I’m always talking about the ways gaming pushes narrative. I had a real blast playing and writing about the first adventure game on the Famicom, Portopia. Developed by Yuji Horii, the maker of Dragon Quest, it influenced the entire visual novel genre and was also a big inspiration for Hideo Kojima, maker of Metal Gear. It also had the best twist ending I’ve experienced in any medium, and considering it came out in 1983, is a pioneering work that showed gaming was about more than just arcade fun. I wrote about it at Entropy.
Horii experiments with the genre skillfully, embedding suspense with a limited palette and almost no music. The silence is eerie, but intensifies the feeling that this is more of a cerebral experience than a visceral in-your-face murder case. There’s several agendas at play among the eclectic characters, and as there is no save feature or even a password, it means you’ll have to start over from the beginning every time you power down. That’s not a bad thing as each playthrough reveals a slightly different perspective depending on what evidence you’ve uncovered. The seedy world of strip clubs and hostess bars can be explored at your own pace, especially as there’s no death.