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Screenshot by Siliconera

Review: Master Detective Archives Rain Code Is Danganronpa on Steroids

When the creative minds behind Danganronpa announced Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, it was hard not to notice the similarities between their previous Danganronpa trilogy and this upcoming standalone title. The assets all look very familiar, the genre is virtually the same, and the way you go about solving mysteries is even reminiscent of the minigames of yore. It’s pretty much impossible to play this game if you’re a Danganronpa veteran and not compare the two in your head. However, despite lots of callbacks to Too Kyo Games’, it still manages to develop its unique identity and voice.

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The story of Master Detective Archives: Rain Code follows Yuma Kokohead, an amnesiac detective who is a trainee at the World Detective Organization (WDO). He doesn’t remember anything about who he was or why he wanted to be a detective. But he quickly discovers that his amnesia is the result of a contract with the death god Shinigami. Through his pact with her, he can access the Mystery Labyrinth. In the Labyrinth, he uses various clues he discovered in the real world, as well as Shinigami’s arsenal of bizarre powers, to solve the unsolved in Kanai Ward. Kanai Ward is under the authoritarian rule of Amaterasu Corporation, which is full of weird megalomaniacs. With the aid of his peers at the WDO, Yuma attempts to figure out the greatest mystery of Kanai Ward.

I personally really like the story, as well as the cases. Though the cases are fairly easy, the way you go about solving them with the Mystery Labyrinth and various Fortes is fun. The story itself never gets too stagnant either. There’s always something hinting at the bigger picture or something behind the scenes. So it can get hard to put down, especially once you start getting to the root of Kanai Ward’s secrets. The colorful cast of characters are all generally likable. I particularly loved Yakou, Halara, and Shinigami. Admittedly, Shinigami’s antics toed the line between “haha, this is funny” and “what fetish is this and who put it in here?” The sheer amount of voice acting is really impressive as well.

It’s hard to say if Danganronpa fans or people who didn’t care for the series would enjoy Master Detective Archives: Rain Code more. The game obviously pulls a lot of cues from its predecessor. Like in Danganronpa, you explore to answer questions about the crime at hand. In Rain Code, there is an in-game justification for this (the Mystery Labyrinth), whereas in Danganronpa, they were just the random delusions of the protagonists during trials. Though the pool of mini-games is actually fairly small, each Labyrinth presents them in a different way. So it feels like there are more variants than the reality. They’re fun and stylish enough that it’s not that detrimental though.

What makes Rain Code fun to play is in the Reasoning Death Match segments (RDM). This is Yuma’s version of a Nonstop Debate from Danganronpa. Phantoms throw their arguments at you, which you must dodge using the joystick. When you find a contradiction, you can use your Solution Blade to slash through the Mystery Phantom’s assertions and deal damage. It can take a bit of time to find the right moment for the perfect dodge. But once you get the hang of it, it’s not bad. You just have to be patient in the beginning; I took a lot of dumb hits because I felt pressure from deadlines.

Rain Code rdm

Screenshot by Siliconera

This is a really fun evolution of the more text-based system from before. Not to sound like a literal infant, but the extra act of having to dodge or cut things up is a nice distraction, since a lot of the actual mystery-solving can be easy. It’s hard to feel impatient or irritated at why I have to prove something so simple when I’m more focused on cutting up as much noise as I can for a higher score. However, if you’re hankering for a game that’ll really make you use your noggin, Rain Code might not be for you. The cases are all a bit on the easy side. This is probably due to how quick you have to be with your reactions and thinking due to the action-oriented nature of the game.

Because Rain Code’s cases are ones that are supposed to be unsolvable, they feel a lot more elaborate. The lack of connection to the culprits and victims can feel a little lacking. I suppose that’s the way it is for detectives in real life though. Another positive for Rain Code compared to Danganronpa is that there is a lot less nonsense. The game still has tasteless jokes (Yuma’s out-of-pocket insinuation about Desuhiko “committing a crime” after he makes a comment about Fubuki is one example I can think of) and in-your-face female fanservice (I wouldn’t mind it so much if guys got a turn shoving their chest in the camera). But they’re a lot less constant than in Danganronpa, where it could get grating and tiring. Ironically, you’d figure that Rain Code would have more since these characters are all adults.

rain code fanservice

Screenshot by Siliconera

The main issue for me with Rain Code is the fact that it’s a Switch exclusive. I don’t know if this is the best console for it. The load times were fairly long, and some of the animations felt like they lagged. There were some odd errors as well. Peacekeepers hold down Yuma in a scene in Chapter 1. We pan away for a bit, but when we pan back, Yuma is crouching on the ground alone and the Peacekeepers who were supposed to be restricting him are some distance away. This is obviously a weird bug. However, the main thing I immediately noticed is that the game can look really blurry. It looks like someone needs to run a sharpness filter over the whole thing.

I can’t tell if this is on purpose or not to suit the rainy aesthetic of the game. The art in the dialog boxes and Yuma’s cut-ins look great. But everything else looks like it’s in 720p. The visual bloom combined with the somewhat outdated-looking 3D when you’re looking at the neon lights or the rainbows of the Mystery Phantoms make it look like an older game than it is. It’s a bit unfortunate. Danganronpa V3 was so sharp and beautiful in comparison. But then again, that game was a lot less graphically demanding. I will say that I played the whole thing without docking my Switch. Since my screenshots look fine, I think you should play it on a bigger screen.

visuals

Screenshot by Siliconera

If you’re into mysteries, humorous writing, and a story full of twist and turns, then Master Detective Archives: Rain Code has everything for you. Yuma’s reactions to all of the wacky nonsense that goes on around him make him a hilariously relatable protagonist. Shinigami was a pleasant surprise as well. I thought she would be the annoyingly lewd fanservice mascot when I first saw her. But she quickly grew on me through her interactions with Yuma, as well as her ineffective attempts to be helpful. Its unique combination of action RPG with puzzle solving works to provide a really fun and mentally stimulating experience. However, it being in between these two genres can be unsatisfying for certain players.

Master Detective Archives: Rain Code is readily available on the Nintendo Switch.

7
Master Detective Archives: Rain Code

A brand new dark fantasy detective action game from the minds behind the Danganronpa series!

Yuma, an amnesiac detective-in-training, and Shinigami, the spirit haunting him, tackle unsolved mysteries! End the reign of mysteries in this lucid-noir detective adventure!

A unique story in a fun setting and with a really addictive gameplay loop, Master Detective Archives: Rain Code feels really original while retaining a familiar formula.

Food for Thought:
  • The localization is fantastic but there are a few oddities like an extra space between highlighted words and punctuation, as well as a few typos here and there. Hopefully, these'll get fixed in a future patch.
  • The game shoves Shinigami at you a lot, which is fine because she's cute. But it has the side effect of making you notice how weird the game is about its female-presenting characters.
  • A lot of the side quests (the requests) are kind of boring so I wish there were a few more interesting ones.

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Stephanie Liu
Stephanie is a senior writer who has been writing for games journalism and translating since 2020. After graduating with a BA in English and a Certificate in Creative Writing, she spent a few years teaching English and history before fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a writer. In terms of games, she loves RPGs, action-adventure, and visual novels. Aside from writing for Siliconera and Crunchyroll, she translates light novels, manga, and video games.