Case Closed, Heart Open
There are a lot of mysteries in this world. Robberies where the criminals were never caught, murders with no discernible suspects — you name it, and it’s probably happened at some point (within reason, of course). But, to me, there’s one mystery which reigns supreme above all others… and that’s why I keep getting assigned otome visual novels. I’m, uh, well, not exactly the target demographic that developers have in mind when they make these games. Not by a long shot. Nevertheless, they seem to find their way to me one way or another. But, hey, target demographic or not, I can still appreciate them for what they are — and that’s exactly what’s happened with London Detective Mysteria.
Hyperbole aside, London Detective Mysteria really does have a lot to offer to otome-lovers out there. It’s got a nice, lengthy story — complete with branching paths, of course — beautiful artwork, (what I’m assuming is) nice voice acting, and, most importantly to this genre, a gaggle (is five technically a “gaggle”?) of anime bachelors for the player to attempt to woo. And, if that isn’t enough, Mysteria even has a mystery theme going (thus the name!) — a finishing touch on an already solid foundation which all but insures that, if you’re an otome fan (or even if you’re not, apparently), you’re going to have a fun time with this game.
Elementary, My Dearest Watson
Taking place in late 19th century London, England, London Detective Mysteria follows the story of one Emily Whiteley who, in her high society debut, finds herself attending a rather luxurious Birthday party hosted by none other than Queen Victoria herself. While content to mingle with guests and play by the rules for the first five minutes or so, Emily soon (literally) bumps into two young, out-of-place-looking men who, after a quick apology quickly hurry off. Realizing these two men to be none other than Herlock Holmes and William H. Watson (the apparent sons of the original Holmes and Watson), she excitedly begins snooping on them them only to find out that they’re here to do what they do best — solve mysteries. And this mystery? Why, the Queen’s cat has gone missing, of course! But this isn’t just any ordinary house cat. Rather, it was a gift presented to her by the King of Siam as a token of goodwill — specially chosen due to the fact that it shared a birthday with the Queen.
Not surprisingly, Emily’s less-than-smooth eavesdropping abilities get her caught. However, rather than being reprimanded, the Queen, having apparently been good friends with Emily’s (now deceased) mother, assigns Emily to the case as well. And, wouldn’t you know it, it ended up being none other than Emily’s quick thinking and use of cat powder (which is a real thing, by the way) that saved the day. Pleased with her wit and gumption, Queen Victoria summons Emily back to Buckingham Palace the next day and presents her with both a ring officially signifying her as a detective of the Queen, and a letter of recommendation to Harrington Academy — a prestigious place of learning which offers, among other things, special courses for London’s topmost detectives-to-be. Thus, with letter in hand, ring on her finger, and a hop in her step, our heroine soon finds herself embarking on the most wonderful, and at times most frightening, journey of her life.
Mysteria certainly knows how to stand out from a crowd — of that, you can be certain — and it manages to do so in only the best of ways. Now, to get the bad out of the way first, I’ll admit that this game wasn’t quite as mysterious as I had initially been lead on to believe. Sure, there are plenty of mysteries, but none of them were exactly mind-blowing. To be fair, however, it’s important to keep in mind what kind of game this is. We’re not dealing with something like Steins;Gate, here. This isn’t a game about world-altering secrets which must be uncovered. First and foremost, it’s a game about having in-depth conversations with anime boys. And, on that front, it delivers quite well — which, like it or not (and I’m assuming most people interested in this title do), is the most important thing in an otome game like this one.
Looking for Love
As far as actual gameplay goes, London Detective Mysteria is a fairly standard otome VN. The game largely consists of reading (surprise, surprise!), with player occasionally having to make a decision as to what Emily should do or say in a given situation. More often than not, of course, these directly relate to affecting the player’s relationship with one of the five potential romantic partners — something which I should probably touch upon a little bit more. As I previously, and very briefly mentioned, Holmes and Watson aren’t the Holmes and Watson that most of us know and love. No, rather, they’re their sons. Interesting, huh? Sure it is! And it’s a theme that permeates throughout the entire game. While all of the romance options may not be offspring of their originals, they are all “youth-ified” in some way or another (Jack the Ripper, for instance, is just himself except he’s also a young anime boy this time around). While this might not seem like a big deal, I actually feel as though it gave a great deal of credit to the game. By putting these unique spins of each of the characters, Mysteria was able to dance between fact and fiction (or, in some cases, fiction and fiction), thus creating a unique narrative blend that was able to make each of its characters feel relatively new and novel, while still retaining the slightest hints of familiarity.
London Detective Mysteria isn’t just about chasing boys, however. There’s some of mystery-chasing as well! Unfortunately, as I’ve already said, it’s not quite as pertinent as I would have hoped it to be. Now, before continuing any further, allow me to once again say that I’m very well aware that I’m not the target audience. Because of that, you’re free to take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt. Despite that, however, I do feel as though this game might have benefited from allowing the player to do a little more detective work on their own. In the very beginning of the game, Mysteria essentially tells you that you’ll be solving a lot of mysteries. Pendleton, your loyal (and super-cool) butler gives you a diary so that you can write down important things that people say, and even goes so far as to issue a series of questions to test your mettle as a detective. If that isn’t a setup, then I don’t know what it. But, here’s the thing — none of that ever really comes into play. I spent the first two or so chapters meticulously using my journal to copy anything that might seem suspicious, only to never have to actually use any of it. And sure, you do a tiny bit of sleuthing later on in the game, but it’s all really easy. To be honest, I don’t think that it would have bothered me had the game not set me up as it did. However, because it did, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had been let down somewhat.
In true VN form, Mysteria also has not only branching routes, but locked ones as well! Uncovering each and every hidden secret isn’t as easy as going through the game once — and it doesn’t even guarantee that you’ll get the ending that you want. While it doesn’t come right out and say it (and I guess I’m ruining the secret, so, sorry?), you’re kind of stuck when it comes to choosing a happy ever after. As in, you’re most likely going to be stuck with either with the game’s two grumpiest dudes — Holmes and Akechi. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. They’re both likable characters in their own right, and it’s enjoyable watching them open up to Emily as they grow closer to her, and the whole “you’ve unlocked new routes!” thing that pops up is very effective bait to goad players into (happily) going through the journey once more. And hey, this kind of thing is par for the course for VNs anyway — might as well make it as interesting as you possibly can.
London Detective Mysteria also comes with some nice little extras that weren’t present within the original version of the game. And by “original version”, I mean the PSP Japan-exclusive version that released all the way back in 2013. Anyway, back to those extras. Or rather, the Epilogues. Unlocking once the player completes an ending with the corresponding character, these Epilogues do exactly what their name implies — allow players to catch a glimpse of what happens after their fateful happily-ever-afters. Despite being added onto the Vita version three years after the original release of the game (in Japan), time doesn’t have appeared to have passed at all when comparing the new and old content — something which can’t always be easily managed. While there isn’t much that the player can do in terms of actual interaction, they’re fun to read through (and lengthy, to boot!), and only serve as a further incentive to get through as many endings as you can.
No Mystery Here, Just Fun!
Just because I have yet to mention it, I’ll say it here: London Detective Mysteria officially marks XSEED Games’ foray into the otome VN territory. And, wouldn’t you know it, in true XSEED fashion, they’ve knocked it out of the park — so much so, that even someone like me had no trouble enjoying it! So, whether you’re already otome-crazy, looking to find your first-ever husbando, or just really like British culture in anime form, London Detective Mysteria is a very solid choice, and a game which I would very much recommend to those interested.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Vita (Reviewed), PC; Publisher: XSEED Games; Developer: Karin Entertainment; Players: 1 ; Released: December 18, 2018 (Vita); ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of London Detective Mysteria given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.