Old school detectives meet new age murders.
I’ve been a pretty big fan of Suda51’s games ever since I first played Killer7. Now, I never went back to see his previous games, mainly due to most of them being Japan only, aside from a few North American releases that came in the form of remasters. His very first game, The Silver Case, which released back in 1999, has finally been fully translated and brought to the US for the first time. It still has the Suda51 strangeness to it, but at the same time it brings over some pretty awkward controls and dialog one would come to expect from a game from 1999.
Taking place in an alternate version of Japan, in a city called The 24 Wards, the game revolves around numerous police officers, detectives, and reporters as they investigate the mysterious and rather gruesome murders that have been occurring. The serial killer Kamui Uehara is the main suspect in this case when he escapes a mental institution he was being held in for a series of murders that occurred years earlier. Now, with more murders taking place, it’s up to the ragtag group of detectives in the 24 Wards Heinous Crimes Unit to find him and take him in before he can take any more lives.
Platforms: PC, PS4
Price I’d pay: $15
The game itself is a mixture of visual novel and a point and click adventure game featuring puzzles. Players will move forward, left, right, and back in a sort of square grid-based area. Think of it like an old school dungeon crawler like Persona 1 or Etrian Odyssey. While navigating, players can interact with certain things in the environment, talk to other characters, and solve puzzles. These usually involve some kind of numbers game, where figuring out sequences is the key.
Some of these can be downright difficult. Luckily, there is a button for solving certain puzzles just in case players are stumped for too long. Now the movement and investigating itself can be rather cumbersome. This is due to an archaic control scheme and menu system. Then there’s the points where I have to search every corner of an area just t trigger something. This means, move to every space, look up, look down, turn, look up, look down, turn again, look up, look down, and then move to the next square. I could have done without the aimlessly wandering.
In between these gameplay pieces, the main story plays out in a visual novel form that spans multiple dialogs with the main players of the story. This is where the game actually shines. As strange as it gets at times, the story and the mystery surrounding the murderer is what will keep the player going. Although I do have to mention, the dialog for some of these cut scenes can be rather cringey and sometimes even insulting. I mean, two hardened homicide detectives spend an entire conversation thinking of a nickname for my character and they finally come to the conclusion that “Big Dick” is the best nickname for me.
What is a standout is the visual style for the game. The backgrounds and colors all move to the music that is playing, which is yet another standout for The Silver Case. Everything is done through a series of boxes that appear on screen. This makes for a confined, yet interesting experience that is both artful and visually interesting.
In the end, The Silver Case is a strange, but interesting title. I can’t really fault it too much for its design. This is a game from 1999 after all, but some of the dialog choices made and what could have been fixed a bit in a new translation could have helped the hokey exchanges from time to time. While it’s not a bad game, it is most certainly an acquired taste, but when you dive into it, the story is what will propel you to keep going, and it’s actually not bad as long as you can look past the old mechanics.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.