The Silver Case 2425 Review: Glad to see you’ve always been this way, SUDA51
There aren’t too many people in this world that I would go out of my way to describe as “an enigma,” but Goichi Suda—better known as SUDA51—would probably be one of those few. At least in regard to his approach to video games. Suda, who’s probably best known for his No More Heroes series over here in the West, has always had had a penchant for being incredibly weird in his overall approach to video games. No, that’s not an insult or anything. He totally does that on purpose, and if you know anything about the guy, then I’m sure you know exactly the kind of weirdness that I’m talking about. But have you ever wondered if he’s always been like this? No? Well, that’s fine, because I never asked myself that, either. However, sometimes life goes ahead and answers questions that you never inquired about; and The Silver Case 2425 is definitely an example of that. (Psst, the answer to the question is “yes.”)
‘Round and ‘Round We Go
So, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page, The Silver Case 2425 isn’t technically a “new” game. It’s actually a series duology featuring The Silver Case, and its sequel, The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. The first game, The Silver Case, revolves around the mysterious silent protagonist, codename “Akira,” as he finds himself forcibly roped into the 24th Ward’s Heinous Crime Unit following a tragedy at the hands of escaped serial killer Kamui Uehara. But that’s not all! After being rescued by none other than Akira himself during a certain investigation, a second protagonist by the name of Tokio Morishima soon begins a journey of his own. And, while he may not work for any kind of crime unit, his journey will soon become as heinous (see what I did, there??) as his savior’s.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case takes place five years after the original, and initially centers around the story of Mokutaro Shiroyabu as he begins his work as a member of the Heinous Crimes Unit within the newly established 25th Ward. A supposed utopia on earth, the 25th Ward’s overly pristine peace and prosperity finds itself threatened by whispers of Kamui Uehara’s re-emergence—and it’s once again up to the HCU to, erm, stop that from happening. And, of course, things only get more tangled as the stories of Shinkai Tsuki, Yotaro Osato, and (once again) Tokio Morishima are brought into the fray as well.
If it sounded like I was trying to jam way too much information into those last two paragraphs, don’t worry—I totally was. There’s really no other way to do it, though, unfortunately. I’m not even sure if I could properly explain these games if they each had their own review, but trying to sum both of them up within a single The Silver Case 2425 review is a pretty herculean task. While they may technically fall under the “visual novel” umbrella, both Silver Case titles truly are their own unique thing. They’re wonderful, bizarre, and, at times, a little bit frightening—but the story is always written in such a way that, even if you aren’t quite sure what’s going on, you don’t want to stop pressing forward. If that isn’t the mark of good writing, then I’m not sure what is.
Speaking of good writing, I’ve also got to say that I found it interesting how the stories were divvied up in The Silver Case 2425—especially regarding the first Silver Case. While I, obviously, can’t speak on behalf of anyone, I’m pretty sure that Goichi Suda knew that the main plot (the one following Akira) was at least 50% fever dream. Like, you could follow the basics of each story, but there were always bits and pieces that were warped so you couldn’t quite fit them all together. So, what did he do? Did he change Akira’s story? Nope, he created a second character, Tokio Morishima, who looked, spoke, and felt much more human-like who would quite literally spell out almost everything that happened in each of Akira’s chapters and then some. While I appreciate SUDA51’s artistic approach, the fact that he actually did this (especially all the way back in 1999) was extremely impressive.
Anything but Senseless
I feel like it’s also important to note that, while the overwhelming majority of The Silver Case 2425‘s story is told via the written word, the featured sights and sounds within the game really manage to enhance the overall quality of both games by a considerable amount. The synth-heavy soundtracks found within most games are surprisingly (or perhaps not) very catchy for the most part, and it didn’t take long for me to pick out a few favorites from the bunch. But, of course, even music isn’t safe from the bizarre workings of SUDA51. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about both games’ soundtracks isn’t any one specific song, but, rather, how the songs are used. While most background music is fitting, there are several places in the game where the track choices feel as though they were purposefully chosen to be as discordant as possible with the current scene (the theme that plays in Akira’s always struck me as being particularly uncomfortable). Was this any other game I might complain, but, given how weird both Silver Case games are, this actually fits in pretty well.
Things get even weirder when it comes to visual design choices. To begin, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game purposefully mess with UI as much as The Silver Case 2425 does. The backgrounds are constantly changing, text boxes constantly appear on different (although not wildly so) parts of the screen, and players are even treated to things like chapters that are, for some reason, entirely in black-and-white. Oh, and did I mention the FMV scenes? Because those exist, too. And these are just the more “subtle” parts of the game’s visual direction; there are plenty of weird visuals that are very blatantly thrown at the player, too. Oh, but none of these are complaints—and, no, that wasn’t sarcasm. As nonsensical as the visuals—and, at times, even the audio—can get, The Silver Case 2425 is surprisingly cohesive when everything’s put together. I promise!
Time for Some Investigatin’
I’m not going to pretend that most of The Silver Case 2425 isn’t comprised of you sitting there and reading what’s on-screen, because it is. This is a visual novel, after all. But, surprisingly, there is some player interaction—and, yes, I’m talking about you doing more than just selecting dialogue options. The first Silver Case utilizes a strange, grid-like movement system within parts of each chapter that almost makes you feel like you’re playing a dungeon-crawler, and, while things are a bit more streamlined in The 25th Ward, there’s still an unusually high degree of player interaction as well. While nothing is ever overly involved, actually manipulating a character, even if only a little bit, was strangely refreshing. It got to be monotonous at times, but overall I liked it.
The Silver Case 2425 also occasionally throws puzzles at the player for them to solve. While these are fairly infrequent—you can go entire chapters without solving any—the fact that they’re there at all is, once again, a little strange for a visual novel. Ironically, despite this game’s difficult-to-comprehend story, the first Silver Case actually has a button that you can press that solves every puzzle for you. The 25th Ward, however, doesn’t. Maybe they thought that cheating to solve puzzles ruined the immersion? I’m honestly not sure. Either way, the puzzles are fun and the concept of a “win button” for this kind of thing doesn’t sit too well with me, so I’m all for removing it.
A Real Blast from the Past
The Silver Case 2425 may contain some of SUDA51’s oldest work, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like a fun, fresh, and (appropriately) frightening experience for those who have yet to play it (and even those who already have!). If you haven’t delved into the world of SUDA51 and want to check this game out, just know that you’ll be getting into something wonderful and weird, and that it’s not going to be your fault if you find yourself not understanding everything at first. And if you DO know what SUDA51 is all about… well, then, enjoy!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture; Players: 1; Released: July 6, 2021; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of The Silver Case 2425 given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.