Fledgling

Oh, the ever-so-lovable public opinion…

The past week has been a dull display of nothing at all but at least I now have a little four day mini-vacation to enjoy. It could’ve started better, though. I finally waded my way through The Silver Case, and even if it’s probably not appropriate to question the genius of Goichi Suda, his early works sure were remarkably awkward. The game promises to be a stylishly dark, dreamlike serial killer mystery but by the halfway point, everything more or less crumbles into dust. What began as a gripping story slowly and painfully transforms itself into a disappointingly pompous metaphysical hodgepodge that ends up making very little sense even for those paying attention to it. The characters and their interaction, once the most stellar part of the game, are nonchalantly tossed into the maw of chaotic storytelling, and the last few hours are pure abstract.

As well as the bloated story, the rhythm of the game is all over the place. Each location, with its day and time, is always introduced with a little CG animation that lasts about 10-15 seconds. At first this feels like a neat little nuance but since you end up traveling between various locations for hundreds of times, such scenes soon become incredibly aggravating. They’re unskippable, of course. Deliberate, almost impish prolonging of the adventure is evident everywhere else as well. You’re sent running back and forth in staircases, forced to investigate several areas identical with each other, spend time on the world’s tardiest escalators, etc. The game took me about 13 hours to play through but I dare say that with a more honest design, it would’ve been possible to trim up to five hours without negatively affecting the overall experience. Quite the opposite, in fact.

All this is a real shame, as The Silver Case also knows how to be truly excellent. After clearing a chapter as a player, you can then experience the same events from the viewpoint of the journalist Tokio Morishima. Two protagonists, both interested in the same murderer, means that their paths cross multiple times, and their individual story halves complement and deepen each other nicely. I was also smitten by the game’s way of dealing with the internet and its impact on mankind. For a 1999 release, some of its observations are now, 18 years later, delightfully current and pertinent. Also, as I’ve said before, the characters and their dialogue are awesome for a while. Thankfully the ambient, cool instrumental music keeps its charm throughout the game.

Even if I’m inclined to say that The Silver Case is just plain bad on whole, it wouldn’t be the full truth. It’s cumbersome and crude, sure, but it’s also irresistibly uncompromising in a manner that almost feels arrogant. Personally, I’ve come to prefer Suda’s later works, such as Lollipop Chainsaw and the really most dashing Shadows of the Damned, both of which strike a much better balance between his playful anarchy and being games with actual gameplay. Even as a visual novel, The Silver Case feels lacking, but perhaps mostly because the genre has already given birth to so many other perfectly impeccable scions. Maybe this one would’ve been more impressive back in 1999 but as a re-release, it’s mostly just an interesting curio by an interesting designer.