Bennu Reflects on "The Silver Case"
Unlike my previous article which addressed my nostalgia for a game from my childhood, I walked into The Silver Case with only a minor bit of information about its premise and story. I learned through research that this was the first game developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and it was published in 1999. Then I found out that the game was directed by Goichi Suda, known these days as SUDA51, and I was intrigued.
My history with SUDA51 games isn't extensive; I've only played Killer is Dead and a bit of Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day. That being said, I did enjoy the premise of both games and when I encountered The Silver Case on the PlayStation Store I felt like giving it a proper crack. And I'm glad that I did.
A New Experience
Although I do enjoy games with more narrative-focused content, The Silver Case was actually my first deep dive into the world of visual novel games. I know that there's quite a considerable market for these kinds of games in Japan but they're a bit more of a rarity over here in the West. At least, compared to the over-saturated market of AAA open-world action games that we're frequently exposed to.
I'll admit, it was a bit of an eye-opener for me immersing myself into this new world with the limited control scheme and heavy text-box dialogue. But, for what it's worth, I did enjoy it for the most part. It probably helps that I had just jumped in fresh from my journey with Final Fantasy VII as well, which also has text-box dialogue.
The Silver Case itself is divided into two 'parts' of sorts; the Transmitter arc, which follows the journey of the player character, and the Placebo arc which follows the journey of a writer named Tokio Morishima. When I initially started playing, I found the Transmitter arc more appealing due to its heavy focus on the serial killer plot. Taking part in the investigation with the other members of the 24th Ward's Heinous Crimes Unit felt like an intricate police drama; one that I was happy to experience and see through to its conclusion.
However, as the story moved along, I found myself being drawn more towards the Placebo arc. Tokio's development as a character made me grow attached to him as he lived his life as somewhat of a semi-hermit; checking e-mails, talking to his pet turtle Red and otherwise confining himself to either his apartment or to the Jack Hammer bar down the street from him. It was a consistent, order existence; something that resonated with my own secluded life I suppose.
Tokio was still a bit of a prick at times though, especially to his ex-girlfriend and confidant, Erika Yukawa. Despite this, however, Tokio did grow to become arguably my favourite character in the game. This is largely in part due to Suda's co-writers, Masahi Ooka, and Sako Kato, who handled the writing of the Placebo arc. It is definitely more of a 'slice of life' tale than its Transmitter counterpart, which I was quite grateful for.
Aside from Tokio, each character brought something to the table that resonated with me in some way. Tokio's confidant, Erika Yukawa, initially comes across as abrasive but grows and develops as Tokio gradually spends more time with her. Of particular note is her role during the HANA and TSUKI report segments, where we see her more compassionate and intelligent sides respectively.
In regards to the Transmitter arc cast, my favourite character without a doubt is Tetsugoro Kusabi. Coincidentally, he's the first character we're introduced to in the game during the prologue case; and even then he just exudes the personality of an old-fashioned Japanese man. If I could describe him, I'd say he reminds me of Takeshi 'Beat' Kitano's cop characters from the Violent Cop and Hana-bi films. He's very blunt, to the point, and doesn't take crap from anyone.
Although, to be fair, he does have a rather humorous side as well. There's a running joke throughout the game where he calls the player character 'Big Dick' in regards to him being a former special forces soldier and a keen investigator. Additionally, his recurring joke of asking his friends to loan him 50,000 yen made me laugh from time to time as well. Incidentally enough, the line is also used as the name for the re-mastered game's Platinum trophy.
Kusabi's friend, Ryu Munakata, is notable in that he's one of the few characters that Kusabi seems to trust implicitly. Although he doesn't show up much, Munakata comes across as a key character in the events to come.
Similar to Munakata, Kusabi's partner on the force, Sumio Kodai, is an interesting case. Initially, I thought of him as very much of a straight-edge cop, similar to his co-worker Morichika Nakategawa. However, Sumio has a rather peculiar past that rears its head over the course of the story; something that I won't spoil here. Needless to say, his development is a bit more lateral than the rest of the cast.
Morichika Nakategawa was a bit of an average character for me personally. Although he is definitely the most straight-edge of the group, his personality makes him the most normal and uninteresting of the main cast. That's not to say that he isn't a good character, per se; it's just that out of this wild cast of characters he's the most jarring due to his by-the-book character. A bit perverted, maybe, but still relatively normal in comparison to the rest.
In some ways, Chizuru Hachisuka is like Nakategawa; she starts off as a by-the-book detective with a chip on her shoulder. However, over the course of the game, she changes drastically; not necessarily by choice but out of compulsion. I can't reveal any more than that without spoiling her story but her development is certainly more temperamental. Although, to be fair, I do admire her character and contrast with her partner on the force, Morikawa.
Kiyoshi Morikawa is the most laid-back of the group, as he comes across as more of a 'go with the flow' kind of guy. That being said, he is a good cop and is able to get the job done. He's actually one of the founding members of the Heinous Crimes Unit, along with Kusabi and their boss Kotobuki. He frequently bickers with Chizuru and talks a lot of smack with Kusabi but he gets on well with everyone on the team. Out of everyone, his development as a character makes sense for the most part; although his story does become more complicated later on. He's one of the few characters I genuinely felt sorry for.
Shinji Kotobuki is the leader of the Heinous Crimes Unit and is the most reserved of the group. He is the man who eventually signs our main character up to join the team after the events of the first case and comes across as a man of morals and virtue. That being said, however, he's given limited screen time to develop his character; all we really know about him is that Kusabi and Morikawa both deeply respect him. His role in the game, however, is fundamental later on as it sets off the chain of events that lead up to the final segments of the story. He gets slightly more screen time than one of the new recruits later in the game but it is kinda disappointing we don't get to learn more about him.
Finally, there's Sakura Natsume. She joins the team late in the story but is one of the central characters in the game's final segments. Being the daughter of the main characters' former commanding officer at Republic, Sakura, and the main character bond rather quickly as they become partners during the story's final investigation. She comes across as a good person but is also a bit more headstrong than other members of the cast. She's not afraid to put in the hard work to get the job done. That being said, both her and the main character grow quickly during the final act as they're forced into some rather uncomfortable situations and learn some even more disturbing truths. Out of everyone, Sakura feels like the most natural complement to the main character's journey.
In regards to the narrative itself, The Silver Case consists of five full Transmitter cases and five full Placebo reports, supplemented by a prologue case for Transmitter and an epilogue for each respective arc. Being structured like an episodic story, some parts obviously resonate better than others. For me personally, the Spectrum and Kamuidrome cases were my favourites out of the Transmitter arc; while the HANA and TSUKI reports were my favourites out of the Placebo reports.
These four segments all focus on an element of tragedy in some way which is something I'm drawn to as a writer. That being said, the way in which they deal with different aspects of tragedy is what I found fascinating. Scenarios such as a young boy looking for his missing friend or two socially reclusive teenagers finding love and purpose together make for a compelling story that I was happy to explore. On a separate note, I also enjoyed how the PlayStation controller's light changed colour as well during each segment of the game. It was a nice little touch that I felt helped set the mood of each part.
In terms of the music, The Silver Case contains some great tunes. Of particular note are some of my favourites which include 'Kusabi', 'Apricot Square' and 'Jack Hammer'. The 'Kusabi' track plays mainly during portions of the game involving Tetsugoro Kusabi but it manages to capture the essence of his character quite well. It's fun and upbeat but also means business.
'Apricot Square' is a truly beautiful song in every sense of the word. It manages to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of pain and loss that the characters experience and manages to uplift the soul and try to mend it with its beautiful, resonating melody. 'Jack Hammer' is similar to 'Apricot Square' in that it too deals with a sense of pain and loss but in a more subdued, internal way. It feels very much like the kind of sensation one would have at the end of a long day when they just want to escape from their troubles for a while. All three of these tracks are wonderful in their own respective ways and I highly recommend everyone to check them out at some point if you haven't already.
Overall, The Silver Case was a great experience for me as I dived into my first visual novel game. The story was solid, with some compelling characters and interesting scenarios. The music was great, with some memorable tracks that conveyed a deep range and spectrum of emotions. That being said, some of the story beats fell a little flat in my opinion or were just so far out of left field that it became quite jarring. In particular, the true 'villain' of the game who is holed up in a remote location.
Other than that, however, I did enjoy the game as a whole along with the bonus content that was featured in the HD release of the game. The trophies themselves were mostly straightforward and fun to collect and I managed to obtain the Platinum trophy in about six days. I'm looking forward to playing through its sequel, The 25th Ward, sometime in the near future.
Rating: 7.5 / 10
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