The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story review
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
I knew I was in for a pretty big experience when I downloaded all of the files for The Centennial Case and they totalled almost 15 GB. What I was not prepared for was just how wild of a ride I would be on. This FMV mystery game definitely puts its best foot forward, but some poor pacing and its own desire to fully explain every single interaction make playing large swaths of The Centennial Case pretty tedious.
Crimes of the century
The Centennial Case is a mystery FMV game that revolves around a young author who has been asked to untangle several different crimes and tragedies surrounding a mysterious family. She are brought into the fold specifically because of her ability to write compelling whodunnits, the thinking being that she can apply her logic from writing complicated mystery novels to try and solve some real-life murders.
Not long into the investigation, things go sideways and more crimes occur, and it's up to you--using various dialog trees and some deduction-based puzzle solving--to get to the bottom of each and every crime and uncover the truth surrounding this family. To make it through each investigation, you'll need to gather some observational clues and look and listen closely to character interactions to pick up on hints about the case to reach the correct conclusions.
To help teach you about how the game works, the first case in The Centennial Case is relatively straightforward and ushers you along with tooltips and advice from other characters. Despite this relative hand-holding, the game does a great job of keeping things thrilling as it keeps doling out peculiarities surrounding this family that create intrigue about how certain crimes are tied together and what certain people's ultimate motives are.
In this early first case and the two or three that follow it, the way that crimes are laid out and the relations of the characters is all very clear, which makes the logical deduction sections of the game easy to navigate. In the back-half of the game, though, things get a lot more complicated and reveal the weaknesses of the game's UI. With the sheer number of scenes, characters, evidence, etc. the game really drags as it forces you to sift through this mountain of stuff to sort out the increasingly messy entanglements between characters, and it has a knock-on effect of making other aspects of the game that were once charming feel exhausting.
Just 100 more things
There's almost always a kind of hokey and awkward aspect to the acting in FMV games, and the performances in The Centennial Case are no exception. If you play the game with English dubbing (as the original performances are in Japanese), this amplifies the effect. I knew to expect this, but what I wasn't necessarily expecting was how hard The Centennial Case would leverage that tone to tell its own soapy and melodramatic story. This thing seriously has more twists, turns, and surprise reveals than just about any mystery game I've played, and the stilted acting almost heightens the ridiculousness.
That said, a big reason why The Centennial Case can fit so many surprises into its story is the fact that it has a lot of room for them. Just over the halfway mark of the game I thought I was in the final stretch, but the amount of things that you are tasked with figuring out in the final acts drag on and on and on. To make matters worse, some of the biggest surprises you can't possibly figure out based on the evidence alone so the game just railroads you into reaching those conclusions (and making all the sleuthing mechanics you're putting up with feel pointless as a result). The ride of the story is still entertaining, but it gets way too complicated and spends to much time trying to explain absolutely every little detail that I found myself just hoping that I'd reach credits by the end of a given scene.
The bottom line
The Centennial Case is certainly a meaty FMV mystery experience that can keep you entertained for a long time, but its complicated narrative and clunky gameplay definitely get harder to deal with over time. You have to have a high tolerance for FMV awkwardness and a lot of procedural explanations (which--while admirably thorough--make for a less appealing game) to truly appreciate it. And even then, certain things like pacing may still put you off of it.