Here in the West, the Jake Hunter series is mostly unknown despite its Famicon roots in Japan. Jake Hunter: Memories of the Past was released on the original DS in 2007 as an experiment, more or less, by Aksys Games to see if a visual novel could gain any traction during the DS craze. Unfortunately, the rushed translation was met with poor reviews. Then, not even one full year later, Aksys released Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles also on DS. This sequel received better fanfare than the original due in part to a better translation. These are visual novels after all so the text is the most important element to the final product.
Now, about a decade after the last western Jake Hunter game, Aksys released Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk here in 2018 on 3DS. Truth be told, is it a little strange to see a full $39.99 retail release so late in the 3DS lifecycle especially by a 3rd party. Further, this is a visual novel so it really isn’t even a game as there is no way to win, lose, or be penalized by making the wrong choice. The “reward” for making the correct choice is activing the next aspect of the narrative. Ghost of the Dusk is basically like reading a novel from your e-reader only put to some ambient music and comic book style visuals.
This isn’t a knock, though, as the PS Vita and Steam are loaded with visual novels, and some are quite good. It is, however, a little strange to see this on 3DS when those systems seem to have a bigger audience for this style of “game.” Either way, Jake Hunter, like most other visual novels, are not for everyone as they require a ton of reading and little to no actual gameplay.
Luckily, the story in Ghost of the Dusk is straightforward but detailed which makes the narrative engaging. Without giving away spoilers, Jake finds a dead man in an abandoned mansion. It seems like the cause of death was alcohol poisoning but Jake’s gut tells him otherwise. Once this case is solved, it opens up a new can of worms. While the later chapters are not as griping as the opening, fans of fiction should enjoy their time spent reading the outcome.
The only actual gameplay comes in the form of tapping the face button to advance the dialog bubbles. From a house keeping stand point, there are a few elements that help make navigating each story a little more convenient. For example, the player can use the analog stick to move a text block backward and the game can be saved at any point through the Start button. Jake can also light up a cigarette which gently guides the player on what to possibly do next in case the task becomes too complicated (which is never does). Although the game will often present itself with multiple dialog choices, there is only one correct answer to advance the story. If the “wrong” answer is selected, there is no penalty or punishment, and the player just goes back to check the next option. Because of this, this is the most friendly game you will ever play since there is no wrong way of doing anything, no consequence, and no way to lose. I guess my only complaint would be to let the player know which dialog options were already selected. If perhaps the background of each option would change color upon selection, it would indicate which dialog choices were already tried. Since some sections require the player to select the correct two options of several choices, there is a small amount of trial and error involved.
The only other “game” aspect comes from scanning parts of the environment. The player is free to use either the stylus to tap the screen or use the analog stick. However, using the stylus is very tedious as it is all or nothing whereas the player can see the cursor change color when an item of interest is highlighted.
Also included are a few other episodic mysteries, one of which is a ridiculous chibi case. Each of these cases were originally mobile-only games in Japan but nice to see them included in the final package without being locked behind a DLC paywall.
Jake Hunter: Ghost of the Dusk is a slow-paced visual novel that isn’t even technically a game. However, fans of the numerous visual novels on Vita probably won’t mind reading through these adventures here on 3DS. But if you are a gamer that craves action, you will want to look elsewhere.
Not As Good As: the Ace Attorney games
Better Than: Arino: Ace Detective found in Retro Game Challenge 2 (3DS)
Also Try: Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel (PSP)