The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story

Review: The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with FMV games — on the one hand, I like the idea of watching as the story unfolds but on the other, I find the controls can work against the actions on screen. More recent games like Erica, Telling Lies, and Her Story have been good. Others like The Bunker ended up being stinkers and left me wary.

Now, Square Enix is looking to introduce a new FMV title, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story, developed by h.a.n.d and something far out of the usual fare the publisher delivers. However, what this murder mystery does is deliver a game with excellent production values and a tale that caught my attention thanks to the exceptional cast doing the heavy work.

A Neverending Cycle

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is far from The Quiet Man, a blunder that left me cautious when looking at Square’s outlier releases. Thankfully, this is nothing like that title as Square offers a gem within a niche genre that very few studios support these days. Sure, the first look at the game earlier this year was interesting but it had a bit of stigma behind it because of the cannon fodder Square sometimes delivers (looking at your Balan Wonderworld).

What you get when you load up The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a murder mystery spanning a century. Involving the Shijima family and the extremely, no good bad luck the lineage faces, the story tells us how members of the family all meet an unfortunate fate. Enter mystery novelist Haruka Kagami, enlisted to help solve what is happening to the Shjima clan as she begins to uncover the truth and how this curse plaguing the family began. With the ‘Fruit of Youth’ seemingly at the centre of things along with skeletal remains being discovered under a cherry blossom tree, the story is told throughout chapters spanning over 100 years.

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As you investigate the history of the Shijima family, you’ll revisit four time periods where you’ll relive murders each time while attempting to piece together the truth. I found the format to work for this scenario, and with the multiple chapters the game is presented across, the same core cast represents each time period with poise. The performances of the actors help deliver a believable mystery. FMV games can be a mixed bag with the actors sometimes breaking the immersion, and taking players out of the scene. That’s not the case here in The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story — as Haruka begins to research the past, the story comes to life through reports and books.

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Look to the past to save the future

The gameplay is limited but works in the context of what you’re tasked with doing. You’ll watch the scenes unfold and be asked for your input. While I thoroughly enjoyed the murder mystery and watching the actors on screen, the gameplay was less than enjoyable. I believe this would be a great limited series on a streaming service, even if the story can be sometimes predictable. That’s the issue with these FMV video games — much of the presentation rests on the actors and what they deliver.

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The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is told in chapters with each one telling us a story in a certain time period. Someone dies, and Haruka begins to imagine the ancestors by projecting the current family’s likeness in each mystery. Each time a clip is played for you, clues are presented to you. These clues begin to develop hypotheses surrounding the events happening on screen. If I could compare the mechanics to anything, it would be Disco Elysium’s thought cabinet.

Haruka’s mind breaks things into the Incident Phase, a space where you record clues to be used in the Reasoning Phase. In the second phase, you begin to connect the clues and build hypotheses with the goal being to find the truth in the Solution Phase.

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The three phases Haruka’s mind utilizes to solve the murders are essentially what the gameplay boils down to. Much of the clues are reflected via hexagons each featuring snippets of the story you’ve watched up to that point, with each one representing a question being asked of the situation at hand. One might ask how a person died via red hexagons, to which you answer with the corresponding choice while looking at the clues laid out in front of you. These are connected to gray hexagons that you’ll need to connect together.

Some answers will eliminate suspects but you’ll need to ensure you have enough evidence to prove their innocence. Thankfully the game was designed for experimentation with each clue having a distinct slot that needed to be situated. Once you correctly connect the dots, hypotheses are created and added to your repertoire.

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The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a great FMV game that should be experienced

Not one to make things easy, the developers often throw curveballs at the player in The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story. Clues can sometimes misword and some characters may even withhold information from you. You can also browse menus to see character relationships, the places you’ve visited, and the history of the family — all things that flesh out these characters and world.

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My playthrough lasted around 20 hours and throughout my time I came to the wrong conclusion several times. The good thing is you can retry the scenario again to get the correct set of events even though the incorrect answers can sometimes lead to some engaging scenarios. However, be warned that you will be graded on your performance at the end of each chapter so being smart and paying attention will net you a positive outcome.

Verdict

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story features an enjoyable story with an exceptional cast to help deliver the story of the Shijima family. Issues aside, the core of this tale is worth experiencing and will keep you invested from start to finish. The live-action scenes are often well acted and have the budget of a television series, making this a unique title in several ways.

[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story
Recommended
A fun and engaging story focusing on the Shijima family
Great use of the cast throughout each chapter
Good presentation
Would be a perfect fit as a limited series than a game