The Kindaichi Case Files is a manga series about the crime-solving adventures of Hajime Kindaichi. It’s been going since the mid-’90s but has less than ten video games. The first was Kindaichi Case Files: Hihou Island: The New Tragedy for the PlayStation in 1996. Two more games were released in the same style called Hell Park Murder Case and Azure Dragon Legend Murder Case. I found The New Tragedy the most interesting to play. Not because it’s a fantastic game but because it has an atmosphere other games based on manga don’t have.
This game is noticeably quiet. You’ll be doing a lot of reading while characters remain still in the foreground. Most of the time these moments lack music and voice acting. For example, the game starts with Kindaichi and his friends arriving on an island. Instead of music, the only thing you can hear is the waves of the ocean. A jagged 2D portrait of a character will instantly appear while dialogue silently materializes below them.
This quietness permeating throughout the game creates an eerie atmosphere. This is present in the game’s centerpiece, a 3D western-style house you explore in first-person. While exploring, you’ll hear your own footsteps, loud creaky doors, and ominous music. This house is also where the game’s jagged 2D characters contrast with the archaic-looking 3D backgrounds in a strange way.
I think the eeriness works in the game’s favor by enhancing the feeling of isolation that’s present in the manga. Often, Kindaichi and other characters end up stuck in a location with the culprit lurking amongst them. For example, in the manga’s fifth story, Kindaichi heads to an island to find buried treasure. The culprit of the murder case poses as the island’s guardian and stalks the other characters. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t capture the feeling that you’re constantly being stalked by the culprit as the manga does. The inclusion of random sounds coming from the culprit during exploration would’ve really intensified the game’s atmosphere. I imagine a scenario where you’re walking around the house and suddenly hear silverware falling in the nearby kitchen. The quietness in this game is absent in the Hell Park Murder Case and Azure Dragon Legend Murder Case. Both games feature more music and voice acting. The explorable 3D environments are also less creepy than the first game’s house. The sequels in this trilogy might be better, but Kindaichi Case Files: Hihou Island: The New Tragedy will remain the most memorable to me because of how its quietness creates an eerie atmosphere.
Gameplay footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rs7JpX0vvWk