Review – Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind

Overview

Developer Mages
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Visual Novel
Platforms Switch
Release Date May 14, 2021

Immediately after playing Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir, I decided to try my hand at its prequel, The Girl Who Stands Behind. My review of the original game was a bit harsh because of its difficulty level and mediocre soundtrack. Let us see if this one manages to succeed where the previous game failed.

Terrified girl speaks of turning to look behind her

Content Guide:

Violence/Scary Images: Murder is a primary theme throughout the story. Crime scenes are bloody, yet the gore is not overdone. Victims can be seen with finger marks around their neck, blood pooled around their bodies, and knives in their torsos. Characters often mention a ghost, who appears in flashbacks. Though there are no jump scares, the appearances of this ghost may frighten children. As in the previous game, the final climax between the protagonist and the culprit is intense.

Blue silhouette of a ghostly girl supposedly covered in blood

This is about as scary as the ghostly portions get.

Language: Infrequent mild language, including h***, p****d, and a**.

Drug/Alcohol References: Two major locations where players find information are bars. One man is obviously drunk and tries to entice the protagonist to drink with him. Because the main character is underage, he does not indulge at any time. A high schooler attempts to smoke a cigarette, but someone convinces him not to.

Sexual Content: A street is full of neon signs, which are not lewd but advertise adult entertainment venues. One of these signs says “Sexy Shop.” A teacher tells a young man not to do “anything inappropriate” with a student. Some high schools girls refer to their male teacher as “hot.”

Other Negative Content: Someone helps a person cover up a heinous crime. A man swindles multiple people. One person commits suicide, and another attempts it but is stopped. People lie in order to protect one another from suspicion.

Spiritual Content: A high school is said to be haunted by the ghost of a student who disappeared or was murdered. This “Girl Who Stands Behind” is referenced frequently throughout the game. By the end, the truth behind the ghost is revealed, though its existence in the real world is left up to the player to decide.

Positive Content: The main character is taken in by a detective. This young man has a strong sense of justice and does not let anything stop him from finding the truth. Many characters are cooperative with investigators because they care about the victims. The school principal is an upstanding citizen who has contributed to the success of many working at his school, including those with tarnished reputations. This is reminiscent of the second chances we get in Christ.

This game is rated T for Teen.

Review

This reviewer was given a copy of the game.

Because the Famicom Detective Club games are a set, the gameplay and general setup are the same. Both feature a full voice cast, motion backgrounds, and animated sprites. They each have automatic notes filled with clues, along with the usual visual novel menus, including skip buttons and a text log. I recommend reading my review of The Missing Heir before this one to get a gist of the mechanics. Here, I will highlight differences between the games and place more of an emphasis on the overall experience of this story, as opposed to gameplay specifics.

Young girl walking, the protagonist decides to follow her

My review of the first Famicom Detective Club was mixed. While I enjoyed myself, the repetitive gameplay often distracted me from the story. Its music was forgettable, and the characters cliché but likable. Though plot twists were frequent, the overall ending was predictable.

The Girl Who Stands Behind rectifies most of these issues. The first game has a subplot about the main character finding his parents. This second game is actually a prequel. Players are introduced to the protagonist and watch him meet the detective for whom he is working in the original game. If you have played the original game, the Switch can port over your chosen character name, keeping the world of the games connected.

Whodunnit: The Plot & Characters

This story is simpler than the original. A high school girl is found strangled to death on the banks of a river. You discover she had been looking into a ghostly rumor originating fifteen years prior. This rumor is surrounded by a cold case disappearance and probable murder of another girl from the same school. While the adult detective investigates the cold case, the protagonist is sent to look into the recent strangulation.

One girl stands looking into a mirror while another girl is reflected over her shoulder.

Unlike the first game, this one had me on the edge of my seat. From the very beginning, I had suspicions about a certain character, and I assumed this plot would be as predictable as the other. To my surprise, I was mistaken! The Girl Who Stands Behind does not have as many characters as The Missing Heir, which is a step in its favor. While the original hosted a plethora of locations, each with even more characters, The Girl Who Stands Behind keeps to a cast of high school students, teachers, and the occasional outside witness.

Because the amount of suspects is smaller, players have a chance to investigate more deeply into each person’s life. The protagonist makes friends who help him with the investigation, one of whom appears in the former game. I found myself caring about each character, especially as I learned that almost all of them had something to hide. Unlike in The Missing Heir, not all of these people seem to be connected. Because you are uncovering clues for two separate instances (the recent one and the cold case), witnesses from one may not cross over with others. However, the brilliant writers manage to sneak surprise backstories that delight at every turn.

List of names with a picture on the right side, some text is yellow and some is red

The list of testimonies is color-coded in both games. People who are related to the current clue are colored in red, to highlight connections.

Sherlock Puns: Laughter

This game has much more humor than the first. The original was fun to play, but I never found myself laughing. Horrific events happened one after another. It was difficult to keep up with who was dead and who was alive, let alone who the culprit could be. The break-neck pace coupled with the subplot of finding the protagonist’s estranged parents did not leave much room for witty wordplay.

Large man with beard claims to be a first year high school student

What is in those school lunches in Japan??

Because the people in The Girl Who Stands Behind remain alive longer than the previous game, players can explore more dialogue with them. The main character is also younger in this prequel, leading to high school hijinks and misunderstandings. The game also reveals that the protagonist has a soft spot for Ayumi. Although the romantic tension is never pursued with closure, it leads to interesting instances like this:

Some clues wind up making players suspect the wrong person, while others just make them chuckle. One specific character is the cause of much of this laughter. However, to reveal their name is a slight spoiler. Readers will have to play the game for themselves. Suffice to say, I laughed out loud at points. The other game had me too frustrated and confused for those kinds of distractions.

Burly high schooler with weird glasses and fake bowl cut reading a book

Nothing like a thug disguising himself as a bookworm

Detecting: The Gameplay & Mechanics

Though the gameplay is accomplished via the same menu as the first game, The Girl Who Stands Behind is more intuitive than the original. Most instances have a clear direction for the detective. When those fail, players will still have to cycle through the same options as before. However, there are fewer characters and fewer places at a time, which means the trial-and-error method works faster.

This game also tends toward linear locations. The first Famicom Detective Club allowed players to wander to almost every available location at any given time. This is nice for an open-world RPG, not so much fun for a game based on puzzles and trial and error. The Girl Who Stands Behind typically allows players to visit one or two locations at a time. If you were investigating the school, there were about four places to search. When you leave for the town, you are unlikely to double back to the school. At one point, I did have to move back and forth just for the sake of killing time. For the most part, though, players are given fairly clear clues as to where to go and what to do while there.

Protagonist looking for a girl

In my previous review, I mentioned having to consult a walkthrough for every chapter of the other game. In this one, I checked a walkthrough only once. It is possible I simply became used to Famicom Detective Club gimmicks. However, I found myself applying more deductive reasoning, instead of trial and error. Options made sense, and locations were not scattered everywhere. I was able to proceed with a plan.

In addition to its streamlining, The Girl Who Stands Behind adds a few small additions to the mechanics of the original. Players are able to answer classic visual novel-style dialogue questions to change the game’s epilogue. There are also instances where the supervising detective or police officer asks you for a name in regards to an event. Instead of waiting for the protagonist to respond on his own, the player must choose the person they suspect. Some instances of Speculation in this game include timelines, giving the player plenty of summarizing through auditory and visual means.

List of victims from which the player must answer a question

Interviewing: The Soundtrack & Voicing

The voice-overs of this game are as splendid as the last one. I found myself listening to them even when I was not looking at the screen (Sometimes, I forget I can’t speak Japanese!). The voice actors who return from the original continue to do splendid jobs as younger versions of their characters. New voices are full of emotion, and players will be hard-pressed to want to suspect anybody of the crime. Unlike the unlikeable Ayashiro family, many of these characters are kind and good-natured. Their voice actors and actresses add the perfect amount of melancholy to the tragic events.

Sad Ayumi

While the music is not particularly memorable, it is more tolerable than the other game. As before, each location (and sometimes people) had its own tune. One of these songs particularly stood out in my mind, as it matched the character perfectly. A thug high school student appears near the end of the game as a recurring character. When he comes on-screen, the music shifts, and I can only describe it as a boss battle or anime fight scene. Every other score was forgettable.

Two boys about to fight

Conclusion

I admit I was hard on the first Famicom Detective Club game. Having grown up with mystery point-and-clicks like Nancy Drew and currently subsisting on a diet of visual novels, I expected a lot. That first game may have delivered with its characters and plot twists, but it had too much faith in me as a player. I prefer to discover clues as I go, not look them up online.

This second installment of the series, though, blew me away. It manages to keep all the perfect aspects while fixing the worst parts. Though I still found myself using trial and error, I was able to follow the logic of this game. The lack of multiple locations helps players orient themselves and focus on the task at hand. Fewer characters gave me a chance to get to know them and their wonderful voice actors/actresses.Dialogue options for speaking with Ayumi

In short, the Famicom Detective Club series is great for gamers who love a good detective story, a more interactive visual novel, and both! However, I will state one stipulation. If you are a beginner to logic puzzles, start with The Girl Who Stands Behind. Its simpler story and linear map keep the player engaged and on track more than its predecessor.

Though this game was published after the other one, it serves as a prequel. A post-credits epilogue of The Girl Who Stands Behind leads directly into The Missing Heir, giving players the perfect segue into the slightly harder game. I played The Girl Who Stands Behind after the other one, and it felt a bit out of place. Since I knew the protagonist’s backstory, it was hard to watch him run away from home and end up at the detective agency. Seeing his past was enjoyable. However, for those who have not played either game, the chronological order The Girl Who Stands Behind followed by The Missing Heir makes more sense both in terms of difficulty and narrative.

The Bottom Line

 

The Girl Who Stands Behind is the quintessential visual novel in terms of mechanics, voice acting, and animation, with plot and characters that perplex and astound at every turn.

 

9.5

Posted in , ,

Courtney Floyd

Courtney has loved reading since she was a child. Kid's books, YA, memoirs, comics, graphic novels, manga, anything. She also loves bingeing anime, keeping up with her favorite shows (including Star Trek), and playing video games. She has a dog named Kora, but she prefers The Last Airbender.

Leave a Reply