When Nintendo announced that it was releasing remakes of the Famicom Detective Club games, it came as a bit of a surprise.
The series about a fifteen-year-old boy solving murder mysteries around the Japanese countryside was never released in the West, with international players having to search out fan translations to be able to experience them online. That all changed, however, on May 14, 2021, when Nintendo released remakes of the first two games in the series, The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind worldwide, giving curious players an opportunity to experience this important piece of Nintendo history on the Switch.
Most gaming publications responded positively to Nintendo and Mages’ work in bringing Famicom Detective Club to a new generation of players, but for some fans, it was hard not to recognize a glaring omission from the collection. There was actually a third game in the Detective Club series, called BS Tantei Club: Yuki ni Kieta Kako (BS探偵倶楽部 雪に消えた過去, “BS Detective Club: Lost Memories in the Snow”). This game was broadcasted in three parts for the Super Famicom’s Satellaview peripheral throughout 1997, and follows the supporting character from the first two Famicom Detective Club games, Ayumi Tachibana, as she travels back to her parents’ village for a vacation, only to find herself investigating the death of its former mayor to clear her mother’s name.
Similar to the other games in the series, BS Tantei Club never got a European or North American release. It’s also never been translated into English either. As a result, many are still unable to play BS Tantei Club, or find reliable information about it online. Having recently finished the two remakes on Switch, I spoke to some Satellaview enthusiasts to find out as much as I could about this obscure third entry in the series, and discuss why it could also benefit from the remake treatment.
Before I discuss this obscure sequel, though, I should probably give some background on the Satellaview itself. In July 1994, Nintendo partnered with St.GIGA, a Japanese Satellite radio company, to produce a peripheral for the Super Famicom to broadcast games to play over satellite connection.
These games often benefited from enhanced audio and memory, and were stored primarily on rewritable 8MB memory paks that you slotted into a special cartridge, titled BS-X: Sore wa Namae o Nusumareta Machi no Monogatari (BS-X それは名前を盗まれた街の物語,“BS-X: The Town Whose Name Was Stolen”). This functioned as a sort of interactive menu and featured an Earthbound-style RPG wherein you could enter buildings to explore the Satellaview’s different functions.
Between 1995 and 2000, Nintendo and various other third-party companies like Squaresoft, Taito, Chunsoft, and Konami broadcasted several games for the Satellaview, but the peripheral was never released outside of Japan — likely due to broadcasting costs overseas and concerns about its potential appeal. This regional exclusivity, combined with its unique method of delivering games, has made it somewhat of a nightmare for preservationists interested in its games, as physical media and VHS footage is often hard to come by. Nevertheless, there are still people who are trying to save whatever they can, bit by bit.
The blogger Cabbusses has spent more than a decade tracking down information, and footage of the Satellaview in action, both for YouTube and for his blog. He first heard about the device as a kid, after stumbling across an article titled “Zelda from Space?” in Vol. 94 of Nintendo Power. But it wasn’t until years later, when he also happened across the BS Zelda project — a website providing info and patches to better emulate the BS Zelda games — that he realized what the article was referring to, and started trying to uncover more about the Satellaview’s strange catalog of games himself.
“It clicked for me that the game they were talking about was the one I saw in the Nintendo Power article, and I went and checked out their modifications and whatnot,” Cabbusses says. “BS Zelda is a whole other subject matter on its own, so I’ll skip to around 2008 or so. That was when the forum goers found some video archives of BS Zelda’s actual Satellaview broadcasts with the original audio on NicoNico [a Japanese video sharing site]. Hearing the voice acting and music for the first time after years of wondering why the [SNES’s] SPC background music was disabled by default was a mind-blowing experience to everyone who checked it out. And the main thing I did from there was run a search for other Satellaview game videos like that, starting on NicoNico and occasionally branching out..”
Back when Cabbusses started looking for video in 2008, ROMs for BS Tantei Club were available, but were not supported on most emulators. Instead, most players outside of Japan were only familiar with the romhack for the Super Famicom remake of Part II, The Girl Who Stands Behind, which translated the game into English. Because of this, finding out more about BS Tantei Club felt like uncovering some lost treasure that was waiting to be discovered.
“When I saw videos of the game, it was exciting in part because it was the first time I was even seeing the game, period,” says Cabbusses. “Though I have to say it took time for the art style to grow on me, with [the Famicom Detective Club Part II remake for SNES] fresh on my mind. While most of the videos I found back then were on NicoNico, BS Tantei Club also had some [higher quality] video recovered from a now-defunct DivX video site called Stage6.”
Both these sets of videos are entirely in Japanese, making them hard to follow for people unfamiliar with the language. But they feature all three broadcasts in full, demonstrating the game’s mix of exploration and dialogue. They also showcase the superior Soundlink audio, which is missing from emulated versions of the game, including the voice acting of Yuko Minaguchi as Ayumi.
The lack of localization and missing audio is what makes BS Tantei Club a perfect candidate for a remake or re-release. But it’s worth noting the game doesn’t exactly follow the same formula as the others in the series — something that may throw a spanner in the works for more ambitious plans.
While it more or less shares the same interface as The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind, BS Tantei Club is a much shorter experience, and was designed to be beaten in three one-hour broadcasts. It also gives you a limited amount of time to complete your investigation, before it automatically skips you ahead to stay in sync with the satellite feed. This means that you can finish the game and still miss important clues or plot threads if you aren’t fast enough. To make up for this, the game gives you a percentage upon completing each broadcast, which lets you know if you’ve missed anything important. Raising this percentage has proven difficult on emulators.
“On my blind playthroughs I struggle to get this above 30 percent, which means I’m probably missing a lot of the game’s content when I try it,” says Cabbusses. “Though maybe it’s meant to accumulate across the three episodes with the emulators having SRAM issues, but I don’t know that for sure. It’s also hard to say how intricate the mystery may be when considering how the length is trimmed and the progression is designed around missable content (As opposed to the previous two there’s only a small amount of such as easter eggs). I’d definitely need translations to really know for sure.”
In my research for this article, I didn’t come across any active fan attempts to translate the game, but there are definitely people who would be up for the challenge.
LuigiBlood, for instance, is a French software developer, musician, and video maker who has prior experience hacking old Satellaview games. He was the leader on the BS-X Project, which aimed to emulate all of the Satellaview functions and also provide English translation patches to make BS-X more widely-accessible to international audiences. He’s also expressed interest in wanting to translate other Satellaview projects in the future, including BS Marvelous: Time Athletic & BS Marvelous: Camp Arnold – spin-offs from the Japanese exclusive Super Nintendo game Marvelous: Another Treasure Island.
“I had already taken a bit of a look into [BS Tantei Club] before, and the translation might be easier because it might already support English fonts,” LuigiBlood tells me. “I have to check more but the game uses the BS-X font system, so it really might just support everything. If it does, then it’s a matter of translating graphics. But that has never really been hard to do.”
As for official news, in an interview about the remakes last year, Mages producer Makoto Asada expressed interest in making a new game, which seems to imply an interest in developing a new, original story over remaking BS Tantei Club or anything that came before.
As Asada told Famitsu (in an interview translated by Nintendo Everything here), “Our goal for the project was to create the pinnacle of 2D text adventure games, so we actually used development techniques originally planned for other games as well. Thanks to Nintendo and their development team, we made the best game we possibly could, but looking back, we were quite reckless. How will we ever make something this good again? (laughs) We developed a fair amount of know-how working on the game, expertise I’d like to one day use on a new Famicom Detective Club […]”
Many fans would probably leap at an opportunity to play a brand new entry in the series, but Cabbusses is skeptical about the idea of continuing the story due to fears over what modernizing the games might mean.
“The previous two games were written by game developers in 1980’s Japan, feature the tech and culture of the era, and the characters are for all intents and purposes meant to be ordinary humans who live in real-time and no particular superpowers,” says Cabbusses. “So any temptation to ‘modernize’ the writing would look utterly off. Also, the main player character’s story is wrapped up over the course of the two games they did release. And he’s notably absent without explanation in BS Tantei Club, which suggests that even the original writers didn’t know what to do with that character anymore.
“Mages would be better off making their own detective story IP,” he continues. “I mean, they did a modern reboot of the Corpse Party games, right? Why don’t they do a murder mystery spinoff of that? Not only would they have an IP that has more of a pre-established reputation in the English-speaking world, but also wouldn’t have to worry about Nintendo censorship.”
LuigiBlood, meanwhile, believes that like with BS Tantei Club, Ayumi could be the key.
“There’s maybe something to do with Ayumi’s backstory, perhaps, similar to what BS Tantei Club did,” says LuigiBlood. “It could also maybe gain to be more interactive than BS Tantei Club was. But yeah when it comes to the main character, I don’t see them doing another arc with him, so maybe they could just change the main character, or have the story centered on something else.”
As things currently stand, BS Tantei Club remains in a depressing limbo. Like many other Satellaview games, Nintendo is reluctant to acknowledge this obscure part of their history or publicly support efforts to make materials relating to it more widely available. Because of this, it seems unlikely that it will ever see the light of day. But, with Square Enix having just released the first ever localized Satellaview game, Radical Dreamers, on multiple platforms this month, perhaps there’s hope Nintendo will eventually cave. Until that time, it will be up to the hard work of online volunteers to make sure these games are recorded, shared, and enjoyed.