Short Version: It’s pretty fun and engaging! It’s the typical Suda 51 weirdness that people have come to expect, but in an engaging police drama format. It may be a visual novel, but it does so many different things differently than all the others that you are guaranteed to have a unique experience. I say you give this a shot.
Long Version: I have fond memories of The Silver Case, even though the game never really made it over to North America until now. I always got by with really rough fan translations and simple guesswork on my part. I was always incredibly interested in this title, which is why I always went through the trouble of trying to understand it. However, I no longer need to do that anymore, now that an official translated release is finally out. Honestly, even though, this game is from 1999, I still think it holds up nicely, save for a couple of details.
We’re on the Case
As previously mentioned, The Silver Case was Grasshopper Manufacturer’s very first game, with the now well-known Suda 51 being one of the writers for the story. The game is essentially a very unconventional cop drama in the form of an even more unconventional visual novel style. I’m not going to spoil what happens, and even if I did, it would take some time to makes sense out of it without simply playing the game on your own first. Suffice it to say that it gets interesting pretty quickly, and with the added Suda 51 weirdness, it also becomes very memorable. Some other reviewers have commented on the story implying that it makes no sense or that it is full of nonsense, but I personally never really found it that difficult to understand. Your mileage may vary, but one thing I’m sure of is that the narrative is worth experiencing.
Simple engrossing yourself in the world is enjoyable. Seeing the dark and almost grimy images of all the characters that talk to you, along with suspenseful places you explore frequently adds to a certain tone that you don’t really see anywhere else. This feel of the world is further expanded through some brand new chapters that got added to the game, adding new perspectives to the story.
The Most Visual of Novels
You’re not going to be met with the typical format of still character portraits talking back and forth with the same 4-5 backgrounds. Instead, it throws all of that stuff out the window and just keeps the window. Having a style that consists of mostly windows and squares showing characters, environments and text boxes creates a look that is unique to this game, sometimes benefiting and hindering it. I say that because every single exploration section of this game is also played in one of these windows. The sizes of these frames can range from big and wide to “early Oculus Rift footage” size. While some moments allow you to explore 3D environments comfortably with a big window, some look like a scene that was shot vertically on an iPhone, which can be suffocating when wanting to literally see the full picture.
Even when you are able to see a good amount of the world, the actual exploration is very brief, full of interruptions and very clunky. From the moment that one of the characters starts to explain a wheel of options that could easily be tied to a single button press (including basic movement), you can tell this is a game from the 90s trying to play in PS4 2017 territory. I can understand people trying to preserve the original experience, but I wouldn’t have minded an option where the controls were more streamlined and simple, rather than the old as hell way The Silver Case does it.
Walk n’ Talk
In the off chance that none of this bothers you, then the constant interruptions might. I understand that this is a visual novel, so the dialogue is the number one focus, but I would’ve like it if I had more time to myself for exploring the environments. There are many moments, especially early on where pretty much every step you take activates another set of dialogue, which can be frustrating when you just want to move around freely. Even when you are able to move around without constantly butting in, the environments usually don’t have much to look at, for they are either empty or very small. It almost makes me wonder why they went with this format instead of going for a more point n’ click style similar to the Phoenix Wright games. Whatever my gripe may be, I can sort of let it slide when considering how old the game is and how well I got used to it after a while.
There are some puzzles in the game, but none of them seemed particularly memorable to me, especially when all of them were fairly easy to solve. In fact, there are some speed bumps early on that pretty much solved themselves through pressing a single button. There really isn’t much of note in that aspect.
Old, but still Rockin’ It!
As I said before, the main focus here is the story, and I think it’s pretty good. It has some cool twists and turns that you definitely won’t expect. It contains a pretty dark, somber, and kind of scary tone to the whole thing that somehow blends nicely with Suda 51’s trademark weirdness. Yes, some stuff will probably not make sense to you at all, but that’s a big part of why this game was so charming to me. This is definitely not a game that plays it by the books and goes out of its way to be distinctive, which works to its favor more than it does hurt it. This is a Suda 51 classic, so I do recommend to at least giving it a couple hours of your time and see how you like it.