The Silver Case Review

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture

Publisher: NIS America

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC

If you are even remotely interested in learning about video game developers, there is no doubt Suda51 and his ultraviolent/bizarre titles are known to you. From No More Heroes and Killer is Dead, to his newest F2P zany 3rd person beat em’ up Let it Die, Goichi Suda has left an invaluable footnote in the industry. The Silver Case is a 16-year-old gaming loopy visual novel which also served as his first project with his then recently formed studio, Grasshopper Manufacture. It didn’t release in the West until last year when it received an HD remaster on Steam, and now it’s landing on the PS4, for console fans to see what this luminary developer dreamed up before the out-of-control/zaniness of his most recent titles.

Solving The Mystery

Discussing the plot of this tale does a major disservice to the uninitiated. Even the opening chapter, Lunatics, features some twists and turns which, had they been spoiled, would severely diminish the impact. All that needs to be known is the story takes place in an alternate modern-day, where players find themselves embroiled in a mystery in an area known as the 24 Wards. This is a time when the digital world was beginning to overtake analog and the world was in the middle of society’s digital revolution.

One thing to point out is The Silver Case changes gears a lot. And though it’s not explained at all, there are two sets of chapters, Transmission and Placebo, following different protagonists in separate but inextricably linked stories. To say it is had to keep up is an understatement. The two scenarios vary greatly because in the end, they were written by different individuals. Transmitter was written by Suda while coincidentally Placebo was written by Sako Kato and Masahi Ooka.

In Transmission, you play the role of silent observer, forced into following some cops around and occasionally doing their work for them. Characters will ask you questions and proceed as if they’ve been given answers. Presumably there’s conversation going on, but you only ever read one side of it and never get to select any dialogue yourself. Transmission is the most like an adventure game, with very light and unfortunately repetitive exploration, along with tiresome puzzles which mainly involve opening doors. It’s also the branch which keeps you at a distance, offering no sense of the character you’re hiding inside.

Placebo, however, is unlocked when each chapter of the main game is completed and puts much more detail into its chain-smoking, reporter protagonist named Tokio Morishima. Not only is it riddled with internal monologue but Morishima also keeps a journal where he details most, if not all of his experiences and thoughts throughout the story. This also means Placebo features minimal gameplay. Much of the scenario is spent going through dialogue as well as reading and sending e-mails on Morishima’s computer, along with the other activities he does on it such as writing on his journal or chatting with people on the internet.

Going Back In Time

The highlights involve the game’s proceedings being wonderfully scored by Masafumi Takada, of Danganronpa fame. Takada brings his infectious style to create a soundtrack based around a central theme which manages to be upbeat, jazzy, sorrowful and harrowing, sometimes all at once. Also, visually it’s fascinating, but superficially so. The constant experimentation and subversiveness, is a blessing in disguise, but can make for muddled experience where any point or purpose can be lost in the mess of ideas. The variety is refreshing to see between anime, CG, FMV, and static images, which seems strange and exotic, but can help break the monotony.

The Silver Case is barely interactive, which ends up being a good thing due to only ever worrying about the clever way puzzles are presented and not having to mess around with the overly clunky menu system. There are only four options: Move, Contact, Inventory and Settings. Instead of having a normal menu, it’s rotary which means you have to use the D-Pad and a face button at the same time to select an option. You also have to cycle through each option in order to find the one you’re looking for. For being an HS remaster, it would have been nice to see more care put into updating the menu system to make it less clunky.

The PS4 version features two additional chapters which only add to the the experience and feel authentic to how the original game as perceived nearly 20 years ago. The localizers have really done an incredible job giving us an accurate depiction of Suda51’s earliest works. The story has not been changed and is better for maintaining the authenticity of the subject matter.

Overall, The Silver Case definitely won’t appeal to everyone but is strangely enticing. Less an adventure game than a narrative-based work of multimedia art, the long-awaited, low-key/tame remaster of Grasshopper’s inaugural release will likely shatter the expectations of those who equate the name Suda51 with gory, high-octane character action. Sometimes it’s better to go back and appreciate where a great mind like Suda’s came from and The Silver Case can do just that.