The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a murder mystery FMV (full-motion video) about a century-old family that eats magic fruit to stay alive forever. If that sounds like a lot, it is. The Centennial Case is a love child made by Koichiro Ito of Metal Gear Solid 5 fame and Junichi Ehara (Babylon’s Fall). Players take control of novelist-turned-amateur-P.I. Haruka Kagami, who has one goal: solving the string of mysterious murders surrounding the Shijima family over the past century.
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Where The Centennial Case succeeds is its story. This is far from the most revolutionary plotline, but it is sufficient at holding the player’s attention. There’s a healthy balance of drama and intrigue that encourages the player to continue. Individual beats are presented well, and the characters are interesting enough for players to form attachments. The twists are surprising at times and even the main antagonist can be viewed sympathetically. That’s all to say that the story is well-written.
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Unfortunately, The Centennial Case is held back by its medium. FMV is a tricky genre because it straddles the line between game and movie. With so much focus put on the video side, The Centennial Case would make an excellent limited series, but as a game, it fails.
There’s no variation between culprits and victims and choices presented during the Incident Phase—a fancy term for the hours of film that play between gameplay segments—don’t matter. Characters respond to either option the same way or decide to do the opposite of the player’s choice. The game invalidates certain clues and hypotheses because of the ground rules it sets in the menus (and later violates those same rules).
To combat the inherent linearity, the game throws no less than 400 red herrings at the player. In the Reasoning Phase, the player pieces together clues to form hypotheses. The clues are hand-fed to the player during the…