I’ve always been a big fan of full-motion video (FMV) and visual novel-type games. I love being able to influence a story based on the kind of choices I’m allowed to make in the game, and watching the story unfold based on those decisions. For some games these decisions lead to massive divergences in the plot, but in others it is just an illusion of choice. It doesn’t matter how much control I have over the narrative—what is most important to me is feeling like I am experiencing the story alongside the characters present in the game. The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story absolutely made me feel like I was right there in the story, solving a grand mystery spanning 100 years.
Originally published on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, and Steam back in 2022 by Square Enix, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is now available on iOS and Android devices, allowing more people the chance to experience the twist and turns of its mystery plot presented through a well-shot, well-acted live-action FMV.
The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story has players follow the story of Haruka Kagami, a popular mystery novelist, as she’s invited to the Shijima family compound by Eiji Shijima, her science advisor, to solve the mystery behind a set of unidentified bones discovered on the family’s property. As she learns more about the Shijima family, she is drawn into various murder mysteries happening around her and throughout the past century—and everything is centered around the illusive Tokijiku-no-kagu-nokonomi, a rare fruit that is rumored to grant eternal life to whoever consumes it.
Every ten years since 1922, there has been a murder involving the Shijima family and their precious Tokijiku—Fruit of Youth. In the year of 2022, Haruka is attempting to discover the link between the past murders over the past century and the current murders happening on the Shijima property. Haruka experiences each story in the past through the point of view of a different person, allowing her to uncover the past and solve each crime while casting familiar faces surrounding her on the Shijima compound as the supporting characters.
Normally I would be wary about the same actors taking the place of different characters, but the actors present in The Centennial Case transform themselves brilliantly into each role they step into. Nanami Sakuraba (Haruka) and Yuta Hiraoka (Eiji) are the two standouts of the game, expertly transforming between their primary characters with skillful nuance. I do not think the story in The Centennial Case would have been as engaging as it is without the two leads being able to effectively sell the different roles they play throughout the game. The supporting cast also does a fantastic job, although a few of the actors do play up their roles here and there to add some levity to the storyline.
As the story unfolds, the mysteries behind the Shijima family and the Tokijiku continue to get more intriguing, but ultimately I found the conclusion of the story to be a bit underwhelming. The build-up felt like the twists would be much bigger than they ultimately were, but that didn’t make discovering those twists less enjoyable.
In order to discover those twists and mysteries, the game takes place in three different phases: the Incident Phase, the Reasoning Phase, and the Solution Phase.
The Incident Phase is where the player experiences the story from Haruka’s point of view and collects clues based on the various events surrounding the murder. This stage is the least involved by the player, although there are dialogue choices that ultimately do not matter or affect the story. While it is important to pay attention during the Incident Phase, there is nothing in this phase that players will miss permanently as the Reasoning Phase will allow them to rewatch everything important in order to build their hypothesis.
The second phase is the Reasoning Phase, which is by far the worst part of this game. Any clues the player did not collect during the Incident Phase are automatically collected in the Reasoning Phase and players are presented with a vertical hexagonal map that has different questions to connect different hexagonal clues to. Each question has a pre-set amount of clues that can be attached to it, and once you attach the correct clues, one or more hypotheses will be formed. Not all of the hypotheses are correct, though, so the player has to be able to discern which ones are useful and which ones aren’t. After forming enough hypotheses, the game will allow the player to create a summary of what the player feels is the most important mystery before being taken into the final phase. Building hypotheses feels unengaging and a little hand-holdy as the game assists you in matching each clue to each question. It can also be a bit drawn out if you read through every detail or watch every animated scene when building hypotheses.
The third and final phase, which is probably the most engaging part of the game, is the Solution Phase where the player must select all of the correct hypotheses and answers in order to determine who the murder is and what their motive entails. Each mystery unfolds in an interesting way as the player tries to make the most logical selections to solve the crimes. If the wrong hypothesis is presented in this phase, the game will play out the scenario in a rather comedic manner and tell you to try again. At this point the game will ask if you would like a hint or allow you to start back from the end of the Reasoning Phase and begin the Solution Phase over.
Each time you fail at deducing the correct hypothesis, you will also lose points, although points don’t really matter much unless you are the type of player who wants a perfect score. I personally enjoyed messing up just to see what humorous result would play out even if it lowered my score.
The Centennial Case features a combination of well-shot live-action scenes that is the quality of a lower budget film or standard television show, although there is a bit of over reliance on using a weird rainbow lens flare effect to draw the attention of the player to a character on screen or some sort of object that is serving as the focal point. By Chapter 2 it was getting distracting for me. The game also utilizes CG animations to present certain hypotheses. These animations are fairly basic and serve their purpose with white mannequin-like models as stand-ins for the victims and murderers.
I played the game on both the iPhone 14 and iPad Air (5th generation), and the performance on both devices was extremely smooth. I never experienced any slowdown, but I did have some audio and subtitle sync issues when transitioning between phases every now and then. The most inconvenient issue about The Centennial Case was downloading each chapter individually. On my iPad, I kept experiencing connection issues when I attempted to download all of the parts at once and it took almost a full day to actually install the game on it. Conversely, downloading each chapter individually as I played on my iPhone led to no issues at all.
The best part of this mobile port is being able to take The Centennial Case anywhere and drop right back into the thick of the plot without having to carry around an additional device like my Nintendo Switch. Usually I play FMV games on my consoles, but being able to pull my phone out during work breaks or while I am out on-the-go made it easier to satiate my desire to see more of the story unfold.
Developer h.a.n.d. and story developer Nemeton, the production company created by director Koichiro Ito, have created an interesting game that is certain to draw in mystery fans and keep them wondering alongside Haruka if the Tokijiku is actually real and what the truth of the Shijima family really is. While the ending is a bit underwhelming, it certainly makes up for it by having an engaging journey across time. Any fan of FMVs and mystery stories should consider checking out The Centennial Case as it is definitely one of the better ones to play out there.
Version Played: iOS
Disclaimer: review code provided the publisher Square Enix.