Time Waits For No Man
HIGH Captivating performances.
LOW Long, loooong cutscenes.
WTF My save corrupted — on the last level.
The Centennial Case is a murder mystery full-motion video (FMV) game that consists of pre-recorded video sequences to deliver story and gameplay. The atmosphere is thick with intrigue as we try to uncover the mystery behind a century-old murder and how it connects to one family over the succeeding decades — and I loved it.
The Centennial Case’s presentation was something special despite looking like a small-budget TV drama. The sets felt like a character unto themselves by providing us a half-surreal world where the story could have taken place — from the Taisho era of Japan to the stiff noir air of a Showa-era nightclub, to the present with its more muted color palette. The costume designs for each era were also a notable highlight.
We play as Haruka Kagami, a plucky mystery author who’s tasked with investigating the existence of a “Fruit of Youth” at the behest of her friend Eiji Shijima. This investigation leads her into the titular case which consists of a series of murders that are connected to the Shijima clan and the secrets they’ve buried over the years.
The Centennial Case has three phases to the gameplay loop — first is the Incident phase, where the murder occurs and clues are revealed when watching the video cutscenes. Then the Reasoning phase consists of the player assembling a hypothesis through clues gathered while watching extended cutscenes. When enough hypotheses are assembled, the player will use their deductive skills to uncover the true culprit, which then leads into the last phase. The Solution phase acts as a sort of “final confrontation” where your selected hypotheses will be tested against the suspects.
All of this flows together logically, but the Incident phase lacks depth since clues accumulate automatically while viewing cutscenes. It tried my patience, since there isn’t a timeline on the video and some of these cutscenes can run for half an hour — it turns the entire process into an exercise in patience, especially in the later cases when the system had lost its novelty.
The Reasoning phase has more depth since it rewards logical deductions and attentiveness in the previous phase. It also offers the option to reveal a particular mystery’s clues if players are stuck — it’s handy without being too easy because a minimum threshold of hypotheses must be cleared before it’s available.
The Solution phase is the most thrilling, since confrontations here let the dramatic tension erupt. Motivations are revealed, secrets are exposed, and the performances are at their best.
On that note, the narrative is a bit haphazard. The leading duo of Haruka and Eiji are given a lot of attention since they’re solving the mystery while bouncing off each other and the rest of the cast — and their journey is a surprising one — but everyone around them is an archetype, like Kazunaga Shijima (unlikable older brother) or Eiji’s father Ryoei, the needlessly cruel patriarchal figure. Worse, the plot never gets fully resolved — even at the end! — which is a shame because when the final domino falls, nothing really clicks into place, and that robs the conclusion of much-needed grandeur and closure.
In a technical sense, The Centennial Case is problematic on mobile. For the most part it runs smoothly during cutscenes, but there are times when it froze during the Reasoning phase (especially in the last two chapters) and my save file got corrupted and rendered my game unable to be finished, so buyer beware.
The Centennial Case is an engaging FMV murder mystery with a unique vibe, thrilling confrontations, and a main protagonist who I’ll treasure because of her sincerity and undying determination to find the truth. I also felt much for Eiji, whose reserved (yet goofy) presence got me to care about his aspirations. Unfortunately, the lackluster characterizations of side characters and a corrupted save file due to the game’s instability on mobile mean that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it.
Rating: 6 out of 10
— Fumo Chabalala
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by by Square-Enix. It is currently available on Mobile and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Android Nokia 5.4 Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode. The game was not completed (due to a corrupted save.) There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence
Colourblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. (See examples above.)
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. As it is on mobile platforms, players can expect to use their finger to manipulate controls on their hone or tablet’s screen.