We have access to something of a relic. The Silver Case, Suda51’s first game with Grasshopper Manufacture, is easily available for multiple platforms. It’s a glimpse of things to come, really. We get to see the sorts of trademark dialogue, puzzles, and even occasional obtuseness we expect from one of Suda51’s games. Yet, it is very clearly an early work. There isn’t the same connection here as there is in his other games. Rather than identifying with and caring about specific characters, the primary focus is on the case. Even though you may see a familiar face from Flower, Sun, and Rain, they may not matter to you as much here as they did there.
Which is that of a serial killer. The Silver Case is set in the 24 Wards. Years ago, a police officer named Tetsugoro Kusabi caught Kamui Uehara, a serial killer who killed some students, people, and government officials during a four year span between 1975 and 1979. Now, in 1999, it seems as though has resurfaced and is engaging in another crime spree. It is up to the 24th Precinct Heinous Crimes Unit and a reporter to investigate the situation and discover the truth behind both what is happening now and what happened back then.
Of all these characters, the ones that will prove most important to follow and recognize are Sumio Kodai, Tetsugoro, and Tokio Morishima. The former two are partners who are major players throughout the game. Their job is to work with the Heinous Crimes Unit to directly investigate and question people in the Transmitter cases. Tokio, on the other hand, is the reporter who stars in the Placebo section’s visual novel reports. Even though you have a playable character and be directly investigating the cases (albeit on-rails) in Transmitter segments, this avatar is more of a tool. This person is there to allow you an opportunity to interact with other people and engage in some point-and-click adventures.
Though, you can’t really call The Silver Case a point-and-click adventure game. During the case segments, you will head into buildings and actively search them. There will be puzzles to solve, none of which are terribly taxing, and you will need to follow certain steps to proceed. All of this happens in 3D environments that lend a sense of atmosphere. Especially on the occasions when you get the chance to actually explore. (Going around the Typhoon apartment complex offers one such situation.) It can make you feel like you’re contributing to the actual investigation, though you aren’t able to make dialogue selections.
The downside is the way in which you actually explore these Transmitter sections. There is a clunky interface that involves rotating to different icons on a circle to bring up a menu that lets you move, interact with someone or something immediately in front of you, use an item, or save. You’re essentially playing The Silver Case with tank controls, but you also have the added confusion of needing to remember to go back and select different actions.
The Placebo segments are far more easy to manage, mainly because it is a traditional visual novel. In these portions, Tokio is essentially offering a different take on the Kamui investigations being carried out by Sumio, Tetsugoro, and the team in Transmitter. You follow events, check email, ruminate with Tokio’s pet turtle, Red, and learn even more about the situation in a way I felt was more interesting and enlightening. Of course, major developments are made in both the Transmitter and Placebo segments, but I felt like Placebo could be more on-point. Even though I had no choice or influence in these segments, I was able to learn more about what was going on and not feel like I was subjected to character hunts in apartment buildings or occasional busywork.
When it does get back to the Kamui case, The Silver Case is enthralling. Even though the writing is dated and occasionally not as well-crafted as people may be accustomed to, the places it goes are amazing. Especially if you played and loved Flower, Sun, and Rain and are able to piece together connections between the two titles. As you can expect from a Suda51 game, things aren’t what they seem. There are elements that seem both futuristic and supernatural, and these blend together seamlessly to create a scenario that seems plausible.
That sense of focus is something I was craving during parts of The Silver Case. This is a game that can sometimes be disorienting. The control scheme requires quite a bit of patience, as it took me about an hour to finally get accustomed to it. (I blame more intuitive adventure games for spoiling me.) This is a game where you sometimes have to power through flavor text dialogue that is unrelated to the topic at hand. In other games, such things would expand your worldview. It hasn’t aged well and doesn’t achieve its goal. There are snippets of text constantly scrolling on the screen behind the image and text boxes. Instead of being atmospheric, they’re annoying.
I suppose you could say that The Silver Case is an important game that rewards people who can stay focused. Which should be easy for people who enjoyed Flower, Sun, and Rain. There are some incredibly deep and convoluted things happening here, trapped inside a game with an occasionally inconvenient UI and control scheme. People who power through it and stay dedicated to a cause will learn some truths that are quite intriguing, but those who can’t get past some of its more dated elements shouldn’t feel too guilty for looking online for spoilers.
The Silver Case is available on the PlayStation 4 and PC.