|ORIGINAL TITLE||英国探偵ミステリア The Crown|
(Eikoku Tantei Mysteria The Crown)
|PUBLISHER||XSEED Games | Marvelous USA, Inc.|
|RELEASE DATE||December 18, 2018|
In all honesty, I bought London Detective Mysteria on a whim during my time off. I was planning on buying it—just not yet—but I was bored and wanted to play something new. So I approached the game without much prior knowledge and no real expectations. Perhaps it was because of that mindset that I was blown away by how enjoyable this otome game was!
This review will keep spoilers to an absolute minimum—I don’t post CGs that haven’t been used for promotional purposes (because unlocking a new CG should always feel a bit magical) and unless plot twists are rather obvious or hinted at on the official website, I won’t disclose them. That said, it’s impossible to review character routes without touching on minor spoilers, so if you’d like to avoid them altogether, you can click here to read my final thoughts.
Story and gameplay ★★★
“Our tale begins as the curtains close on the 19th century. This evening is as ordinary as they come for London, England. Mist hangs thick, beclouding the radiance of the moon and modest glow of gas lamps.
Now, a word of caution, if I may: take care on the streets to-night. It wouldn’t do for you to become the target of villains lurking in the shadows.
Even Scotland Yard, the pride of our city, has yet to solve the many terrifying incidents that hide comfortably in its seediest corners. Most, perhaps, would scurry away with this advice than stroll blissfully into a trap. You strike me as an unusual sort, however, so should you find yourself drawn to the unsolvable…steel your nerves, and see your case through to its end.
Take solace in knowing that London is home to more than the purely unjust, for the just find their places amongst the likes of brilliant detectives and fearless gentlemen thieves.
The curtain may soon close on the 19th century, yes, but upon the resounding chime of Big Ben, a new tale of love and adventure like no other begins!”Story summary taken from official website.
The 19th-century British detective setting is not the most original, but it’s well-loved in media for good reason. Who doesn’t like a mystery? Especially one that involves famous literary characters… or in this case their offspring (who are all conveniently of a similar age ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ)! And I’m pretty sure there weren’t many schools that offered a detective course, or women who attended school in those times, but it creates an enjoyable setting.
The common route feels quite long—nine chapters in all. I’m glad though, that they took the time to introduce each character properly and build up a bond between Emily and her classmates. That way it doesn’t feel like some of the romance comes out of nowhere. And honestly, during the first playthrough, I didn’t think it was too long, and that’s what really matters (apart from chapter 7… ╮( ˘ ､ ˘ )╭).
All of the character routes are satisfying in length—usually around five chapters. On top of that, each suitor has an epilogue that unlocks after you complete their “destined end”. These were added in the PS Vita remaster of the original game, and can be seen as some sort of fandisc-esque bonus fluff (ღ˘⌣˘ღ) The guys also have an “ill-fated end” each, which I thought would be some sort of bad end (I guess I was expecting bloodshed in some routes *nervous laugh*), but they feel more like bittersweet normal endings. The only person with actual bad ends is Jack… which considering his circumstances wasn’t that surprising.
I did find it strange for a game with an overarching storyline (Emily trying to unravel the mystery behind her parents’ deaths) to not actually touch on it—or very little—in any of the suitors’ routes. There is a “grand end”, the perfect moment to reveal everything… but in fact, it’s so open-ended I felt let down. A sequel is teased, but there’s still no sign of it despite the original game being released in 2013 (in Japan). Maybe because I was so excited to finally learn more after all the build-up (some of the “grand route” scenes and character interactions were really good), I was so disappointed by the end and it really makes me knock stars off my rating for the story.
Overall, the game strikes a good balance between being serious and lighthearted (sometimes downright hilarious), and between plot and romance—the romance doesn’t cloud the storyline, but it doesn’t take a backseat in favour of the story either. I just wouldn’t call it the strongest and most original plotline out there.
Nothing surprising here! The menu is easy to navigate and all of the expected functionality in a visual novel is present, with a few additions. My favourite is the ability to skip to the next (or previous) choice, so you don’t have to repeatedly skip-read through the common route. Use with caution though—on several occasions this functionality broke for me, leaving me stuck on the “Now Loading…” screen with no way out but to reboot the game and lose my progress. If you’re using it a lot, make some saves in between just in case!
The detective riddles are a nice touch; it makes you think about a case and the whodunit, although I didn’t figure out whether the detective rank has an actual purpose… Related to this, you can also record things people say in your “Detective Diary”. I’m sure its intended purpose is to help you collect evidence to figure out a case, but let’s be real, I bet most people use it to replay their favourite (cheesy) lines („ಡωಡ„)
Lady Emily Whiteley
(First name can be changed.)
First of all: bonus points for a voiced heroine—I always prefer it over the awkward silent moments when the unvoiced heroine is “talking”.
Overall, I didn’t mind Emily as a protagonist. She has great moments, and lesser ones, but at least she has a personality (and eyes).
She’s brave, although mostly in a naive way. I like how she always wants to step in, not caring if she puts herself in danger, but she does so without an actual plan. Because of that, she usually ends up in a damsel-in-distress kind of situation.
Maybe I’ve been spoilt by the likes of Cardia (Code: Realize), Ichika (Collar x Malice) and Jed (Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk) and I’m being too demanding of an otome heroine. I just feel there was more potential. I mean, it was pretty uncommon in those days for (noble)women to attend school—even less common to put themselves in danger by investigating dangerous cases—so I would have liked to see her learn how to defend herself a bit. Instead, she just lets the men do the protecting ╮( ˘ ､ ˘ )╭
I played Holmes’ route first, and my thoughts after finishing his route were “Oh crap, I didn’t think I’d come to love this character so”. He’s such a tsundere; he doesn’t mince words and comes across as harsh, but often he’s just testing Emily and looking out for her.
Logical and smart beyond his years, but bad at being honest with himself and accepting his weaknesses. He lives in the shadow of his dad and just wants to be acknowledged for his own merits, not because he’s Holmes Jr. Because of this, he can become reckless when he loses his cool (something that seems out of character considering how he acts in the common route).
I’d say his route isn’t that balanced, it tends to focus on story over romance. Holmes being a tsundere means the cute moments are guaranteed adorable, but there’s not enough of them! (｡•́︿•̀｡) Or at least not well-distributed throughout the route. That said, his last chapter is where he really swept me off my feet (*ﾉ∀`*) On the other hand, his epilogue wasn’t that impressive and I didn’t really like the direction they took with his character in it, but hey.
I can imagine a lot of people dislike him though. His pride and standoffish ways will get under some people’s skin. No, he’s not a sweetheart or a lovely catch. He can be rude and he’s rife with inner turmoil and a daddy complex. What can I say? I can be a real sucker for hard-to-love characters. That and he genuinely cracks me up—the way he gets under Emily’s and Watson’s skin with such a straight face is hilarious.
William H. Watson
Ah, Watson Jr… The impossible-to-dislike sunshine character who feels like canon-route material (but I’m not spoiling why hah).
Kind, warm and honest to a fault. He’s terribly brave and strong, yet clearly feels weak and inferior to Holmes, who he feels would handle any situation better. He always puts Emily’s well-being above his own but often beats himself up when he believes that he failed to protect her.
His kindness can also be his undoing as he’s willing to put distance between the two of them if it means she’ll be safe (sigh).
I found his route satisfying; there’s not a moment where you think “these two don’t fit together”. The story and fluff moments were better balanced than in Holmes’ route (although that is probably also due to the difference in their personalities). But…his route did drag a little bit at some point. There’s only so much self-pity a character should have before kicking himself back into gear, and Watson took his sweet time. I get that he’s the sweetheart of the bunch, but being a bit more assertive can be attractive too.
You’ll love Watson’s route if you like things sweet and endearing (with an incredibly cute epilogue on top). Despite being the sunshine boy, he also has some seriously cool moments when protecting Emily—doki doki material there. As much as I enjoyed playing through his route, I guess for me he wasn’t as complex as I often like my characters? Or maybe my favourites in this game just overshadowed him (sorry for not doing your route justice Watson and getting distracted by flashier characters (*_ _)人 ).
The perfect example of a diligent Japanese exchange student. Akechi hates relying on other people and seemingly projects the absurd demands he has on himself onto those around him as well. In reality, he’s very kind but just awkward at showing it.
He’s usually calm and collected but can be surprisingly stubborn and impulsive when it comes to Emily being in danger. This often leads to him getting close to her—the opposite gender—which results in more awkward and shy moments. It’s all quite endearing, albeit a bit stereotypical for the “Japanese samurai-kun“.
I felt like the story was a bit all over the place in his route. It also felt strangely disconnected from the rest of the story—a bit wedged in for the sake of adding another route. His destined end was quite romantic and to an extent made up for the convoluted storyline. As if to undo that satisfaction though, I didn’t enjoy his epilogue much. I get what they were going with, but there was just a bit too much drama—not the happily-every-after story I wanted ┐(‘～`;)┌
I’m sure Akechi is actually quite a loved character; his stumbling, bashful demeanour around Emily is downright endearing. He just wasn’t really my cup of tea and I can’t put my finger on why either. The perfectionist-who-struggles-to-deal-with-his-insecurities trope is not one I tend to dislike. It just felt a bit bland to me. Maybe the fluff was too subdued, yet at the same time clichéd, and the story too predictable?
OK, this needs a disclaimer: Lupin is nowhere near the trope I normally fall for, but for some reason, I fell hard for this guy. Some would say the gentleman thief stole my heart (￢‿￢ )
Lupin is a walking enigma. A liar, a gentleman and a thief. He’s definitely hiding something behind his confident façade (and his glasses clearly; how has no one in a class of detectives figured out that Lupine is in fact Lupin?!).
I really enjoyed Emily’s first meeting with Lupin—he’s smug, overconfident and he riled me up with his sweet-talking. But at the same time, you can’t help but be charmed.
This was hands-down the best route in terms of balance. It can sometimes feel a bit all over the place, like a game of tug of war, but it did well to immerse the reader in the emotions Emily felt because of this thief. And really, I didn’t want this rollercoaster of emotions to end. Lupin is a bad liar and a walking contradiction, and his route’s pacing represented that. I even think his ill-fated end is the best one in the game. And his epilogue… it was so delightfully cheesy, exactly what I want a bonus chapter to be (ง ื▿ ื)ว
Well, I can’t say I’m surprised Lupin is popular. I thought I might be able to withstand his charms, but I crumbled. To think I didn’t even care much for his design at first hah… what a chunk of eye-candy he turned out to be ♡ ～(‘▽^人) I thought he’d just be the typical playboy—the types I tend to dislike—but he was so much more charming. He’s the kind of guy girls are taught to stay away from, because he will toy with your heart. Yet you can’t pull yourself away from him, even though you know it’s for your own good. What a sweet, addictive poison.
Precious Jack, the dark horse. I really left the best two boys for last (*ﾉ∀`*)
Jack is the only character who comes from East London; the poor, dangerous and dirty side of town. How he managed to get into the detective course at a prestigious school is a mystery in itself.
Because of his background and upbringing, he is used to being shunned and generally keeps to himself… making him more mysterious and I just needed to know more about him.
His route was definitely the most story-heavy, making it a bit short on romance. But it got me tearing up (boy, that last chapter!). It’s not a story that hasn’t been done before—the tragic, impossible love story has been told so many times—but I’m so weak to them when they’re done right. I’m a sucker for sad backstories and Jack has them a-plenty. He’s such a sweetheart; just unlucky with the cards that life dealt him, and the route really tugs on your heartstrings. And the epilogue continues that trend, it was so good. My only complaint would be that I wanted more cute CGs… („ಡωಡ„)
From the start, Jack was the character I was most interested in, and I was not disappointed at all. I firmly place him top tier, together with Lupin. He’s one of those characters with a troubled past (and present) who you want to befriend and show that the world isn’t all bad. I genuinely love it when games include a love interest like him: someone who isn’t the typical pretty, gentlemanly boy whom everyone adores; but someone who most people shun, only to find out he’s such a gentle soul. Someone who makes you think “YES! The heroine doesn’t fall for looks and big words only!” (hah, my two best boys couldn’t possibly be any more different).
I guess since Holmes has Watson, Akechi had to have a trusted side-kick as well… Enter Kobayashi! The only difference is that this poor soul doesn’t ever get to leave the friend-zone.
Initially, I thought Kobayashi was almost annoyingly cheerful (and definitely not route-material) but he grew on me a lot during Akechi’s route. It’s just a shame he only gets a “charmed end” when Emily’s relationship with Akechi sours.
Kobayashi cares deeply for Emily and hates seeing her sad, so he wants her and Akechi to make up…surely at the cost of his own feelings. His ending was too cute and it makes me wish he had a proper route—I guess this game was truly full of surprises for me! This darling didn’t deserve to be friend-zoned ଘ(੭ˊ꒳ˋ)੭✧
As a side-character I definitely like Marple; she may not be the best at expressing what she’s really thinking, but she’s always looking out for Emily. That and the quips she throws at the guys when they’re being a bit dense are hilarious.
It is a nice touch that a friendship route exists in the game, but there was so little content (one measly chapter in which nothing happened) that they might as well have not added it. Especially considering how difficult it was to actually get onto her route…
I don’t want to waste a lot of words on Hudson: I found her intensely annoying. Maybe because she just falls into one of those tropes I dislike, maybe because she didn’t add anything to the story and felt like an unnecessary character.
The fact that she had an entire chapter in the common route practically devoted to her only added to my frustrations. Having to skip through it over and over again… (；⌣̀_⌣́)
Someone please give this butler a pay rise.
The enigmatic butler-by-day, assassin-by-night is not exactly a new concept but I adored Pendleton.
He’s a smartass really, often quite direct to Emily when voicing his concerns or disapproval, but I think that their relationship was really entertaining.
Character and CG art
When I saw the first promotional images for this game, the art wasn’t really my thing but it grew on me whilst playing. Honestly, this is so subjective—everyone likes different art styles—and overall the art is quite pretty, there were just a few things that bugged me.
The version of the game that was localised includes the content that was added in the Japanese PS Vita port (“The Crown”). Because of this, there are two illustrators: Mimura Natsu (original character design) and Shiroma (responsible for epilogue content). This isn’t uncommon, and not a problem in itself, but why did Watson’s sprite have to change in the epilogues?! It looks so out of place when everyone else still has the same sprites and I wanted my cute Watson back (ﾉω･､)
At least Watson still looked similar in the epilogue CGs… And speaking of epilogue CGs: it’s as if the guys are drawn to look a bit older, yet Emily hasn’t aged a day. She looks about 15 while the guys look 19 or so—very strange. And I get it, most of the epilogues take place a few months after the story, so I don’t mind the characters looking slightly older but then I’d expect a more mature-looking Emily as well.
The epilogue isn’t the only section that caused me sprite and CG frustrations. For some characters, the difference between sprite and CG art threw me off; Lupin and Holmes in particular. In Lupin’s case, I didn’t care for his (thief) design at all… until I saw his CGs which are simply gorgeous. I didn’t have the same problem with his Lupine sprite, but maybe I have some megane-kun bias going on here. For Holmes it really ticked me off at times, because overall I think he’s pretty cute in CGs and “action poses”, but his default front-facing sprite…
But it definitely wasn’t all bad, and really, most of this is me nitpicking. For a non-mainstream (*cough* non-Otomate *cough*) title that isn’t illustrated by one of the big names in the industry, the art for this game is pretty and clean. I especially liked the character cut-ins that happened in the more action-heavy scenes.
Backgrounds and menu
There isn’t much to write about the menu visuals; they fit the style and feel of the game, but they don’t stand out either. Not memorable, but not distracting either.
The backgrounds often caught my eye though. The attention to detail is noticeable and you can tell the person drawing them did their research. Judging from the official website, visits to London took place and it shows. The backgrounds ooze that London-feel and I’m a fan of seeing them dyed in sunset colours.
In terms of background music, London Detective Mysteria did a pretty good job. It was fitting of the game’s setting, without being a distraction. That said, it wasn’t very memorable either and it’s not a soundtrack that’ll make me want for the OST CD (if there even is one). But I always like it when games have character-specific theme songs—Lupin’s was probably my favourite, it suited him so well.
I’m actually quite fond of the opening song (I mean, there is some pretty cringey Engrish, but you get used to that when you listen to a lot of Japanese music). It suits the game, sets the scene and makes you curious where the story is going to take you. Exactly what an opening should do. The ending song on the other hand… in all honesty, I can’t remember it, so it can’t have been that special ╮(︶▽︶)╭
Overall, I thought the voice acting for the game was excellent, hence the high rating. Some of the original voice cast has been replaced in “The Crown” edition (rip Kimura Ryōhei as Watson, but I like Shirai Yūsuke as well so I can’t complain…), and most of the seiyuu aren’t super high-profile but the casting was done pretty well. In a way, it’s nice how some lesser-known voice actors are given a chance to showcase their talent.
Lady Emily Whiteley | CV: Ooshita Natsumi (大下 菜摘)
Don’t think I’ve heard her in anything before.
Herlock Holmes | CV: Suzuki Chihiro (鈴木 千尋)
Shigino Kisumi (Free!), Noel Valmore (Wand of Fortune)
William H. Watson | CV: Shirai Yūsuke (白井 悠介)
Eltcreed Valentin (Steam Prison), Amemura Ramuda (Hypnosis Mic), Nikaidou Yamoto (Idolish7)
Kenichirou Akechi | CV: Miura Hiroaki (三浦 祥朗)
Uesugi Kenshin (Ikemen Sengoku: Romance Across Time)
Jean Lupin | CV: Matsukaze Masaya (松風 雅也)
Hagakure Yasuhiro (Danganronpa), Mikami Teru (Death Note), Cassius (Granblue Fantasy)
Jack Millers | CV: Nakazawa Masatomo (中澤 まさとも)
Clear (DRAMAtical Murder), Futakuchi Kenji (Haikyuu!!)
Aside from Watson’s seiyuu, I really couldn’t put a name on any of them (and had to dig to find examples of characters they’ve voiced) but that’s not a bad thing. Holmes’ voice actor bugged me the whole game for two reasons: 1) the voice really didn’t suit him and 2) I just knew I’d heard him somewhere before but couldn’t put my finger on it (turned out it was Kisumi from Free!). It’s not that he’s a bad seiyuu, but he has a very distinct voice and I didn’t think it suited Holmes.
I’m always happy to have a voiced protagonist, so I try not to be too picky and I guess Emily’s voice actress did a good job. For my liking though, she sounded a bit too damsel-in-distress breathless most of the time. Not exactly a voice that screams “bad-ass heroine”.
The voices of the other main characters suited them well; Watson sounded positively darling and sweet, Lupin smug and playful, Akechi polite and a bit uptight, and Jack’s accent really made him sound like someone from the rougher side of town with a pinch of danger (^.~)☆ If I have one complaint, it’s that the suitors don’t ever say Emily’s first name if you pick the default option.
A little note on the localisation; it’s often overlooked in reviews and a bad translation or bad quality assurance can be a real cause of frustration. I’d like to applaud XSEED Games though because I found the translation to be pretty damn good! Yeah, it’s not always a literal translation, but it feels like it’s often tweaked a bit to read better in an English context and didn’t bother me at all.
I didn’t spot that many typos—way less than I’ve seen in any of the bigger titles (I’m looking at you Aksys…). There were however quite a few moments where trailing bits of text appeared where they didn’t fit. As if the last line a character said got repeated a few lines later. Just seemed like something that should have been picked up by QA.
A little touch I personally enjoyed was the speech of East End Londoners and the way that was localised. That said, I’m also wary that for people who either don’t have English as their first language or who aren’t used to British slang and dialects, it can probably be a bit much. Since I live in the UK though, I found it quite fetching and well-done.
If you ask me whether you should play this game, the answer is definitely. Is it my favourite otome game ever? No, but man, was it an enjoyable ride! And I think if you’re a fan of the genre, you should give it a chance, especially since I’m sure this game slipped under the radar for a lot of people. In a genre so dominated by Otomate titles, it’s easy for smaller projects to get overlooked and I’m glad this one got brought to the West.
My main complaint is how majorly open-ended the game is, which in all honesty ruined my last moments of playing it. It enhanced the feeling of “overarching plot doko?”. But letting that completely drag my score for this game down would be doing it a disservice.
Maybe because I went into this game without any expectations, but I was caught off-guard so many times with how much I loved some of the routes ♡ ～(‘▽^人)
My best boy ranking is:
- Lupin & Jack
- (Kobayashi if he had a proper route, sorry Akechi fans (*ﾉ∀`*) )
Yes, the common route was on the long side, but for the most part, I liked playing through it (the first time) and the character routes were of similar length. Overall, the art and voice acting were great, minus a few small annoyances. And the localisation deserves a thumbs up!
The balance between story, humour, romance and seriousness made this game an absolute joy to play. I had a tough time coming up with the overall rating—a score out of five wouldn’t do and I started messing with quarter points ∠( ᐛ 」∠)＿ So…
Final score: 7.5/10
Banner image: London Detective Mysteria | Karin Entertainment