The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a game for those who love a good murder mystery.
Published by Square Enix and co-developed by h.a.n.d. (Hokkaido Artists’ Network and Development), The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is an FMV also known as a Full Motion Video game, where the game takes place via pre-recorded scenes.
Released on PC, Playstation 4 & 5, and Nintendo Switch on May 12, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story follows mystery novelist Haruka Kagami who, at the request of her friend, Eiji Shijima, investigates his family. The Shijima family has been the keepers of a magical fruit for 100 years. Once the fruit is eaten, that person is believed to live forever.
The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a fun game if you want something casual. Majority of the time, you can sit back and just watch the clips play to analyse them, but unlike most traditional games, you don’t control the character. When it comes time, you are given choices based on pre-recorded screens.
The story does jump back and forth between the present-day and several different periods in time within the Shijima family over the past century. As the player, you get to experience the inexplicable deaths within the family while in a search to find out the truth. Within these various times, the characters you meet in the present day step in to fill the roles of crucial characters within the time jumps.
A positive that comes with being an FMV game is that you can rewind the clips and rewatch them if you miss something while viewing. This is also an available function while you develop a hypothesis during the Reasoning Phase.
When it comes to looking for clues, the game can make you think while watching the Incident Phase, but when it comes to the making your hypothesis, it takes the guesswork out of it a bit when all that is required is to match symbols between the questions and the multiple clues.
After you’ve gone through all the potential hypotheses, you come to the Solution Phase, where you select an option from all the clues that you would believe best serves to determine will solve the mystery. The options to choose from do very much depend on how many hypotheses you put together.
So in retrospect, the game does sadly hold your hand in some areas. Still, ultimately when it comes to the end of that scenario, to decide your final conclusion, the game doesn’t really provide the crucial details for your resolution, so you will likely get it wrong once or twice.
That is okay, the game lets you review the evidence again (which really isn’t always needed), and you can select one of the other options. Though with each incorrect conclusion, you are deducted points from your final score at the end of the chapter, giving you a lower ranking.
The story itself is excellent, and you can get to learn more about each individual character as you go along and learn the motivations for why the crimes happened. It is definitely a big positive if you are in Japanese mysteries shows, but that is also its fault. The Centennial Case: A Shijimia Story would be better as a short movie or miniseries.
It doesn’t help that when introducing you to the investigation phases (Incident, Reasoning & Solution Phase), the game really doesn’t tell you how the mechanics work. During the Reasoning Phase of the first chapter in my playthrough, I was trying to match the clues with the variety of questions, and none would take until I paid further attention to see pattern markers on the question tiles and the clues. Only then did I start making progress.
The game definitely has its positive points with the story and the acting from the cast, but this misses the mark compared to other FMV games, which is disappointing as it’s directed by Koichiro Ito (Metal Gear Solid V) and produced by Junichi Ehara (NieR: Automata & Babylon’s Fall).
Despite its faults, The Centennial: A Shijima Story is still worth a play. I would recommend playing with friends, so you can all work over the clues and make a group decision on choices for a little extra something.