By Justin Guillou / November 23rd, 2018
|Title||Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk|
|Developer||Arc System Works Co., Ltd.|
|Release Date||September 28th, 2018|
|Genre||Visual Novel (mystery)|
Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk is is a new visual novel that quietly made its way to store shelves as a follow up to Jake Hunter Dectective Story: Memories of the Past on the Nintendo DS. Something I did not initially realize was that what we know as the Jake Hunter games are part of a very long-running and successful series in Japan known as Tantei Jinguji Saburo. It premiered on the Famicom back in 1987 and has received various sequels and remakes throughout the years on several consoles and mobile devices. When it came time to finally bring the series West, Aksys Games released Jake Hunter Detective Story: Detective Chronicles, which included remakes of cases from the first couple of games. Unfortunately it wasn’t well received and a lot of content was cut. They released an updated version called Jake Hunter Dectective Story: Memories of the Past which included the missing content, making it a more complete experience. This latest entry, Ghost of the Dusk, is brand new and built for the Nintendo 3DS.
Ghost of the Dusk‘s story involves the titular Jake Hunter being called to investigate a murder at a seemingly abandoned house. He eventually solves the case and befriends the man who appears to own the property. However, he soon finds out that there is a bit more going on than meets the eye. I can’t really describe too much more since that will lead into spoiler territory, but I can say the game does feature a number of twists, some predictable but some more interesting. In contrast to something like Ace Attorney which offers a more light-hearted take on courtroom battles and investigations, Jake Hunter is played mostly straight and serious. There are some humorous moments like Hunter being so “old school” that he has trouble using a modern cellphone, but scenes like these are so few and far between that when they do appear it almost feels out of place.
What hurts the narrative is the localization. Aksys Games have changed a lot from the Japanese version. It’s not uncommon for some localizers to do this as Capcom did something similar in the beloved Ace Attorney franchise. At least in those games more was done to the story and dialogue to reflect those changes, so they make a little bit more sense. However, Jake Hunter is not as fortunate as many names and locations were changed. For instance, in the Japanese series the main character’s name is not even Jake Hunter but rather Saburo Jinguji. Even worse, the game features Japanese audio and fully voiced animated cutscenes where they stick with the original Japanese names during dialogue. It made one particular scene towards the end that was meant to be somewhat of a dramatic moment come off as just plain laughable as a character is screaming a name in Japanese. Meanwhile the subtitles feature a completely different name.
The game also seems to insist that it takes place in the US. It’s painfully obvious the setting is supposed to be Shinjuku in Tokyo. It’s a real shame that Aksys felt the need to change so much because I feel like it takes away from the otherwise solid atmosphere and worldbuilding the game attempts. It feels really weird when you have a bunch of Japanese style buildings, bars, and homes yet characters are talking in stereotypical Western pulp/noire manner. I didn’t think “Yoko” would be that hard of a name for Westerners to say to the point where it’s absolutely necessary to change it to “Yulia,” who happens to be one of the lead characters and a recurring one in the series.
If you can get past the localization issues, you’ll find that the gameplay, while simplistic, also has its share of quirks. During investigations you have to move the cursor and select an area of interest. You can use the stylus which is nice and precise, but of course you can also use the circle pad and buttons. The issue is that the game doesn’t do a great job at showing you what can and can’t be examined. It can be rather picky at times in regards to where exactly you have to click. There were a few moments where I got stuck because I apparently missed a certain spot on an object I already examined multiple times, simply due to the fact that I was examining it just a couple pixels away from where the game wanted me to. I should also warn you that it’s one of those games where talking to NPCs multiple times in a row will yield different results or, in some cases, you will not be able to progress the dialogue chain until you examine either them or your surroundings. To be fair, if you are familiar with point-and-click adventure games or visual novels, this is all standard fare so you’ll feel right at home. The game also has a built in hint system where Hunter will light a cigarette and “think” about what he needs to do next.
The game features a really jazzy soundtrack which does the job, but it’s nothing that will stick in your head hours later. My favorite song was the one used during the “talk profiles” where you confront a person of interest, interrogate them and try to get them to tell you information they may be hiding with the help of the evidence you have gathered up to that point. The character art is very detailed and I guess you could say looks a bit more “real” than your typical anime style art, thanks to clever use of shading to give a lot of depth to their features which make the characters stand out. The backgrounds are also drawn in a way to look more realistic. It all looks quite nice and compliments the relatively gritty nature of the story and atmosphere really well.
Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk will last you about 10-12 hours. This 3DS package justifies the $39.99 price tag by including a few bonus cases which are ports of mobile entries in the series. There are also hidden passwords to find throughout the main game that can be entered. These unlock all sorts of bonuses including sound tests, character profiles, interviews with the developers and a CG gallery. Overall Ghost of the Dusk is a decent visual novel that’s held back by a localization that tried a bit too hard to appeal to an audience that likely wasn’t interested in this kind of title to begin with. Aksys Games should know better and quite frankly this is concerning. I fear they may have written themselves into a corner and have to now stick with it in order to be consistent with future games. Case in point, a new title in the series was recently released for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. However the game was rated in Korea as Jake Hunter Detective Story: Prism of Eyes, suggesting that they are intending on localizing this one and keeping the Jake Hunter name. Should that actually be the case, we might be stuck with all the pointless localization changes made in the releases by Aksys Games and that’s a shame. As for Ghost of the Dusk, I can recommend it to those of you who really enjoy the genre and are looking for one to play on the 3DS. It may not be the best the system has to offer, but you might enjoy it for what it is.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Jake HunterJake Hunter Detective Storyjake hunter detective story: ghost of the duskMystery novelNintendoNintendo 3DSReviewvisual novel