Developer: Miwashiba (△○□×)
1BeatHeart is positioned as a “spin-off sequel” to 1BitHeart, a title that attempts to notably change up many aspects found in its neon hued predecessor, while clearly aiming to take this loosely defined series in a more experimental direction. The story follows an older Nanashi and his assistant Misane, with the two having chosen to pursue the career of junior detectives, but in a move to get away from it all, choose to lodge at an ornate and classically styled hotel. Yet just as they start growing comfortable with the amenities of this establishment, the two are thrust into a series of intricate murders that they must solve. Or rather, Misane must solve, as she is the playable character this time around, because Nanashi went and broke his detectiving gear, the goof.
From there, the game moves at a fast but steady pace, going through a trio of chapters, each with a murderous event to call their own, all populated with casts of colorful and eccentric characters. With the majority of the game being broken into 40-ish minute chunks wherein a few characters and locations (by which I mean rooms) of interest are brought up, somebody does a murder, the crime scene is investigated, and Misane must interrogate the suspects and witnesses, finding holes in their testimony using acquired evidence. If that sounds even more like Danganronpa than 1BitHeart, that’s because it is. With the details of the murder, structure of the interrogations, and general feel all being startlingly similar to the series, not that I think it is a detriment to the game at all. If anything, I am a bit impressed at the developer’s ability to emulate the detail and care seen in that series, even if it is at something of a micro-scale, which is unfortunately something of a detriment here.
While I personally found 1BitHeart to be a bit too sprawling with its massive cast and bountiful side quests that consumed the majority of my playtime, 1BeatHeart instead has something of a more minimalistic approach. There are no side quests, no bonus interactions, just the main storyline, the events that come with it, and the enjoyable cast along with it. While I think this approach could certainly work for a title like this, there is a bit of something lost with the complete removal of any secondary mechanics or content. Such as the setting hotel feeling very claustrophobic, as it is less than 10 screens big, and some of the characters feeling underutilized, especially due to how they are filtered in and out from chapter to chapter, with most of them not receiving the level of detail that one might expect from, say, an Ace Attorney side character.
Though, I would be willing to forgive all of this if the execution of the main story was a step above the one seen in 1BitHeart, but I truly cannot say it is. While the build up is high quality, with well done characterization and interrogation scenes, it all amounts to a very flaccid conclusion that aggressively hints at a continuation, and makes the characters’ efforts feel futile. All before things end with a silly throwback to 1BitHeart that neither fits narratively or tonally, and is more perplexing than anything else.
This change in tone is also matched with a change in presentation. Visually, the general art style established by 1BitHeart is retained, but with a less contemporary wardrobe for its cast and a sharp change in the color palette. Gone is the neon color scheme of a vibrant futuristic city and in is a more antiquated look of a classically styled hotel with a color scheme occupying with a reserved color spectrum of pinkish brown. It is a very notable change, but due to the strong character designs and the way in which this surprisingly small world is brought to life, it manages to feel more different than anything else, and can be seen as the developers experimenting with the new style found in 1BitHeart by crossing it with the style seen in their previous titles, most notably Alicemare.
This change is further complemented with the soundtrack, which is neither as robust or energetic as the electronic and hip-hop infused royalty free soundtrack of yor. With Beat instead choosing a more reserved and jazzy score that aims to capture the classy yet also trendy nature of the setting, and provides the game an atmosphere that, while not as endearing as that seen in its predecessor, is still very enjoyable. Though why the developer still insists on using vocal tracks over interrogation sequences is beyond me.
If I were to summarize my thoughts on 1BeatHeat through a comparison, I would say that it comes off as an interim experiment of sorts. Similar to a DLC of standalone project released between large-scale releases that aims to experiment and test out concepts, while also keeping the series relevant. Yet due to the reduced scope here, I found the project to be largely underwhelming, having enough quality to keep me hooked, but not enough follow-through, depth, or resolution to harness the latent potential that I still believe this developer is positively brimming with. But as they say, there’s always next time…
Also, the game is currently not available for sale, but it can be freely downloaded from the translator’s website.