Master Detective Archives: Rain Code Review – Sleuthin’ In The Rain

In the isolated city of Kanai Ward, the sun never shines. Shrouded by eternal rain clouds, the city seethes with darkness; mysteries and secrets flood the streets, and crimes are committed every day. Detective Yuma Kokohead and his supernatural partner Shinigami are the newest members of the Nocturnal Detective Agency, the only organization dedicated to solving Kanai Ward’s many mysteries. Working alongside Yuma are the Master Detectives, each with a unique crime-solving ability called a Forensic Forte. Can the Detectives solve every mystery that comes their way? Can they unravel the ultimate secret behind Kanai Ward – before it’s too late?

Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is the latest offering from Kazutaka Kodaka, best known for the Danganronpa series. Like Danganronpa, Rain Code is a mystery-adventure, with gameplay alternating between investigating crime scenes and answering questions and solving puzzles within Shinigami’s “Mystery Labyrinth.” It introduces a new setting, new characters, and of course new cases to solve, although some of the crime-solving mini-games and the game’s overall case-a-chapter structure will be somewhat familiar to Danganronpa veterans.

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Deduce the solution to each and every mystery!

I am a HUGE mystery enthusiast. I’m also a fan of Kodaka’s, having previously played every Danganronpa game. Because of this, Rain Code was one of the games I was most hyped for in 2023 – probably more so than any other title except Tears of the Kingdom. And I’m thrilled to say that I quite enjoyed this game, and would recommend it to anyone who needs a good tricky mystery game in their life.

First things first: this game is NOT connected to Danganronpa at all (aside from a few throwaway references from Shinigami), and you do not have to played any previous Kodaka or Spike Chunsoft games to enjoy Master Detective Archives. Even those who were somewhat critical of Danganronpa, I think, can enjoy Rain Code. It’s a more “grown up” setting, abandoning a cast of high school students in favorite of (mostly) adult professionals. The crimes are just as if not more complex, and the cast of characters is larger and more varied. The games will inevitably end up being compared, but I think Rain Code more than holds its own.

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Mystery Labyrinths represent the crimes committed

I think one of Rain Code’s greatest strength is its characters. The Master Detectives are a fun, quirky bunch, and their Forensic Fortes – abilities that let them solve crimes using their unique talents – help make them even more distinct. Plus, the group truly feels like a found family by the end of the game, which is something I absolutely love to see in a story. Each case (for the most part) has its own cast of suspects, witnesses, victims, and criminals, which helps keep the game feeling fresh and distinct. I also want to shout out Rain Code for the inclusion of Halara Nightmare, one of the Master Detectives, who is openly nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns – something that is always refreshing to see in a game!

There is one exception, unfortunately – and it’s a bummer, because she’s one of the main characters. Shinigami, Yuma’s partner, is very…hmm, how to put it best…let’s go with…very anime. She’s possessive of Yuma, and this causes her to insult every other woman he comes in contact with, calling Master Detective Fubuki a “skank” and informant Kurumi Wendy “ugly” and “flatty.” Shinigami also has a very rude personality in general, constantly questioning Halara’s gender, insulting Chief Detective Yakou’s looks and personality, and randomly bringing up her own chest way too often in conversation.

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Take down criminals as a giant version of Shinigami in GOD Rush

Maybe I’m just getting old, but I didn’t find her crassness funny at all. I think Kodaka was trying to go for a similar “insults everyone” personality as Monokuma, the iconic black-and-white bear from Danganronpa. But Monokuma being constantly rude and mean works, because he’s an outright villain; he’s a robot literally created make life as uncomfortable as possible for the students trapped in Danganronpa’s deadly game.  Shinigami, meanwhile, is at least nominally on your side, and she’s one of the protagonists – but she’s not the least bit sympathetic or fun. It’s especially frustrating because Shinigami gets her most frequent screentime during the Mystery Labyrinths, which are otherwise the most fun part of Rain Code.

The setting of Master Detective Archives, though, is a triumph. Kanai Ward feels like a fusion of modern cyberpunk and classic film noir, with its constant rain-swept nature paired with skyscrapers and glittering lights. It’s a location well-suited to the many crimes that happen throughout the game, with the constant oppressive feeling that something bad is going to happen (and it inevitably does, over and over again.) And, of course, Kodaka’s signature neon pink blood fits in perfectly in amidst the gloom and glitz of the isolated city.

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The Peacekeepers appear as Mystery Phantoms who want to hide the truth

Kanai Ward is also a surprisingly expensive setting, with multiple districts to explore and new locations introduced every chapter. It is clear that Spike Chunsoft was attempting to create a more “open world” mystery game, along the lines of Disco Elysium or Paradise Killer. Were they successful? Honestly…somewhat. Yes and no. Seeing the different districts was cool, as it made each chapter’s crime scenes feel distinct, but the game’s world got a bit too big by the later chapters.

This is especially notable because there is little to do in the world besides solve the main mysteries – there is a small set of side quests in Chapters 1-4, and a single type of collectible in the form of Memory Fragments. Other open-world games offer a bit more to do to incentivize exploring. Yes, it’s also possible to go the opposite direction and offer too much, but I think Rain Code is a bit too conservative in its offerings. I would have liked a few more side quests, or perhaps more character interaction scenes to break up the monotony. (There’s the Gumshoe Gabs, short dialogues with the other Master Detectives, but they are tied to finding the game’s sole collectible and only feature Yuma and whoever he’s talking to.) Spike Chunsoft has already said that DLC for Rain Code is planned, so I hope this new content addresses these issues.

Kanai Ward is always neon-lit – and always rainy

At the core, Rain Code is a mystery game – and it’s a good one. Lovers of classic mystery stories will find much here for them. Locked room mysteries, creepy urban legends, serial killers, seemingly impossible crimes – it’s all here, and more! Each chapter is a fully realized, distinct mystery that will be tricky to solve even for veterans of the genre. And when it all comes together in the final chapter, when everything about Kanai Ward is revealed at last…well, I don’t want to spoil it, but there are definitely some awesome twists there that will leave players shocked (and wanting more).

Finally, there’s the way that the mysteries are solved: the Mystery Labyrinths. These are sprawling, psychedelic, puzzle-filled “dungeons” – think Persona meets AI The Somnium Files. Along the way, you will have to battle Mystery Phantoms, answer multiple choice questions, and complete various mini-games to reveal the obscured truth at last. I loved the Mystery Labyrinths. They are a truly unique way of presenting mystery solving as a gameplay element, and I was excited and eager each time a Mystery Labyrinth came around. It was a little disappointing that some of the mini-games were near-exact copies of the ones in Danganronpa, and I do hope that future DLC or sequel games will introduce new games in the Labyrinths. Overall, though, the Labyrinths are a great mechanic that I enjoyed each and every time they appeared!

Each Master Detective truly feels unique

I would recommend Master Detective Archives: Rain Code to any fans of the mystery genre who are looking for some compelling cases to solve alongside a unique cast of detectives. It’s not a perfect game, certainly – the open world feels a bit sparse at times, and the “anime” and “fanservice” moments are lesser than in previous Kodaka games but still very much present. Still, it’s an overall fun experience and a great game that will challenge even veteran mystery-solvers. I think that this formula is a solid one that could easily be expanded and improved, so I eagerly look forward to the planned DLC as well as hopefully future games in the Master Detective Archives series!

Kate played Master Detective Archives: Rain Code on the Nintendo Switch using a personally purchased copy.

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