Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: WorkJam
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Format: Cartridge
Released: US 05/26/09

Graphics: 73%
Sound: 71%
Gameplay: 68%
Control: 85%
Story: 72%
Overall: 73%
Reviews Grading Scale
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We'll hear your excuses down at the station!
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Saburo Jinguji... I mean, uh, "Jake Hunter."
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Jake would be completely lost without Yulia.
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Well, as long as I get paid...
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Neal Chandran
Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past
Neal Chandran

Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles was easily my biggest disappointment for 2008. The graphics were bland, the music was forgettable, the storylines were short, the Americanization didn't make sense in this clearly Japanese game, and half the game was omitted from the US release. In looking back at my review, I think my scores might have been generous. Despite all the negative feedback, Aksys decided to give Jake Hunter a second chance in the form of Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past. Although this Jake Hunter redux still has flaws, this is definitely the Jake Hunter game that players were expecting last year.

Players will immediately notice the sheer amount of content in the game. Beyond the three cases to solve in last year's edition are three more cases plus a collection of "chibi" whodunnit cases called Jake Hunter Unleashed. All canon cases and the five main Unleashed cases are open from the get-go so players can complete them in any order they wish. I recommend playing the canon cases in order to get the full scope of the Jake Hunter mythos, especially since aspects of the first five cases play into the sixth. The canon cases can each be completed in two to four hours apiece and the Unleashed scenarios take about 15 minutes each. In other words, the amount of play time is ample for the genre.

Although the play time is ample, the gameplay itself is limited. Unlike many visual novels that have Choose Your Own Adventure style play and multiple endings, the canon cases in Jake Hunter are insanely linear, have only one ending, and allow for minimal audience participation. Even when certain choices need to be made to progress, the game allows unlimited redos so it is impossible to lose. Thus, the Unleashed scenarios are more fun. In those cases, all the facts must be gathered and if any step of the final reveal is screwed up, it's Game Over. In all the cases, four-letter passwords are hidden all around that open up bonus content such as artwork, developer comments, and Unleashed bonus scenarios.

The canon cases Jake encounters in the game are fairly standard detective fare involving murder, gun running, corporate espionage, a severely dysfunctional family, running afoul of organized crime syndicates, frame-ups, all that good stuff. The first case is simplistic and predictable, but each subsequent case becomes more involved, less predictable and generally better. Some cases even allow players to occasionally play from the perspectives of characters other than Jake, such as Jake's faithful assistant and lone employee, Yulia Marks. The Unleashed cases are very cartoony and lighthearted, and even those involving more serious crimes like murder are rather silly and fun.

The localization is improved from before but it is far from perfect. The new dialogue makes Jake speak like a 1940s detective, which seems odd in the game's modern era, but at least he has some personality this time. There are also a few stray spelling errors, but these are small potatoes compared to my biggest issue with the localization, which is the same one I had with last year's Jake Hunter: I am not buying the Americanization. How can I buy the "Anytown, USA" setting when the locations are clearly Japanese with right-hand drive cars, building signs with kanji all over them, and Japanese style houses? This kills the immersion and harkens back to the dark ages when Japanese games attempted to cover up their Japanese roots when localized for America. It felt fishy then and it feels fishy now.

The music is mostly forgettable lounge jazz with occasional synth pieces, more serious in the canon cases and more whimsical in Unleashed. The music improves with each case, but is never stellar. The graphics in the canon cases are typical visual novel fare consisting of character portraits atop location backdrops with a few semi-animated cutscenes here and there. The character designs have a more realistic look than stylized anime, and the locations are photorealistic. The more simplistic "chibi" style graphics in Unleashed, by contrast, are cartoonier with plenty of charm. Because of the chibi graphical style, the characters have more exaggerated and amusing personalities than usual.

Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past is a major improvement over the junky Jake Hunter game we got last year. Some of the flaws like the misplaced Americanizations still bug me, but Memories of the Past is still a suitable apology for last year's disappointment. I actually had some fun with Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past in spite of myself, and I'm glad I gave Jake Hunter a second chance.


© 2009 Aksys Games. All rights reserved.

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