In 1998, Grasshopper Manufacture’s CEO Goichi “Suda51” Suda was a young and ambitious game creator — far before his claims to fame titles Killer7 or No More Heroes. The novice developer’s first game would end up being a visual novel adventure titled The Silver Case for the original PlayStation which was directed, designed, and co-written by Suda51 himself. However, the West would have to wait 17 years for a localized version of the game. In October 2016, The Silver Case HD Remaster released on PC for long time fans of Suda51 and a new generation to enjoy.
Evidently, this wasn’t enough for the creator because shortly after the announcement that the game will make its way onto PlayStation 4, we learned that he will be adding two new chapters with the assistance of co-writer Masahi Ooka. Sadly, I didn’t play the PC version, so I jumped at the chance to take a look at the game on PlayStation 4. What I discovered was a candid look into the young mind of a creator that has flooded my gaming catalog with some of the flashiest and over-the-top titles that I have ever played.
The Silver Case HD Remaster has two separate modes, visual novel and adventure, that are implemented into two different scenarios, “Transmitter” and “Placebo”. Transmitter puts the player in the roll of a rookie detective who doesn’t seem to fully understand the situation he has found himself in. This leads to many conversations between veteran detectives who end up bullying him when he messes up or doesn’t assess the situation correctly. Placebo, on the other hand, has the player control a journalist who is following the case as it unfolds throughout the story.
At its core, The Silver Case HD Remaster is a linear visual novel that tells a story of a murder-mystery taking place in 1999 in a city called “24 Wards.” In the earlier parts of the story, a great deal of information is unloaded onto the player that can be disjointing at times when trying to keep up with everything that’s going on. What quickly became my biggest gripe about the game is the lack of an accessible menu encyclopedia, which could allow me to quickly access definitions of key terms and characters.
This unapologetic approach to storytelling rarely slows down over the 13 hour story. Most of the questions that I developed about the characters and terms would inevitably be answered as the story unfolded; however, having access to them at any time is something many modern visual novels have.
The Silver Case HD Remaster is a prime example of a game that was way ahead of it’s time in terms of risks that it took, which differed from any other title in the same genre. This is partially due to the aspect ratio of the onscreen images rarely covering the entire screen. Instead, there are multiple boxes scattered around the screen containing: text, images, and anything else the player is ment to see.
It’s safe to say that I loved this approach to storytelling because at times I could easily forget that I’m even playing a game. Instead I felt like I was watching an experimental indie film from the 80’s telling a murder mystery with a believable cast and twists at every corner. The game continues to provide a sense of immersion by including the adventure mode segments, which were still played in the same oddly shaped boxes that the story is told in.
During the adventure scenes there are multiple options available: move, contact, item, and save. However, the game can primary be played in the move option. At times there are puzzles that need to be solved to access new areas. These puzzles are fairly clever and require a few minutes to think through.
With that said, there were a few times I was stuck because situations were not fully explained — something barely hinted at with in-game prompts. An example of this would be a scene where I had to look up standing in a precise location. I’m almost positive I can’t be the only person who got stuck on this scene, so I’m confused why they didn’t make it more clear as to what the player should do.
Exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version are two extra chapters that I refrain from going into detail with for fans who are planning on returning to the game after playing the PC version. What I will say: it must have been fun and exciting for the developers to go back and create these extra chapters. Both chapters feel very real and authentic to a game that released almost 20 years ago. I imagined what it would be like to play the game without these chapters and I could honestly feel like something is missing.
The Silver Case has aged differently than other visual novels that have come out around the same time. The characters are all time capsule in and amongst themselves, playing over-the-top detective tropes as well as using offensive slang that I personally haven’t seen in video games. I applaud the localizers for keeping true to the story and giving us an accurate representation of Sude51’s earliest works. The way these characters talk resemble their personality; changing these words because they might not be “socially acceptable” to this generation would ruin that authenticity of the story being told.
Suda51 has created some beloved video games over the years, such as: Killer 7, No More Heroes, and most recently Let it Die. The director is held as one on the top minds in the gaming industry, yet there always seemed to be a piece missing in the West about where exactly this man came from. The Silver Case HD Remaster bridges that gap for western fans and takes them on a twisted and dark journey into the young mind of Suda51.
The Silver Case HD Remaster might seem visually dated and it has that unapologetic approach to puzzle solving that only retro games can provide, but the characters and story connecting them truly stands the test of time. I was completely drawn into the mystery and world of the game that it became difficult to take breaks or attend to daily activities. The Silver Case HD Remaster will join the catalog of other great Suda51 games that I have come to respect over the years, this westerner is happy to have the opportunity to finally play it.