The 25th Ward: The Silver Case Review
Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, The 25th Ward: The Silver Case is a sequel to their premiere title from back in 1999, simply titled The Silver Case. The game is pitched as a visual novel adventure game, though the heavy emphasis should be on the word “novel.” Following the events of the previous game, the newly constructed 25th Ward is the focal point of the story after an odd murder under mysterious circumstances kicks off a winding and twisting narrative. While the title definitely has the usual Suda51 flare, it appears few and far between large spells of reading and listening to the constant tones of each letter scrolling across the screen.
The game opens with a heavy exposition dump to set up what players should expect, setting a stage for something of a mix of Pulp Fiction and Judge Dredd. The population exists across specific districts called wards, major corporations are essentially the law, and everyone seems to belong to a different administrative branch. Members of the HCU – the Heinous Crimes Unit – investigate strange and suspicious crimes with the full authority to “process” anyone labeled a criminal. While it sounds like a set-up for a completely badass story, the game, however, is lost within layers upon layers of text with little of it keeping the same zing as the original Japanese version due to some cringy English translations.
The 25th Ward focuses heavily on being a visual novel, trying to communicate the narrative through extensive dialogue, however, the cast comes off either confusing due to an inconsistency of character or simply two dimensional despite being central to the plot. One character, Kuro, is described as “the Japanese Dirty Harry” because most of her dialogue is undeserved explosions of insults and swear words over nothing. While she does have a few personal demons peek up through the story, these aren’t satisfactorily explored, making her fall flat.
Input for the game is minimal; beyond telling the dialogue to spit out its next sentence, there are small periods of being able to move forward, left, or right, down repetitive, dull paths, and this motion is the only visual the game supplies beyond still pictures. While the graphic artwork is impressive and edgy, the novelty and interest wear off when nothing else is happening on screen. The steady reading is occasionally broken up with puzzles or a mock-pokemon-like battle system which are a welcome break from the heavy dialogue, but I found myself invested in these because they were the only part where I could interact every thirty or forty minutes. The game also attempts to push some boundaries which come off awkward rather than fun. At one point, protagonist “Shiro” encounters seven different assassins he has to defeat. The options for combat are cheeky and have the expected Suda51 humor, however, the one and only female assassin is defeated without careful action selection, but rather a single move in which Shiro gets horny, jumps her, and… well… the description on screen tells me it was a less than consensual experience but I should somehow believe it was okay, not to mention the fact Shiro is supposed to be a meek, young, naive cop who only wants to do good things. If this is an attempt at character development it falls flat badly.
“The game also attempts to push some boundaries which come off awkward rather than fun.”
The 25th Ward is also loaded with pop-culture references ranging from movies to pro-wrestling, to other video games including Phoenix Wright and Hitman, to name a few. These beats offer a much-needed break of levity for the game and give the player a sarcastic eye roll and a smile because of the obvious jab, but it’s still entertaining. When it comes to the overall story, however, it feels disjointed and dry. There is something missing that truly makes the game feel incomplete, but it might just be the hours of hitting X just to read the next line of narrative.
The 25th Ward: The Silver Case has all the makings of a classic, stylish Suda51 game that unfortunately is flat for Western audiences. While visual novels can be fantastic experiences, this one doesn’t hit the mark for being a novel or a video game. With unimaginative text and no audible dialogue, a game like this ought to rely on striking visuals to keep the player interested. Instead, we are treated to still images that change every few minutes and the occasional puzzle or mini-game to try and keep our attention. While the plot and the world the story is set in are interesting and the overall game screams of potential, the final product felt like a slog through a swamp of letters with occasional spikes in interest.
***PS4 code provided by the publisher***
- Stylish Manga-esque Visuals
- Great Setting/World
- Quirky Humor
- Flat/ Inconsistent Characters
- Minimal Interaction
- Extremely Text Heavy
- Cringy Dialogue