The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story


Review by · May 27, 2022

I am a sucker for mysteries in my fiction. Whether I am reading a detective novel where a murder took place in an impossibly locked room, watching a Korean drama where any character could be the serial killer, or investigating a penguin murder in a colourful JRPG (shout out to Paper Mario!), I can’t get enough. You could say I am the target audience for The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story, an FMV mystery game by director Koichiro Ito, who also wrote 2008’s 428: Shibuya Scramble (which happens to be an FMV mystery game, too). So I declare with the great authority of a mystery lover that The Centennial Case is a mystery worth solving.

The Centennial Case tells the story of the Shijima family and their connection to numerous murders, and the mystical tokijiku fruit, across 100 years. You view this tale through the lens of Haruka Kagami, a best-selling mystery writer whose scientific consultant, Eiji Shijima — a medical researcher focused on anti-aging — has been called home for his estranged family’s succession ceremony. The Shijima family are the alleged stewards of the tokijiku, a fruit that grants agelessness when eaten. After Eiji learns a skeleton was found buried on their estate, he asks Haruka to join him and help solve the dual mysteries of the skeleton and the tokijiku.

Haruka, her editor Akari, and Eiji soon become embroiled in investigating a murder at the Shijima estate, which can only be solved by examing the Shijima family history. Through manuscripts and stories, you dive into multi-generational murder cases linked to the Shijima family in 1922 and 1972. Haruka imagines the characters of these stories as people she knows in the modern-day, and, in this way, the game skillfully and purposefully reuses actors in each of its three timelines.

A man wearing a panama hat and a kimono stands in the woods in The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story. Text displays his name "Josui Kusaka".
In the modern-day, Yuta Hiraoka plays Eiji Shijima, but in the past he is the enigmatic Josui Kusaka.

Characters are a highlight of The Centennial Case. Haruka and her self-inserts in the past timelines, Yoshino and Iyo, are brilliant, kind, and make for strong mystery solvers. The aloof and jaded detective Josui serves as a foil to the younger Yoshino and Iyo. The various villains are impressively devious and it’s incredibly cathartic to watch them fall apart. It is also fun to see actors portray completely different personalities across timelines.

There is little more I can say about the story of The Centennial Case — it is a mystery game, after all; the twists and turns it takes are much of the point — so what about how it plays? The game transpires across three phases: Investigation, Reasoning, and Solution. During the Investigation Phase, the story plays out in real-time as a television drama. As a drama, The Centennial Case is exceptionally shot, with gorgeous use of saturation, beautiful scenery, skillful camera work, haunting sound design, and impressive acting chops. You can pause, rewind, fast-forward, and open your investigation menu where clues and analysis revealed during these scenes are available for perusal.

There are only a couple of interactive elements during the Investigation Phase. Occasionally you will be prompted to answer a question or choose a direction for Haruka’s thoughts. While these choices might grant some negligible insight, they never seem to directly affect the story. You can also press a button to nab infrequent clues that materialize on the screen before they disappear. Because you spend most of your time in the Investigation Phase with its lack of interaction, you might slip into the passive mode of watching a TV show, but keep in mind that everything you need to solve the case will be on the screen during these scenes.

Following the Investigation Phase, Haruka will retreat to her cognitive space, where she can examine the clues she has discovered and put them together to create hypotheses. This is the Reasoning Phase, where you aim to solve the mysteries discovered during the Investigation Phase. Each mystery is represented by a hexagon surrounded by some empty spaces. You fill these spaces with corresponding clues found in the Investigation Phase. Strangely, every clue you could have nabbed is unlocked here, so it retroactively makes getting them pointless except for trophy hunting.

In the foreground several golden hexagons are filled with text like "Ryohei came to confirm something" and "They lived to serve as test subjects" in The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story. To the left is a board of hexagons with the words "Clues about the harasser?" floating above it. A reel of scenes rests in the background.
This cognitive space is a lot more organized than mine.

When you add a clue, a hypothesis is born and simulated by an animated cutscene explaining said hypothesis. Some of these hypotheses are comical and not the proper deduction (no, the killer did not soap up their sword to make it easier to stab their victim). This amusement helps keep them interesting, but they can drag when a mystery has six possible hypotheses, and no matter how absurd they are, each has its own cutscene. Each hypothesis you create also gives you a sixth of an insight point, which are spent to reveal the appropriate clues for a given mystery. The mystery and clue hexes have matching symbols along their sides that connect, so using insight points feels like a timesaver rather than a particularly useful or required mechanic.

Creating enough hypotheses unlocks further mysteries you can match to your remaining clues. Hopefully, these mysteries eventually lead you to make the proper connections. But if not, a final summary allows you to examine individual hypotheses, which can help you put together the last pieces of the puzzle.

After you finish creating more hypotheses than you could ever need, you move on to The Centennial Case‘s Solution Phase. In this phase, you use your hypotheses to answer prompts and deliver a Sherlock Holmes-esque explanation of how elementary the mysteries of the current case may be. Once you identify the culprit, they will attempt to refute your conclusions. You must tear down their rebuttals to lock down your case and win the day. At the end of a chapter, you are scored and given a rank based on how many attempts each question in the Solution Phase took you. To realize that elusive S-rank you need a perfect score.

Across the latter two phases, issues with the translation hold the game back. Comprehending mysteries and hypotheses can be troublesome with inaccurate tenses or phrasing and make you second guess your answers during the Solution Phase. There are also clever twists that likely made more sense in the original Japanese than they do in the — possibly too literal — English translation. It never felt bad enough to hurt my enjoyment of the game, but I think it is its biggest flaw and could be remedied in a patch or any future titles from the team.

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story screenshot of a red camellia resting on a blurred background with the text "and when they did, they also found a red camellia nearby."
An elusive serial killer who leaves a scarlet camellia at every crime scene. Who could it be?

Speaking of improvements, I would be interested in a hard difficulty where you can fail to create the correct hypotheses. Because each clue only matches one specific mystery, you can brute force things and always have legitimate solutions. It would be infinitely more complex and punishing to allow the player to fail during the Reasoning Phase, but as a mystery aficionado, I would love to be able to. There is also a specific point in The Centennial Case that I do not wish to spoil, but where I feel it fully realizes the potential of the gameplay. I would love to see a complete game that lives up to that potential as I see it.

Overall, I find The Centennial Case a compelling mystery and game. It is a well-done interactive drama. The multi-generational story isn’t just a gimmick, but an inspired choice, and everything comes together in a perfectly satisfying and thoughtful way in the finale. It constantly surprised me with its production values across all fronts (except the disappointing translation) and kept me entertained and asking questions the entire time. I am particularly pleased with the reasoning system as a vessel for solving mysteries in an interactive environment. I will be there on day one for any follow-up games and recommend any mystery fans check out The Centennial Case.

One final note: The Centennial Case has an important epilogue chapter that is a bit obtuse to access. After the credits, the title screen will have a message in the bottom left that displays, “You’ve got mail!” Make sure to navigate to it and select it to play the epilogue.


Exceptional cinematography, a well-crafted mystery that comes together beautifully, an excellent cast, a solid foundation for gameplay systems in future mystery games.


Hypothesis scenes start to drag out, several pointless systems like grabbing clues during scenes and insight points, a spotty translation that can affect the gameplay.

Bottom Line

This multi-generational mystery is one worth solving.

Overall Score 83
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Izzy Parsons

Izzy Parsons

Izzy has been a fan of RPGs since before they were born, so it's no surprise they would end up as a reviews editor for RPGFan. When they aren't playing seven different RPGs at once, Izzy enjoys reading and writing fiction, chatting with their friends, and long walks in nature.