The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story review (PS4)

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a surprising release from Square Enix, with a strong role for FMV content inside a detective story. It’s out now for all major systems – we tried out the PlayStation version.

The FMV genre has been enjoying a bit of a resurgence in the past few years, but many of them have followed the template that Wales Interactive has crafted for themselves: a fast-paced adventure where you make (conversational) choices that help steer the tightly directed narrative, sort of like an interactive movie. Their murder mysteries (The Shapeshifting Detective and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker) are much closer to what The Centennial Case has to offer though, with plenty of suspects and witnesses to question and clues to uncover. Yet, at the same time, Square’s new game feels fresh and unique.

A large part of that is that The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story features a nicely balanced mix of video content and gameplay – where the latter is more than just an interface that starts the next video. More about that later. What’s also somewhat unique for a western release is that the story in The Centennial Case is told entirely in Japanese, which instantly gives a different vibe to the experience. It may not be for everyone (many will have to rely on the game’s subtitles), but those who enjoy foreign films will appreciate the quality acting and writing that’s on display here.

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Story-wise, you step into the shoes of mystery novel writer Haruka Kagami, who investigates the Shijima family. They’re known for a series of tragic occurrences that have happened to them over the course of the last century, and you’re trying to figure out what happened and what led to the murders that have occurred. Add a supernatural element into the mix (the family is rumored to have access to the secrets of eternal life), and you’ve got an intriguing premise that the story lives up to.

Rather than giving you a single linear story, The Centennial Case is split up over various time periods and chapters, and you’ll investigate the events in each one – unlocking clues and talking to relevant suspects and witnesses. And while these video elements are interesting, the most fun aspect of the game is where you get to piece together the information you’ve found, trying to form a hypothesis on what happened or opening up new avenues of questioning.

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This aspect is called the “Reasoning stage”, where you find yourself faced with a grid and answer questions using the appropriate clues you’ve gathered. In some cases, you’ll get follow-up questions as well, but picking the wrong clues can also steer you in the wrong direction. This is a lot of fun as the thoughts you form will influence the video scenes that follow when you start a new line of questioning, and there isn’t a huge penalty for failure either – worst case, you have to go through this stage again. You can sort of “cheat” your way through this as well by using an “insight” tool that tells you where clues should be used, but unless you’re just in it for the FMV portion that feels like a waste of a fun sleuthing experience, which ends with a summary phase where you bring things together and wrap up investigations – also done through questions you need to answer based on clues and the thoughts you’ve formed.

As with other FMV games, there’s only a limited amount of replay value, unless you enjoy going for different outcomes so you can see more of the video sequences and quality acting. A playthrough is quite a bit longer than what seems to be the norm for FMV-based games these days though, so you’re getting some good value for money thanks to the detective work you’ll be doing here. It’s a bit more expensive than other titles in the genre though, which might deter some people from taking the plunge into something that treats FMV a little differently. We believe it’s worth it, thanks to some quality acting and writing and a fun detective element that really puts you in control.

Score: 7.6/10

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