Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is the latest from developer Spike Chunsoft, a studio renowned for its eccentric game design and world-building. While RAIN CODE preserves much of the charm and off-the-wall characters veterans of the studio’s library have come to love, it struggles at times to find its footing, resulting in an uneven experience that feels like it doesn’t quite navigate the line between visual novel and action as well as it could.
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE follows the story of protagonist Yuma Kokohead and his partner, Shinigami, a death god that has been mysteriously contracted to Yuma for a purpose even he has forgotten – part of her contract stated that he would lose his memories, which drives much of his early desires in the game. Together they’re sent by the World Detective Organization to investigate the Kanai Ward, a part of Japan that has been completely taken over by the Amaterasu Corporation. Kanai is also plagued by perpetual rainfall and awash with violent mysteries that Amaterasu either has no interest in solving or actively seeks to obscure – making it the perfect place for detectives to ply their trade.
An Engaging, Exciting World
The bright neon lights of Kanai Ward and the drizzle of incessant rain color the world of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE and make it one of the game’s most engaging elements. Exploration is an intriguing endeavor that actively rewards the player for investigating every corner of the world – Detective Points, which are used to level up Yuma and give him new skills for his Mystery Labyrinth exploration, can be gained by simply observing facets of the world that are otherwise irrelevant to the main plot. It’s a nice touch and keeps Yuma wandering the streets of Kanai Ward, which always seem to hide some small, satisfying detail of the game’s world.
The Mystery Labyrinth, on the other hand, feels a little more rote. There’s little variation in it early in the game despite multiple instances of it being influenced by dramatically different characters. As a psychological manifestation of someone’s hidden crimes, the lack of variation in some of these places is odd – especially for a Spike Chunsoft game. AI: The Somnium Files‘ success proved the studio was capable of getting imaginative when it comes to mindscapes, but it feels like Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is a bit of a step back in this regard. While there are some cool payoffs to be found in the Labyrinth, it feels like it could’ve been fleshed out a little more.
Memorable Characters That Deserve More Stories
The other most successful element of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is its characters and their stories. While it starts a little slow, each character quickly establishes themselves as a worthy presence in the narrative, adding personality, flair, or interest to each scene. Yuma is a fun protagonist even if his amnesia affliction is a little tired from a narrative standpoint, and Shinigami as a companion succeeds where other erstwhile presences in recent memory have failed – she’s not a Paimon, thankfully.
Even if some of the gameplay elements themselves need a bit more work, the characters and the world of RAIN CODE are so good that a return is needed. There’s fun to be had with characters like Yuma, Yakou, Shinigami, and even some of the villains of Amaterasu Corporation. All the groundwork for a successful series is here when it comes to its story, characters, and narrative writing. There’s really only one failing, but unfortunately it’s a rather large one that prevents RAIN CODE from really breaking through as a must-play title.
Gameplay That Feels Dated & Unimaginative
While most of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE looks and feels like a visual novel game, where exploration, mystery solving, and dialogue take the forefront – and do so quite well – there are more input-based, action-y elements of the title that just don’t mesh well with the rest of the world. The Mystery Dungeon feels like a chore to get through, especially in battles with potential suspects. The systems just aren’t very satisfying even if they’re relatively easy to understand, with battles amounting to dodging, slashing, and inputting pieces of evidence to do damage.
Honestly, in a game as complex and exciting as RAIN CODE, the need to find pieces of evidence on the fly during real-time combat is more annoying than anything else. While it’s clear what the intent was – create a sense of pressure that a detective really would feel, pressed for time and trying to solve a baffling mystery – in practice it’s simply frustrating, and rushes through what could be an enjoyable, intricate process. Piecing together the mystery at the end of the Mystery Dungeon by filling in the gaps of the case’s narrative without being pressed for time is already in the game and shows how fun it could be by just letting its foot off the gas a little bit and giving Yuma, and players, time to breathe.
Final Thoughts & Review Score
In spite of these flaws, however, there’s still an immense amount of enjoyment to be found in Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE. While they’re unfortunately broken up by some rather dull input sequences, the actual mystery-solving and narrative of the game are top-notch stuff, on par with some of the best from Spike Chunsoft. For that reason, anyone familiar with the studio and a fan of its work will absolutely still love RAIN CODE. On top of that, mystery fans with an open mind for some of the logistics behind detective work will likewise find a lot to like about the game.
Truthfully, our stay in Kanai Ward was a lot of fun, and we want to see more of the game’s setting in the future. Master Detective Archive: RAIN CODE is a great narrative adventure with some truly satisfying detective work. It mostly comes down to this: approaching RAIN CODE like a visual novel with some unfortunate action elements means it’s an enjoyable jaunt, and well-worth a look; expecting more from it beyond its engrossing world, charming mysteries, and charismatic cast, however, might make for a less than stellar stay in Kanai Ward for would-be master detectives.
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE releases June 30, 2023 for Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided with a digital Switch code for the purpose of this review.