By: Matthew Striplen
When the trail gets colder than ice, who you gonna call? Cold Case Investigations! Join Shounosuke Nanase, a lazy but brilliant detective of the Cold Case Unit in the 3rd Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and his rather green partner, Koto Amekura, on their latest case in this visual novel from Arc System Works.
The story opens with Nanase sitting around lazily, while Amekura attempts to engage him in conversation. Suddenly, the phone rings with an important tip. Five years ago, an explosion at the Ryokudou Hospital resulted in the death of janitor Minami, but the incident was ruled an accident. A mysterious voice on the other end of the phone tells Amekura that Minami’s death was not an accident. It’s up to the player to help the detectives solve their case.
Most of the game is a simple visual novel. The writing is consistently good from start to finish, but no auto-scroll function is available. Distant Memories also throws in a few other game types to keep things feeling fresh.
When conducting interrogations, you’ll be presented with a handful of choices for questions or responses. Only one of choices is correct, and answering otherwise decreases a gauge, which when depleted ends the game.
These questions and responses function as a quiz for the player on key plot points. Since the questions pertain to important plot points, players shouldn’t have much trouble answering them correctly. If the player manages to deplete their gauge, a “game over” screen appears and they must restart from the beginning of the scene.
The other gameplay element is the picture searches. Here you’ll be shown a photograph and must select specific points on it using the touchscreen. Unfortunately, the pictures lack detail, so it’s difficult to tell what is actually being displayed. Still, these sections can also be easily completed.
Distant Memories boasts some of the best graphics in the visual novel genre. There are tons of different character poses and environments to keep the game from getting stale. Plus, all the characters have subtle animations. Other developers should definitely take note of its visual presentation.
Music in Distant Memories is also effective. Although only a few tracks repeat through the game, the music is well composed and compelling, without distracting from the story. Even the sound effect of scrolling text is easy on the ears.
Ultimately, the game’s largest problem is its brevity. Most players should be able to complete the entire thing in less than two hours, and, as with many visual novels, it offers little replay value.
While the story is undoubtedly interesting and well written, it ends on a cliff hanger, a plot device that entices readers to continue with the story, but in the absence of a second chapter it serves only to frustrate the player.
Chase: Cold Case Investigation – Distant Memories is one of the better visual novels to make the leap from Japan to the USA, but it still has a few problems — most notably that the short and unfinished story. However, the good writing and fantastic graphics should soften the blow.