J.B. Harold: Murder Club, sometimes as released as simply Murder Club or Final Murder Club, is a menu-driven adventure game from the creator of Hotel Dusk and Trace Memory, Rika Suzuki. It is the first in a series of murder mystery adventure games starring the titular detective.
The game was initially released in Japan for the NEC PC-88 and PC-98 computers in 1986, and then ported to the MSX computer system in 1988. It was then released on the Famicom console in Japan only as Murder Club, in 1989. The Sharp X68000 version released in 1988 was a significant improvement, featuring enhanced digitized graphics, mouse support, and an English-language option.
Eventually, a PC DOS version (a port of the PC-98 version) and a Turbografx-CD version (a port of the enhanced X68000 version, with added voice acting and improved English translation) were released in both Japan and the US. Both versions are known by the title J.B. Harold: Murder Club in the US.
The game would then be released again some years later along with some of its sequels as graphically remastered DS games, though these were Japan-only releases. In more recent years, it has been ported to mobile phones and released for the iPhone internationally.
A horrible murder has taken place in the sleepy little town of Liberty. Bill Robbins, a wealthy man known for his wild womanizing ways is the victim and, list of possible suspects keeps growing. As J.B. Harold you must figure out the who, what, where and why of the case.
To solve the mystery you will need to travel to various locations, interview people and search for clues. The game is laid out over a grid map that displays various locations, though other than that, the game is mainly presented in the form of still photos. The plot involves thousands of possible branches.
PC DOS version
The game was reviewed in 1991 in Dragon #176 by Hartley, Patricia and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 4 out of 5 stars. They wrote that it is "a great game for mystery fans" and "a thinking game that is well worth the money."
Video Games and Computer Entertainment critic, Donn Nausert, praised the game's sound, graphics, and playability, giving it an overall score of 9 out of 10. Defunct Games stated, "This is the type of game that will no doubt appeal to the gamers who love a good murder mystery, and while it's not perfect there's no denying that it's the best game of its kind. This is the type of game you don't see much anymore, which is a real shame because for what it is J.B Harold is a lot of fun." They gave the game a score of 70%.
GameSpot included the game in its list of titles that deserve an enhanced remake, stating that it was "one of the most difficult games ever made", had "some of the most memorable voice acting of all time", and that "to this day there isn't much out there quite like it." They compared it to more recent titles such as the adventure games Shenmue (1999) and Shadow of Memories (2001) as well as the role-playing game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), stating that it similarly features "character interaction as the major gameplay element" and has "a similar type of multiple phrase response."
In North America, the game generated some controversy for its reference to a fictional, unsolved rape. As Donn Nausert stated, "I don't think this is a subject that the American public is comfortable with in a video game, even though it's not dealt with graphically..." In their review of the game, Dragon also criticized it for not including "a warning on the box about the mature subject matter in this game" in reference to the unsolved rape case.