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The Silver Case, Grasshopper Manufacture’s debut title finally became available in the West in 2017 on Playstation 4. The studio is well-known for making some amazing and unique action packed videogames like No More Heroes, Killer7, Killer is Dead and Lollipop Chainsaw. In The Silver Case, the studio’s unique take on the popular visual novel genre, you will uncover the mystery of Kamui Uehara, legendary serial killer and assassin.
Goichi Suda (Suda51) started his career at Human Entertainment as scenario writer for Super Fire Pro Wrestling III. After leaving Human Entertainment in 1998 Suda51 founded Grasshopper Manufacture and in 1999 the studio finished development on their first project The Silver Case, a unique crime drama. Suda51’s classic released on the original Playstation in Japan, but unfortunately never saw a Western release.
Until last year. NIS America released, The Silver Case HD Remaster which finally introduces the famed crime investigation visual novel to the Western fans on Playstation 4. It might have taken Suda51 almost 18 years and teaming up with publisher NIS America to bring his debut title to Western console fans, but it was worth the long wait.
The game’s sequel, The 25th Ward is releasing soon, I am currently well underway with my first play trough. It was about time to revisit and finally finish the original before being able to write about the sequel. Sometimes I am a bit ashamed of the sheer volume of my backlog, the time it takes me to finish games and to finally share them with you. Ultimately, I am now fully prepared for The 25th Ward and happy to share my thoughts on The Silver Case HD Remaster.
Personally, I am always interested to see what Suda’s created with that brilliant mind of his. Usually, it’s a weird and intriguing creation. An experience you will ponder on for a while. Not knowing whether to love it or hate it. Suda made me experience some amazing games in the past few years, most of them remain with me forever, while others are awesome but easily forgotten – I’m looking at you Lollipop Chainsaw. However, a visual novel is something completely different in nature than an over-the-top-action-driven-zombie-annihilation-simulator. Fortunately, Suda51 has a brilliant way of bringing his writing to the screen and experiencing a visual novel every now and then never seriously harmed anyone.
The game takes place in an alternate version of Japan in 1999. A string of mysterious serial killings plagues the city. The detectives of the 24 Wards Heinous Crimes Unit have their eyes on one man: Kamui Uehara, legendary serial killer and assassin of a number of government officials 20 years prior in the now-famous “Silver Case.” However, nobody knows who-or what-Kamui really is. Has he really returned? Who is this infamous serial killer?
Suda’s focus on the activities of a serial killer was a direct reaction to government censorship on general media following the Kobe child murders of 1997 and the controversy surrounding the 14-year-old killer operating under the alias Seito Sakakibara and his two victims. To avoid trouble with the censors, Suda did not feature death from decapitation, in addition to focusing on the case detectives rather than the serial killer himself.
The game’s original story is split into two scenarios; the “Transmitter” scenario which follows the detectives hunting Kamui, while the “Placebo” scenario is about a former journalist gathering info on Kamui. Both scenarios feature six chapters each, with a total of 12 chapters. The HD remaster features two brand-new scenarios—”Yami”, which takes place several months after the game’s events and concludes the main narrative; and “Whiteout Prologue”, which takes place after a time skip and leads into the events of the game’s sequel, The 25th Ward. These two new chapters perfectly match with the game’s original story and even find a way to provide some interesting new details to the initial story. The “Transmitter” scenario, which is written by Suda himself is my personal favorite. It’s well written – more so than the other scenario – and captures the true essence of Suda. It features some weird and obscure writing and a protagonist with the awesome nickname “Big Dick”.
The game features a unique and strong visual design created by Takashi Miyamoto. Miyamoto went with a more realistic drawing style, rather than the typical manga illustrations that were highly popular in 1999 and beyond. The end result is amazing. In doing so Miyamoto created a visually appealing style that I’ve rarely seen in other videogames.
The game makes perfect use of its interface, which features special windows set against a background that show a multitude of data and activities. Character portraits, scenes, and text all appear in different areas of the screen and popup at different times. Some of these windows are dedicated to text, while others show scenery related to events in the game. The displayed scenery often is a combination of 2D and 3D artwork, real-world photographs, short anime sequences, and live action videos. While all of these are interesting to look at, some of them look a bit outdated. Which in turn is to be expected from a Remastered version of a 1999 PS1 game. You can even put all the settings back to the original and take a trip back to 1999. Which is a miracle as some of the original source code had been lost, so data needed to be extracted from the original PlayStation disc version using a converter.
The game’s first-person adventure segments are really hard to traverse and often feel out of place in this game. The movement controls aren’t the best I’ve seen in these type of games – I like Danganronpa’s more. It does not help that these environments you are forced to traverse look boring and lack any form of life as well.
Should you play The Silver Case?
If you are expecting an over-the-top-action-driven-zombie-annihilation-simulator starring a big breasted cheerleader you will have a bad time playing The Silver Case. There are other amazing games out there for you. However, If you are looking for a unique story driven experience that offers a strong story, a one of a kind visual look and intriguing characters – with nicknames like “Big Dick” – you will have a blast uncovering this mystery. Please note that the game is pretty rough, you will have to see through some of its bullshit and many little flaws. Definitely a must-have for visual novel fans and Suda51 worshippers.