By Henry Badilla / March 21st, 2018
|Title||The 25th Ward: The Silver Case|
|Publisher||NIS America, Inc.|
|Release Date||March 13th, 2018|
|Genre||Adventure, Visual Novel|
|Age Rating||Mature 17+|
Back in the GameCube days I remember borrowing Killer7 from a friend as I had read in a magazine about how unique it was. I had never heard about Suda51 before, so playing this game blindly was one of the most unique experiences in my gaming life. After that I definitely went and did my research on the game and since then I always keep an eye out for anything related to Grasshopper Manufacture. The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is, as you may expect, a sequel to The Silver Case, one of the first games created by Suda51 and considered a cult game. Let’s see how good this remake of the mobile-only sequel is, or if it falls into the same problems that other Grasshopper games have had in the past.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case takes place 30 years after the creation of the 24th Ward, which is one of the locations from the first game. While the concept of the 24th Ward was to create an urban paradise for its inhabitants, the result was completely different. So in theory, the 25th Ward uses what was learned in creating an actual Utopia. However recently a series of strange deaths have been reported in one of the apartment towers in the 25th Ward. And while the government is calling them suicides, there are different groups investigating what could be the truth.
Gameplay-wise this game has a lot in common with a visual novel. There is no combat, and you can’t control your character on-screen. Instead you have to select from a menu shaped like a 4-sided die what your action will be. The usual commands are Talk, View, Move, and Object, which are self-explanatory, but depending on the scenario more options can show. When you select the Move option on certain locations you can navigate through the building, but this is done by selecting your direction from a menu. You never have full control of the characters.
The challenge comes from several puzzles distributed through the game which consist of entering the correct password that can be either numeric or alphabetical. While these are quite simple, the game usually asks you the password first, and then gives you the clues to figure it out, forcing you to usually fail first. But there is no penalty for it.
Like its predecessor, The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is divided into 3 separate episodes in which you will control different characters to give you an alternative perspective of the events that are happening surrounding the Bayside Tower where the murders have occurred. And also what appears to be the return of Kamui, the killer from the previous game that was supposed to be dead.
On the Correctness Episode you control Shiroyabu and Kuroyanagi, both detectives of the Heinous Crimes Agency which specializes in gruesome crimes. Kuroyanagi is the veteran of the pair and she likes to pretend she’s the tough detective type, always cursing, ordering Shiroyabu around and pretty much treating him like garbage. This chapter was written by Suda51 so the style reminded me a lot of Pulp Fiction in regards to the character interactions. While the story is quite confusing from the beginning to end, it manages to keep you intrigued in the mystery surrounding the 25th Ward. And while at first it focuses on the murders at Seaside Tower the story changes its tone midway to a much darker one.
In Matchmaker you join Osato and Tsuki from the Regional Adjustment Unit, which act like a secret service of the government, in charge of “adjusting” problematic individuals. Similar to Correctness, while their story is connected to the murders on Seaside Tower, it deals more with the past of Tsuki, the veteran agent. This episode was written by Masahiro Yuki and it has a more concise writing style and it manages to answer most of the questions that it introduces.
Finally the Placebo episode was written by Masahi Ooka and it’s a continuation of the chapter of the same name in The Silver Case. In this one you will be controlling Tokio Morishima, a reporter that also appeared in Flower, Sun and Rain, another early game by Suda51. In his chapter Morishima has forgotten the events of the previous game so we need to investigate some of the secrets of the 25th Ward while he tries to remember his past.
From my experience playing other Grasshopper titles I feel that they have a very unique style when it comes to their games and the world building around it. The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is no exception. The relationship between the Heinous Crimes Unit and the Regional Adjustment Unit is quite interesting, as is the way that the 25th Ward itself operates. Once you get the whole picture it creates an unique world from which you could create a lot of unique stories. The main problem with most of Suda’s games is that he likes to leave things open to interpretation, which sometimes feels like you actually missed parts of the story. That is unfortunately the case with this game as well, as it seems that it leaves more open questions than what it answers.
After beating the 3 episodes there are things that are not clear to me, so it doesn’t feel that the whole story has ended yet, which makes me feel like there’s something still missing. For a game in which the main focus is the story this is definitely something to be aware of.
My other complaint comes from the use of the menus. Usually when you arrive at a new scene, you have to select to View, Talk, or maybe Examine an item in particular. But since this is not obvious you have to go through all the options several times until you get the right order of things. Honestly I feel that they could have removed these options and simply narrated the story like a Visual Novel. Having options slows down the flow of the game. And while I like the concept, it’s not something that really brings anything new to the game.
Visually the game is mostly static images and text of the characters talking. Unlike other Visual Novels, the character’s portrait is always the same regardless of their emotions. This is something that is quite common in many games, but I personally didn’t mind it. It gives it a more serious tone for me, but I think that done right it would have been better. Something else worth noticing is that the game is displayed in windows. For example the background image of your location will be on a window in the center of the screen instead of covering the whole screen. While I didn’t mind it as much, some scenes would have been better if we had a bigger picture of everything that was happening.
The music was created by Masafumi Takada, famous for the soundtrack of Danganronpa, No More Heroes and many other Grasshopper games. To me he has a unique way of creating music which really shines on all of the games where he has contributed, and this is no exception. With catchy tunes and some other sorrowful songs he is able to bring the mood appropriately to each of the scenes in the game.
While The 25th Ward: The Silver Case has some problems in its narrative and the gameplay could be smoother, the world building and the way that the world is presented is still one of the most unique I have seen in this industry. It doesn’t matter if you think Suda is a genius or a madman, the truth is that the style that he brings to his games still makes them worth checking out. This game is now out for $30 and it took me 18 hours to complete all the episodes. If you’re a fan of Suda or are already invested in The Silver Case this seems like a no-brainer. But if you’re not so sure if this game is for you, I would recommend playing the first one first. Other than that this is quite the unique experience for those looking for this type of game.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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