Thursday, April 13, 2017
The Silver Case (PS4)
I, as a gamer have never played any of the games related to 'The Silver Case'. Nor had I played 'The Silver Case' until I got my review copy. Oddly enough though I did unknowingly purchase, for a couple of dollars at the local Gamestop, the third game in the trilogy known as "Flower, Sun, and Rain" for the Nintendo DS a few years back. In fact I paid only $2.69 for it with my discount. It currently sits atop my desk beside my keyboard as I'm typing up this review. A possible photo sharing opportunity being weighed as I continue to type ...
Past the realization that 'The Silver Case" wasn't the standalone game that I thought it was I found myself drawn closely into the narrative that was being spun. A case by case, and individualized series of personal accounts of those involved in a string of incidents involving the reemergence of a serial killer known as Kamui. The story begins thick, and heavy handed with you (a nameless recruit) in the company of the 24th Ward Heinous Crime Unit, within the 24th Ward. You start off on the pursuit of a runaway murderer who has hunkered down in the nearby Cauliflower building. The cat, and mouse chase that follows introduces you to the initially frustrating, and slightly interactive hunt that lets you loose to discover what it is that needs to be done without much in the way of tutorials. The game seems unusually self-aware in this early stage of storytelling at how difficult it's going to be for a new player to understand the ropes of being on the assigned task force (aka the gameplay), and basically says so through the chief inspector's first few displayed texts. Thus is Case #0 in a nutshell.
Case #0 (Lunatics), as it were is a navigational, and three dimensional puzzle solving event peppered with dialogue shared between your comrades in arms, and the assailants who are at the top of tower-like structure you have entered. The Chief, who is in charge of you, and two others explains the basics of the dial control system which is the core mechanic for the case in question. He has you switching between movement, interactions, contact, and a save function as you move towards star highlighted points of interest that will, in effect forward plot progression. Each of the dial features are represented by a corresponding letter that is on the dial display located at the lower right hand side of the playing screen. By selecting "M" for 'Movement', and interacting with things using the 'TRIANGLE' button for interactions you can forgo most of the complications brought on by the rather complex control scheme. Just keep in mind though that you'll still need to look high, and low using 'R1' at certain highlighted contact points. Contact points which are highlighted themselves by the flashing word "CONTACT".
Most of what you'll be doing in Case #0, beyond the dialogue reading, and the character to character interactions is cracking codes via computer terminals using a cypher system that the game has embedded as a plot point. You'll be doing that, and finding one or two key items which will help you unlock progress through the code, and character interactions. One thing to note about the code cracking is that you can choose the easy way out, and miss out on trophies or use the portable terminal device that you find to crack the codes, and input them manually. The easy way out involves simply clicking on the magnifying glass key, and then hitting the 'Enter' key for instant access. This easy method of code cracking removes any need to do the detective work that SUDA51, and his team had in mind, but at the previously mentioned cost.
After getting past this somewhat poorly orchestrated, and quite confusing first case you'll be able to visit the next case in the line-up via the main menu as well as the cases after the next in a per case basis with each case telling the story from different characters' perspective allowing you to intervene briefly via investigative, and interactive gameplay elements which are meant to liven up the experience. Later on in your playthrough you'll also be able to get your first look at the 'Placebo' side of things which acts as a means to better understand the plot, albeit a different kind of perspective. The Placebo follow-ups take place in one of the main characters' office, and introduces you to one of the games standout themes. A theme about the transition from analog information to digital information. This theme plays out heavily in each main menu accessible Placebo chapter reflecting on the pros and cons that comes with the digital age of information traffic. Things like chat rooms, emails, and email viruses are explored through the available interactions. In fact the game's slogan, "Kill the Past" indirectly hints at the nature of the digital information transfers in that the digital age's attempt to kill the past has it's own set of profound repercussions in association with law enforcement. In light of that a lot of the character situations have the people involved trying to state, in relation to the Kamui case, how things would have been better off had they not had to police, or deal with the leaks and spreading of hysteria caused by the events that occur. In a way it mirrors the view of some higher ups in our real modern age of info access.
The storytelling past the first case ramps up quite a bit compared to the struggle of comprehension required to get beyond case #0, especially in the sense that the dialogue, and characters become vastly more interesting. The narrative that is being spun escalates as you get closer to solving things through different kinds of puzzles, and new forms of interactive gameplay. Along with the stylized nature of the game, which includes pop-up panels filled with video, audio, and textual tidbits you'll find unapologetic personalities, uncensored obscenities, and a whole plethora of details hidden away in the constantly morphing internet like interface. It's an experience that is worth sticking to, and seeing through to the end, especially if you are a fan of SUDA51 and the original team that introduced the world of gaming to the series. That having been said, the game is not without it's shortcomings. The original game was a budget project designed by two very creative industry minds. One being the SUDA51 we all know. The same SUDA51 who recently brought to us the extremely violent 'Let it Die'. The creativity, and odd side of the developers definitely shines through, but at times the interactive portion of gameplay does become kind of repetitive, if slightly so. Thankfully the developers invested more into the stories being told. It's a trade off that pays off if you are willing play through it.
Unique to this version of 'The Silver Case' are two new cases. These cases which are unlocked after playing through the core game include '#25 Whiteout Prologue', and '*6 Yami'. In the #25 Whiteout Prologue' you'll find a short story that takes place years after the Silver Case, and in effect ties into SUDA51's sequel, 'The Silver Case: Ward 25". The other new addition that is '*6 Yami' is more extensive even though it's a Placebo case. It acts as a conclusion to the core game, and takes place months after the Silver Case. The viewpoint in said Placebo is being told through the perspective of a freelance journalist named, Tokio Morishima. Of course it goes without saying that for $29.99 these bonuses won't be all that you'll get. For those of you interested in true nostalgia you'll find that here as well. At the main menu you can tweak several settings regarding gameplay, sound and visuals. The options therein offering the new HD version, or the original version via a 'Remix' option. It's a good addition for fans who want to either take a trip down memory lane, or see it new in higher definition.
The Verdict ...
Though I struggled like nobody's business in Case #0, and ended up thinking the game was functionally broken I got past that point, and saw the good side of the game. I saw it's potential in impressing the intellectual gamers out there who are more impressed with storytelling, and character development than they are with deeply interactive gameplay. It is definitely a game that makes you think. The fact that it ties in with current worldly events that surround the internet, and the digital age of information makes it all the more worth a look. Just know that you can still possibly get the limited edition via the NISA store listing, and that you can go for the digital release via the PSN Store. I think there might also be a physical standard edition, but don't quote me on that. As far as my verdict goes it gets a "passing" rating. Just know that some issues regarding the two exclusive chapters, and some frame content were found. Things that will likely get patched when the retail release hits shelves. The game is slated for release on April 18, 2017!
Two significant issues plaguing some of the NA, and EU review codes have been found. One issue involves the two extra cases that will not unlock after you have completed the core game. The other seems to be centered around EU copies which will sometimes display black screens where there should be pictures, video clips, or things of that nature. The PR has informed me that the development team are working hard to solve the problems so that they do not effect the retail releases. Likely expect a day one patch.