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Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE Review

It’s raining murder!

Making video games is hard. Making an original idea that stands out above in sea of familiarity is even harder. Releasing a new IP on a console nearing the end of its lifecycle in the year of our Lord Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdo…well, you get the idea. This hasn’t stopped Too Kyo Games and Spike Chunsoft from throwing its creative weight behind such a task. Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is the result, a tale of an amnesia riddled young detective who finds himself in the middle of a city full of unsolved crimes. A lucid noir, if you will, that admittedly yields a mixed outcome. But there’s something charming and refreshing to discover within its cast of kooky characters and  disturbing mysteries.

Yuma Kokohead is our mind-blanked protagonist (yes, that’s his name), who makes a pact with ghostly spirit named Shinigami (aka a God of Death) who uses her unique abilities to aid Yuma in his journey to become one of the fabled Master Detectives. These powerful humans, born with abilities known as Forensic Fortes, are tasked by the World Detective Organisation to solve some of the greatest mysteries on the planet, and it just so happens one of the biggest unsolved cases resides in Kanai Ward. This neon lit city controlled by the Amaterasu Corporation is in the grips of a rainstorm that never ends, and a series of mysteries the megacorporation is trying to cover up.

A blade worthy of a detective. Apparently.

A lengthy prologue introduces us to this world of powerful crime solvers, as if the cast of My Hero Academia crossed over with an Ace Attorney game. But that’s only one part of this increasingly unusual tale. Yuma’s connection to Shinigami allows him to cross over to an entirely different plane of existence, the Mystery Labyrinth, a wildly colourful reality born from the mind of the so-called killer at the heart of the case. These labyrinths, which wouldn’t look out of place in Persona 5’s metaverse, will have you using the clues discovered within the real-world crime scenes to fight past the contradictions of Mystery Phantom bosses aiming to thwart your path to the truth.

Truthfully, writing the above few paragraphs doesn’t do the setting justice (no pun intended). Everything about Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE makes way more sense once you’ve spent some time with it. You’ll be uncovering clues that turn into Solution Keys within the Mystery Labyrinth, and using the correct keys at the right time will lead you past various word puzzles and obstacles. It’s very much a wilder, more colourful take on a Phoenix Wright murder mystery, where the courtroom has been replaced with outlandish environments.

Though the labyrinths do pose a decent test in terms of your deduction of the case and the clues available, you won’t be fighting minions or swinging an assortment of weapons around to get the job done. If nothing else, what’s here feels more like a text-based adventure crossed with an anime, and the only combat will be using the Solution Blade to counter words of contradiction literally thrown at you by the Mystery Phantoms.  While some may miss the roleplaying elements and combat of the genre, I’d still encourage you to get hands-on to appreciate the uniqueness at play here.

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Even LIV wouldn’t play on that

The more time I spent within the rain drenched city of Kanai Ward, the more some of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE’s early sense of colour and humour started to drag. Shinigami largely comes across as a cliché, a token feminine sidekick that uses innuendo and a love for death to spur Yuma on, though there’s a darker edge to the character that becomes more apparent later on. In truth, most of the characters fall in line with what you would expect from such a tale. And their names are even weirder, to the point where they feel like they are taking the mickey out of the genre, even if they simultaneously lighten up the mood in an otherwise grisly game. The voice cast do an excellent job of living up to that level of weirdness; Halara is a definite standout thanks to her calm yet calculated attitude towards being a Master Detective.

Across the many hours you’ll play, the mysteries are enjoyable enough to solve. An extra splash of tension or consequence to your actions wouldn’t have gone astray, though. You do have a health bar of sorts within the labyrinth (which can be upgraded in a rather minimal skill tree you can spend experience points on), but I never felt worried about failing as the game gives you plenty of chances to rectify a wrong call, eventually leading you to the correct outcome no matter how many times you might try. Reaching a solution leads to some flashy moments that are fun to partake in, but again I felt like finding the solution was inevitable no matter how I went about it.

Unfortunately, there are also a few technical issues that plague the Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE experience, with various glitches and visual hiccups. Weirdly enough, when playing in handheld mode on the Switch, much of the game felt like it had a blurred filter thrown over the top of its environmental textures, muddying up its neon-lit city streets and some of the character models in the process. It’s a little better when in docked mode, but the game does suffer from some notable pop-in and stuttering when things get heated on screen. Load times are a little long in the tooth as-well, but just short enough as to not become totally disruptive.

Halara’s so cool. Just look at those glasses!

Those technical shortcomings become even more apparent when you realise, during later cases, that much of the game could have been tightened if it hadn’t been designed with an open 3D environment in mind. The Mystery Labyrinths are enjoyable at first but so little of them can be interacted with or explored. You simply run down an ever-changing hallway as dialogue between Yuma and his assistants fill you in, before eventually leading to the next room to solve or Mystery Phantom to overcome. Likewise, the streets of Kanai Ward are not enticing to trot around in, nor its side quests interesting or inventive enough compared to the main plot. A simple shedding of these elements might have benefitted the overall experience, allowing the plot to truly shine.

Final Thoughts

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There’s a lot to like here, a lot of creative ideas at play, but too many elements stand in the way of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE for it to be a true gamechanger. I can certainly recommend it, especially to those looking for another murder mystery not unlike the best of Phoenix Wright, but its attempts at also feeling like the next Persona leads it down a slightly fumbled path. I did enjoy my time here, however, and I remain hopeful it finds an audience that leads to future projects for the World Detective Organisation and its Master Detectives.

Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE Review
Creativity saves the day
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE could have used its inventiveness more concisely, but what’s here is still an enjoyable first entry for a new IP that holds plenty of promise now and hopefully into the future.
The Good
Wonderfully inventive concept
Enjoyable mysteries to solve
Top quality voice acting across the main cast
The Bad
Some unfortunate technical shortcomings hold it back
Open environments and side quests aren't as compelling
Should have leaned into its darker themes even more
Some cast members and humour overstay their welcome
7
Solid
  • Too Kyo Games
  • Spike Chunsoft, Co. Ltd.
  • Switch
  • June 30, 2023

Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE Review
Creativity saves the day
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE could have used its inventiveness more concisely, but what’s here is still an enjoyable first entry for a new IP that holds plenty of promise now and hopefully into the future.
The Good
Wonderfully inventive concept
Enjoyable mysteries to solve
Top quality voice acting across the main cast
The Bad
Some unfortunate technical shortcomings hold it back
Open environments and side quests aren’t as compelling
Should have leaned into its darker themes even more
Some cast members and humour overstay their welcome
7
Solid
Written By Mark Isaacson

Known on the internet as Kartanym, Mark has been in and out of the gaming scene since what feels like forever, growing up on Nintendo and evolving through the advent of PC first person shooters, PlayStation and virtual reality. He'll try anything at least once and considers himself the one true king of Tetris by politely ignoring the world records.

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