I have to give my credit to the Rain Code development staff – they are very adept at completely exceeding your expectations right out of the box. I certainly expected to be shocked and surprised, given that these are the minds behind the beloved Danganronpa series, they know a thing or two about throwing narrative curveballs at players out of the blue, but even I wasn’t expecting what happened after about 30 years. . presentation minutes. I wanted to put the Switch down and give a little “Well done!” applaud. However, it is a bit embarrassing, because after that, none of the other cases reach the same level, despite some great moments. That’s Rain Code in a nutshell: it can’t reach the greatness of what came before.
Rain Code begins with a young man who wakes up in some kind of storage room. All he can remember is that his name is Yuma Kokohead and that he has to catch a train headed for Kanai Ward, a corporate city cut off from most of the outside world, shrouded in perpetual darkness and rain, with neon lights. , run by the Amaterasu megacorp, and controlled by the militarized Peacekeeper force. It isn’t long after he boards the train that he finds out why he’s going there: he’s part of the World Detective Organization, which is sending several agents to investigate Kanai Ward’s hideous secrets. He also soon finds out why he has amnesia: it turns out that he made a deal with a god of death to gain special powers and offered his memories in exchange for it.
That god of death, Shinigami, usually walks around in the form of a small ghost that only Yuma can see. He reads his thoughts and makes sarcastic comments until there’s a mystery to solve, which is when the Shinigami stops time and transforms into a buxom demon maiden to lead him into the mysterious mazes of the mind palace where things get crazy. Here, he must battle logic monsters, evade dastardly bogus solution traps, and open doors with evidence keys that the Shinigami spews out in a shower of rainbows. And also maybe smash the barriers of thought by riding Shinigami like a giant kaiju. And play Pop-up Pirate with her in a barrel on the beach. Yeah, it’s all just a little strange.
Much has been made of the fact that the Rain Code development team helmed the beloved Danganronpa adventure game series, which you’ll clearly see (and hear) in the delightfully wacky character designs, music, and character concepts. However, the similarities are more than skin deep: Rain Code’s gameplay structure is clearly modeled after those games. Each of the game’s six sprawling chapters has a plot-heavy plot, a murder, an investigation, and then a collection of mini-games to catch the culprit; braving an extradimensional detective dungeon. Even the Logic Deathmatch battles you fight in the dungeons are essentially a remake of Danganronpa’s non-stop contradiction-seeking Debates, but with a sword instead of a weapon to cut through the falsehoods.
Yuma, being a detective’s apprentice and amnesiac, has great obstacles to overcome. Fortunately, the other members of the WDO, a motley crew of quirky weirdos with love or hate personality traits, have a unique supernatural ability of their own, ranging from sensing life energy to revisiting the scene of the crime when witnessed. for the first time. in the past, to separate the soul from the body or through solid walls. Yuma soon discovers that he can share these special abilities with his wielder, and they become crucial during the course of investigations to gather clues and evidence. For example, Yuma can use the hideous would-be Casanova Desuhiko’s disguise ability to infiltrate an elite private school where a suspicious murder at the drama club has occurred. Getting to use these abilities is an interesting twist, though the times you can actually play with them is very limited.
Host to all dark happenings, Kanai Ward itself is a key element of the game: a dank, murky, and sinister place lined with neon lights and winding passageways. A lot of thought has gone into the artistic design of the city and its various regions, and most chapters give you a chunk of time to freely explore and admire the various parts of the city and talk to NPCs. Unfortunately, that’s all you can do; there are no shops or activities to be found here. You can take on some side quests to increase your detective rank (and learn useful Mystery Labyrinth skills through a skill tree), but these quests are universally bland, with standard quest quest objectives and completely unmemorable NPC dialogue, ultimately it feels like unnecessary padding.
By contrast, the mysterious mazes that the Shinigami creates to close out each chapter are very well designed and feature plenty of intriguing twists and turns, along with charming banter (and plenty of downright weird physical interactions) between Yuma, Shinigami, and other characters you get sucked into. journey. Representing a logical puzzle as a physical dungeon is a nice conceit that allows puzzle artists and designers to create some truly memorable traps, solutions, and liminal spaces to travel through. While the Switch sometimes struggles with muddy-looking textures and slowdown, the overall art design is a highlight, as are the variety of obstacles and glamorous enemies for Yuma to overcome. The variety of obstacles and puzzles is also great. One moment you’ll be fighting a literal battle of words against a Mystery Phantom opponent who’s yelling attacks at you, and the next you’ll be reenacting crime scenes or playing a QTE-like event where you must quickly answer a question correctly. to escape danger, only to then face off against Shinigami in a spinning barrel that you throw swords into to make a sentence, followed by an ending where a massive Shinigami must smash all the mental barriers that stand between you and the truth. among other things. The mechanics in each of these subsections differ, but are very easy to understand and master, keeping the game constantly changing and keeping you on your toes.
As cool and wild as many of the character designs in Rain Code are, there just isn’t enough character interaction for you to feel a strong connection or animosity towards someone. Both friend and foe tend to have a designated chapter to show off their abilities and personality quirks, only to be relegated to minor supporting roles afterwards. Instead, most of the interactions in the game are solely between Yuma and Shinigami, who have a very entertaining relationship with each other. You can see small side stories with other main characters through the collectible quest, although this requires some extra work and still doesn’t fix the problem.
This lack of character development and attachment is one of the main reasons why Rain Code doesn’t hit the same sweet spot as the Danganronpa games. The Danganronpa games were extremely character-oriented, and that fueled the always tense emotional atmosphere: at any moment, a character you really liked could end up horribly murdered or, perhaps worse, turned cold-blooded. killer. That fear and the inevitability of loss were pervasive and powerful, making every moment feel heavy.
Rain Code doesn’t have the same tension and urgency. The victims of the murders are characters you barely know, the threat of unethical experiments by a tyrannical megacorporation is mostly indirect, and some of history’s biggest revelations just don’t hit as hard as they should. I also felt that Mystery Labyrinths, as fun as they were, tended to drag out their conclusions. I usually figured out who and how at the midpoint of each, meaning I just had to figure out how the game wanted me to put it all together. The result is a narrative-driven game with a story that lacks impact where it needs it most, leaving you saying, “Wait, is that all there is to it?” (An ending that wraps things up a little too nicely given the final chapter’s messy reveals doesn’t help either.)
But even though it’s not nearly as good as Danganronpa’s dizzying ups and downs, Rain Code is a solid detective adventure that entertains and engages for most of its runtime. It has an intriguing concept, nice dialogue, interesting strangeness and full of bold and wacky to hold a player’s interest. I for one certainly hope this isn’t the last we see of the sublime Shinigami snarl.