Prior to a few months ago, I had never heard of Famicom Detective Club. Perhaps that comes as no surprise, as the series is over 30 years old and was never released outside of Japan. I’m not going to pretend to understand why all of a sudden we got remakes of a game that, for most people, we could’ve gone our whole lives not knowing existed. But I’m infinitely glad that we did. Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind are fantastic remakes and are well worth seizing this opportunity to play.
Despite belonging to the same franchise, Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind feature thematically different stories. The Missing Heir plays out more along the lines of a traditional murder mystery and focuses on an investigation into the death of a wealthy businesswoman. Along the way, you’ll deal with a feuding family, a frightening village legend, and possibly the scariest thing of all, amnesia. Meanwhile, The Girl Who Stands Behind leans more into the paranormal. When the body of a young schoolgirl washes up on the local riverbank, it’s up to you to bring her killer to justice. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that her death is intrinsically linked to the school’s urban legend — a ghastly tale about the ghost of a girl who’s haunted the school for 15 years.
If there’s one complaint I have about the stories, it’s that at times they’re rather predictable. In The Girl Who Stands Behind, for instance, I was able to predict most of the ending less than a third of the way into the game. That said, I’m also well versed in mystery stories, so your experience here may differ. Regardless, both of these stories kept me engaged and staying up way into the early morning hours because I was so engrossed.
Technically, The Girl Who Stands Behind is the sequel to The Missing Heir, but the main stories stand on their own and can be played in any order. I would actually recommend playing The Girl Who Stands Behind first, because I played The Missing Heir first and quickly had questions regarding a few of the characters and their backstories that wouldn’t be answered until the sequel. Normally this wouldn’t be a bad thing, but in this case, I felt it made The Missing Heir‘s opening segments felt a little rushed, ever so slightly dampening the overall experience. That said, if you’re only going to pick up one of them to give it a try before committing to both, definitely choose whichever one most interests you. The games will check for save data from the other title, but this only imports your character name.
As far as gameplay goes, both Famicom Detective Club titles play exactly as you would expect a Japanese adventure game to play. In any given scene, you’ll have a variety of actions you can take, such as talking to someone, examining the scene, or traveling to a new location. These actions are performed by choosing the desired option from the on-screen menu. In most cases, you’ll have to choose a specific target to be the recipient of the action as well. Once you make your selection, you’ll be provided with text that will show you the results of your action. You’ll then proceed in this loop until the end of the game.
As with most adventure games, progression is locked behind performing the right set of actions in the correct sequence. Sometimes this is fairly straightforward, while at other times, things can seem a bit obtuse. Even if you know the right course of action, figuring out the correct choices to perform that action can be a little confusing at times. The game will not let you proceed without discovering absolutely everything you need to find at a given moment, so you don’t need to worry about missing anything. However, some details are well-hidden, often requiring asking the same questions repeated times or picking out a small detail in the environment. For the most part, however, as long as you’re paying attention to the game, it will generally guide you on the right path.
If difficulty is a concern to you, I found Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind to be a bit easier, but it’s possible that this was influenced by coming directly off of The Missing Heir, in which I got stuck quite often. As a result, I wound up breezing through it in about four and a half hours, compared to my roughly six-hour playthrough for The Missing Heir. Of course, mileage will vary, but generally you should be able to finish them in two or three moderately sized play sessions.
One seemingly weird choice I noticed is that the menu options are arranged in a slightly different order between the two games. It’s possible that the original games did this and it was kept for these remakes, but it took me a little bit to adjust. I also noticed a slight control difference between the two games. Both games feature an auto mode, which automatically advances the text at a specific timing, but The Missing Heir also has a skip mode, which will immediately skip any text you’ve already seen. However, The Girl Who Stands Behind was missing that feature, instead opting to put a fast-forward feature on the left bumper.
Both the auto and skip modes can be toggled at any time, making them extremely convenient, whereas you have to actively fast-forward text, which can be a problem if you skip over text you’ve not seen already. Given how often you might find yourself repeating text as you experiment to find the right sequence of actions to progress, I wish the skip mode had been carried over into the second game as well.
Presentation-wise, you can tell that a great deal of effort went into both Famicom Detective Club titles. Each game looks incredible and features some nice animations even for the smallest details. For instance, in The Missing Heir, there are a number of times when you’ll be in a room talking to multiple people. As you switch between them, the new active party in the conversation will usually raise their head or make some gesture to indicate that they’re now involved. Meanwhile, the person you’re ignoring for the moment will turn away from you or generally do something to fit in more with the background.
The soundtracks wonderfully complement the visuals. Each game features a newly arranged soundtrack, but there is also the option to switch to the original Famicom version at any time. Additionally, The Girl Who Stands Behind also includes the Super Famicom soundtrack as a third option. I wound up playing The Missing Heir using the arranged soundtrack and The Girl Who Stands Behind with the original Famicom soundtrack. Since the soundtracks are different between the games, I can’t directly compare them, but both were fitting and well done.
By their nature, these games don’t offer much replayability, as there are no secrets or anything to find on subsequent playthroughs. You might pick up on a few additional things during replay due to your newfound knowledge, but there’s nothing else to see unless you just want to experience it again. Completing one of the games unlocks its respective music mode, which is a nice bonus for seeing things through to the end. Unfortunately, only the arranged soundtracks are available to listen to, which is disappointing. However, in games like these, the conclusion to the story is often reward enough.
By today’s standards, there’s nothing revolutionary about Famicom Detective Club, but that doesn’t stop both games from being really solid experiences. Despite a bit of predictability in the plots, both stories were incredibly engaging and nothing short of a complete joy to play through. It’s easy to see that Mages really took a lot of pride in crafting a quality remake here, since every little detail shines through. If you’re at all curious to see what these games are about, you owe it to yourself to give at least one of them a look.
Review codes for Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir and Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind were provided by the publisher.