Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Genre: Visual novel
Release Date: 10/13/2016
When Cing closed its doors in 2010, I was sad because I loved their games (even if Again didn’t quite live up to Cing’s other games). Hotel Dusk remains one of my favorite DS games, and I’m still disappointed we in NA didn’t get the the sequel, Last Window (or for that matter Another Code: R). So when Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories was announced, with art similar to Cing’s games, I was excited. Aksys also brought over two Jake Hunter games, so they’ve been down the hardboiled detective route before. Let’s see how it measures up.
The story focuses on the Cold Case unit at the Tokyo Police Department, which works on cases where the trail of evidence has gone cold. Only two people comprise this unit. Shounosuke Nanase (an expy of Kyle Hyde) heads the unit and lackadaisical and often more interested in his playing cards and cigarettes than working. When he does actually work, he’s incisive and finds new angles that were previously overlooked and can be a jerk with a heart of gold. His subordinate, Koto Amekura, is an up-and-coming and diligent detective newly assigned to the Cold Case unit, though at times she can be a bit hasty in jumping to conclusions. They play off each other well, though their dynamic is better shown in this short story. Hopefully there’ll be more character building moments like that in future episodes because while you get glimpses of each character’s personalities, you don’t really spend much time with them so they don’t get fleshed out much (the victim in this case doesn’t even get a profile or picture).
The action kicks off when they receive an anonymous tip that the explosion at Ryokudou Hospital five years ago, while initially ruled an accident, was actually a case of murder. From there they question witnesses, investigate old photos of the crime scene, and try to dig up any information they can from the police database. The fact that the duo never leaves the police station feels confining, though it makes a certain kind of sense given that the crime scene for an incident that occurred five years would unlikely to be preserved, especially given it’s a hospital where lots of people go in and out. The overall translation seemed dry compared to Cing’s previous games, though I only noticed one typo (“I heard you were rather, enthusiastic, about going after them”). There were moments like this line, as well as some more poignant ones that shed a different light on some characters. However, while I can’t explain too much without spoiling anything, a cause of death is medically unsound, which weakens its impact as a major plot twist. While the current case reaches a conclusion, the game ends on a cliffhanger. There’s some mysteries that get introduced near the end as well, so hopefully there will be future episodes to delve into those.
The art style is very similar to Hotel Dusk’s (like I said, with Shonousuke being Kyle’s expo the comparisons are kind of inevitable), though instead of the sketchy mostly monochrome look and rotoscoped character portraits, the characters are more vividly colored with cleaner lines. While the little animations are simpler in comparison with said portraits, they do look nice. During conversations, different angles are shown, which makes them seem a bit more dynamic. Since they all take place in the same room, it doesn’t help much with the sense of confinement from never leaving the station. The music is low key and sets the atmosphere well, though no one track really stood out to me.
This game plays more like a straight visual novel and has far less interactivity than its spiritual predecessors. There are dialogue choices that come up while questioning people, though a lot of them only have two choices. You can get dinged if you answer incorrectly (and presumably a game over if you do so often enough, but I never got to that point), though as long as you pay attention to the text it’s easy to pick the right answer. There are also segments wherein Shounosuke reviews the information gathered thus far. There are no consequences for answering wrong in those sections, you’re just prompted to choose again. The only real examination you do is on the photos from five years ago. But they’re grainy enough that it can be hard to tell what is actually interactive, necessitating a bit of pixel hunting and poking around different spots. The only part where this could be a problem is a point where you’re given one chance to choose a specific spot. If you get that wrong, it goes to a game over, which makes little sense at that point.
I know I’ve brought up Hotel Dusk a lot throughout this review, though given that the director of Hotel Dusk and Last Window, Taisuke Nanasaki, also directed this game, comparisons between them are inevitable. It doesn’t help that Shounosuke is an expert of Kyle Hyde, only with cigarettes and playing cards. I’m not terribly bothered about the length (‘d estimate it took me approximately two hours to finish it) since the game only costs $5.99, so I wasn’t expecting something as long as Hotel Dusk and Last Window. However, it should be made clearer that this is meant to be a first episode rather than a self-contained game. Overall it does feel more barebones, even considering the budget price, and what puzzles there are feel lacking. Still, I do hope to see a continuation to the plot introduced here, and I’m always in favor of more Cing-styled games being made.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories nails the noir detective feel, and the presentation is reminiscent of Cing’s style. The game presents an interesting locked room mystery and gives the characters distinctive motivations and traits even in the brief time spent with them. However, the translation can be dry, and one particular plot twist hinges on something medically impossible, which dampens its impact. Do note that this is a first episode in what is (hopefully) a series, which should’ve been made more clear. It’s not quite the triumphant return of Cing-style games, but there is something to build off of here, and I hope more episodes will be made.