Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes plays a pivotal role in Shu Takumi’s upcoming game, The Great Ace Attorney. This isn’t the first time Holmes appears in a Japanese videogame, though—back before he was solving cases alongside Ryunosuke Naruhodo, he was just a bunch of pixels kicking thugs and searching for a kidnapped child.
In 1986, a developer named Towa Chiki published a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System called Sherlock Holmes: The Kidnapping of the Earl’s Daughter. London serves as the game’s overworld, where Sherlock can kick around thugs and citizens alike. The city is just the hub for Sherlock’s quest, and switches to action-platforming sections when he enters areas like the park or sewers. Towa Chiki published a follow-up game in 1989, Great Detective Holmes: A Case of Murder in the London Fog.
Then there’s Marvelous AQL’s English Detective Mysteria, released for the PSP back in 2013, which switches the dynamic of playing as Sherlock Holmes to… er…flirting with him. Well, flirting with his son, Sherlock Holmes. Jr.
The young Holmes takes on a much less eccentric persona than in The Great Ace Attorney, appearing as a serious young man with an undeniable air of mystery about him. The curious Otome game also invited detectives from one of Japan’s most celebrated mystery novelists, Edogawa Ranpo, as well as Holmes’ arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty.
Depictions of Sherlock Holmes moved far beyond games as well. NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, aired a puppet show called Puppet Entertainment Sherlock Holmes. The show began airing in October 2014, and a new series, titled “Holmes and Watson: A Room of Mystery” is set to air from mid-July to September 2015. The shows puppets draw much from traditional Japanese puppetry (called Bunraku), and the show follows the main Sherlock Holmes canon. The above video shows a bit of behind-the-scenes action.
Then, of course, there is Holmes’ appearance in The Great Ace Attorney. Director Shu Takumi says: “The representation of Sherlock Holmes we chose is a more modern one. The goggles he wears on his head are a product of his own research and development.”
The inclusion of Holmes allows for a collaborative investigation mode, short intervals of the game where Ryunosuke and Holmes examine suspects or evidence as a team. “He is always slightly off-point of the truth,” Takumi shares, “and you put him back on the right track during those segments.”