"Credit should be given to Mysteria for trying to be historically accurate to the time period the title is set in, though that doesn't come without some frustrations."
Ever wonder what it would be like to live in Victorian-era London and date the sons of famous literary characters? If so, London Detective Mysteria, a mystery-solving otome visual novel, might just be the game for you! Players take on the role of Emily Whiteley, a young noblewoman about to make her 19th-century English society debut. Emily gets swept up in a case involving the Queen's missing cat and finds herself appointed as one of the Queen's detectives. She also becomes a student at a prestigious academy for several aspiring investigators. As this is an otome game, Emily has the chance to find love with one of five of her fellow students. Many of Emily's classmates are the children of famous mystery literary figures such as Holmes Jr., though one of the students is the very real-life serial killer Jack the Ripper (yes, you read that right, and I'm still a bit uncomfortable with him being a choice for a potential otome suitor even in a fictional context). Together, Emily and her fellow classmates solve all sorts of cases, ranging from the mundane to the nefarious. Given the mystery nature of the plot, there are some graphic descriptions of violence and death, which might be a bit much for those with a weak stomach.
Mysteria is a text-heavy visual novel with lengthy routes, and for the most part the localization is excellent. At times, I noticed a few grammatical errors or typos, but nothing too drastic or distracting from the overall plot presentation. The Japanese voice acting carries the plot along with quite a bit of emotion. I didn't even have to adjust the default settings for the voices as no one mumbles or whispers their lines, which is sometimes the case with other otome titles I've played.
The varied character artwork is nicely implemented, and unlocking it in the game is actually pretty fun. There's also quite a bit of replay value. As a visual novel otome, there are both good and bad endings to uncover. Not only are there three romance options to choose from right away, but playing through the title once opens up two more bachelors for Emily to pursue. Mysteria also offers friendship routes with two other classmates, Marple and Kobayashi. I personally found them to be two of the stronger characters in the cast, so it was nice to see that they're not regulated to minor character roles just because they aren't romanceable.
I found the characters in Mysteria to be likable enough, though they aren't the most original bunch. Holmes was one of the characters I really disliked in the beginning due to his prideful attitude, but I warmed up to him as the story gave further insight into his character. Emily herself might not be the strongest or smartest otome heroine I've ever come across, but she always tries her hardest, and I eventually found myself endeared to her too.
Credit should be given to Mysteria for trying to be historically accurate to the time period the title is set in, though that doesn't come without some frustrations. Perhaps the biggest example of this is the treatment of the female characters — it's even mentioned in a disclaimer before the game starts. Poor Emily, who likes to eat, is fat-shamed by two notable male characters quite often, to the point where my eyes almost hurt due to how much I was glaring at the screen. When Emily tries to do things on her own or assert herself, her efforts are hindered by 19th-century society's views on how women should behave. These instances rob Emily of her agency, though I suppose her determination even in the face of such circumstances make her stand out more than she would have otherwise. Racism is also thrown into the plot with Akechi and Kobayashi's introduction, and while it is understandable given the time period the game is set in, I imagine these scenes could still be problematic for some. Having initially played through Akechi's route myself, I actually have to give Mysteria credit for trying to maturely address such a sensitive issue.
Unfortunately, Mysteria's weakest element is how the plot is paced. The storyline for the game is splintered into two parts. The first half is largely a "mystery of the week" deal in which Emily helps one or more of her fellow detectives in training and we learn about them in the process. The quality and strength of these episodes varies greatly. Honestly, I found my interest waning in a few. In order to have some sort of a cohesive plot thread during this half of the story, Emily and her loyal-but-sarcastic butler Pendleton also investigate the mystery behind her parents' murders, but nothing really connects this more serious scenario with the goings-on at school.
The second half of the story happens when a relationship route gets cemented. Personally, I think this is where Mysteria's plot is strongest. The focus turns to the chosen character, and the story becomes more cohesive as they and Emily find themselves involved in the investigation of a mysterious organization. This second half of Mysteria actually had me coming back to the game for more, and I was thoroughly impressed by how long and detailed the chapters were.
Clearing a character's good ending opens up an "extra episode" you can play through to see how things progress with them and Emily after the route's conclusion. These extra episodes are lengthy, and I enjoyed seeing Emily and her beau of choice having more adventures together.
Due to its nature as a visual novel, gameplay options in Mysteria are limited. At certain points, you're presented with timed choices, and picking the correct answers will increase either Emily's detective rank or a character's affection level. That's really about it. Thankfully, you're given the opportunity to go back to the last decision you made and pick a different choice if you'd prefer.
Since Mysteria totes itself as a mystery-solving game, it quickly introduces the Detective Record feature, which you can use to record hints or testimonies and then theoretically refer back to them in order to solve cases. Unfortunately, it is not implemented very well in the actual game. There are some instances where you can't even record lines, and you can't always access the records when you might need them most, such as at a decision point. I often found myself ignoring the feature entirely.
While Mysteria does offer a lot in terms of replayability, it's also hindered by the lack of a map to track previous story and route choices. Players must always start at the very beginning of the game and can only use a fast forward option to get to each decision point again. In that regard, replaying quickly becomes tedious.
London Detective Mysteria is not a bad otome by any means, and I'm glad that XSEED decided to give it a chance. Despite the pacing issues, I rather enjoyed certain story beats, particularly once a character route had been cemented. However, I wouldn't describe it as being among the best of the best in the genre either. If you're looking for a solid visual novel romance experience, there are definitely more interesting titles out there. If nothing else, Mysteria might make for a good discount purchase, but I'm hard-pressed to recommend it full-heartedly.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.