It’s hard to call Chase: Cold Case Investigations ~Distant Memories~ a proper video game, but this won’t be much of an issue for fans of director Taisuke Kanasaki and developer CING. This game’s developer, Arc System Works, is partially made up of former CING staff, including Kanasaki himself. Distant Memories plays similarly to two of CING’s previous titles, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and its sequel, Last Window: The Secret to Cape West. It’s a detective story with some interactive elements, clearly falling into the category of visual novel.
Because of this, the narrative is the main focus. You play as Shounosuke Nanase, a detective in the Cold Case Unit of the 3rd Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. At your side is Koto Amekura, who is your inexperienced but bright partner. After an anonymous tip, the two begin to investigate a murder covered up by a hospital explosion that occurred five years prior to the story’s start.
The visuals are crisp and clean, but there’s not a lot of variation. There is some animation in the characters, but not much aside from basic expressions. Distant Memories occasionally shifts from animation to static pieces, changing when appropriate to the situation. Everything looks good, and the darker color scheme fits the tone of the story. The audio also lends to the atmosphere, with the jazzy music sounding like something you’d hear out of a cop drama. It’s stereotypical to be sure, but it all works well together.
There isn’t much to the gameplay, if you can even call it that. Distant Memories consists of interviewing witnesses, searching through two photos for clues, and a small section regarding querying a database. In the interviews and queries, you are given choices of what to ask, and it’s almost always just two options. The photo search is mostly the same, giving you limited options on what clues you can find. Getting a “Game Over” actually requires effort, as it’s difficult to screw up enough on your own. There is a single moment where you are given “one chance” to find a clue in a photo, but you can immediately try again if you choose wrong.
Due to this lack of consequences for failure, Distant Memories completely lacks any significant challenge. It’s a wonder why the game has interactive options at all, as they basically do nothing to improve the experience. The absence of depth in your decision-making doesn’t even give you proper satisfaction after solving the mystery. Distant Memories doesn’t have the exploration or point-and-click interactivity of its predecessors, Hotel Dusk and Last Window, to the point of where it is simply too linear. It is barely what you could consider a game.
The lack of true gameplay means the real reason to pick up Distant Memories is for the solid story. It’s engrossing to the point where you don’t want to put it down even for a little bit. Clues begin to reveal themselves slowly, with each new piece of evidence leading to another. Some discoveries are true surprises, keeping you on the edge of your seat for what happens next. The plot isn’t predictable from its outset, as one cold case quickly turns into two, though some will foresee the solution to both mysteries by paying close attention. There is a conclusion to the case, but the story still ends on a cliffhanger and leaves one particular plot thread loose, implying that Distant Memories is the first in an episodic series.
The protagonists are the only real problem with the narrative. Nanase, the player character, bears a striking resemblance to Kyle Hyde (the protagonist of Hotel Dusk and Last Window) both visually and through mannerisms. He is cold, sarcastic, and focused on cracking the case, which leaves no more room for a personality beyond the occasional hint of sentimentality. Amekura is equally as flat, contributing very little to the story. There is mostly friction between the two, and it’s difficult to imagine them working together at all. There are even some contradictions to their relationship within the story. One particular part has Nanase admit he has “great faith in [his] subordinate,” but his comments up to that point would have you believe that he doesn’t trust her at all. It’s difficult to really like these people, much less identify with them.
The witnesses you interview are more entertaining than the protagonists. Though they are just as flat as Nanase and Amekura, save for one character in particular, they each give their own charm in contributing to the story. From the shy teen to the hotheaded doofus, they are entertaining and will give you the occasional chuckle with their commentary.
Chase: Cold Case Investigations ~Distant Memories~ can easily be finished in a single sitting, lasting just under two hours total. The story is so engaging that you may even forget that a save option exists. However, the length isn’t necessarily a good thing. There are no alternate paths to take or separate endings, so any replay value is nonexistent. This is somewhat justified by the idea that this is only the first episode in a series, but future episodes have not been announced. It’s entirely possible that additional entries are dependent on how Distant Memories performs. Had there been a promise of more chapters, perhaps this would all be forgivable, but as it stands, there is little justification to pay $5.99 for what could be accomplished in a Flash game.
Chase: Cold Case Investigations ~Distant Memories~ is a disappointing package, especially in the wake of the enthusiasm for new Kyle Hyde games. Tragically, this is as close as fans are going to get, and the experience is one that just doesn’t have enough substance to satisfy anyone’s appetites. We’re only left to wonder what could have been had the excellent narrative been supplemented by real gameplay and decision-making—a cold case of its own.
Chase: Cold Case Investigations ~Distant Memories~ was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS with a code provided by the publisher.
Chase: Cold Case Investigations ~Distant Memories~ fails to live up to expectations set by its predecessors, despite presenting a great detective story.
- Excellent, Engrossing Story
- Apporpriate Visuals and Music
- Barely Any Gameplay Elements
- Player Decisions Lack Depth
- Short Length