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Visual Novel / The Portopia Serial Murder Case

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The Portopia Serial Murder Case (ポートピア連続殺人事件 ) is an Adventure Game created by Yuji Horii (who then went on to create console RPG trope maker Dragon Quest). Originally released for the NEC PC-6001 computer in 1983 and ported to the Famicom console (with improvements) in 1985.

While largely unknown in the West, Portopia is considered one of the most influential games of all time in Japan. It is the Trope Maker for Japanese adventure games and the Visual Novel genre. It also inspired the console RPG genre, influencing the creation of Dragon Quest, and it was a huge inspiration for Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima.

Ahead of its time in various ways, Portopia is also an Ur-Example of numerous tropes in the context of video games, including the Choice-and-Consequence System, Dialogue Tree, Immersive Sim, Multiple Endings, Point-and-Click Game, Story Branching, Unreliable Narrator, and Wide Open Sandbox.


A Fan Translation of the game is available here.

Tropes found in this game include:

  • Adventure Game
  • Asshole Victim: You eventually discover that the victim was responsible for some extremely unsavory things.
  • Book Safe: There's a key found in a book in the mansion.
  • Chalk Outline: As shown on the box artwork, and in-game. It's simply used to show where the body was located.
  • Choice-and-Consequence System: An Ur-Example of this trope.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Yasu can get like this when your commands are nonsensical.
    "He's the one who was killed. Probably doesn't need to have an alibi."
  • Detective Mole: Sort of. As in, your assistant is the killer.
  • Dialogue Tree: An Ur-Example of this trope.
  • Diegetic Interface: Almost all of your commands are orders given to Yasu; almost all the game's text is his response or description of what happened as a result.
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  • Emergent Gameplay
  • Environmental Narrative Game
  • First-Person Perspective
  • Immersive Sim: It was the first game to have most of the key immersive sim elements, making it the Ur-Example. It was a first-person adventure game with an open world, character AI, choices and consequences, non-linear game design, open-ended narrative told through notes and diaries, interactive environments, emergent gameplay, allowed multiple ways to achieve objectives, and lacked fail states.
  • Multiple Endings: An Ur-Example of this trope.
  • Pixel Hunt: There are four items you need to find to progress with the game. Of these, at least two aren't linked with an obvious visual cue.
  • Point-and-Click Game: This game contains an Ur-Example of point-and-click mechanics.
  • Police are Useless: Downplayed. Yasu is enthusiastic, but tends to assume the simplest solution to the case without much follow-up. Thanks to Multiple Endings, you can do the same. Granted, Yasu's trying to get the case solved as quickly as possible so he doesn't get caught.
  • Police Brutality: Values Dissonance for many modern players; the interface has an actual 'hit' button, which (among other things) you must use on suspects during interrogations in order to proceed.
  • Police Procedural: While not remotely accurate (you freely use brutality in interrogations, for instance), the game focuses a lot more on this aspect of play than many later entries in the genre; the core gameplay loop consists of collecting evidence and witness statements, then bringing in a suspect and interrogating them.
  • Revenge: The killer's motive.
  • Second-Person Narration
  • Shout-Out: The maze you explore at the end is a shout-out to Wizardry; in particular, at one point there's an inscription on the wall saying that a monster leaps out at you (it doesn't.)
  • Story Branching: An Ur-Example of this trope.
  • Unexpected Genre Change: At one point, the game unexpectedly shifts from a pixel-hunting detective mystery to a 3D-ish Wizardry-style maze explorer (though with no RPG mechanics.) This is because Yuji Horii actually created the game after being impressed by Wizardry itself at a demonstration in the US; his ultimate goal was just to make enough money to fund what would eventually be Dragon Quest.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Portopia is the Ur-Example of this trope in video games. The story is told through Second-Person Narration. In the game's twist ending, it is revealed that the narrator was the culprit all along.
  • Visual Novel: It is the Trope Maker of the visual novel genre.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: An Ur-Example of the genre. Portopia was the first adventure game to feature an open world.


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