The Silver Case originally released on the PS1 in Japan on 9th September 1999, developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, and the mind of many modern wacky and weird games, Suda51 – This was, in fact, his first ever published title, and as expected with many of his titles, is wholly experimental in it’s design, gameplay and setting.
The Silver Case places players in the shoes of…Well…Yourself, roped into the 24 Districts Police Department’s High-degree Murder Division; you’re tasked with unveiling the secrets of the “Silver Case”, a series of murders and crimes that happened across the 24 Districts that has a far larger, sweeping source…The game reminds me right off the bat of an odd fusion of the Danganronpa titles blended together with the dark tones of something like Ghost in the Shell or Psycho Pass, hitting you straight with a foul-mouthed group leader, dark colour pallete, and harsh, mechanical-sounding SFX present throughout.
The Silver Case certainly knows how to build tension and theme, right off the bat you’re flung into a live operation to hunt down a serial killer who attempted to murder a fellow police chief, carrying with him the head of a decapitated woman fresh from his latest kill – The murderer escapes to an old broadcasting station known as “Cauliflower” to hold a stakeout with the police, and to also murder the rest of his accomplices and captives held within Cauliflower – Right away the situation feels tense, nearly wrong in an abstract way, feeling like there’s something much larger at play than just a run-of-the-mill murderer loose; his captives respond in frantic, near-obsessive dialogue, being something you’d read straight out of a title like Corpse Party or Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni; it’s only when you actually confront the murderer face-to-face, and eventually put an end to him do you realise “Oh. It’s going to be one of those games”. Prepare to get on Suda’s wild ride, friends.
However, as abstract the story is, and the setting both thematic and well-executed, The Silver Case has not aged well. Not at all. Textures and environments are bland, hazy and pixellated; gameplay windows only take up a maximum of a quarter of your screen at any point, and text is accompanied by the most annoying typewriter noise ever conceived. The controls too feel like I’m piloting a mech rather than an actual human being with arms and legs – You have four main states of control, Movement, which is controlled with the directional buttons, and R1 / R2 to look up / down, Interact, which triggers whatever you’re looking at, System, which brings up the Options menu, and Equipment, which, as the name suggests, lists your current inventory – The problem? You can only do one of these things at a time, with movement being the absolute worst offender of them all, only letting you take singular movements, literally making you take the game one step at a time.
The game tackles themes of crime, law, order and justification, with the battle between opposing forces and the blurred lines between being a central theme of the game – This can be seen early on with different members and branches of the 24 Districts Police Department clashing internally, and generally being rather dismissive and hostile about one another; perhaps most interestingly about the game, however, is that every single chapter of the game has different visual and gameplay styles to their others – For example, the chapter Lunatics is entirely dark, looking straight out of an 80’s Cop Horror; another chapter, Decoyman, follows a slightly more bloodier and darker theme, whereas the chapter Parade is nearly entirely in monochrome. Little artistic directions such as this really do freshen up some of the less stellar parts of the game, and, considering that this IS a PS1 title, you surely do get a lot of variety for your money’s worth.
As a visual novel of sorts, expect to do A LOT of reading. I’ve played through Danganronpa and Danganronpa 2, and The Silver Case STILL feels like it has more dialogue within the first 5-or-so chapters than in both these games combined, mainly due to how long each chapter is – Chapter 1 alone took me around 1hr 20m to complete blind, and I’d still have over 5 more chapters left to complete. How Long to Beat currently lists the game as around 16 hours to complete, but with the addition of 2 new exclusive chapters, I’d expect to see this number raise to around 22 hours…!
All in all, The Silver Case is a long, enjoyable visual novel that is feeling the aches of time – The controls haven’t aged well, nor has some of the dialogue…But if you can fight through it, and battle against the urge to fall asleep during some of the lesser parts of the game and understand what the bloody hell is happening, you’ll possibly find yourself with a new gem courtesy of Suda51…
The Silver Case gets a 7 / 10 from me.