March 30, 2023

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Famicom Detective Club: the history behind Nintendo’s once-forgotten foray into visual novels

This week saw the re-release of a real Nintendo curio. The Famicon Detective Club games initially seem to have come from a parallel universe – Nintendo games, but also visual novels? The re-releases of the first two adventures have been lovingly handled, with beautifully updated graphics and plenty of quality-of-life changes, although be warned that they remain wilful and rather odd. To help make sense of where these games came from, though, we’ve decided to dig into the history of this fascinating series.

When you think about Nintendo in the 80s, what comes to mind? Super Mario Bros? Duck Hunt and the glorious NES Zapper? Absolute domination of the home console market? All valid answers, but even for Nintendo’s most dedicated, Famicom Detective Club probably isn’t topping your list. Released for the Famicom Disk System in 1988, these game brought us two classic murder mystery visual novels, something we’ve not seen from the Nintendo since Last Window. Sadly, this duology never launched outside Japan, though it holds an intriguing history.

You can picture the surprise then, when Nintendo announced Switch versions were on the way, and would finally arrive in the West too. Now, this isn’t another case of translating the original versions as Earthbound Beginnings or Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon And The Blade Of Light were. First confirmed in 2019, Steins;Gate developers Mages have given both entries the full remake treatment, retaining that core gameplay with brand-new graphics, music, and fully voiced dialogue.

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