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HomeTechnology‘The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story’ evaluation: An FMV homicide thriller

‘The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story’ evaluation: An FMV homicide thriller

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story

Out there on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC and Change

Developer: Sq. Enix, h.a.n.d. | Writer: Sq. Enix

The final time Sq. Enix introduced us a full-motion online game, it was, frankly, an unmitigated catastrophe. So it’s a courageous transfer for them to get again on that horse. Fortunately, the Japanese writer has chosen extra correctly with “The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story,” a TV-miniseries-style homicide thriller that much better demonstrates the potential of video video games that place an emphasis on the video. Whereas its cinematic and interactive components don’t all the time meld convincingly, it serves up a tightly knotted story that ought to pull you in with its dastardly deeds and superior sleuthing.

The story begins in present-day Japan, as upcoming crime novelist Haruka Kagami accompanies pal and scientific adviser Eiji Shijima on a go to to his household residence, hoping to deal with the riddle of an unidentified skeleton lately found on the grounds. Earlier than Haruka can poke her nostril into that conundrum, nonetheless, a contemporary homicide happens, adopted by a landslide that blocks off entry to the property. As tensions surge and the police stay minimize off, it falls on Haruka to unveil the killer.

To grasp the total image, although, Haruka not solely has to resolve this newest murder however rummage by way of the household’s historical past, consulting journals describing murders that return a century and seem to have hyperlinks to the Shijima title. Among the recreation’s six predominant episodes happen in flashbacks, relaying occasions in 1922 and 1972. The widespread issue between them, you’ll quickly uncover, is the legendary “Tokijiku,” a fruit that supposedly grants everlasting youth to those that devour it.

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All however one episode revolve round a single homicide and unfold like a basic Agatha Christie story. In every episode’s first part, “the incident,” you’ll be able to just about simply sit again and watch the present. The scene is about, and a small gathering of archetypal characters — the intimidating uncle, the bold singer, the henpecked husband — recordsdata in, armed with hid motives and grudges. Then one turns up useless, and Haruka (or her previous equivalents performed by the identical actress) conduct an investigation.

The story then pauses, and also you’re whisked off to an summary house for the “reasoning” part, the place you assist the detective get her ideas so as. Right here, pertinent questions and probably vital clues are represented as hexagonal tiles, and also you match them collectively on a grid to type hypotheses, which set off a brief animated sequence imagining how occasions may have transpired. You would possibly join the query of the reason for dying, for instance, to a rock discovered mendacity close to the physique, which induces competing hypotheses — maybe the killer snuck up and intentionally smashed their sufferer’s cranium, or maybe the sufferer slipped and hit their head throughout a scuffle.

When you’ve generated a wealth of such theories protecting means, motive and alternative, the motion resumes with the “resolution” part, that conventional climactic scene the place suspects sit collectively obediently in a room whereas the detective exposes the murderer amongst them. Hopefully, by now you could have an honest concept of whodunnit and howdunnit, as a result of the detective’s large reveal speech will pause periodically for the participant to reply a a number of selection query appropriately to maintain heading towards the reality. Make a mistake, and also you get one other attempt, however take a success to your remaining episode score (and doubtless your ego), a metric that doesn’t impression the remainder of the sport.

Initially, this division of episodes into discrete phases appears dangerous for “The Centennial Case,” because it frontloads every one with as much as half-hour of near-passive viewing (you get to make a number of noncritical dialogue selections, and press a button when a clue immediate seems), so the live-action parts successfully have to face up as compelling TV.

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Fortuitously, the standard of writing and performances is a minimize above these in lots of live-action video games, which are sometimes hampered by low manufacturing values. Certain, you need to keep away from the English dub, the place makes an attempt to lip-sync the Japanese performances result in staccato supply, and the tone is extra “Homicide, She Wrote” than “True Detective,” but it surely makes use of that hokeyness deftly to intention figuring out winks at style tropes. Specifically, there’s a tongue-in-cheek tone to the performances, helped by a call to redeploy most of the identical actors as totally different characters in every interval, as they actually appear to relish switching from suspect in a single episode to sufferer or killer in one other. All come outfitted with their most interesting suspicious expressions, displaying furtive glances and exaggerated shock every time their names come up in an investigation. Particularly scrumptious is the sequence of lingering excessive close-ups you’re provided as you lastly resolve who to accuse, the place every actor gulps, sweats and blinks nervously below the highlight.

The decide of the solid, nonetheless, is Nanami Sakuraba as Haruka (and the detectives of the previous), taking the lead as a central character who’s having fun with her likelihood to play investigator, pointing fingers with the gusto of a Phoenix Wright objection. Her righteous bulletins within the resolution part are delivered so confidently, it’s all of the extra amusing when your selections ship her down a blind alley, and he or she all of the sudden realizes she has nothing to again up her declare. Cue quizzical appears to be like and an embarrassed halt from the triumphantly ascending backing music.

The plotlines, in the meantime, are proficiently organized, replete with guileful twists and partitions of misdirection. Sure, some revelations stretch plausibility, however usually after I thought one thing didn’t add up, I quickly realized there had been indicators pointing in that course in any case. Even clues launched early on that appear to guide nowhere could resurface and reveal their significance in subsequent episodes.

One large impediment “The Centennial Case” faces is methods to make gamers really feel concerned, since its heavy reliance on reside motion limits your enter. On that rely, it’s much less profitable. It carefully guides your hand all through, even in a late chapter that resembles a form of escape room puzzle and switches to a 3D recreation engine so you’ll be able to freely go searching. Connecting questions and clues is made simpler by patterns on the tiles that need to match, which is welcome whenever you’re undecided of the reply, however can flip reasoning right into a form of jigsaw puzzle.

What can actually make or break the equation, nonetheless, is how a lot you click on with the sport’s “considering.” The detective’s catchphrase in Haruka’s novels is “the trail of logic strains up,” however the questions actually is whether or not her path of logic strains up with yours, and I discovered the outcomes to be hit or miss. Generally a clue that I believed required in depth deliberation was barely talked about within the reasoning part, or conversely, a sequence of questions wasted time on particulars I discovered self-evident. Ought to it not go with out saying, for instance, {that a} sufferer mendacity in a pool of blood with a ferocious gash in her neck wasn’t clubbed mindless with a small picket field?

Mismatches occurred in reside play greater than I anticipated too. In a single occasion, Haruka is requested how she may inform Eiji’s mom was his stepmother relatively than organic mom. The reply staring you within the face — she’s too younger! — isn’t among the many choices, as a result of the plot desires to drive at one thing else. On different events, I selected a solution believing there was proof to assist my considering, solely to be instructed I used to be fallacious as a result of I suppose the writers hadn’t considered the identical angle. And whereas normally I managed to determine the right wrongdoer, not as soon as did I absolutely comprehend the “trick,” i.e. the convoluted methodology used to commit the homicide a la Sherlock Holmes, they’d used till I landed a number of fortunate guesses within the resolution part, and it’s irritating whenever you’re all the time partially led to the reply.

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Even so, I believe it is smart that the finale of a homicide thriller ought to maintain a degree of, nicely, thriller, and it’s a testomony to the intricacy of the plots that they don’t prise open with ease. All of the clues you want are there in some type or one other, but it surely was solely in hindsight that I may see how the few items of proof I couldn’t fairly clarify have been key to slotting every part in place.

Most significantly, regardless of its limitations, “The Centennial Case” is a extra compelling thriller due to its interactive components. I used to be eager to find the place every story ended up, not solely as a result of stable scripting and cinematics, but additionally as a result of the reasoning and resolution phases inspired evaluation, asking me to query the assumptions I’d make when merely watching TV. As soon as the idea of looking for hypotheses is planted in your thoughts, you’ll be able to’t cease producing them, even throughout incident phases.

Maybe, in the end, you need to settle for with “The Centennial Case” that you simply’re not a lot Sherlock Holmes as Dr. Watson, providing up concepts that is perhaps taken on board by the actual star, or given quick shrift. If you happen to don’t thoughts enjoying second fiddle to its advantageous solid and weaving plotlines, there’s lots right here to maintain you gripped. As with every good TV homicide thriller, the intent is to maintain audiences guessing. “The Centennial Case” ought to maintain you guessing all through.

Jon Bailes is a contract video games critic and social theorist from the UK. He’s creator of Ideology and the Digital Metropolis (Zero, 2019), and could be discovered on Twitter @JonBailes3.

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