"Odd, brief and barely interactive, the demo of The Silver Case is hard to judge."
Goichi Suda (AKA Suda51) is a highly-divisive creator with a complicated back-catalogue. After he achieved Western critical acclaim in 2005 with the stylish, mind-bending shooter Killer7, the director shifted his focus to tongue-in-cheek character action with 2007's No More Heroes, before taking a hiatus from the director's chair to oversee the production of several wacky, Grindhouse-esque action games from the staff at his studio, Grasshopper Manufacture. Nowadays, most players likely know Suda from the eccentric and gory Robert Rodriguez-inspired action games he's produced over the past decade (Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw), while far fewer are aware of his past as a prolific creator of Japanese-style graphic adventures, starting with Human Entertainment's Twilight Syndrome (a name that will ring a bell to fans of DanganRonpa 2
). Suda split off from Human to form Grasshopper in 1998, where, alongside writer Masahi Ooka, he set to work on The Silver Case, an ambitious multimedia adventure and his biggest project to date.
In Autumn 1999, ASCII released The Silver Case for Playstation 1 in Japan, however, the game went unlocalized as Suda was completely unknown in the west at the time. Around 2006, a DS remake was announced, but after a few years, Suda stated that the game was just too clunky to release and cancelled the project, though not before teasing fans by live-streaming what appeared to be a completed build of the newly-scrapped game. Things looked bleak for Western fans of Suda, and The Silver Case earned the reputation of a legendary adventure that would never see the light of day in English.
That was, until Spring 2016, when AGM not only announced that they're hard at work on the localization of The Silver Case, but also that the game is set to be digitally released on Steam and Playism sometime this Autumn. Seventeen years after its initial release, English audiences will finally be able to experience Grasshopper's debut first-hand. While we wait, Grasshopper have released a short demo on Steam to entice new players, as well as tide superfans over. I sat down with the demo this week, which covers a fraction of the game's first chapter, Decoyman.
The demo opens with the original Playstation 1 intro, which would be a nice touch, except it's stretched out of proportion and heavily artifacted to the point that any displayed text is virtually illegible. Frankly, it looks terrible, and its two-and-a-half minute duration is unskippable until you've watched it once in its entirety. Fortunately, the game itself has been completely overhauled and looks excellent, with crisp, redrawn graphics and cleaned-up backgrounds. The game's trademark Film Window System is charmingly disorienting, displaying multiple scenes rendered in different styles against a hyperbolic cyberspace-themed background. This visual presentation makes The Silver Case feel unsettlingly voyeuristic, in a good way.
Decoyman opens with a visual novel segment that follows a clandestine meeting between two men, Munakata and Kusabi, at a batting cage in Central Tokyo. Munakata warns Kusabi of his hunch that Kamui, an incarcerated serial killer, is about to commit a heinous act. Sure enough, Kamui does, so Kusabi and his partner Sumio rush to the hospital where the crime occurred. Joining them is the protagonist, an ex-special forces agent named Akira, the lone survivor of a squadron assembled to hunt down Kamui only to be hunted themselves.
The narrative then jumps back to the fateful night Akira's squad was wiped out, and the demo allows us a glimpse of interactivity. Set in a first-person view of a forest, Akira's commanding officer directs you to move in accordance to a radar positioned at the bottom of the screen. Not unlike a dungeon crawler, you turn and move using the arrow-keys, though it's a strictly on-rails affair. Attempt to deviate from your radar even once and you'll find yourself reprimanded and told to focus on your duty. After following instructions long enough, bad stuff goes down and the segment, along with the demo, ends without fanfare.
From start to finish, this demo takes about ten or fifteen minutes to play through, so it's hard to gauge exactly what
The Silver Case is about or how it really plays. One thing that did stick out was the extent of the language's profanity. Almost every other line of dialogue contains an F-bomb. Profanity isn't a bad thing when used effectively, but the amount of curses within this minuscule demo just feel tiresome and diminishes any impact the words may have.
Odd, brief and barely interactive, the demo of The Silver Case is hard to judge. It's unlikely to win over anybody unfamiliar with Suda's work, nor is it a particularly exciting tidbit for those already on board. Despite this, Grasshopper's unearthed debut holds immense promise, but for now, we'll have to wait until the full game is out to see exactly what The Silver Case has to offer.
The Silver Case demo is available now on Steam