lot more frequent, testing your knowledge and how much you’ve paid attention. I really liked this aspect of the game. It put me in the shoes of a detective in a more engaging manner than the single time I got to in Missing Heir. Unfortunately, TGWSB shares some of its predecessor’s problems with menu selection and needing to exhaust all dialogue options before it finally lets you do the thing you knew you had to do three choices ago. Again, this can be chalked up to a design philosophy of the time, but it does feel clunky and frustrating, especially when it’s pace breaking. The game moves at a nice, quick clip, and getting stuck in the menu incessantly choosing every option multiple times until the game allows me to progress was not my idea of fun.
I liked The Girl Who Stands Behind quite a bit. It’s basically just a more refined version of The Missing Heir, but that isn’t a bad thing. (And for the record, you can play the games in any order. They don’t directly impact each other.) I appreciated the increased focus on sleuthing and testing my knowledge, as well as the more relatable cast of characters. The ghost story at the heart of this tale was also a lot more engaging than the previous game’s, despite the less interesting locations. Overall, if you like detective games, or enjoyed The Missing Heir, TGWSB is a solid title and one more peek into this genre’s past.
Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind is available on the Nintendo Switch for $34.99 USD or $59.98 as a double pack with The Missing Heir.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Famicom Detective ClubFamicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands BehindGraphic adventuremurder mysteryNintendonintendo switchReviewsvisual novel