Ever wonder what the inventor of the traditional Japanese console RPG got into before he made Dragon Quest? If you guessed that Yuji Horii made a "breathless action platformer with cutting-edge graphics," what the hell is wrong with you? What he actually did was go ahead and make a quaint little text-driven graphic adventure murder mystery called Portopia Renzouku Satsujin Jiken, put plainly into English by its super-fan translators as The Portopia Serial Murder Case.

Released in 1983, the game found its way from personal computers to the Famicom in 1985 courtesy of a conversion by programming prodigy named Koichi Nakamura, who coded the rampantly popular Door Door as an eighteen-year-old in high school, and would go on to found a company you might know of called Chunsoft. This would be the first time that the Horii and Nakamura would work together before unleashing the culture-altering juggernaut known as DoraQue on Japan, flooding the bedrooms, convenience stores, restrooms, landfills, and vending machines of thousands with tiny slime goods.

Born on Awaji Island, Horii set his murder mystery in and around Kobe, Japan, and the surrounding areas—a landscape I happen now to be familiar with having lived here for a shade over a year. Portopia is even the name of a very famous hotel not but a brief walk from my apartment on Port Island. I can't resist the allure of pretending to be a mid-80s cop who visits locales such as the island where I currently live, so with pencil and paper in hand, I set off to solve a crime and become an elite, violent policeman from the comfort of my living room. This is my story.

Some guy is dead, and it's up to me and my subordinate, Yasu, to figure out why. I'm a cop in Kobe, Japan, and a keen observer. Yasu does whatever I tell him to. It's 1985. I've been a cop long enough. If I had the money this would be my last job. Every job would be my last job. The air smells like fried food and the cicadas are deafening. We move into Yamakawa's place and there's the chalk, in the study. The Portopia Serial Murder Case is underway.

I make headway by commanding Yasu to conduct various mundane actions for me via a handy menu. Anything we need to accomplish as dicks can be done by choosing one of the various options: examination of various pieces of furniture in a room, scouring individual spots with a magnifying glass, badgering citizens for information, and travelling around the Kansai region. Inside the dead guy's house we do the routine stuff: establish a time of death, poke around for clues. I talk to Fumie, the dead guy's hired assistant. She's useless, so I try out the hit command by telling Yasu to punch her in the face.

I talk to the security guard who was supposed to be on-duty when it happened. He tells me he's heard noises coming from under the mansion before, but he is in fact an idiot, so what does he know anyway. I want to punch him, but resist the urge and instead use the theorize command to see if Yasu thinks he's human waste. Yasu is not helpful.

Eventually I track down the guard's blockhead nephew Toshi, who some people saw messing around at the harbor around the time of death. He's a wanna-be badass in a leather coat. Long story short: he is a piece of trash so I arrest his ass. But not before I tell Yasu to punch him in the face.

Later I talk to a guy named Hirata, a grocery store owner who had been borrowing from my dead guy for a while and racked up quite a debt. Times are tough, but he says he wasn't anywhere during the murder. I tell Yasu to punch him in the face a couple times and he admits he doesn't have an alibi for the time the murder took place. Later on he disappears and the guys tip me off to a hotel in Kyoto. He went for a walk, the front desk hasn't seen him. So I go for a walk. I see him.

Case closed, right? Until a few days later, when my boss calls me up and says the coroners have finished the autopsy, and Hirata died at 1:00 PM on the 17th, at least eight hours before the time my dead guy ate it. Back to the grind, from square one.

I bring in his daughter Yukiko and tell her to talk. I need to find out why Hirata decided he wanted to pretend to be a decorative lantern. She said they were in a lot of debt, and he didn't know if he could pay it back. She refuses to answer most of my other questions and so I tell Yasu to sock 'er one right in the mouth like those chumps before her. She goes home but I call her back, get on back here. As soon as she arrives I tell Yasu to punch her in the face as a punishment for going home, and she leaves again. I call her back one more time, and promise not to hit her, then leave without saying anything, to teach her the value of train fare.

We go back to the murder house and dig around. I lift a painting off the wall and find a secret button. I choose the menu command that makes Yasu press it, in case it is a death trap. It opens a secret door back in the study that leads down to an enormous, stupid maze. We are lost in there for hours. I try to make a map and get all turned around. I find a safe that I can't get open, and spend twenty minutes trying to find the goddamned stairs again. I make Yasu punch the wall hundreds of times, just for my own amusement. The security guard is definitely hearing noises from under the house now: Yasu's cries of pain, and my unending laughter. I examine the featureless landscape with the magnifying glass. Check out this fuck-all!

Back in the study, hours later, after I have chewed off Yasu's toes, we find a matchbox that has the number for the Pal Hostess Bar. I grab a train to Shinkaichi so we can check it out, but not before stopping off at the Shingeki Theater, which boasts an enormous sign out front saying only "NUDE!" I tell Yasu he should go in and the little shit can hardly handle it. He delivers an eloquent soliloquy akin to what the average Japanese man says during sex.

The bartender at Pal doesn't know my murder victim till I jog his memory with a photograph of the dead guy and a lighter I found under his table by randomly investigating every goddamned square inch of the world. While he takes a look at it I decide to force Yasu frisk him for no reason as I watch. As it turns out, the drink jockey happens to recognize the photograph, and tells me the lighter belongs to Mr. Kawamura, a total playboy. The word on the street is that a certain stripper happens to be acquainted with him. I frisk the other guy in the bar and after that I round up the stripper and bring her in for questioning. She is so, so hot.

This babe reveals to me (because I am so handsome) that my murder victim and Kawamura used to be con men, and Kawamura (who nobody has seen in a while) happens to have been blackmailing the dead guy. Once I'm finished with her I try to get her to leave by having Yasu punch her in the face, but she just asks what we're punching her in the face for. We punch her again and I think she likes it. I go back to the titty club, and when I get back to the police station that night I get a tip that Kawamura's at the Sumire apartments. So I haul ass.

And there's my lead, the dead bastard, shot himself in the head while floating while holding onto something orange? I can't tell what has happened to him, but he is dead I guess. So again I close this case, the perp is toast.

And wouldn't you know it but a few days later I get yet another phone call. It's the chief, bitching me out cause he doesn't think that a guy with six priors would kill himself while facing a possible seventh. I tell Yasu to punch the phone, but it doesn't feel satisfying. So I tell Yasu to punch himself. Then I call the stripper back in to let her know her sugar-daddy is caramelized. Unaffected, she sees fit to tell me that one of the duo's biggest swindles was put over on a company based in Awaji Island, Sawaki Industries. I hop a boat to Awaji at the harbor and pay them a visit.

Remember Fumie, the dead guy's useless assistant who had nothing to tell me? Apparently her parents owned this company, and then after being conned, they both killed themselves. Then Fumie was separated from her older brother, who was taken in by a different family and had his name changed. Nobody knows where the brother is, but some random person happens to know that he has a butterfly-shaped mark on his shoulder, which is creepy. I imagine that the older brother is a real dandy with a serious motive. Then I go back to the station to ask Fumie if she's seen her brother lately.

But oh shit, she is nowhere to be found, and my life is fucked. Then I get a message from Yasu—the cops finished cleaning up the bits of Kawamura's skull off his own ceiling and in the process they found a note above the drop tiles.

It's about that goddamned maze, and brings back the horrible memories I spent wandering around in circles, bloodying Yasu's knuckles for fun. It says "forward 3, left 8, left 4, right 5, left..." and the rest is torn off. I go to Hanakuma, tell Yasu to punch himself in the face, then head to the mansion and back down into the fucking maze. Following the directions takes me to a long hallway, and I start slamming my body into stuff, because I cannot see anyone to tell Yasu to hit. One of the walls makes a funny sound, which means I should be able to bomb it and get the rupees that are back there, but I have no bombs so I just bash it with Yasu's head until it pops open.

I feel tense. Inside there is only a table and out of frustration I let loose a scream so powerful that it pops open a secret compartment containing Kouzou's diary. Yasu reads it to me, but starts getting weird. He starts talking about how if Fumie's brother really did do it, he might feel a little sad if he read this, because he and his sister never knew the dead guy felt some remorse.

So I go back to HQ, and ask him, hey Yasu, you ever get a tattoo? Some kinda butterfly one? And I ask him to take his shirt off, cause the strip club is closed. But he won't do it, so I ask him again, and he's just silent. So I ask him again, take your shirt off Yasu. But I wasn't ready for what happened next at all.


And so ended the Portopia Serial Murder Case. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to find someone new to punch, and maybe start an S&M dungeon in the dead guy's basement.

This game was hacked and patched for English play in 2006 by DvD Translations, and revised in 2010. You can read more about Portopia and their other projects at their website.