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‘Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories’: A Flawed Mystery

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The Cing adventure titles for the Nintendo DS, Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk: Room 215, are very unique titles that are fondly remembered by many for their intricate storytelling and dialogue-heavy format. Gamers looking for a more gameplay-driven and less reading-reliant experience often shied away from these games, but they undoubtedly found their niche among a crowd of DS owners who love to experience a great story. Unfortunately, Cing filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and haven’t been heard from since. Luckily, fans of these unique DS games have reason to be excited once more; Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories is a visual novel adventure from many former staff members from this now-defunct company, developing under the new team of Arc System Works.

Cold Case Investigations follows the exploits of a detective duo who have been placed into the reopening of a five-year-old case, coming to the realization that there is much more to the story than once thought. Fans of Cing’s strong storytelling will not be disappointed, and newcomers looking for a fun, but short story to keep them occupied will also likely find something to enjoy here. As a story, it succeeds; however, there are a handful of flaws, mainly in the ways of feeling like an incomplete portion rather than a full game, and a lack of characterization that make this title difficult to fully recommend.

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The plot of Cold Case is relatively simple in its premise, as well as its execution. It’s a great detective “whodunit”-type of story, through and through. You play as Shounosuke Nanase, a detective who works for the Cold Case Unit of the 3rd Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. And…that’s just about all you ever learn about our hero, as well as his assistant, Koto Amekura. The player, as Nanase, follow their investigation of a five-year-old case that was thought to be closed, but hidden depths of the case soon begin to show, and it’s down the rabbit hole of investigating suspects and crime evidence from there. The story plays out like a more mature, abbreviated Ace Attorney case. Anyone who appreciates a good detective story will not be disappointed here, because the plot as a whole is very smartly-constructed. There are no shortage of suspicious suspects to be interrogated, data to be analyze, and revelations to be uncovered. The player will follow the two detectives as they converse with one another, as well as those involved with the case, trying to make sense of the entire scenario. It is best not to go into any more details of the plot of this game, considering the story is the main focus here, as well as the fact that the game only lasts about 2-3 hours. Though short, the plot does remain consistently entertaining throughout its run-time. The story is very satisfying until the very end, but a few threads are left untied by the end, and an obvious sequel hook at the conclusion tells us that there is more to come. For what is there, the story is easily enjoyable, but the short length still makes the ending feel sudden, and therefore a bit unsatisfactory. The game feels like a great chapter in what should be a much longer book. If the developers were going for an episodic format, why make the game $6? Because of this short length, it’s easy to feel a little bit cheated. The story is entertaining, but does not leave enough of an impression to be worth that much money for how little is actually there.

The plot does not waste any of the player’s time, and is quite fast-paced. So fast-paced, in fact, that the game ends up suffering for it. Not because the story is difficult to follow, but because there is a distinct lack of character depth within the game, and it’s fairly obvious that the developers put much more thought and time into writing the game’s overarching mystery than the actual characters themselves. This isn’t necessarily a problem, considering the game’s short length, but it still feels as if there could’ve been much more explained in terms of the characters and their motivations, instead of them being nothing more than machines that progress the plot forward. Detective Nanase, the lead character, has only one personality trait, which is apparently to antagonize his assistant, Amekura, as much as humanly possible. Seriously, this guy is relentlessly mean to her. And Amekura’s main personality trait is to become overly submissive and apologetic whenever Nanase criticizes her, which happens in just about every scene that they are together. It’s not worthy criticism, either- it’s just, “You did this wrong. You should’ve done this better. You’re an idiot.”-type of stuff. It’s not funny in the slightest, and the end result becomes a one-dimensional main character who is genuinely unlikable, and not even in a remotely enjoyable way. This is a shame, considering we spend so much time with him and his assistant. The supporting characters don’t have much to offer in this regard, either. Just a little bit of backstory, or attempt at any sort of characterization for the lead or supporting roles would’ve added a lot to the experience.

It should be noted that short stories that offer insight to character backstories are available on the game’s website, and it’s very much recommended that the player reads these if the game is purchased. They’re certainly not necessary, but add a lot more depth than what is presented in the game. It’s a shame that these stories weren’t included in the game, because most players will not be aware of their existence. So, that’s why I’m letting you know about these. Now you are among the few who are aware! Congratulations.

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The gameplay, much like the story, is reminiscent of the Ace Attorney series. The majority of the game will be spent reading dialogue, and the only times that character interaction is involved are during instances of interrogation of suspects, where you need to choose the most valuable questions to ask each of them. If the player asks too many wrong questions, it’s game over. These sections are not very difficult, so long as the player has been paying attention to the story, and the interrogation sequences give the player a nice reward for doing so. Although, if one interrogation sequence does prove to be particularly difficult, have no fear, because the game allows the player to save at any point throughout the game. The interface feels very nice and polished, and the bottom menu allows for quick access to the text log, as well as the save/load screen.

The graphics of this game shine in some areas, but pale in others. The character designs and animations, for one, are quite fantastic. They are animated with a pseudo-3D look, and the slight movements of each character are done smoothly and feel genuinely lifelike. In a game that relies on only text and images to tell its story, the polished character models add a great amount to the overall experience. Unfortunately, this is just about the only noteworthy aspect of the game’s graphics, because there really isn’t much else to say about the rest of the game’s visuals. Much of the game takes place inside of a dark, dreary office, and there are very few instances where the player sees otherwise. There isn’t much color or particularly eye-catching imagery in this game, but what is there does a decent job. Unfortunately, there is no use of the 3DS’s 3D functionality in any way during the game.

The soundtrack of Cold Case Investigations offers a fun handful of tracks to solve mysteries to. Though only featuring a few songs, they are very enjoyable and give the game a lot of personality and atmosphere that it would otherwise lack. The pianos and muted trumpets really do put you in the shoes of a detective. I found myself enjoying the game’s music much more than I thought I would, and there is some great songwriting craft to be found here. However, it is highly reminiscent of a bygone era, an era of original Nintendo DS soundtracks. What I mean by this is that the soundtrack does sound particularly tinny and low-quality. This is something that is not really acceptable in 2016, and the 3DS’ speakers are capable of much greater sound than what is found within this game. Now I should denounce this, but I personally found myself really enjoying the low-quality audio, if not for nostalgia alone. The game’s sound really is low-quality enough to pass as an original DS soundtrack, and brings back warm memories of Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk. The musical quality itself is there, but the actual audio quality is quite bad, but still enjoyable for that original DS feel. It’s a somewhat unique scenario.

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There is a strong feeling of lost potential that can be found throughout this game- the overall lack of polish and detail from within the game, as well as the sequel hook ending, give a sense of potential that was never fully reached. As a murder mystery, Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories succeeds in its plotline with clever twists and a well-written scenarios, but the lack of polish, short length, and $6 price tag make it difficult to recommend to everyone. It’s a perfectly enjoyable adventure, but one that feels slightly empty in regards to personality and overall depth, with no replay value to be found. If an episodic format is what the developers were going for, a lower price would’ve been much appreciated. It is very obvious that the developers have a lot of talent when it comes to writing out a complex murder mystery, and really do care about bringing back that sweet DS-mystery flavor that they brought to the table with Cing in the mid-2000s. If you’re a fan of either Trace Memory or Hotel Dusk: Room 215, or enjoy a good mystery, this game is an easy recommendation. If you do decide to download it, be sure to check out those character short stories on the game’s website, they will add a lot to the experience. However, for the rest of the gaming population, its numerous flaws make it a title that one should look into before purchasing. In particular, more characterization and a longer play-time would’ve been appreciated. All in all, there is a lot to love about Cold Case Investigations, but there is a nagging sense of lost potential throughout the entire experience.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Oliver Rebbeck

    November 18, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    I haven’t brought myself to finish it. The Kyle Hyde games are some of my favourites (somewhat apparent from my avatar) but it I found it really disappointing.

    • Nate Brown

      November 19, 2016 at 3:55 am

      Aw man, I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t blame you, though. I like to think that this group of developers just weren’t given enough time/budget to create what they really wanted. Hopefully, if this game sells well, we can get a more satisfying sequel.

      • Nate Brown

        November 19, 2016 at 3:56 am

        Definitely complete it if you already bought it, though, it’s only a few hours long at most! Maybe your opinion could change up slightly.

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Game Reviews

‘AVICII Invector Encore Edition’ Review: Rhythm and Melancholy

‘AVICII Invector: Encore Edition’ is a music and rhythm game perfect for newcomers and fans of the genre.

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AVICII Invector Encore Edition Review

Developer: Hello There Games | Publisher: Wired Productions | Genre:  Rhythm | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch


In terms of a pure adrenaline rush, nothing tops a well-designed rhythm game. Good rhythm games let players feel a euphoric sense of flow and even excitement. But the best the genre has to offer taps into the heart of music itself. AVICII Invector Encore Edition is a rhythm game perfect for newcomers to the genre but also works as a moving tribute.

I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

Whether it’s tapping buttons in time with the beat, smashing feet on a dance pad, or moving an entire body in front of an IR camera, rhythm and music games have always been popular. AVICII Invector Encore Edition takes inspiration from music games that came before it but stands firmly on its own. It’s wonderfully accessible, truly a music game for anyone. From diehard fans of the rhythm game genre to people who are simply AVICII fans who also have a console, Invector checks a lot of boxes.

Levels across AVICII Invector play largely the same. The player picks a track and a difficulty level, and is off to the races. They control a slick spaceship moving forward along a track, and must tap or hold buttons as the ship passes over them. This “falling jewel” style has been popular from the Guitar Hero franchise and beyond, but Invector finds ways to make it feel unique. The art direction is breathtakingly stellar, taking players on far-out trips through cyberpunk-esque cities and crumbling pathways. There are even portions of each level where the player can steer their spaceship Star Fox-style through rings and around pillars to keep their point multiplier up.

Invector feels like it’s trying to affect as many sensory inputs as it can. Though Encore Edition is fully playable on handheld mode on Switch, Invector shines brightest on a big screen with a thumping sound system. The neighbors might get annoyed, but who would hear them complaining?

Tracks are divided up by worlds, with four to five tracks each. Worlds must be cleared sequentially, by scoring at least seventy-five percent on each level in that world. While this may sound initially restrictive, Encore Edition gives players access to two extra worlds with five tracks each right out of the gate, so players have plenty to play with at the start.

There are three difficulties available, and each mode offers a different experience. For players who just want to experience AVICII’s music in a low-stress way while enjoying amazing visuals and ambiance, Easy mode is the way to play. Anything above that amps the difficulty up significantly, with Hard mode escalating the required precision to an unbelievable degree. Building up a competitive high score can only be achieved by hitting multipliers and keeping a streak going. At higher difficulties, Invector feels challenging but exhilarating. Scoring above ninety percent on any difficulty mode above Easy feels extremely good, and the online leaderboards are the perfect place to boast about that achievement. During high level play, earning a high score feels transcendent.

Worlds and levels are strung together with brief, lightly-animated cutscenes. It’s a slim justification for a rhythm game, but they’re better than nothing and provide just enough context to keep things interesting. AVICII Invector is both visually and aurally pleasing, but even if the player isn’t a diehard fan of EDM or House music, there is plenty to love.

This world can seem cold and grey
But you and I are here today
And we won’t fade into darkness

AVICII Invector is a truly fantastic rhythm game. But it’s also more than that. It is impossible to play Invector and not feel a twinge of melancholy. The game is a tribute to a hard-working perfectionist, but the man behind the music had his demons. Though the visuals are enticing and the gameplay electric, it is difficult not to feel sad from the opening credits. It is to Invector‘s credit that all throughout, the game feels like a joyful celebration of Tim Bergling’s music. It is a worthy tribute to a man who revitalized and reinvigorated the EDM and House music scene.

At the end of the day, almost every aspect of AVICII Invector reflects a desire to connect. For players connected to the internet, global leaderboards are a great opportunity to share high scores. Invector is much more forgiving than Thumper or Rez or even anything in the Hatsune Miku catalog. Players can cruise through this game on Easy mode if they want, and they won’t be punished. The Encore Edition even includes a split-screen multiplayer, which is fantastically fun.

In his music, Bergling worked across genres to expand what pop music could look like. With Invector, music lovers and players of nearly any skill level can have a pleasing experience. In video games, that’s rare, and it should be celebrated.

According to publisher Wired Productions’ website, all music royalties from AVICII Invector Encore Edition will support suicide awareness through the Tim Bergling Foundation.

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Game Reviews

‘Tamarin’ Review: Monkey Trouble

Like Yooka-Laylee before it, Tamarin flounders in its attempts to recreate its source material for a more modern audience.

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Tamarin Game Review

Developer: Chameleon Games | Publisher: Chameleon Games | Genre: 3rd Person Shooter/Platformer| Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

You have to be of a certain age to recall a game like Jet Force Gemini. One of Rare’s one-off titles of the N64 era, like Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini never earned itself a sequel but was a fun sci-fi adventure for its time. It’s this same energy that Tamarin, from Chameleon Games, attempts to channel.

Made up of former Rare staff, the folks at Chameleon Games are almost certainly the best team to make an attempt at rekindling such a long dead franchise with their spiritual successor. However, as can be the case with retro throwbacks, sometimes it’s better to ask whether you should bring back an older style of gaming, rather than if you could.

As we’ve seen with games like Yooka Laylee and Mighty No. 9, it often seems that the idea of an older game or franchise being resurrected for modern audiences is better to imagine than to actually play. While the occasional Bloodstained does come along to buck the trend, more often than not we get a game which is too faithful to its sources to make a mark or too different to rekindle that old love and nostalgia.

All of which is to say that Tamarin, while very faithful to its inspirations, never quite hits the mark that brings it to the next level. Part of this is the natural aging process, particularly of the first era of 3D platformers and adventure games which spawned on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. While many of the games of that generation packed in endless hours of fun, so too have many of their mechanics aged terribly.

Tamarin Game Review

This accounts for Tamarin‘s weakest point, which is undoubtedly its combat. The shooting sections of the game, while channeling another Rare franchise that balanced cuteness with cartoonish violence, are just so mechanically terse that they drag the game down egregiously each time they crop up.

Like with Jet Force Gemini, players will spend much of Tamarin battling troubling insectoid enemies that threaten the peace of all of civilization. Also like the game which was such a clear inspiration for Chameleon, Tamarin brings back the clunky 3D aiming reticle. Not only is the shooting janky here, it feels downright unwieldy when you first get your hands on a firearm.

Though players can get the hang of it with a little effort and some reworking of how they see shooters, there seems to be little point in doing so. Tamarin‘s braindead AI and sparse few enemy types make combat feel like much of an afterthought to the experience, despite how central it is to progressing through the game.

To be fair, Tamarin does also bring some of the good from its spiritual forebear. The gradually growing arsenal of laser guns and rocket launchers does feel fun to play with, and the game is peppered with plenty of upgrades for the guns along the way. Sadly, then another of the Space Invaders style mini-games will pop up and derail things all over again.

Yes, there is a strange reference to yet another long gone gaming franchise here. Unlocking certain doors requires players to start from the center and aim the analog stick around firing at hovering, shifting rows of bugs. Again, it feels very unwieldy, and by the end most players will simply settle for spinning the analog stick wildly while firing with the machine gun for maximum ease.

Fortunately, more successful are the platforming sections. Making up the other side of Tamarin‘s coin, is a game more inspired by Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country 64 than anything else. As players travel through the outside world, gathering collectibles and gaining new abilities as they go, Tamarin shows much more variety than its combat sections.

With clear cues marked on the terrain to denote which areas require upgrades or new abilities to traverse, Tamarin is generally able to point you in the right direction across its world, though a map or minimap would help matters considerably. Though the game is split into many separate areas, they often look so similar that it can make the game hard to navigate and harder to remember where previous markers were for exploration. Even a rudimentary map feature would make this far less of an issue.

Alas, the exploration flounders on occasion as well. Jumping sometimes feels a bit too flighty and can even break the game at times, allowing players to jump off of surfaces they shouldn’t be able to normally. Further, the need to hold down a button and press another to grab certain collectibles is totally unintuitive and is another feature that seems to be more or less pointless.

As such, for all of it’s cute mascot spiritedness and lovingly attributed influences, Tamarin ultimately falls short in bringing back some of the best franchises of yesteryear. Though the effort is a valiant one, Tamarin, hampered by the flaws of the games it attempts to emulate, is just too clunky in its execution.

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Game Reviews

‘Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered’ Review: Some Games Age Like Milk

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

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Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Developer: Square-Enix | Publisher: Square-Enix | Genre: Action-RPG| Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Mobile | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

There’s a bit of a storied history between Nintendo and Square. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is an important part of that history. Or rather, the original version, released in 2003, was.

While it might seem to younger gamers like Square-Enix and Sony have always been close, Square had a different best friend for much of the 80s and 90s: Nintendo. Though a rift developed between them when Square opted to focus on CD-roms rather than cartridges for Final Fantasy VII, that rift only lasted for about 6 years. The game that signalled the end it? Well that was a new release exclusively for the GameCube: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

Though Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was released to relatively positive reviews 17 years ago, the game has not aged well. The quest of a caravan of crystal bearers to refill their crystal’s power and protect their homes from a deadly miasma, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

The first, and most considerable, problem with the game is that the quest at the heart of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is tedious and repetitive. Players ostensibly go from area to area on a world map, exploring uninteresting towns and beating lackluster dungeons. If this wasn’t enough, players are also forced to replay these levels over and over again in order to gain enough upgrades for later levels.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: all RPGs ask players to level up in order to succeed. You’re not wrong, it’s simply the structure of levelling up that makes this experience so trying. The only way to level up in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is to beat the entire level again. Players are not rewarded experience for killing enemies but instead can choose one stat to upgrade each time they complete a level. What this means is that every tiny upgrade to your character can take 10-15 minutes at a time to get.

This wouldn’t be as trying on your patience if simple, basic flaws in the game weren’t so egregious. Hit detection is incomprehensible at times because, even when your character seems to be standing right next to an enemy or boss, they often fail to connect their attacks. Even worse, rather than mapping different attacks to the face and shoulder buttons, players must cycle through them one at a time, with the attack button standing in for defense, magic, healing or food consumption.

Of course, much of this has to do with the format of the original game. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was meant to be played with link cables and Game Boy Advances connected to the GameCube. Each player would have a different bonus displayed on their GBA screens and, as such, players would work together in local multiplayer, aiding each other with their unique screen information as well as their combat skills.

Naturally the GBA had only two face buttons and two shoulder buttons, hence the layout. However, it’s been 17 years, and it’s pretty egregious that Square-Enix didn’t even think of giving players an option to rework the button layout. Doing so would make combat much more dynamic and help to fix the often clunky feeling of battling the game’s monsters.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Adding to the tedium are unskippable cutscenes all over the game. Every single time players challenge a boss, they are forced to sit through the same cutscene introducing the boss. Further, there are random events that occur on the world map which are also unskippable, even if they’re repeats of events that the player has already seen. Haplessly tapping the confirm button to skip through dialog that we’ve already heard should not be an issue in a game released in 2020.

These flaws were mostly a part of the original release as well but what’s the point of remastering a game if you haven’t fixed anything? Even the visuals in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered have failed to receive much polish. The game looks murky and fuzzy rather than sharp and clear. If Square-Enix could clean up Final Fantasy VIII for its gorgeous remaster, what stopped them here?

This is without even mentioning the loading times, which are frankly absurd for a game nearly two decades old. Again, it seems that getting this remaster out the door trumped quality control for Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, which does nothing to help the game’s case.

Though the game is markedly more fun when players join you to take on a level, even the online connectivity has serious issues. To make matters worse, if a player chooses to use the multiplayer, they’ll have to carry a chalice around themselves if no one joins them, picking it up and putting it down all through the level.

Since single player has an AI character who will carry it for you, this option could be easily added to multiplayer, disappearing when (or if) someone actually joins you. This would allow the structure of the game to remain static regardless of whether someone joins your game or not, instead of making the game harder if no one decides to pop in.

While game director Araki Ryoma has promised to address the issues with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, the game has aged so poorly that, even without the flaws of the remaster, it’s hard to recommend it to modern audiences. Sad as it is, some games are better left in the past. Such is the case with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

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