The 25th Ward: The Silver Case comes from the team at Grasshopper Manufacture and was created by Goichi Suda (Suda51) in a collaboration with Genki. It is the sequel to The Silver Case which was Grasshopper’s first game. Visual novels get a bad rap sometimes for being too casual and often referred to as either walking simulators or interactive books as like an insult almost. This is why it can be tough for games of the genre to cement their place in the gaming market. Only the best truly thrive, many receive cult followings and many more fade away.
Originally, this title was released on mobile devices back in 2005 and has now been remade for the current generation, I feel a lot of the gripes I have are that it brings too much with it from being on mobile and being released in ’05. I’m reviewing it on PlayStation 4 and as such have to give my honest opinion on how it feels on this platform and unfortunately I believe the title to not be well suited for the home console.
Gameplay gets stale rather quickly and that’s even with it being a visual novel, I understand in the genre, the majority of your time will be spent reading text and hitting a button for the next sentence. However, in this case, I feel the interactive areas are too few and far between, leading to 15 or sometimes 30 minutes of clicking X before being able to press another button.
The scenes that you can interactive with I feel offer little to do. Talk to other characters which lead to a more text, move to the next area by selecting a path to take and you will automatically go to the next area with an animation on the screen, use one of the items you acquire along the way, and finally ‘look’ will allow you to investigate a little further into a scene. What gets confusing is that there is no true indication of which option to go for and leads to so much trial and error until you hit the right option time and time again, and sometimes what you feel should be a look option instead needs you to talk and vice versa.
It’s a shame about the gameplay because almost everything else is endearing such as the story and dialogue. Set seven years after the first game, there are three stories to jump into which are then split into five episodes which I feel makes this easier to consume if you take your time on an episode by episode basis and work your way through when you can.
At its core, what you do is investigate various occurrences and murders that have taken place. Featuring many twists and strange happenings that keep you asking what’s next and will often leave you thinking, wow that was weird (in a good way). The antagonist from the predecessor makes a return, Kamui Uehara comes back throughout and brings the three scenarios together in a clever way.
The varying interactions between characters makes for an interesting read, with my favourite being between Kuroyanagi and Shiroyabu, the former of which just constantly berates the other. Kuroyanagi is a complete badass who has no time for anyone and I obviously feel like I relate to her, ya know. Okay that was a lie, but still she is awesome all the same.
Visually you are in for a treat, in terms of both the hand-drawn images and the more animated 3D scenes you encounter. Not the most awe-inspiring quality but I feel the charm about the title is its not so polished and clean aesthetics. It goes with what the game is all about, a gritty murder investigation adventure. The sound design is very reminiscent of the old school action titles with dark underlying tones. Fast paced techno beats that instil this sense of urgency and mystery and help with the overall pace in general. I just feel that without much variety it can get samey after a while.
For those looking for an intellectual, interesting and unpredictable story, will be happy here. The gameplay is far too shallow for my liking which everything else doesn’t quite make up for, which is a shame. There is something special here which could be better discovered if the journey itself was fun.
OVERALL: 6.5/10 – AVERAGE
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)