Adventure Corner: The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story
Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.
In this edition of the column, we take a look at Square Enix’s FMV murder mystery title The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story.
The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story
(Also available on PC, PS4, Switch)
Square Enix’s The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story provides a new FMV mystery for players to get stuck into. The game has a lot of interesting ideas to offer and provides a highly engaging set of connected cases as players investigate woes surrounding the Shijima family across a hundred-year time-span. While its actual mystery-solving mechanics turn out to be a bit clunky and it leaves some threads unresolved, the presentation and mysteries themselves are well-executed, making it a title well worth checking out.
The game’s primary protagonist is Haruka Kagami, a mystery novelist. She is asked by Eiji Shijima, a doctor who sometimes provides input on her mysteries, to attend a rite being held by his estranged family while surreptitiously investigating the discovery of a skeleton on the family’s grounds, as well as the family’s sordid history. Naturally, it isn’t too long until a fresh case emerges, with any assistance from outside waylaid by a landslide, which ties back into events a hundred years into the past. It quickly becomes clear to Haruka that solving the wider mysteries require delving into the past.
Haruka’s investigations into earlier events introduce one of The Centennial Case’s interesting elements, its multi-role system. This amounts to cast members playing different roles within each case as Haruka’s brain “lives” the manuscripts she finds by putting the faces of those she knows into the various roles. This results in actors potentially playing the victim in one case but a culprit in another for an interesting spin. The actors, writing, and direction are good at establishing themselves as different characters between cases, although the effectiveness of some of them being aged up or down is mixed.
The performances of the cast overall are strong. Nanami Sakuraba and Yuta Hiraoka do well together in the lead roles on each of the cases, and the rest of the cast provides solid support. There is an English audio option available, but it’s not the best and immediately just felt off compared to playing it in Japanese, so subtitles are the recommended option here. There are little bits of overacting here and there, but it’s easy to look past and sometimes helps with the sense of satisfaction when presenting evidence or deductions against someone. Certain elements may be a little farfetched, but the solutions to the mysteries are pleasing. The one knock against the story is that it leaves open lots of questions about what happens to many characters, but given the story’s setup it makes sense that those questions go answered. It’s very much a case of the story being engaging enough for players to want more.
The Centennial Case’s gameplay structure is the same for most cases, with one notable exception where it turns into more of a puzzle-solving adventure. The first part of each case consists of the scenes leading up to the crime followed by initial investigations of the main characters. Certain clues are indicated during scenes, where players can press a button to ensure they are noted down for future reference. However, this process seems only to impact achievements as any clues that might have been missed are made readily available during the subsequent reasoning phase. In this phase, players match the clues to questions about the case to generate a variety of hypotheses. Creating these hypotheses is just the first part, as they run the gamut from correct to plausible to obviously false. Even this doesn’t necessarily require much thinking from players, as they can just match up the relevant patterns and sections on the relevant icons.
Once players have enough hypotheses generated, they can advance to the final stage and review them. However, the UI for doing this is incredibly slow and clunky, and the game isn’t anywhere near as helpful as it could be in identifying which ones might be important. Fortunately, this doesn’t impede progress as players don’t have to line up the path of logic from scratch themselves ahead of the grand reveals. These come in tried-and-tested style as the suspects and witnesses gather to hear who is responsible while Haruka, or the character she is inhabiting, details her logic. Rather than having to figure out how everything ties together on their own, players get a more structured linear set of questions where they simply need to pick the correct answers. Should they answer wrongly at any point, there’s a quick bad ending as the flaw in the logic is pointed out before players can try again, getting a hint in the process if they want. There’s no active penalty for failure, other than a reduction in the score provided at the end of each case.
On the whole, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is nice to look at. In addition to the FMV scenes, the reasoning phase also includes some welcome 3D model recreations of the hypotheses. There’s plenty of effort put into the costumes and make-up to help separate each actor’s characters from the past from those in the present, though the game might have benefitted from making the different time periods more distinct as it’s often not visually evident what period a scene is taking place in. While the scene subtitles are large enough, certain other parts of the text are small on the PlayStation 5, making it hard to read from a distance on smaller screens and there’s sadly no option to adjust it. The music provides a strong audio backing to the good performances from the actors, effectively heightening the suspense during the mysteries while offering pleasant background during the reasoning sections.
The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is very much appreciable as something a bit different. Not all of what it does is fully effective, but the things that work more than make up for the areas that stumble. With satisfying mysteries and a highly enjoyable cast, those who have enjoyed mystery novels or TV shows will find much to like about the game.
Disclosure: This article is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.