Release Date: December 18th, 2018 (PlayStation Vita)
Genre: Visual Novel, Romance, Otome
Developer: Kirin Entertainment
ESRB: Mature (Violence, Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs)
Something must be said about the support that the Playstation Vita continues to get, small as it may be. XSEED has been quite the avid supporter of the “little handheld that could,” with more releases scheduled from them next year on the platform. Their latest addition to the Vita library is London Detective Mysteria. This is their first Otome game they have released, and not a bad one to start with. It is also being released on PC at a later date if playing a visual novel/otome game on your Pc is more to your liking. Given the length of the game and the grand task that was translating it to English, I cannot believe it is not being pushed harder on the marketing front. Maybe that will change when the PC version gets a release date.
Over the past few years, I have grown to really enjoy the visual novel genre of games, and this one turned out to be no different. London Detective Mysteria belongs to the subset of novels labeled as “Otome”, which means they are generally catered towards women. They usually involve a female main protagonist with a handful of suitors for the reader to choose and ultimately end up being with. Typically there is different love stories to complete, using different dialogue paths as the routes. The title tries to spice it up with a Victorian-era setting, including people like Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes playing big roles in the story. It also throws some gameplay tidbits in the form of different branching paths, good and bad endings, and detective styled gameplay elements. There are five men after your affection, and you should not be afraid to go down a character’s path you may not want to be with. This is because sometimes this is the only way to get on the romance path you truly want.
You play as the lead girl Emily, though that name can be changed to something more of your liking, who is the last line of her noble blood family. She was sheltered and pampered most of her life through Pendleton, her butler, but is still a very caring and generous individual. She has recently moved back to London from the countryside, and through some rather convenient happenings, has been invited to attend a special school. This is where young detectives go to learn their craft. Emily must juggle her home life, with no shortage of interaction with Pendleton, with her school life. Often the interaction of these two is where most of the conflict comes from, as the player can imagine. This is where she will meet all of her potential suitors and friends that will accompany her throughout her journey. Some of these avenues will vary in quality, usually during the conclusion. It must be said they were all enjoyable in their ownright, even if the option you went with ends up being one of the weaker offerings. Once the player completes a character arc, they also unlock an extra epilogue portion of that story. This was a nice touch and allows some loose ends and questions to be answered while completing them.
As mentioned above, there are a few choices to consider and gameplay elements scattered around to break up the monotony of reading. The choices mostly end up being ways to get access to the other story arcs with different love interests, but there are also a few small puzzles thrown in for fun. These are typically not difficult in their solutions but it did leave me wanting more from these segments in the end. It is easy to think of something like Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc in this scenario. You actually have to think, discover, and walk around to progress and it makes the story come off as that much richer. With a name like London Detective Mysteria I honestly expected and wanted more of the detective side of the gameplay. If that is what you are looking for, then look elsewhere as this is avisual novel through and through.
From a technical perspective, the performance is rather good while having a manageable 1.5 GB download size. Touch screen functionality is supported but only Japanese audio is included. The player will not take issue with the artwork as it all came across as rather nice on the Vita screen, but it could have had a bit more resolution when they decided to zoom-in. The load times were short and did not cause any frustration, although that comes with a slight caveat. There was some noticeable loading zones when changing scenarios, but nothing that would cause any fuss, just a small hiccup I noticed when I was reading particularly fast. The music, while nothing catchy enough to get stuck in the player’s head, did fit the aesthetic of the game and is enjoyable. Usually upbeat at all the right times and ominous when applicable. I did suffer one crash during my forty plus hour experience, and it was related to the skip feature they implemented. More titles in this genre need to use this function.
As the player can guess, there is more than one ending to the game, all dependent on your choices. Two more characters unlock after you complete the first ending, it is also worth noting the player will not have access to everyone’s tree at the start. This requires multiple playthroughs to see all that the game has to offer. Most of these endings branch off of a main story tree, and thus, rather than forcing the player to read the entire story again, there is a “skip to next choice” option. This will immediately jump to the next dialogue option that the player has available. The skip function also stops on any text the player has not previously seen, which is a godsend. The player can clearly see when they are heading down a path they have already experienced, because new content will be colored black before turning red when viewed. This helped my enjoyment of the title tenfold, as finding the other paths did not feel nearly as tedious as it could have.
In the end, this is not a perfect example of the genre. Marred by some generic end sequences and sometimes predicable outcomes, but that should not deter you from giving it a second glance. It is very substantial in its content, stories, and gameplay time. Otome fans should not pass up this title, given that it lasts about 30-55 hours if they go for all the routes, endings, and extras. London Detective Mysteria is well worth the $30 (USD) entry price for fans of the genre. I would even go so far as to recommend it to fans of the Victorian-era time period. This was a safe title to start with for XSEED in launching their first Otome game, and while it does not break new ground I enjoyed my experience that I had with thegame. (Frank Granados; Gaming Staff Writer)
Review Copy provided by Xseed.