Well first off, if you’re reading this review than you might have an idea of what The Silver Case is. If not, please check out our review of the PlayStation 4 version of The Silver Case that released in 2017. As a follow-up, Grasshopper Manufacturer released the Suda51 created visual novel called The 25th Ward on mobile devices in 2005, but like its predecessor, this game would stay a Japanese exclusive and years later would almost become lost to a digital graveyard. That is until Playism and NIS America saved the game and revived it for not only modern consoles but for western audiences for the first time.
Being a sequel, The 25th Ward: The Silver Case takes the series down a new path with a new group of characters and more cases to solve. At first glance, gamers might be confused by the look and art direction of this series, but I feel as though fans of not only the creator but visual novels, in general, would be missing out one of the best adventure games ever developed that would have been otherwise been lost. However, a few of the game’s systems are still a product of its time.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case begins a few years after the conclusion of The Silver Case. However, it’s not completely necessary to play The Silver Case to understand the story, but the game does share a few characters and will allude to the previous events during the story. Players are able to choose from three different stories, which feature different main characters and offer a few different perspectives on the same cases.
During each story, were introduced to multiple members Heinous Crimes Unit as they uncover a mystery surrounding multiple murders surrounding a single suspect. Depending on where you choose to start the adventure, it might take awhile to understand the characters and how they each play their roles on the team. However, after a few chapters, I understand their personalities and the story became a bit more straightforward thereafter. That is until Sude51 throws a curveball and you remember that this is from the same mind that created No More Heroes and Killer7.
As mentioned above, the story can be rather straightforward at times and reflect the typical visual novel adventure format. However, there are moments when Suda51 just decided that he’d include an RPG-like system during one of the story scenes. These random occurrences continue throughout the game and feature some rather crude humor that might be a product of its time, but it makes the experience feel so much better. I applaud Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture for their daring and sometimes indecent approach to storytelling.
Although it’s not addressed during the game, there is a proper way to play through the story of The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. However, I didn’t know this and went through each of the three scenarios until the very end. Evidentally, it’s more beneficial to play through the first chapter of each scenario and then move on to the next chapter of each consecutively in order to understand a few of the scenes. This isn’t totally necessary, but it would have helped to explain how to properly progress through the game.
Controls take some getting used to in The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. Perhaps this is due to the game being a port of a mobile title, but some systems could have used some further improvements. The biggest concern is found early on in the game’s story when you’re learning how to interact with the environment. Sometimes, the game won’t progress until you’ve talked to all the people in an area or looked at a certain object.
For example, during a conversation between a character, you will need to choose the “Look” option several times before the conversation concludes. This makes character interactions in the story progress slowly at times. It can also get confusing since I still haven’t figured out the difference between the “Look” and “Talk” options when it comes to speaking to NPCs.
However, puzzles and moving around the environment seem to benefit from this new control scheme and show a huge improvement to the systems found in The Silver Case. Arrows point to the directions that you wish to take and puzzles are brought up in large menus as well as numbered puzzles being represented by a die that makes it rather easy to input passwords.
What The 25th Ward: The Silver Case does exceptionally well is found in its visual design. Character illustrations are dark and, dare I say, weird, which totally sets the mood of the story. The 25th Ward is not a part of town that you want to be in and the game has the perfect setting and visual design to make you feel uncomfortable during conversations and crime scenes.
The influence of avant-garde films in The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is clearly expressed in its visuals. Furthermore, the environments are shown in weirdly shaped boxes that can move and appear anywhere on the screen as the story progresses. It’s actually something I wish more visuals novels attempted to implement because it makes even the longer story scenes interesting and keeps the static backgrounds from feeling old.
Additionally, the music in The 25th Ward: The Silver Case sets an eerily creepy tone for the game and compliments the story well. Some scenes had me feeling more anxious due to the build up in the music because I knew some kind of twist was about to be exposed. However, the sound design isn’t perfect because the developers thought it was necessary to include the typewriter sounds as the texts appear on the screen, which gets annoying really fast.
As a gamer, playing through The 25th Ward: The Silver Case had me thankful to be playing a game that would have otherwise been lost. Coming from the mind of a young Suda51, the story told is as juvenile as it is gripping and engaging. The 25th Ward: The Silver Case takes chances and pushes the boundaries of storytelling and character development. Some of the controls might not have aged well and a couple scenarios overstay their welcome, but The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is a game that deserves the attention of visual novel adventure fans as well as Suda51 groupies.