"While the PC will always be rightfully known as the king of visual novels, the Nintendo DS began to makes its presence in the genre known with the 2005 release of Trace Memory and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, released only 15 days apart on American shores. Subsequent releases included more titles in the aforementioned Ace Attorney series, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, along with less critically-acclaimed games such as a poorly-remade Myst, with many more yet to come. ..."
While the PC will always be rightfully known as the king of visual novels, the Nintendo DS began to makes its presence in the genre known with the 2005 release of Trace Memory and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, released only 15 days apart on American shores. Subsequent releases included more titles in the aforementioned Ace Attorney series, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, along with less critically-acclaimed games such as a poorly-remade Myst, with many more yet to come. As a result, it is unsurprising that the formerly Japan-exclusive Tantei Jinguuji Saburo has now made its first overseas outing under the name of Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles.
Don’t let the Detective Chronicles moniker fool you, however: while you do in fact sleuth around as a private eye, there is not much detective work involved. For the majority of each of the three 1-1˝ hour cases, you travel around a city to various scenes, talking to people and inspecting the environment, all in the name of gathering information. What kills the experience, however, is that the whole process is too linear: every day that you go out for investigation, areas will open up and be closed off, with only those scenes that have anything worth investigating for story advancement being available. When presented with a text option, there are no real diverging branches of storyline; the scene following the text choice will be slightly different, but the end result shall be the same. The real kicker comes once you begin snooping around an area; if you try to leave, the game will prevent you from leaving the scene until you have gathered all the information you could from that particular area. While it certainly prevents the frustration of having to go all over the place just to trigger the next part of the case, it facilitates Jake Hunter’s status as an interactive detective-novel, as opposed to an actual game.
Perhaps sensing this, to test the series’ viability, publishers Aksys Games did what is generally considered a no-no in the business; cutting out content in the transition from the Japanese version to its English localization. This isn’t just any removal of an inappropriate scene or a couple of bonus visuals or a missing soundtrack, however; three out of six cases were cut out, including the longest case in the game that was specifically made for the Nintendo DS (as all the other cases were ports of remakes from other titles in the series). As a result, the total length of the game is only around 4 hours, with the three remaining cases being between one and one and a half hours long each. Even then, the localization is noticeably poor, with spelling errors littering the landscape of text boxes and words being omitted (in one example, Jake Hunter, trying to find the path of a business card he handed out, says “Wheres my card.”).
Nevertheless, despite its sore flaws, what Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles does right, it does fairly good. Characters are given a reasonably good character development: Jake Hunter himself being the recipient of a gritty but still warm-hearted personality, while more minor characters such as the loyal Taiwan foreign agent Ryo Hsu also possess their strengths and weaknesses. The cases themselves are compelling to follow, with the right mixture of foreshadowing and out-of-the-blue plot twists, backed up by the internal and external conflicts of witnesses and murderers alike. Even the 2D art style follows what one might expect a dirty detective game to look like, with a few bright hues being contrasted by multiple shades of brown and monochrome in a semi-realistic cartoon style.
Although Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles is too short and too linear, it isn’t all that bad. The grittiness and suavity that one might expect of dirty detective novels is all translated into the settings, cases and characters of Jake Hunter. So long as you realize that this game is best described as an interactive detective novel, it can be a very rewarding experience. And it could be worse: the marketing team could have designed the subtitle to be ‘Detective Stories’.
Community review by darkstarripclaw (June 28, 2008)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!