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Feelah the tigress
- Published on Amazon.com
First things first, I need to warn anyone reading this that this game is not exactly a sequel to the original "Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles". In fact, this game includes all the cases from the original game, plus some new ones. So, it's more like a remake of the original with new content. So, if you are thinking about getting into Jake Hunter, just get this game and ignore the first one. All right, so now that the warning is out of the way, let's talk about the game itself.
Graphics (score 7/10): If you've every played an Ace Attorney game, then the graphics should look pretty familiar to you. Basically, you've got static backgrounds with character portraits over them. Unlike the Ace Attorney series though, the character portraits are not as expressive (i.e. they never seem to move). Also, I don't think they are quite as eye-pleasing as the Ace Attorney graphics. The backgrounds look fine most of the time, but occasionally, an image looks like it's a slightly blurred stock photo instead of an actual drawn background. Very strange. Other than that, there are some brief animated cutscenes that look like they have very few frames of animation - this is okay, but not fantastic. Anyway, this game is not going to win any awards in the graphics department, but that's par for the course in this genre and if you are playing an adventure game, then graphics are probably not high on your list of important things.
Music (score 8/10): There's not really a huge number of tracks, but the music changes dynamically with the situation and often enough that it doesn't feel repetitive. The music itself isn't bad at all - in fact it's pretty good for this genre, and rest assured, there is at least one track that just screams "detective"! There's no voice acting, so it's pretty much just music and a few sound effects. Not much to say other than that.
Characters (score 8/10): Your main characters are Jake Hunter himself and Yulia Marks, his assistant/secretary. Jake is pretty much your stereotypical heavy drinking, nicotine addicted, hard-boiled Private Investigator living in a seedy big city. In other words, a dream come true for fans of film noir AND adventure games. I can't say I was ever a big fan of film noir but I like Jake's character anyway. Yulia's personality stands in contrast to his since she's sweet and polite where he's gruff. She still lets her sarcasm slip through occasionally though. The dynamic between them as characters really works well in my opinion. There are of course many side characters involved in each story, and all of them are believable enough, but really the characters themselves aren't as much of a focus as the story. Unlike (once again with this example) a game like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney where you get really attached to many individual characters, the characters in this game really serve more as vehicles to move the plot forward. The only character who I can say you'll get very attached to is Jake himself. There are certain segments of the story where you play from the perspective of someone else, and it was during these segments that I realized how much I missed Jake. I guess I'd really become attached to him as a character, but compared to the Ace Attorney games, there are nearly as many memorable characters involved.
Story (score 9/10): The main difference between this game and the original release is that this one has six cases instead of just three. It also features a sort of bonus section with cases from a comic version of Jake Hunter which are more humorous in tone (more on that later). The normal cases have pretty serious stories though, and they are a good variety (in that they aren't always the exact same scenario - sometimes it's a murder, sometimes it's a missing persons case, sometimes it's theft, etc.). The cases also usually have pretty good twists and turns to keep you guessing. I must say though that the first case is probably the least interesting, but it's also the shortest. So, if you are playing this for the first time and aren't so enthused with Case 1, stick it out and see if you end up liking it better. Case 4 is where it really gets good, in my opinion (I think I actually teared up at the emotional ending). Case 5 is strangely shorter (although still interesting) than Case 4, which makes no sense. Case 6 is long again (and the story incorporates things that happened in all five previous cases). All of them are quite good though, regardless of length. Now, as promised, let's talk about that bonus section. This put me off first because it's such a radical departure from the previous section. Basically you can play these very short stories called in a section called "Jake Hunter Unleashed". They appear to have comic/cartoony style crudely drawn graphics, and is basically a parody of the main game. Yes, really - this game features an in-game parody of itself. It's that awesome. It's actually pretty funny too, since cartoon Jake says things like "I gave them a hard-boiled glare and a hard-boiled nod" which is clearly poking fun at his character and cartoon Yulia is pretty spastic and insane (which is the complete opposite of her normal mature character). All in all, it's a nice extra.
Gameplay (score 9/10): This is a bit of a catch-all category for me. Gameplay is pretty simple. You just select from various actions, such as talk, inspect, and move. You just move through the story by performing various actions. You actually have the option to play this game entirely via buttons or entirely via stylus, which is great for those that prefer one method over the other. You can also save at any time and back up dialog if you missed something. All in all, the gameplay features are pretty nifty. Now, let's talk about something that makes or breaks this game for some people: the difficulty. Many complain that the game is too easy, even going so far as to call the game a "visual novel" instead of a video game. The game actually doesn't allow you to get a game over screen; if you choose the wrong action, Jake just says something like "sorry, I got that wrong" and let's you try again. Some people think this is bad because it ruins the challenge, but I liked it. It saves you time since if you got a game over, you'd only be forced to sit through a bunch of dialogue again anyway, and now you don't have to. It's not that I'd want every game to be like this (I do enjoy challenge sometimes), but after playing a slew of more challenging games, this game could be a welcome bit of relaxation. I do have to mention that while it's still pretty low on failure punishment, it does get more challenging once you hit Case 4. There are points where you must select the correct evidence options to continue the game and prove someone's guilt in the process. Figuring out the culprit from the clues can get challenging, but it's still a rather forgivingly easy game. Well, I guess whether the easiness bothers you or not is entirely up to personal preference. I must mention though, that the Jake Hunter Unleashed section plays quite differently than the regular game. These are basically short stories (maybe only ten minutes long) that end in you having to deduce the culprit of the crime. If you make a single mistake in your deduction, you'll get a game over and have to start over again, regardless of whether or not you saved in the middle of the deduction. This makes the Jake Hunter Unleashed games actually a lot harder than the regular game. Now what else to talk about... Well, something useful for people who bought the original game is that you are allowed to play the cases in any order you want. So, if you already played cases 1 - 3 you can just skip to case 4. Of course, for the most story coherency, it's probably best to go in order, but if you choose not to don't fear - the dialog briefly introduces previous characters for anyone who's skipping around. Lastly, there are a number of hidden passwords in the game which unlock various goodies like extra Jake Hunter Unleashed episodes, concept art, extra character profiles, an interview with the development team, etc. Anyway, that's a nice extra.
Overall (score 9/10): NOTE this score is not an average; it's my subjective overall score. Well, I feel like this game is really close to being perfect, at least in terms of enjoyability. If the characters had been a bit more memorable, I probably would've given this game a full 10/10. As it is, it's a very nice relaxing game and a solid entry in the adventure game library on the DS. If you are a fan of adventure games, pick this one up!