Developer Spotlight: Cing (Part 4)

Welcome to the fourth and final part of our retrospective on (now defunct) gamemaker Cing! If you missed parts one, two, and three be sure to click the hotlinks!

Last Window: The Secret of Cape West 2010 Cing/Nintendo Nintendo DS

You'd never know it from the title alone, but Last Window: The Secret of Cape West (known in Japan as Last Window: Midnight's Promise) is a sequel to Hotel Dusk, making it the second (and final) Kyle Hyde adventure and the final game Cing made before their dissolution. Last Window was released in Japan in January of 2010 with a European release September of that year. Much like Hotel Dusk many, many months of development time were dedicated to creating the sketchbook-like graphics of the game.

At that start of Last Window, Kyle wakes up with a hangover in his car, tells off his boss after getting the “where the hell are you!?!?” page from his pager, and is promptly fired because of his negligence and poor attitude. To make matters worse, he returns home to his apartment at Cape West and learns that he's going to be evicted in a week and that the whole complex is due to be demolished. From this, Kyle is pointed to some clues relating to cold case murders, and a jewel that went missing 25 years ago, and now he has to figure out how it all ties to Cape West's closure and a dark secret from his past. And so, another unofficial investigation begins.

The quote unquote gameplay of Last Window is mostly similar to that of Hotel Dusk. It's still a point-and-click adventure/visual novel game, you still hold the DS like a book, the interface is mostly the same, the controls are mostly the same, and you still have the odd puzzle here and there. Like Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk, some of these puzzles are going to force you to think outside of the box. Last Window isn't "hard" by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it generally "easier" than Hotel Dusk.

A big new function is the "Ignore" mechanic, which you can use to ignore bits of dialogue. But use "Ignore" at your discretion, as abusing it can result in a game over! And on a less flattering note, your inventory gets crapped up more easily in this one. Between chapters, the events of the game are recapped in a book called Last Window the gives a literary interpretation of what occurred in that chapter and the choices that you -- the player -- have made, which is a fun little garnish.

Hotel Dusk's timeframe was ultra-compressed. It took place during one very eventful night, Last Window's timespan is a bit more drawn out: going into a full week. Though the length of the game is similar to Hotel Dusk, there's quite a bit of downtime that gives the characters some time to breathe every now and again. This de-compressed setting. Combined with the graphics and the music set a mood that is sometimes more despondent than Hotel Dusk's melancholy.

Our anti-hero from the first game remains such. He’s as cynical as ever, but has a few moments of levity here and there. I feel like the events of the first game mellowed him somewhat. He actually seems a bit depressed in Last Window. Hyde's actions in the previous game spoke volume for his character. Here, we get to dig more into his personal history beyond his obsessive side that we were introduced to in Hotel Dusk.

Prior to the beginning of Last Window, Hyde knew OF Cape West's inhabitants, but here -- during this very special week -- does he actually get to know them as people for the first time ever. Even so, from both a game and character perspective, there are obstacles for him clear and are vessels to furthering the investigation. There's the landlady Mags, the maintenance man Dylan, cranky old man Frank, the forced comic relief (and poor replacement for Louie) Tony the Musician....

Last Window's new characters are ultimately fine but don't stick with me in the way that Hotel Dusk's did. But do not interpret this as a condemnation of them. The dialogue is still good. The script is still good. There's nothing outstandingly bad about the writing, it's just not nearly as sharp as the original cast was. I think part of the problem is that in the way the game is organized, you can pinpoint almost exactly when the tenants are going to reveal their secret that is necessary to move the plot forward, rather than you figure out the narrative puzzle for yourself gradually over the course of the game like in the first one.

I understand that I'm being a bit vague here, I'm trying to be as light on spoilers as possible. I'll say this much: even though I was able to figure out the big plot twist of the game fairly quickly and easily, the game's narrative had enough zigzags to hold my attention. Last Window is as hard-boiled as Nintendo games get.

Fans of Hotel Dusk and mystery-driven adventure games should definitely pick up Last Window. If you don't live in Japan or Europe, it might be a bit of a hassle as the game was only released in those regions. If you didn't care for Cing's previous games or specifically Hotel Dusk, I can't see this one winning you over. If you've never played Hotel Dusk, Last Window is thankfully written in such a way that you can enjoy it on its own terms and not as "the second Kyle Hyde game".

Last Window was the last Cing game. They went bankrupt two months after the Japanese release. Most of their small staff moved on to other companies and projects. It’s a shame, but I feel their last game was one to be proud of.

Nintendo of Europe handled the English version, whose script feels decidedly not-British. That's not a complaint, that's a compliment! The characters are American and should sound American! There was no North American release for Last Window, with no official reason being given. Cing's bankruptcy and poor sales of their other games are the designated blame games I've seen. I can't speak for the sales, but the reviews were generally very good.

However, the Cing story doesn’t quite end there...

Chase: Cold Case Investigations - Distant Memories 2016 Arc System Works/Aksys Games Nintendo 3DS

In 2016, several former Cing employees who were working at Arc System Works created Chase: Cold Case Investigations - Distant Memories for the 3DS eShop. The main character, Shounosuke, is a dead ringer for Kyle Hyde, the music reminds me of Hotel Dusk and this game was even helmed by Hotel Dusk director, Taisuke Kanasaki.

Chase is not a long game at all. It’s a mystery game with only one case. My first run, I got through it in 4 hours. My second run took 2 hours and 30 minutes. It’s essentially like, what if the second case from the first Phoenix Wright game was released as a downloadable title and marketed as a standalone video game. Functional? Yes! Playable? Yes! It’s just... not....really complete. It’s like a pilot for a TV series.

All it does is make me hungry for more. This isn't a must-buy. It retails for $5.99, so it’s not a huge loss if you decided to take a plunge. It's mostly a curiosity for Cing fans. I sincerely hope someday Arc System works will reunite as many of the old developers as possible and come up with a new mystery game.

So there’s a run-through of every single game Cing made, plus a bonus title. When it’s all said and done, I was sad to see them go. Admittedly, the quality of their games was wildly inconsistent. When they were not on point, they were NOT on point, but when they were good they were amazing. Cing’s games had an attention to detail that you don’t see too often. That delved into human themes and fears and I miss them for that. Lack of sales most likely ultimately killed the company and I think it’s a shame because I found a few of their games excellent. Look into Hotel Dusk, Last Window and Trace Memory when you can!