The Danganronpa series is one of the most unique that I’ve played, a series of visual novels that task you with solving the murders that take place among a group of eccentric characters trapped by a mastermind and forced into a brutal game. Think Ace Attorney crossed with Battle Royale. Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is made by members of the team that created the Danganronpa series and so I knew that I had to give this new project a go, but does it hold up to its bizarre pedigree?
Uncovering The Truth
At its core, Rain Code is a very narrative focused adventure game and so I will be avoiding any specific story points beyond the opening. You take control of Yuma Kokohead, an amnesiac who wakes up in the storage room at a train station with no clues as to who he is besides a letter in his pocket with his name and instructions to board a train to the mysterious Kanai Ward and meet with other ‘Master Detectives’. These Master Detectives all have access to Fortes that are unique special powers that they use to solve mysteries, such as enhanced hearing, detecting living beings, or communicating with small animals. Yuma doesn’t appear to have one of these but soon discovers his own secret advantage, he is bound to Shinigami the death god. Together they can uncover the secrets surrounding a case by exploring Mystery Labyrinths, a manifestation of cases in a separate dimension to the real world. If you’ve ever played Persona 5, it’s quite reminiscent of the dungeons know as Palaces being linked to a person’s warped perceptions. Rain Code takes Yuma and Shinigami through a number of cases that are all really quite unique to one another and take some real twists and turns. Fans of Danganronpa like myself will get the same kick out of uncovering these secrets just like they did in the trial sections of that series. These cases do not hold back either, there were quite a few really quite shocking twists to them, from the early sections right the way to the conclusion.
Let The Investigation Begin
Generally, each case in the game is split into the three sections: the story sections before a case opens, the investigation portion, and diving into the Mystery Labyrinth to solve the case. The story sections are straightforward enough and serve to add more context to Kanai Ward and the reasons for the Master Detectives being summoned. During this, you are often free to explore the city and undertake a few side quests, which are largely inconsequential and serve only to give you more skill points to help with the difficulty of certain sections in the Labyrinths.
Investigating the crimes of each case is more involved, with you searching for clues (known as Solution Keys) to help piece together what happened. Each case ties in various Fortes of the Master Detectives which helps to add extra variety to the investigation sections of the game, something that I think really sets cases apart from one another. Without spoiling anything, the third case’s investigation really stands out from the rest thanks to how you conduct your search for the culprit. On the other hand, the following case’s investigation I found to be more gimmicky than the others.
The Labyrinths are where you get to solve the cases by traveling through and solving different elements of a case as they come to block your path, in the form of various games. These are all variations of how trials were in Danganronpa and I think how they are adapted for Rain Code works for the adventure style. The biggest one of these is the Reasoning Death Match, where you have to dodge the incoming statements of the opponent and select the right Solution Key to shatter the weak points of their argument. Other sections have you selecting the correct answers to a series of questions in quick succession, or (weirdest of all) stabbing words on a rotating barrel with Shinigami inside in order to spell out a word. Even the conclusion of the case gets you to complete a summary of what happened by slotting in panels into a manga.
This all sounds quite bonkers and it generally is, but progressing through these sections was always very compelling and I found myself playing through most of the Labyrinths in one sitting, eager to see who the culprit was and how they pulled off their crimes. In most cases, I had a suspicion on who the perpetrator was and figuring out their methods and motives was always thrilling. You also gain points to buy skills for Yuma, such as more health (making mistakes cost a small amount) or removing some of the incorrect Solution Keys during selections to help you hone in on the correct one. These are a nice addition and I never felt like they made anything too easy, nor did I ever panic about running out of health.
Rain Code is quite a strange game and that is no small part to the cast of eccentric characters that you meet along the way. Yuma himself is quite normal in comparison to the others as he is quite unsure of himself due to his missing memories. Shinigami is a ghostly spirit that only Yuma can see and communicate with and as a result she is often belittling him or being rude about the other characters, often giving them nicknames. Quite a few of the other Master Detectives fall into some anime tropes which again can be both amusing and a bit tiresome depending on the character. You can collect statues that unlock bonus conversations with certain people and these reveal more about themselves, none of which is essential for the plot, but it does help to round out the characters. Despite some of them falling into these tropes, I found myself really enjoying their presence during investigations as it gave each case their own flavour.
It Looks To Me Like…
Rain Code has got an interesting style and, once again, it will be familiar to fans of Danganronpa. The character art is very reminiscent of this, but crucially this is a fully 3D game unlike Danganronpa, which stuck to 2D art outside of cutscenes. The style translates well and for the most part is visually appealing. The Mystery Labyrinths are very bright and colourful, with each one adding elements based on the case, although some sections largely consist of running along a corridor as the case is discussed and the environment shifts around you. Kanai Ward is a neon-lit, rainy city which really enhances the game’s aesthetic and has a number of areas that show off the city. That being said, the game at points does look a bit out of focus, which is nothing too drastic, and it is worth noting I played the game on an OLED Switch handheld and so it may be sharper on other consoles.
Another thing that has to be mentioned is the music which is really evocative of Danganronpa. It’s mostly electronic with some taking a more rocky and upbeat tone, while others are far more somber and dramatic. The themes for Reasoning Death Match sections are my personal favourites, as the battle theme is fast paced for the fight itself before breaking into an energetic theme once you successfully disarm your opponent’s arguments.
And The Verdict Is!
Rain Code is a very unique adventure game, taking the eccentricity of Danganronpa and creating a new world that feels fresh and interesting. The overall story and location is original and the cases really get their hooks in you. The sections between cases can really take their time, especially if you do the largely inconsequential side activities, but once a case starts, you’ll want to get to the bottom of it. If you have played Danganronpa, I strongly recommend giving this a try as you will find lots to enjoy and new variations of the gameplay that you are used to. If you haven’t and you enjoy anime, mysteries, or fancy something different, this could be your introduction to the unique take on the genre.