marchismo's Last Window: Mayonaka no Yakusoku (Nintendo DS) review

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Kyle Hyde's back, and he wants to ask you a few questions.

The typical route for naming a sequel is to take the title of the preceeding work and slap a bigger number at the end of it.  Or, as often seen in larger franchises, you'll have the parent title followed by a subtitle to differentiate it from other entries in the series.  It's rare that you see exceptions to these tropes like Last Window: The Secret of Cape West (Japanese title: Last Window: The Midnight Promise), which might not be obvious just from looking at the box that this is the sequel to DS cult hit Hotel Dusk: Room 215. 

 Blatant fake product placement.
 Blatant fake product placement.

Set in 1980, one year after the events of Hotel Dusk, the player is once again in control of cop-turned-sorta salesman Kyle Hyde.  Four years prior to the start of the game, Kyle was a detective in the NYPD.  He left the force after shooting his rogue partner Brian Bradley, and began working for the Red Crown company which is run by a friend of Kyle's father.  Red Crown is officially a door-to-door sales company, but this is mostly a front for its main business- discreet recovery of missing items.  However, Kyle doesn't exactly have the greatest work ethic and manages to get himself fired at the start of the game.  He returns to his home in the titular Cape West apartment building after a few days on the road only to find out the place is due to be demolished in two weeks.  Around the same time, he receives a mysterious letter telling him to locate something called the Scarlet Star which went missing in the building 25 years prior.  With lots of free time and little better to do, Kyle decides to look through the place one last time before it's gone for good.

If you've played Hotel Dusk, the game looks and controls pretty much the same.  Movement can be performed either through the touch screen or the d-pad, and interactions with the characters and environment are governed by icons on the touch screen.  The game is oriented sideways so that you hold the DS like a book while playing.  In Last Window, the book metaphor is taken one step further by including a novelization of every chapter you complete as you progress through the game.  The "Last Window novel" is accessible any time after you complete the first chapter, and the game prompts you if you want to read the novel or continue playing the game every time you load a save.  Each chapter in the novel ends with a "classified file" on Kyle Hyde that contains anecdotes about him and hints at solutions to puzzles in the chapter following, though the epilogue for the novel will only be unlocked at the end if the player leaves these files untouched.

 The puzzles make sense, and you might learn a thing or two.
 The puzzles make sense, and you might learn a thing or two.

The game's puzzles make logical sense, and it's good about dropping hints if you're missing a required item.  Developer Cing has always gotten a lot of mileage out of the unique interactive features of the DS with their other titles, and Last Window is no exception.  While doing things like rotating a knob with the stylus or closing and reopening the DS may seem a bit gimmicky at this point, there are a couple of clever puzzles here and there that force you to perform combinations of actions that I hadn't even considered the DS could handle.

Most of the time in the game will be spent interacting with the residents of the Cape West apartment complex.  As in Hotel Dusk, most of the characters you meet are harboring secrets that you’ll slowly peel away over the course of the game.  The game does a good job of making the characters and Kyle's interactions with them seem believable.  It's helped in this regard by the series trademark sketchbook animation style, which gives a unique lifelike quality to the characters even when they’re motionless.  The interrogation sequences make a return wherein Kyle will ask a character a series of questions with the possibility of a game over for asking too many invalid ones.  There are other circumstances you can fail the investigation and get a game over, but for the most part they're easily avoidable and the game will always drop you right back to where you were before you shot yourself in the foot. 

 The in-game notebook allows you to play your favorite pen-and-paper games (games not included).
 The in-game notebook allows you to play your favorite pen-and-paper games (games not included).

Overall, the pacing of the story could be a bit better.  The story moves rather slowly for much of the game with the bulk of the plot being contained in the final three chapters.  It's safe to say that anyone who was put off by the slow pace of Hotel Dusk's narrative won't find much to like here.  But it does get interesting when it picks up, and those who did enjoy Hotel Dusk's story will recognize a few returning characters and some minor story tie-ins.

The music in the game is in the same light jazzy style as the music heard in Hotel Dusk, and it feels appropriate for a noir detective story.  While some of the music wouldn't sound out of place at a grocery store, the more emotional tracks help carry the weight of the scenes they appear in.  Like the Last Window novel, the in-game jukebox will allow you to listen to any track you've already heard in the game.  Interestingly, the jukebox music will continue to play through headphones even with your DS closed, and tracks can be changed via the shoulder buttons. 

As of this writing the game has been released in Japan and Europe, but no announcements have been made regarding a US release.  It may seem a trivial matter to make some minor spelling changes here and there to the European release's English script to convert it into "American English", but with Cing now bankrupt and the DS reaching the end of its lifespan, it's questionable whether it will ever happen.  Still, it's worth paying a bit more to import it if you found a lot to like in Hotel Dusk.  And if you happen to live in one of the countries that sells the game, all the more reason to pick it up. 

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