The Silver Case (Playstation 4 Review)
Following the release of Moonlight Syndrome in 1997, Suda Goichi (a.k.a. Suda51) went on to form Grasshopper Manufacture. Their first release was a visual novel/adventure game hybrid named The Silver Case for the PlayStation in 1999, which sold exclusively in Japan and was met with a rather positive reception. Suda51 wouldn’t be known in the west until 2005 when Killer7 was released as part of the Capcom Five project, alongside Shinji Mikami’s Resident Evil 4 and Hideki Kamiya’s Viewtiful Joe. It was a success, and many of Suda51’s games have had English localizations since. This brings us back to the remastering of The Silver Case ̶ a window into the very roots of Suda51’s career in game development.
The 24 Wards is a city that’s divided and is host to a series of bizarre murders. Playing as Big Dick, the wonderful nickname provided by a colleague, players must uncover a number of mysteries. It’s hard to discuss without giving too much away, as it doesn’t take long for dramatic shifts in the narrative to begin. What can be shared is that it’s a convoluted yet entertaining mess of a story. Players will likely find themselves gripped by the tale, but often a little lost as well. Each of the characters are fairly fleshed out and multidimensional, but can be equally as strange as the story. One thing is for sure though: it’s dark, gritty, and really fun.
Complementing Suda51’s narrative is an additional story following a social outcast journalist, written by Masahi Ooka and Sako Kato ̶ both of whom have collaborated with Suda51 on previous works. The pair have created a compelling and somewhat more grounded tale in which players unravel some of the chaos in the detective story. While not completely ensuring that the overall scenario is clarified, it certainly makes it a little more digestible and serves as a fairly strong companion piece.
Both stories are split into different, mostly self-contained chapters that are unlocked over time. Each is delivered through text-heavy scenes and the occasional animated or live-acted scene mixed in. Gameplay can often be sparse, as expected from the genre, but players can expect the occasional puzzle. The solution can sometimes be obtuse, but a convenient new button for the answer has been added for players wishing to just progress the story. Exploring and utilizing the UI during the adventuring segments can also feel clunky, but this is also something that most players will adjust to.
As a piece from 1999, a lot of the ideas developed here can be seen in Suda51’s later works. Not only is The Silver Case an interesting and endearing title, it serves as an important piece in the director’s career. It has clearly informed his later designs, and it is possible to find its influence throughout.
While the soundtrack was one of the earliest composed by the notable composer Masafumi Takada (Danganronpa, No More Heroes), it’s been remixed by Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill). I’m not familiar with how it sounded before, but it still fits the scenes and delivers tension when necessary with the current iteration feeling right at home. It’s a shame to lose Takada’s original score, at least in the west, but it’s unavoidable considering how long it has been since the original release
It is worth noting that the visual style can definitely feel dated, between the visual effects and UI design to the low resolution renders, but this actually contributes to the endearing nature of the game. Furthermore, some of the quirkier design choices are easier to understand due to the title’s age.
The Silver Case is still an enjoyable experience, despite some of its antiquated designs. Delving into the mind of a younger Suda51 can be a bit mental, and it’s something that any enthusiast for his works should ensure they don’t miss. This is definitely an important piece in his collection, and is a delight to explore.