Chain: The Lost Footprint Review

Contributed by J. Sarunski aka Unicorn

This game is a visual novel with a behaviour alike an adventure. It tells a story and leaves the player options to choose, but only if the player makes the according choices does the story continue.

The main character of the story is the private investigator Shinonome Takeshi. Most of the time, the story is from his perspective. Sometimes, the story switches the perspective to other characters. However, these switches are not under the control of the player (as in "Eve burst Error" or "Adam: The double factor"), but take place, if the story reaches the point, they should happen (so, getting stuck, because a change of perspective is required, as in "Eve" or "Adam" will not happen).

Back to the story: Shinonome Takeshi is a private investigator. At first, a former classmate asks him to keep an eye on her husband, in order to check, if he is cheating on her. After this case is closed, he and his assitant, Makabe Hitomi, get two further cases to solve at the same time:
a) To observe the daughter of a high politician, in order to keep her from causing troubles and thus jeopardizing her father's re-election
b) To investigate rumors about a new drug, that is about to become popular at highschools

Nothing spectacular about the gameplay: Most of the time, the story is told. Sometimes, the player has to make decisions, how the current charactere shall continue. If the player makes the wrong decision, the story will tell, why this decision was not the right one and loop back to this point, where the wrong decision was made.

The soundtrack has a quality, comparable to the CD-DA-Soundtrack of Tokimeki-CheckIn. It consists of the title song and 18 themes. The themes remind of the music in classical detective films, and match the general moods of the story almost perfectly. Also, almost any character (except the main chara, Shinonome Takeshi) in this game has original japanese voice-acting in usual (read superb) quality.

The quality of the graphics keep up with the current standard of graphics quality in new realeases, as for example in "Snow Drop" or "Tokimeki CheckIn". The usual two kinds of graphics are displayed: Backgrounds on which graphics of the currently present charcters are pasted and graphics, drawn for special scenes and only used in them.

The game starts with a movie, featuring most of the characters in the game, without giving away too much hints on the mysteries in the story. Further, most of the H-Scenes are animated in a manner, similar to gif-Anmations.

User Interface:
The graphics occupy the whole screen and a transparent textwindow floats on the graphics. If a decision is to be made, the available choices appear in this textwindow and the desired choice has to be clicked. Saving, loading, adjusting options and a "hands-free-mode " are available via a context-menu.

After the game is played through the first time, a new point appears in the main menu, leading to galleries of graphics, animations and h-scenes and a jukebox for listening to the themes. In order to avoid conflicts with local laws, all explicit graphics are in original mosaiced form. However, a downloadable patch exists, that removes most of the mosaics (a few graphics remain mosaiced). So, it is the responsibility of the player:
a) to decide, if he/she wants to remove the mosaics at all
b) to check, if local laws allow the demosaicing, before downloading and applying this patch

My personal opinion:
I liked Eve-burst-error, but despised Adam. This time, I got again a really good story, that even was much more realistic (at least, regarding the crimes and motives) as in Eve-Burst-Error. The story itself was a really well developed crime-story, that even contained a moral (thats is not that usual in a b-game).

Sometimes, the wrong decisions were a little bit too easy to recognize, because they were all too odd, but choosing them leads to some comical passages, that help brighten up the serious mood in this game a lot. My personal recommendation: If a player want's for a change something funny to happen, he/she should feel encouraged, to take the most goofy options, possible. No need to worry, because, no wrong decision is fatal. Just at this time it happens, the characters could make fun of themselves, or even of the player.

The one weak point of the story is, how the sex-scenes became part of the storyline: most of them were gratuitious (they did not really help the story, but simply were as nice, as unnecessary eye-candy). Also, the fact, that all girls/women almost jumped the main character and he was the one to give in to them (with him sometimes having some second thoughts, if this is allright, that were just mentioned, but never had any impact on his actions), adds quite some unnecessary irreality to the story.

I mean, Takashi has not to be like Amagi Kojirou, who never thinks about who might be hurt, and enjoys any h-scene, he can get. But on the other hand, Kojirou also has to face the consequences of losing Kyoko (and perhaps also Yayoi, if he continues his way). At least, at the end of the story, there are 4 women/girls, he already had sex with, in a scene gathered at a meal around a table and all of them make simple and friendly conversation. I think, in an "Eve"-story, this scene would have to become a complete screw up for the male main character by simply one of them starting to get a bit closer to him and the others reacting jealous, causing an explosion, that gives the main characters some months in hospital for thinking about, what he has done to them by being indecisisve.

If one ignores this lack, regarding the love-relationship-part, the story is a well told whodunit-crimestory with some surprises and a ending with a moral (o.k., the moral is not that special or surprising, but something, always worth to keep in mind). It took me about 30 hours of playtime to get through to the end. (O.K., some hours were spent by goofing around with obviously wrong decisions, but these detours really tickled my sense of hunour and had to be taken.)

On the other hand, this lack provokes the question, if we are really dealing with a bishoujo-game. On one hand, a whole lot of bishoujos (=pretty females) are shown, but on the other hand, the usual important emotional part is here well hidden.

I think, at this point, it is up to anyone to decide, if this game has to be called a gem, or no bishoujo-game at all. I am still pondering about this point.