The Silver Case is the sort of Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture game that shows where the developer and studio have been and gives us an idea of how their games have grown over the years. It is an incredibly niche adventure that is often obtuse, possesses an unusual control scheme and has story elements that bleed into titles like Flower, Sun, and Rain and Moonlight Syndrome. We learn about a serial killer who is not what he seems to be, learn about him and the situation through multiple viewpoints and eventually find some sort of convoluted truth. It is the sort of game that is not for everyone and shows its age. The 25th Ward: The Silver Case places people in a similar situation. This remake of the sequel is one that helps resolve a cliffhanger, which fans will appreciate, but is very much the same style of niche adventure as its predecessor, with everything that entails. I feel like this definitely narrows its audience, especially considering the sorts of topics it covers.
Editor’s Note: there will be some The 25th Ward: The Silver Case spoilers ahead.
Let’s go through a bit of background before we get into this. The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is, like the original, a game that is new to people outside of Japan. It was a mobile game first and released in 2005, six years after The Silver Case. The remake makes it resemble the first game more, in terms of its controls, UI and general layout. Which is great! This means there is a greater sense of consistency. This also means if you have gotten accustomed to the controls, awkward writing and the occasional situations that require you to exhaust all other options to unlock the way forward in The Silver Case, then you will be in the right place to play. It will also mean you are ready for its very weird, sensitive and off-putting topics. This is not a game for people who are uncomfortable with topics like suicide and rape.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case goes into many dark places with its murder mystery. There are actually three separate storylines that are all connected, with each one having five episodes that together flesh out what can be a very confusing and complicated storyline. Correctness follows Shinko Kuroyanagi and Mokutaru Shiroyabu, two detectives who are a part of the 25th Ward’s Heinous Crimes Unit. The former is a hardened veteran of the force, while the latter is new to the force and a bit idealistic. The duo are investigating a series of murders disguised as suicides that seem to be connected to The Silver Case’s Kamui Uehara crime spree. When Matchmaker stories come up, you follow a Regional Adjustment Bureau member named Shinkai Tsuki who has worked in the 24th and 25th Wards to adjust problematic members of society. You know, with a knife. Because he is a government-sanctioned hitman who is investigating these same suspicious murders. This is a game where our “heroes” have morally grey moments and we deal with repercussions of unconscionable creations and experiments in the Wards like the Shelter Kids. Sometimes, the investigations can result in some interesting twists.
Then, there is Placebo. Placebo is a more direct tie to The Silver Case’s storyline of the same name, as the journalist Tokio Morishima returns to investigate the 25th Ward’s latest crimes, though he is a bit of a blank slate due to amnesia caused by the previous games’ activities. It is also the route that might be the most comfortable of the three. Its very first episode is essentially a refresher of everything that happened in The Silver Case with Kamui, so you can be all caught up and hopefully prepared to understand at least the basics.
Because Correctness, Matchmaker and Placebo are all happening at the same time and offering perspectives of the same events from three different viewpoints, it means people get a very well rounded look at everything going on. But, it is often difficult to read due to the way the story is told, the poor development of some characters and how uncomfortable certain plot choices can be. I found Tokio’s storyline the most approachable of the three, but that could be because I did play The Silver Case, had experience with the character and it often acts as a means of summarizing and processing things going on in the 25th Ward.
But the reason The 25th Ward: The Silver Case can be uncomfortable is not because handles complex and unsettling acts or things, like a trichophilia hair fetish being addressed as being tied to a death within the first half hour of the game. It is not because it attempts to define a Kuroyanagi as being “tough” by having her swear so often that she sounds more like a teenage punk poser than an “Dirty Harry” sort of character. It is because this is a game that sometimes forces you into certain actions you may not otherwise want to take in the name of shock value or unexpected twists. As an example, there is a situation in which players only have one way for Shiroyabu to handle an attack by a female assassin: he nonconsensually assaults her. This situation is described in a vague manner, but the conclusion is rather obvious. It was an incredibly uncomfortable moment for me, considering other instances when characters get into fights offer multiple options to handle the situation and this did not.
But this is not the only way in which The 25th Ward: The Silver Case can be uncomfortable. The presentation is another manner. There is an interesting use of space in both The Silver Case and this sequel. However, it is not always put to the best use. Font in the text box is fine, but text displayed in other portions of the screen or against images can occasionally be difficult to decipher. The art, in some situations, makes it difficult to distinguish between characters. (Some people may appreciate this as a conscious design choice.) When geometric figures start moving in the background, it is very distracting and again can trigger eye strain. And if you do miss reading something important, you can not bring up a log like in other visual novels to more clearly read what was missed. Not to mention the sound effects could be hit or miss for some people.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is a game with an intricate story, one that might make people cringe when it comes to certain actions or topics. It attempts to be edgy, but the execution can be problematic. Barring spoilers, some of the situations regarding Kamui, the Shelter Kids and nature of the 25th Ward can be interesting. However, the way in which it is written and some direction choices made me check out. I felt like I could not get invested in it for a number of reasons, though others may feel differently.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case will come to North America on March 13, 2018 and Europe on March 16 for the PlayStation 4. It will come to PCs in 2018.