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  • Because of the truly great and timeless adventures crafted for the Super Famicom and Mega Drive,

  • the 16-bit era of video games is considered by many to be thegolden ageof Japanese

  • RPGs.

  • But for me, I tend to think of the 32-bit era as more worthy of that distinction, in

  • large part due to the plethora of amazing titles released on the original PlayStation.

  • Back in the PS1's prime, the genre attained genuine mainstream popularity outside of Japan

  • for the very first time, Squaresoft was in top form with its newly arranged partnership

  • with Sony, and Namco's Tales series hadn't yet adopted the Madden NFL approach to game

  • release schedules.

  • A few of my favorite role-playing offerings on the system include the fantastic spiritual

  • successor to Landstalker, Alundra, Konami's epic, one-hundred and eight star-studded Suikoden,

  • and the game that is pretty much solely responsible for the world-wide JRPG boom of the era, Final

  • Fantasy VII.

  • These three titles, like so many other great Japanese role-playing games, saw international

  • releases much to the delight of RPG fans like myself.

  • However, to no one's surprise, there were quite a few great RPGs on the PlayStation

  • that never ventured outside of their home country, such as the Zelda and Sim City-inspired

  • Community POM, Love-de-lic's debut title and possibly the single best case for thegames

  • as artargument, Moon: Remix RPG Adventure, and then there's the little-known game that

  • is the subject of this video: London Seirei Tantei-dan.

  • Published on May 20th, 1999 by Bandai and developed by Unit, whom I hadn't heard of

  • previously, the game advertises itself as a “nostalgic adventure RPG.”

  • London Seirei Tantei-dan is translated into English as "London Holy Agency," at least

  • on its official website.

  • However, a better, more accurate translation that also captures the spirit of the game

  • would be "London Spirit Detective Team."

  • Most role-playing games take place in fictional lands and time periods, but London Spirit

  • Detective Team bucks that trend with its 19th century Victorian era English setting.

  • The hero of this tale is a lionhearted, energetic ten-year old orphaned boy living on the streets

  • of London all alone.

  • At the onset of the story, he is wandering aimlessly, surviving the best he can and fending

  • off dangers with his trusty slingshot.

  • But all that changes through a chance encounter with a man named John Everett Millais.

  • While he may share his name with a famous painter who also lived in England during the

  • 1800s, this John Everett Millais, who often just goes byEverett,” is London's most

  • skilled and respected detective.

  • After witnessing the young hero successfully defend himself from a lowlife trying to steal

  • the boy's only loaf of bread, an impressed Everett extends an offer to take him under

  • his wing as a detective's assistant.

  • After accepting, the player is able to choose a name for the youth.

  • Naturally, for my playthrough, I went withJimmy.”

  • Come on, he certainly looks like a Jimmy, don't you think?

  • From that day forward, the boy is given a room in the spacious attic of Everett's splendid

  • home, and becomes a full-fledged apprentice to London's great detective.

  • With that setup, you may be thinking that London Spirit Detective Team sounds a lot

  • like Sherlock Holmes meets Oliver Twist, two characters in classic literature who coincidentally

  • sprung from the era the game takes place in...and you'd be right, after you toss in some steampunk,

  • anime, and supernatural elements.

  • The protagonist, who we'll just refer to as Jimmy from here on, is only an assistant detective,

  • but more often than not he's responsible for solving cases independently from Everett,

  • who is usually pressed with larger affairs of his own.

  • Jimmy won't be alone in his work, however, as he soon forms a small detective team comprised

  • of two other kids.

  • First off, there's Aries Ivory, a cute, sometimes charming, but often times brash and bossy

  • 12 year old girl with an iron will.

  • Her motivations for becoming an assistant detective mostly revolve around her desire

  • to work with her crush, Everett, and being bored.

  • But to her disappointment, she ends up partnering up with Jimmy, and will often voice her displeasure

  • of having to work with the boy two years her junior.

  • Despite her minor character flaws, though, she is a loyal friend and a vital member of

  • the detective team.

  • The other teammate is a pudgy six-year old boy who acts as Jimmy's sidekick, affectionately

  • addressing him asbig brotherand following him around anywhere and everywhere he goes.

  • This little guy is never named throughout the entire game and is just known asAibou,”

  • which meansPartnerin English, though I thinkBuddysuits the situation best.

  • His never ending devotion and admiration for the protagonist and his childish demeanor

  • serve to provide much of the game's comedy relief.

  • Buddy is a pure joy, so odd, amusing, and cute as a damned button.

  • Most of the time he's either eating, sleeping, falling from high places, or landing on the

  • receiving end of some slapstick violence.

  • He's pretty much oblivious to the weight of the serious events taking place around him,

  • and will often just doodle pictures of fish as the characters go off on their important

  • dialogue.

  • The amount of punishment he takes is flat-out comical, and his antics are responsible for

  • more than a few laugh-out-loud moments.

  • It seems that he's an orphan or run-away child, too, which makes his role as a punching bag

  • seem kind of sad, but he always bounces back from everything as if nothing happened and

  • in high spirits.

  • Buddy is the best sort of buddy you can have, and is definitely my favorite character in

  • London Spirit Detective Team.

  • This trio of children make up the main team, but there is one more person that will join

  • up from time to time, an enigmatic young man named Virgil.

  • He's meek, soft-spoken, shies away from large groups of people, and generally lacks any

  • sort of confidence or vigor, but with Virgil, there's more than meets the eye, as his knowledge

  • of ghosts, spirits, and otherworldly beings is second to none, knowledge that is far and

  • beyond what any human should realistically possess.

  • As mentioned earlier, London Spirit Detective Team breaks from its RPG peers by centering

  • its narrative around an actual time period and place in the real world.

  • While the specific dates in which everything takes place are never really mentioned, it

  • can be inferred that the year is 1851, since many of the events in the game revolve around

  • the opening of The Great Exhibition, or the first ever World's Fair.

  • This period in British history is often considered itsgolden age,” a time of great advancement

  • for the island nation, especially in industry and technology.

  • The art direction of London Spirit Detective Team captures that feeling, though it does

  • take quite a bit of artistic license in its representation of Victorian London.

  • Nearly every street in the great city is lined with long stretching networks of pipes that

  • provide power to steam-operated machines and mechanisms, most of which could never have

  • existed in the mid-19th century, much less in the century that would follow.

  • I mean, in this game's Victorian London there are huge mechanical humanoid war machines

  • and robotic maids, which gives the atmosphere a steampunk anime kind of feel.

  • It's not all portrayals of high fantasy, however, as the lifestyles of the budding middle class

  • of the time, as well as the impoverished, are on full display, and overall there's a

  • good balance of realism and imagination in its presentation of the period.

  • The isometrically drawn environments are very easy on the eyes, although in some places

  • there are some ugly compression blemishes resembling low quality JPEG images.

  • Another big way in which the game separates itself from others in the genre is by focusing

  • on a smaller, more restrained story that unfolds entirely in just one city, that city being

  • London, of course.

  • There's no grand globe-trotting, save-the-world adventure to be found here, which is a breath

  • of fresh air in my opinion.

  • London Spirit Detective Team plays out like a television series, split up into a prologue

  • and 19 different episodes.

  • Each episode focuses on a single case that needs to be solved by the team, though a larger,

  • overarching plot is woven little by little until it culminates at the very end of the

  • game.

  • The first few cases start off rather grounded in reality, but eventually the team will start

  • unraveling a secret plan to take over the city of London, as well as experience the

  • paranormal phenomena the title of the game suggests.

  • Throughout their many adventures, the trio of kid detectives will meet a memorable cast

  • of supporting characters and villains.

  • I'd say the most prominent NPC other than Everett is William Blake, a older gentlemen

  • who epitomizes the manners and values of the previous era but also lives a double life

  • as the Specter, a retired thief shrouded in mystery with a long history of dealing with

  • Everett as a rival, and perhaps even more.

  • There's Young Ghost, a new thief on the block who is as beautiful as she is clumsy.

  • Then there's Professor Siddal, a female scientist working at the Great Exhibition who has captured

  • the heart of London's most skilled detective, but wants nothing to do with him.

  • As stated before, Everett has the same name as a famous painter from 1800s, but his is

  • not the only case of a character named after a famous English artist from the era.

  • Others such as Professor Siddal, the Specter, and the ultimate antagonist of the game, Dante

  • Gabriel Rossetti, aka the Man of Steam, all derive their names from prominent figures

  • in the 19th century art scene.

  • London Spirit Detective Team takes the player through a lot of touching and emotional moments...padded

  • with a whole lot of humor along the way.

  • This game delivers a message of the potential dangers of becoming overly reliant on technical

  • innovations, but it never takes itself too seriously.

  • There are a lot of gags that seem like they're straight out of an anime from the 80s or 90s,

  • though they never hit you over the head so much that they become annoying.

  • Everett is the consummate professional, but his Achilles' heel is his aforementioned love

  • of Professor Siddal, a weakness that will eventually be exploited by his enemies.

  • A visiting detective from America, Miss Holstein, is the definition of a goofy stereotype, with

  • her cowboy attire, manner of speaking that just screamsbimbo,” and rather generous

  • assets.

  • And there's a character the team meets in chapter 15 named Wayne Campbell who is the

  • president of Wayne and Garth Industries...hold up, a Wayne's World reference in a JRPG?

  • And it wasn't something that Working Designs had to toss in with a localization job?

  • FLABBERGASTING!

  • Aside from the storyline cases, Jimmy and friends can accept jobs from a detective agency,

  • as well help out random people out and about in the city.

  • These side quests have objectives ranging from the classic lost cat scenario, helping

  • a man court the woman of his dreams, reconnecting a mother and son after a decade of lost contact,

  • and even playing the role of dad at a make-believe tea party with some little girls.

  • Yup.

  • Since this is a game about detective work, most of the optional cases require searching

  • areas and talking with several people.

  • They're never too difficult, and completing them often rewards the player with a healthy

  • sum of British pounds.

  • You won't receive your payment immediately, though, and you'll have to visit the bank

  • to get the cash, where you also get paid for your work on the storyline missions.

  • With his earnings, Jimmy can purchase items to help him and his friends survive the many

  • battles they'll face throughout the game.

  • Pubs take the place of the inns found in traditional role-playing games, since you