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Visual Novel / Famicom Detective Club

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Cover art of Famicom Detective Club and Famicom Detective Club Part II
2021 Remake Promo Art 

Famicom Detective Club is a series of adventure games originally created by Nintendo for the Famicom Disk System in the late 1980s. Inspired both by seminal adventure game The Portopia Serial Murder Case, as well as the horror films of Dario Argento, the various entries were produced by Gunpei Yokoi and written by Yoshio Sakamoto of Metroid fame, having originally written them in novel form before development started in earnest.

The series consists of the following entries:

  • Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir (1988; FDS)
  • Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind (1989; FDS)
  • Famicom Detective Club: Lost Memories In The Snow (1997; Satellaview)

The Missing Heir has the player as an amnesic assistant detective in the Japanese countryside investigating both his missing memories and a string of mysterious deaths, starting with that of Kiku Ayashiro, the matriarch of a wealthy family within the community. The Girl Who Stands Behind is a prequel taking place in a suburban town, and has you attempt to figure out the connection between the death of a high school freshman, a murder case from a few years ago, and a local urban legend surrounding the high school. Lost Memories in the Snow has the player in the role of recurring character Ayumi Tachibana, as she takes the lead in investigating a new murder case in order to prove her mother's innocence.

The Girl Who Stands Behind was remastered for the Super Famicom in 1998 through the Nintendo Power rewritable cart service, with the original duology also seeing various re-releases on the Game Boy Advance and Virtual Console. Like the vast majority of Satellaview games, the third game has not seen any rerelease since the ending of the service, though footage of the game's chapters have been recovered and uploaded to Nico Nico Douga in the years since. Additionally, of all the three games, the Super Famicom version of The Girl Who Stands Behind was the only one to receive a Fan Translation, using the subtitle The Girl in Back.

The original duology would finally see an international release when the games were remade for Nintendo Switch. Developed by Mages (formerly 5pb.), best known for their work on the Science Adventure Series Visual Novels, the remakes were released globally on May 14, 2021. The English trailer for the remakes can be viewed here. Prior to this, the only presence the franchise had in Western territories was through Ayumi Tachibana's cameos in the Super Smash Bros. and Super Mario Maker series.

These games contain examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Series wide 
  • Always Murder: In a general sense, every major incident or criminal activity will involve murder as the modus operandi, regardless whether it didn't seem like it at first.
  • Artifact Title: The Switch remakes retained the "Famicom Detective Club" name, even as they were brought to countries that never called the original console the "Famicom" to begin with.
  • But Thou Must!: You will generally have to select all important options before the game will let you proceed; sometimes this forces you to ask questions that will obviously insult the person you're talking to and clearly have no chance of producing a useful answer.
  • Dies Wide Open: Anytime someone is murdered, they almost always have a chance of having open eyes, but that depends on the circumstances. When the remakes of the second title show Genjiro's corpse, we never see his face closely, but we are definitely shown that his eyes were open in artwork featured in the manual of the original Famicom release of said title during its second half. As for most of the other murder victims, the enhanced graphics in the Switch remakes make the trope more apparent when the victims die.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The protagonist has no official name, just being whatever the player decides to enter, although promotional materials for the remake name him "Taro Ninten".
  • Old Save Bonus: The Switch releases will read the save data used by each game and give the protagonist the same name.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: Naturally, the title begins with the Famicom, as in the Famicom console. It made sense for the two games that were released on that system, but it has become a bit of an Artifact Title with the remakes, especially with the localization.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Sometimes the killer's actions stem from a past incident related to someone who had done something so awful that it drove said killer to their series of murder.

    The Missing Heir 
  • Ambiguous Situation: The controversy regarding the deaths of Yuri Ayashiro and Takao Toyama is mostly explained except for the specific individual responsible for them, and it's never clarified whether or not Kyonosuke Kanda had any involvement with it.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Implied at the end. The protagonist already chose his path in life, so he gives the symbol of the successor to Kazuto Ayashiro then heads back to see Ayumi Tachibana again at the Utsugi Detective Agency, as he'll presumably continue solving cases with her.
  • The Atoner: Much of what Kiku does is to make up for her family's greed and the lives it's destroyed.
  • Cartwright Curse: Taken to an absurd degree, as the Ayashiro family has been plagued with misfortune ever since the Sengoku Period. Sure enough, Kiku died shortly after the statement of her will , current members of the family are killed one by one, causing emotional grief for their loved ones, and even Yuri and her lover Takao Toyama have been dead for nearly two decades. The cycle is only finally broken when the protagonist hands over the symbol of the successor to Kazuto, the only living relative who isn't a part of the bloodline.
  • Driving Question: What caused the protagonist to fall off a cliff?
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Invoked at some points of the game, as you're expected to type out the answer to some of the conclusions that the protagonist makes.
  • Guide Dang It!: At the beginning of Chapter 8, you and Kumada go to visit the cliffs. After some dialogue, you're given the option to travel to the station. What the game doesn't tell you is that you need to speak with Kumada one more time before leaving. If you don't, you'll miss the event flag needed to advance the plot. Making this worse is that whenever you gain the previously unavailable travel command, there's nothing left for you to do in the area.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Chapter 11 seems to neatly wrap up and resolve every mystery relating to the case the protagonist was assigned to before his accident. However, he points out one noteworthy contradiction that can't be chalked up to his prior amnesia: he never actually knew about the talisman he supposedly mumbled about while he was unconscious, until Amachi told him of it. As soon as he realizes this, Amachi turns up and reveals himself to be Kyonosuke Kanda, who's the culprit for the murders and looking for the symbol himself.
  • Identity Amnesia: The protagonist has forgotten his identity in the beginning of the story due to unknown circumstances, leading Ayumi Tachibana to help guide him to solving the case he was assigned to do.
  • Karma Houdini: The powerful individual who covered up the truth behind Takao Toyama's actions, and by so doing essentially caused the deaths of both of the protagonist's parents, is never even named, let alone confronted and exposed.
  • Never Suicide: The protagonist, Ayumi and Kumada are all suspicious about Jiro Ayashiro having hung himself, even though there's absolutely no good reason for him to do so. They're correct about this, as he was ultimately killed with cyanide poisoning.
  • No Swastikas: The basement area the protagonist has to navigate at the end was redesigned from a Manji to a more generic mark with the change being reflected on the back of the hand mirror..
  • On One Condition: The contents of Kiku's will state that in order for anyone to receive any inheritance, the symbol of the successor, which is in the possession of the missing Yuri Ayashiro, needs to be presented.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The Ayashiro Family's theme is Bach's Invention 13 in A Minor, which many games use to represent wealth.
  • Secret Test of Character: One of the more obtuse moments of the game requires you to do this by pretending to quit the investigation when Zenzou loses hope. You inspire him to not give up, and the case resumes.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The majority of the game's quirky supporting cast stops appearing when you return to the Ayashiro residence for the last time and finally unlock the storage's back door.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies:
    • Chapter Three: The First Murder. Sure enough, shortly after the chapter starts, there's a news report covering the death of Kanji Ayashiro, who was running his family's company, which shifts the focus away from investigating the circumstances of Kiku Ayashiro's sudden passing..
    • Chapter Five: The Second Victim follows suit by starting with the discovery of Jiro Ayashiro's apparent suicide, and the police's attempts to uncover any clues in relation to it.
  • Wham Shot: A two-in-one example. When the Ayashiro Family's tomb is finally opened with Genshin's permission, Akira Ayashiro is found to have been stuffed inside, with Kiku's corpse nowhere to be found. Examining this causes the protagonist to finally remember how he fell off Unakami Cliff and lost his memory in the first place: Akira attacked and threw him away.
  • White Sheep: Yuri Ayashiro is the only member of her family that's universally beloved by the locals, for her grace and beauty, even after she eloped with her lover decades ago.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Many of the story's beats are very transparently inspired by The Portopia Serial Murder Case:
    • The plot is driven by investigating a series of deaths. The first victim is found stabbed, and the second hanged (though only the victim in the earlier game was an actual suicide).
    • An initial suspect for the crimes is a young man with connections to the Yakuza, whose relation with one of the victims gives him a motive in the form of an inheritance. In both games, this figure is revealed to be innocent of the murders, though in the case of the latter he was working with and screwed over by the true culprit.
    • The identity of an important character is revealed towards the end of the story by way of a mark on their body.
    • The game's final real challenge involves navigating an underground maze during an Unexpected Gameplay Change (though the one in Famicom Detective Club is much easier to navigate).
    • One of the final clues is a mark on someone's shoulder, which is only revealed when they remove their shirt.
    • In the end, the culprit is revealed to be the very first character the protagonist sees in the game, who had acted as a close confidant while concealing his true identity. Meanwhile, the culprit's motive is revenge for the victims having driven members of his family to suicide. A notable difference between the two here is that Portopia's Yasu shows remorse upon learning that his first victim Kouzou genuinely regretted the terrible things he had done and had begun to take steps to try and atone for them, whereas Kanda shows no such remorse and carries on with his Evil Plan to the end despite presumably having learned about Kiku's regret over her family's past.

    The Girl Who Stands Behind 
  • Accidental Murder: Urabe accidentally hit Shinobu with his car when she was escaping from the scene of Genjiro's murder, killing her.
  • Adapted Out: The female tennis player with a hideous face was excised from the Nintendo Switch remake and is replaced with a fat but mature male student who does not hold any sort of crush.
  • Adventure Rebuff: The protagonist increasingly gets worried about Ayumi putting her own life into jeopardy like Yoko once did from researching the Girl Who Stands Behind and the Kaneda Case, so he tries to convince her to not overstep her bounds even if it hurts her feelings while she's in her fragile mental state. She eventually forces her hand by slipping sleeping pills into some coffee she gives to the protagonist, so that she can go after Mr. Tazaki, despite fully knowing that he may or may not be the culprit.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Genjiro Kaneda, the murder victim in the second case, is described by the investigator at the police agency as a “master con-artist”, swindling peoples’ livelihoods and (in the case of Uchida) forcing them to declare bankruptcy if they can’t pay him back. His body is left with multiple, savage stab wounds, signifying the murderer’s genuine hatred for the man.
    • While some people feel sorry for them, nobody mourns Goro Kaneda after they are murdered.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible:
    • Averted in regards to Mr. Komada, the friendly art teacher who shares any and all information he knows about the school and the incidents that took place.
    • Ms. Hamaya and Mr. Tazaki both share dark secrets that they don’t want anyone else to know regarding their part in the story and end up hindering your efforts.
    • Mr. Kato the barman staunchly refuses to talk about his clients or answer any questions, on account of the protagonist being a minor. He only opens up once the protagonist gets Hitomi's wig and glasses to fall off.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For certain members of the staff at Ushimitsu High School, insinuating that Principal Urabe might be the killer is this. Especially when you consider that some of them owe their livelihoods directly to him, and was willing to overlook any past mistakes or dark secrets they may have held.
    • The protagonist himself is a pretty calm-collected, ordinary every-man... but insulting his mother is one way to get him to act physical, as the Weird Kid pestering him would have found out if not for Ayumi's sudden appearance.
  • Bowdlerise: In the Japanese version, repeatedly examining Ayumi's chest during one moment of the game causes her to back away from you, culminating in everyone else accusing you of sexual harassment and losing your job as a detective. In the localized version, Ayumi ends up attacked by a bee and everyone else is angry at you for not killing it, while still leading to the exact same end-result. Though it's quickly subverted in both cases as the protagonist was merely imagining things. A couple other suggestive lines have also been removed.
  • Butterface: In the Super Famicom remake, a female tennis player you come across at the high school is initially talked to from a considerable distance. This confuses the protagonist, and so when he asks her to come closer after thinking she must be cute… she turns out to have an extremely ugly and weaselly face, and is also implied to have a crush on the protagonist, which horrifies him.
  • Call-Forward: The game ends with the Utsugi Detective Agency receiving a phone call from Zenzou Tanabe of Myojin Village who asks to meet with them in person, leading into the events of the first game.
  • Chick Magnet: Goro Kaneda, Genjiro’s son, was quite popular with the ladies at Ushimitsu High School, often taking them to his father’s snack stand and his mansion for parties.
  • Disposing of a Body: After accidentally hitting Shinobu with his car, Principal Urabe walled her corpse up behind a mirror in the school. 15 years later, after Hibino strangled Yoko to death, Urabe attempted a similar cover up by removing her body from the school and dumping it in the river.
  • Dude Magnet: Ayumi Tachibana, who, according to a passing male student, has apparently captured the hearts of the male student body at her school, at least regarding first-year students. There are hints that the protagonist is crushing on her too.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Thunder sounds in the background during The Reveal that Hibino is the culprit.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Uchida, the man believed to be the main suspect in the murder case of Kaneda, killed himself just before the police had a chance to interrogate him.
    • Principal Urabe later kills himself out of shame in his office, after having written a message that (falsely) incriminates himself as the killer to protect Hibino. It's revealed that he'd accidentally killed Shinobu with his car all those years ago, and subsequently covered up her death, as well as Yoko's after Hibino murdered her as well.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Ayumi Tachibana has these as her default expression. Considering that Yoko Kojima, the murder victim, was her best friend, it makes perfect sense. Yoko's homeroom teacher Tatsuya Hibino also has these as well. Though in his case, it's later revealed to be just an act.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Shinobu, Hibino, Ryoko, Sayaka, Ms. Hayama and Goro all went to the same high school 15 years ago, with Urabe as their principal. It's even revealed that Shinobu and Hibino (known as "Tatsuya Uchida" at the time) were close friends.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Sometime after Tazaki has calmed down, the protagonist asks him about whether anyone could conceivably have used his tools for tearing down a wall with no training, like the one he had plastered on the old school building 15 years ago. He explains that it's possible, if the wall was freshly made, though he otherwise believes that he's the only one who used them that night. Then he remembers that his tools did get tampered with shortly after he had used them.
  • Fatal Flaw: Urabe's desire to protect Hibino. 15 years ago, when Hibino called Urabe and said that he was planning to kill Genjiro, Urabe sped over in his car to try and stop the boy from ruining his life by committing murder. Not only did he arrive too late, but he also accidentally hit and killed Shinobu, another of his students. 15 years later, when Hibino strangled Yoko to death, Urabe stepped in and disposed of the girl's body to try and protect Hibino once again. The shame and guilt over what he'd done ultimately caused Urabe to commit suicide, but not before crafting a fake confession to try and keep Hibino safe one last time.
  • Fission Mailed: If you pester the policewoman at the local precinct, she'll become irate, leading to a "Game Over" screen. The game will then immediately resume, with the policewoman saying "Just kidding, sugar pie."
  • He Knows Too Much: The ultimate explanation behind the murders. It all started when Shinobu walked in on a teenage Hibino right after he'd murdered Genjiro Kaneda, causing her to flee. While running away from the house, she was accidentally hit by Principal Urabe's car after he'd arrived too late to stop Hibino from killing Genjiro. 15 years later, Yoko figured out what happened and confronted Hibino about it, which caused him to strangle her to death. Shortly after this, Genjiro's son Goro revealed that he saw Urabe driving away from the scene of the murder all those years ago, and attempted to blackmail him, forcing Hibino to kill Goro as well. After finally confessing to all of this, an unhinged Hibino attempts to kill Ayumi and the protagonist in order to further cover everything up, stating that this time, he'll make sure their bodies aren't so easily discovered. Luckily, the teens manage to evade him, and he ends up being arrested.
  • Heroic BSoD: Tatsuya Hibino and Ayumi Tachibana are this throughout much of the case following Yoko’s death, to the point that the former is initially unable to answer any questions because of his mental state. Only Ayumi's is sincere.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The resolution to the Girl Who Stands Behind subplot. Ms. Hayama, a teacher at the school, started the rumor back when she herself was a student 15 years ago. Hayama claims that on the night of Kaneda's murder and Shinobu's disappearance, she saw a screaming, blood soaked girl through a window at the school. This is seemingly explained when Hibino claims that he'd taken Shinobu's body into the schoolhouse after she'd been hit by Urabe's car, only for the girl to awaken and begin screaming for help until he finished her off by smashing a vase over her head. However, the epilogue reveals that an examination of Shinobu's skeleton showed no signs of a head wound matching Hibino's description, leaving Utsugi to conclude that she really did die during the car accident. While Hibino's claim that Shinobu had woken up could be dismissed as a hallucination brought on by his mental breakdown, that still doesn't explain how Hayama witnessed the same bloody girl if Shinobu was already dead by that point. When the protagonist points this out, Utsugi just brushes him off and dismisses the Girl Who Stands Behind story as nonsense.
    • This also applies to Yoko. An average high school girl with an investigation hobby started looking into a schoolyard urban legend, and was somehow able to deduce the truth behind a 15 year old Cold Case with no access to new or privileged information, without arousing much suspicion or even contacting most of the people involved, all in just over a week while also attending school, all by herself. Professional private detectives with a healthy relationship with the police took as much or more time to learn the same thing after relentless pavement-pounding and an incident in which a former/potential suspect nearly killed an innocent girl, and they had Yoko's death as motivation for themselves and the people involved. The narrative heavily implies that Shinobu's spirit possessed Yoko (her cousin), explaining how she knew so much as well as her demeanor in her final week, especially her leaving cryptic hints as to the true location of Shinobu's corpse, something that even the detectives got wrong. It's ultimately never confirmed one way or the other, but a plausible mundane explanation is similarly never even contemplated.
  • Never Found the Body: The missing person from the Kaneda incident, Shinobu Asakawa, disappeared on the night of the murder and hasn’t been seen since. It’s speculated by the police agency that she may still be alive, but according to the investigator you talk to, the chances of that are slim at best. At the end of the game, it's revealed that her decaying corpse was hidden behind the hallway mirror.
  • Open-Fly Gag: While trying to cheer her up after she had just been put in a perilous situation by Tazaki, Ayumi can’t help but notice and laugh at the protagonist’s unzipped pants while he’s trying to either: make her laugh or declare that he’ll protect her. It happens to be the first time in the game where Ayumi is genuinely happy. A little time later, another gag happens when the protagonist first meets Hitomi.
  • Relationship Values: After the game's credits you're rated on how compatible you are with Ayumi.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In Chapter 10, after he pretends to be the culprit, Komada gets fed up with the protagonist's suspicion of Urabe being involved with the murders and leaves the school. He isn't seen again for the rest of the game.
  • Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: You're repeatedly beaten over the head with how amazing of a guy Urabe is, and insinuating that he's suspicious sets at least a couple of people off. Eventually, evidence starts to implicate him... As it turns out, he is actually innocent, but his willingness to protect Hibino turns out to be his undoing. While he did commit murder, it was an accident and likely would've turned himself in if it could've protected Hibino. He even writes a suicide note that confesses he was behind every murder in the game even though he actually wasn't.
  • Shout-Out: In the downtown part of the city while searching for Ayumi after she drugged the protagonist, the night club promoter mentions that while he hasn't seen her, the club does have a Rei and an Asuka.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Ayumi slips some sleeping pills in the protagonist’s coffee to put him out so she can search for Tazaki on her own, believing him to be the culprit responsible for Yoko’s death.
  • Statute of Limitations: One of the aspects from the plot was trying to solve the murder of Goro Kaneda from 15 years ago, which was going to expire ten days after the day Yoko Kojima was found to have been murdered.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Multiple characters remark that Yoko looked almost exactly like the missing Shinobu. Later on, the protagonist discovers that the two girls were cousins.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Downplayed. While there is no problem with beating the game, the bug in the Super Famicom version renders the player unable to get maximum score on compatibility with Ayumi. It is fixed in the Switch version.
  • Urban Legends: The titular Girl Who Stands Behind, a ghost who is said to haunt the local high school. Yoko's investigation into the story behind the ghost is what ultimately led to her murder.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Ryoko says that Shinobu used to be a sweet girl, but that she become louder, flashier and more of a party girl after she began hanging around with Goro. Her connection to Goro is what ultimately led to her death, as she was hanging out at his house the night his father was murdered by Hibino.
  • What the Hell, Player?:
    • Choosing to check the deceased Yoko Kojima’s crotch area while examining her body to pinpoint a cause of death will cause the coroner to berate you for your perverted thinking.
    • If you try to use the "Take" command on the female police officer, you get a fake out game over screen and the officer and detective both jokingly call you creepy/creep when you talk to them.
  • Working the Same Case: The protagonist investigates the death of a high school girl researching the origin of Ushimitsu's legend of The Girl Who Stands Behind, while Utsugi has been assigned to an apparent suicide case related to a barman that was killed 15 years ago. It's soon revealed that both of them involve the same person: Shinobu.

    Lost Memories in the Snow 
  • Feuding Families: The Tachibana family and Kusana family have been feuding for quite a while.
  • Promoted to Playable: Ayumi is elevated to a playable role as the protagonist in this game.

Alternative Title(s): Detective Club, Famicom Detective Club The Missing Heir, Famicom Detective Club The Girl Who Stands Behind