I still remember the overwhelming excitement I felt when I first acquired the Sega CD system. I had owned a Commodore 64, an NES and a Sega Genesis, but the Sega CD was going to change everything. After all, it’s games were on compact disc, not dusty, old cartridges. Everyone knew that discs were the future of entertainment (remember laser discs?). Sega CD was going to be the greatest thing to ever happen to the world of video games. Sadly, history did not prove me right. In my defense, I was only 10 when the system came out. My knowledge of marketing and economics was iffy at best.
Looking back, I don’t know that I can name more than five games that I ever owned for the system. The one I remember most distinctly was Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (also released for the FM Towns computer, DOS, and Apple Macintosh, among others). As I recall, the game was one of the titles included with the purchase of the Sega CD. It was based off a tabletop game of the same name. The premise of the game was pretty simple. You played as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Your mission was to solve crimes. There were three separate stories you could play: The Mummy’s Curse, The Tin Soldier, and The Mystified Murderess. Your mission was to travel through London, interview witnesses and the Baker Street Irregulars, read “newspaper” accounts of the crimes, and then appear before a judge to solve the case.
Solving a case took a long time. In my personal experience, you had to interview and speak with every possible character before you could make an accusation. Even if you figured out the solution, you had to speak with a set number of people. Try to go before the judge too early, and you were sternly informed that you needed to gather more information. However, part of the game’s goal was to solve the case in as little time as possible. When I finally talked to enough people to make a proper accusation, I was told by Sherlock that, next time, I should try to solve the case a little faster. There were also a lot of dead ends. You could pick an from a wide variety of locations to visit, but sometimes you would simply find an empty house with no one to interview.
What made the game stand out was the graphics. Each case started with a video of Holmes and Watson learning about the case. Most of your interactions involved video scenes featuring live action actors. Looking back, I suspect that the game was more of a vehicle to show off the technical capabilities of the CD. In fact, one modern review of the game referred to it as, “much less of a game than it was an interactive form of media.”
Despite its shortcomings, I remember becoming completely engrossed in each story. I enjoyed gathering clues and trying to solve the cases. I was blown away by the cinematic film scenes. I’ve got no idea how I would react to the game if I tried to play it today, but at the time it felt like diving into a movie that I got to control.