|Developer||Spike Chunsoft, Too Kyo Games|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Adventure|
|Release Date||June 30, 2023|
What happens when you mix a dreary world of rain, a cyberpunk military corporation, an amnesiac detective, a pink death god, and a psychedelic pyramid? Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, of course. While not officially part of the fan-favorite Danganronpa series, Rain Code‘s minigames and art style fit right in with its predecessor, even as the creators expand its gameplay to include more adventure-style quests than the visual novels of old.
Violence/Scary Images: The story revolves around murder and violence. Crime scene depictions do not stray from blood, though it is normally pink. A character must get his neck slashed with a scythe multiple times to forward the plot. This is shown in a silhouetted bloody spray, but the character is always fine. Many people are threatened, and some are implied to have been tortured or killed off-screen. A major plot point revolves around a dark time in the city. (More cannot be said without spoilers.)
Language: Frequent language including h***, d***, b***h, b*****d, a**, and s***. Occasional uses of f***.
Alcohol/Substance Abuse: Many adult characters smoke and some drink. Drunk people are shown in the background of the city. Poison is used as a murder weapon.
Sexual Content/Nudity: Some female characters wear revealing clothes. Sexual innuendos are scattered throughout, though they are not as explicit as previous games by this publisher. One secondary character is a womanizer. A physical relationship is implied between two people.
Other Negative Content: Corruption is a major theme of the story. The main character is complicit in morally gray acts. A detective only helps people who can afford their exorbitant fees. One female character refers to her partner as “master” because of a pact.
Spiritual Content: The protagonist makes a pact with a death god, but she is portrayed more like a ghost with special abilities. Souls are pushed out of their bodies and “reaped,” AKA killed. Someone mentions “selling their soul” to solve a mystery.
Positive Content: Characters want to protect and save those less fortunate than themselves. One person is adamant about helping a specific minority group. A femme-presenting character does not use pronouns and is ambiguous about their gender, providing representation for nonbinary players.
This reviewer was granted a copy of the game from the publisher.
Rain Code is the anticipated spiritual successor to the creators’ Danganronpa franchise. Though it isn’t set in the same world, the game utilizes the gimmicks of the latter series. Namely, investigating crime scenes, using evidence to refute claims, and creating manga to resolve every case. The art style unique to the creators is given a new three-dimensional depth in Rain Code, adding new ways to showcase character emotion. In some ways, it is evident this is the first truly 3D game the creators have made. Some in-game cut scenes feel a bit stilted, and the two-dimensional face sprites display more emotion than their full-body counterparts. Still, adding a new dimension to the art also adds more dimension to the play. Players can visit multiple areas on a map, find collectibles, and pursue optional side quests.
Rain Code‘s plot uses the basic formula for many detective visual novels, including the previously reviewed Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir. Yuma Kokohead is a detective with amnesia, searching for clues about The Ultimate Secret and his own identity. This typical premise is made more interesting by the fact that Master Detectives in this world can use ESP-like abilities to further investigations. Yuma’s ability allows him to share the powers of others, giving the player a slightly different experience in each chapter. Every section focuses on a different detective partner, all of whom have a specific—though fairly stereotypical—personality.
Describing the mechanics feels like a fever dream. Yuma teams up with a death god named Shinigami who can physically manifest a mystery as a Mystery Labyrinth (but only after a magical girl transformation sequence). This Labyrinth is colorful and psychedelic, full of minigames similar to the previous Danganronpa games. Players use evidence gathered in investigations in the real world to shoot down falsehoods and break barriers to the truth. Unlike the aforementioned series, though, these games are couched in odd symbolism. People in the game world turn into neon monsters. A game of hangman involves shooting arrows into a barrel on a beach with a bikini-clad Shinigami inside it. Questions can only be asked by slicing Yuma’s neck and using his blood to splatter the walls, though he is always unhurt by this.
Kanai Ward’s Ultimate Secret
In terms of genre, my husband and I debated for a while about what exactly Rain Code is. Its gameplay involves more than the typical choices of visual novels but also more than the investigation segments in escape rooms like AI: Somnium Files. Players can access side quests, find collectibles, and wander around town at (mostly) their own pace. There is a linear path, but Kanai Ward—the setting for Rain Code—is an intriguing place to explore, offering more than just clues for the investigation.
A major theme of this game is Truth. As Yuma learns more about his fellow detectives and Kanai Ward, he finds it harder to decide between exposing the truth and holding back in kindness. The player, likewise, will begin to question what they want to do as the game progresses and the line between good and evil blurs. The culminating choice can be determined by how the player feels not only about truth but the people in the town they’ve been helping all along.
As players explore the soggy, dreary town, they will notice it is far more than just a backdrop. Kanai Ward’s areas differ from a flooded slum to a mansion-filled street to an all-girls boarding school. The people living here are the main characters in their own lives, if the player stops long enough to listen. Side quests explore the vastly different sectors and encourage players to fall in love with Kanai Ward, making end-game decisions a bit harder.
Parts of Rain Code feel like a trippy dream and not every minigame metaphor makes sense. However, that does not stop the fun. The music is atmospheric, the characters are enjoyable, and the plot offers more nuance than first expected. If players linger in the world of Kanai Ward, they will discover loveable NPCs, extra content, and a story that raises philosophical questions about the nature of truth. I highly recommend it for fans of detective stories, the Danganronpa franchise, and anyone who enjoys a good and weird game.
The Bottom Line
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is a trippy game that feels like a slightly tamer, though not quite family-friendly, version of the Danganronpa series. Great for lovers of the weird and whimsical.