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The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Hokkaido Artists' Network and Development
Release Date: May 12, 2022


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PS5 Review - 'The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 16, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is an immersive live-action mystery-adventure game.

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story follows the story of novelist Hakura Kagami. After a mysterious skeleton is found on the Shijima family's estate, Hakura takes on the role of a multi-generation detective as she delves into the family history and tries to figure out the murky and outrageous past. This is done via her imagination; Hakura places people from the modern day into her mental image of the past, and that allows her to "live out" the murder mysteries.

The Centennial Case is effectively a modern FMV game, with all of the story told through live actors in canned FMV footage. The plus side is that the presentation is much better than you'd expect. The Centennial Case is well acted and excellently shot, and although it obviously doesn't have a gigantic budget, it makes good use of what it has. Reusing the same actors in different roles manages to feel like a stylistic choice, and it is genuinely neat to see the actors embody different characters. The game has a dub available, but I recommend avoiding it. It isn't bad, but with live actors, it makes more sense to use the original language.

This also keeps the story nice and engaging. If you're familiar with detective stories, you'll probably see some of the twists coming; the story is written well enough that "see it coming" isn't the same as unenjoyable, and I was caught off guard often enough that it was genuinely pleasant when a new twist or new reveal came through. It was rather like watching a fun television show where I needed to pay more attention than most. I liked quite a few of the characters, and while the plot can get ridiculous, it's ridiculous in the "I'll watch one more episode" kind of way.

The gameplay in The Centennial Case is divided into three different sections: The Incident, The Reasoning and The Solution. The Incident is the story that leads up to the gameplay sections. Clues appear and need to be noticed, and certain clues will only appear if you choose certain dialogue choices. For the most part, the game makes them very obvious, and you're unlikely to miss the clues. Even if you do, I'm fairly sure the game gives them to you at the end anyway.

The Reasoning is almost a minigame. You're given a variety of clues and need to put them together to create a hypothesis, which is a potential explanation for the crimes. Initially, I thought this was very cool until I noticed the various hexagons that you need to slot into spots to create a hypothesis; the pattern corresponds to where they need to be placed. This felt less like I was puzzling things out and more like I was playing a matching game. I think fewer clues but less handholding would've done a lot to make this portion more enjoyable.

The final segment is The Solution, where you have to confront potential criminals and use the hypothesis and clues you've gathered to argue with or refute them. This is easily the highlight of The Centennial Case, even if it is still guided. You're encouraged to think about everything you know about the case, not just the obvious clues you were given, and some solutions are outside of the box. If you get things wrong, you're usually greeted with an amusing failure screen rather than serious punishment, so there's no real harm in guessing if you are stuck. One of the best parts of any detective story is the scene where you get everything laid out, and that is as true here as in anything else.

The unfortunate side effect of this is that I often wished The Centennial Case were just a movie or television show. The game is well acted and well directed enough that I slightly resented the interruption of gameplay mechanics. Unlike something like Phoenix Wright, where the gameplay and story are intertwined, The Centennial Case felt more like a game stapled to an interesting story, and while the gameplay is fine, I would've enjoyed the experience more if it weren't a game.

That is about the only real criticism I have about The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story. It's a darn enjoyable multi-generation experience that has a lot of unusual mysteries, so it stands strong on its own merits. If you're a fan of mystery games, then it's absolutely worth a shot. The strong acting and good use of FMV help it to stand out from the crowd, and it's almost as much praise and criticism that I wished it were a movie or television show that I could just sit back and watch.

Score: 8.0/10

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