Several years ago I played a game that had the words Grasshopper Manufacture on the case and the name Suda51 in the credits. At the time these words and meant absolutely nothing to me, but later I ended up playing another Grasshopper Manufacture game, not because they were the company that put the game out but because the game looked like something I would enjoy. This is about the time Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 started to have meaning to me and I would research an upcoming game if I saw these names attached to it and started having certain expectations for them like I do with other publishers, such as Bioware and expecting character driven stories where player choices can effect the outcome.
The commonalities of Grasshopper Manufacture/Suda51 games have been twisted humor, extreme levels of violence, and surreal events and storylines, or as a term I have used to affectionately describe these games is general Suda Strangeness. When I become a fan of someone’s work, I can get a little nuts about it, just looking at how many early band demos and early concert bootlegs are in my music collection is testament to that. I enjoy looking at where someone’s creative works began and looking at the evolution of what they do. To me it’s fun to look at how they have grown as artists over the years, but also noticing what elements have been constant.
Having played enough games Suda51 has worked on to call myself fan of his work (though a lot of fans at the Suda51 panel at PAX put me to shame, especially the guy who went so obscure with his question he even stumped Suda) I was excited when I learned The Silver Case was finally going to be available to a western audience. Grasshopper Manufacture was a new company when The Silver Case was developed, and as such had a much smaller team and less resources at their disposal than they have now. Suda came up with using the windows based storytelling format for The Silver Case to best utilize their resources, and unlike the Grasshopper Manufacture games I am used that are very violent and action packed The Silver Case is in a visual novel format with point and click adventure/puzzle solving segments incorporated.
The narrative of The Silver Case begins like that of a police drama. The events take place in a city known as the 24 Wards where some bizarre and heinous murders have been occurring that match those of Kamui Uehara, an infamous serial killer whose victims included major governmental figures who was supposedly killed several years ago. Whether this is a string of copycat crimes or a resurgence of Uehara, the High-degree Murder Division (HMD) of the 24 Wards police department is called on to investigate this. The player takes control of a member of HMD trying to solve these bizarre murders.
A visual novel combined with a point and click adventure is not something I think of when I play one of Suda’s games, but after spending some time with The Silver Case it is obvious that this is a Suda game. During the actual portion of the game when the player is taking control of the character, the control layout is unusual and somewhat experimental, but this was also the case with the fan favorite Killer 7. The dark tone that overshadows the weirdly twisting story feels just as present here as it does in any number of more recent games Suda has worked on, and those of us who love how convoluted these tales can get (if you don’t, why did you click on this?) will not be disappointed with the story presented here. The profanity riddled dialog reads as if Suda was allowed to be a scriptwriter for The Wire, one portion that sticks out in particular is a character who discusses how he feel psychic vibrations within his teeth.
Being that it was originally released in 1999 and the remake is trying to limit the enhancements to being strictly cosmetic, The Silver Case does show its age. The control scheme takes some getting use to, but even that is referenced during some 4th wall breaking instructions. The strength of The Silver Case is its story and presentation. The use of text windows instead of full motion video was largely done to make the best of limited resources, but this technique succeeds at creating atmospheric tension. The use of the still images over the moving backgrounds works incredibly well to push the story forward, which is something I find interesting that since visual novels seem to have been gaining popularity in the past couple years this game that is almost two decades old is perfect example of the visual novel format done right. The Silver Case is very different than most of our favorite Suda51 games like No More Heroes, Killer 7, Lollipop Chainsaw or the upcoming Let it Die, but any fan of Suda’s work should check out The Silver Case. Despite it being a very different experience than his more recent work, it has the signature Suda51 feel to it, and it is a great showcase for his early potential that we see in his more recent works.