Catching Up With 2009: Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past

I have often lamented how my love for Hotel Dusk and the Ace Attorney series has led me to play a myriad of poor detective games on the DS. I won’t go on about that again for fear of becoming a broken record. Suffice it to say that I still haven’t learned my lesson in that regard.

Back in 2008, I learned of a game called Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles. I figured a game about a hard boiled private eye would be a safe buy for someone like me, so I went through some hoops to get it. (Not a single store was carrying it, so I had to turn my attentions online.) I ended up spending more money than I should have and got a horribly mis-translated mess in return. On top of that, the game took a mere few hours to beat and offered nothing extra, meaning it didn’t even offer some sort of value. I was so disgusted, I couldn’t even bring myself to talk about the game.

And then Mark reviewed Memories of the Past. It had all of the cases that were in the first game, three new cases, and a new mode called Jake Hunter Unleashed that had some merit as well. Best of all, it featured a brand new translation that didn’t suck! Needless to say, I had my eye on the game.

It’s very rare that a company actually takes a second stab at something like this. Did it work, or did I waste even more money on this damned detective?

Let’s Catch Up!

What’s The Game?

This week’s game is Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past, an adventure game/visual novel for the Nintendo DS.

Who Made It?

This game was developed by WorkJam and published by Aksys. This is the same team who did the last game.

When Did It Come Out?

Jake Hunter’s second trip to the U.S. was published on May 26th, 2009.

Where’s The Review?

Mark reviewed the game for us at the beginning of July.

Why Didn’t You Play It In 2009?

As I said earlier, I had a terrible experience with the previous game. Despite that, I was intrigued by the new translation and the added content. I kept a lookout for the game, but it rarely showed up at any of the stores I frequented, and when it did, I didn’t feel like ponying up the cash at that moment.

It was not until this past February that I finally had the desire and funds to pick the game up. I grabbed it and a gaggle of other DS and PSP titles that I intended to play for this column. If nothing else, this column has proved useful for reasons such as this.

So What Did You Think?

I can’t imagine this section is going to be nearly as long as it usually is. After all, we are talking about a visual novel here.

The game puts you in the shoes of the titular Jake Hunter. Jake’s a private investigator who runs shop in city of Aspicio. He covers the typical stuff such as tracking down a missing person, finding out if a husband is cheating on his wife, and the like, but he also seems to get caught in a number of cases dealing with murder. Thankfully, the stories in the game always take the interesting route.

Jake is an anachronism. He chain smokes, drinks scotch, calls women “dame” and seems more comfortable hanging out with an elderly cop than anyone close to his age. He’s also ripped straight from a noir film. He has constant inner monologue that spouts off similes like you wouldn’t believe, something that the Jake Hunter Unleashed cases take no small amount of joy in poking fun at. Jake also seems to prefer walking to using any sort of vehicle, furthering the idea that he is someone from another era even though everyone walks around with cell phones and uses computers.

The game plays out pretty simply. After a brief introduction, someone hires Jake to solve the mystery, often dealing with someone close to him or his secretary Yulia Marks. Most of the game is spent navigating through dialogue, so be warned. In fact, there is very little “game” to be had. The most you get are sections where Jake will think back on what happened that day and you have to answer questions. Sometimes there are puzzles, but even if you can’t figure them out, you can just guess until you get it right. There’s no way to fail. It makes it feel like you’re just moving through the game rather than playing it, but that’s OK because the game is designed around that. The story and new translation are good enough that you’ll be interested to the end, which is a huge step up from the last game.

Besides the six normal cases, you also have the Jake Hunter Unleashed cases. These are parodies that poke fun (in a loving way) at the style of the series. The characters are drawn as caricatures and Jake’s similes are ridiculous. The biggest change is that you actually get to do some detective work. This mostly involves getting to the crime scene, inspecting some evidence, questioning the suspects, and then solving the case. However, you yourself actually need to figure out what happened, because one wrong guess sends you straight to the game over screen. Sometimes the game’s logic is a bit off, but overall the mode is interesting and funny, serving as a nice reprieve after the serious tone of the other cases.

One thing the game does well is the aesthetic. The music feels like something you could expect to find in proper film noir. On top of that, the visuals fit the mood perfectly, often with a dirty grain that appears to be intentional. (If it wasn’t, than it’s pretty ugly.) More on point is the dialogue, which doesn’t reach the heights of something like Phoenix Wright, but is exceptional for this kind of game. I may not be mentioning this game for a best story award any time soon, but I can’t deny I was fairly hooked. I usually played straight through a case.

This is what the last game should have been.

What Score Would You Have Given It?

I pretty much have to agree with Mark on this. I’d give this game either “Above Average” or “Enjoyable”, whereas the last game would have gotten a “Poor” at best.

This is one of those rare cases where a developer takes another crack at something and gets it right. I’m a little ticked I had to buy a second game in order to get the experience I should have gotten with the first, but I got this for cheap, so I’m not too bitter.

Would It Have Made Your Top Ten List?

Once again, 2009 was just too crowded for something like this to make the list. I know it’s been a while since that hasn’t been the case, but I’m looking at a few games to cover in the future that might make the cut, so here’s hoping!

How Much Does It Go For, In Case I Want It?

I got my copy brand new at Gamestop for a mere ten bucks. I can’t imagine anyone selling it for more than twenty. There’s enough content on the cartridge to make that more than acceptable. It’s almost a steal.

Final Thoughts?

While it wouldn’t even make my top five detective games on the DS (There are that many Ace Attorney games!), I’m glad I have this in my collection and I’m glad I gave the developers a second chance. Now, I’m kind of hoping we get more games down the line, whereas before I almost prayed they’d go bankrupt. It’s more novel than game, but if that doesn’t scare you, then give this game a chance.

Next Time: I take up the helm of yet another detective, but this time it isn’t a mere adventure game. I’m doing only my second game for the PS3. Don’t miss out!

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