The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story – Review
Follow Genre: FMV, Mystery game
Developer: Square Enix, h.a.n.d. Inc
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, PS5
Tested on: Switch

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story – Review

Site Score
Good: High production quality of the live action footage
Bad: Clunky controls and long load times
User Score
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

If we were to travel back in time one year, and then ask our past selves what we’d expect Square Enix to release in 2022, a high-budget FMV game wouldn’t be anywhere on our list, yet here we are. With The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story, a game developed by Square Enix and h.a.n.d. Inc, we’re getting an intriguing, high-profile take on a genre that is often looked down upon. Just take a look at the trailer and if it piques your interest as much as it did ours, read on to find out our spoiler-free opinion of this murder mystery game.


Arguably the biggest reason why anyone would delve into The Centennial Case is to solve the mysteries that pop up during the story. As such, we’re going to refrain from posting any potential spoilers -and we’re even carefully selecting our screenshots so that they don’t give away any clues. We can lay out the base premise of course, so that you can at least figure out whether or not it piques your interest: our protagonist is Haruka Kagami, a famous and successful writer of detective novels. At a book signing, she’s approached by an old friend, Eiji Shijima, who invites her to his family estate. The invitation goes beyond common courtesy, as Eiji wants Haruka’s help in investigating a series of mysterious deaths that have been occurring at regular intervals over the past century. As Haruka gets stuck in the history of the Shijima household, she’ll discover that there is much more to this family than meets the eye -and that a lot of the skeletons in the family’s closet revolve around a mysterious ‘fruit of youth’.


Talking about ‘graphics’ always feels rather odd when the majority of a game’s visuals consist of live-action footage. Computer-generated graphics are present in the game, but they’re hardly the focus here. In fact, the only parts of the game where game graphics are relevant are during the deduction stages of the game, and even then, they mostly comprise a honeycomb-structured interface where players cooperate with Haruka to connect clues together. As for the live action footage, what you’re getting here is fantastic. We’ve taken a look at various FMV games in the past, but none of them have been as ambitious as what The Centennial Case has to offer.

While most FMV titles have a low-budget feeling to them -just take a look at Night Book, for example- The Centennial Case has an almost cinematic quality to it. In fact, if this footage would have been re-edited as a Netflix series, nobody would have batted an eye. One particularly nice visual touch -which isn’t a spoiler, as you can see it in the trailer- is that when the story travels back in time, the actors from the ‘present’ return in the role of their ancestors. It’s a very common trope to do this, but the in-universe explanation makes sense, as here it’s Haruka seeing these stories play out inside her mind, so it makes sense for her to imagine the characters as their modern-day counterparts.


As this is a Japanese FMV game, with Japanese actors, the audio is in Japanese, of course, but we were surprised to see that there was dubbed English audio available as well. The dubbed version of the game is serviceable, albeit a little overacted, but we vastly preferred the Japanese audio. The downside here is that the subtitles aren’t exactly free of spelling or grammar errors, so neither option is perfect unless you can actually speak Japanese. Even so, we still recommend sticking to Japanese audio as the dubbed version does feel out of sync because mouth movements don’t line up, and emotions aren’t always conveyed in the same manner. The game’s OST is fantastic and matches the production value of the visuals.


As is typically the case with any FMV title, the gameplay is limited by the available footage. The Centennial Case certainly is not different in this regard, although we were a bit disappointed to see that there were no branching pathways (apart from when you get a clue wrong) or multiple endings, which does limit replayability. Titles like Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? or Not For Broadcast have shown that it’s definitely possible to seamlessly implement multiple endings, but doing so is always a difficult exercise. Given that the entirety of The Centennial Case comprises more footage than all the branching storylines of the aforementioned titles combined, we understand the decision to stick to a single, well-written storyline.

The result is a game where you watch live-action story scenes, with the game automatically picking up clues for you. At certain points in the game, the story is interrupted by Haruka and Eiji, and it is up to the player to combine gathered clues to form hypotheses about what transpired. This is done by connecting hexagon-shaped clues on a honeycomb-like grid. As an aide to the player, the hexagon tiles typically have a pattern on them that matches up with adjacent tiles, so figuring out what goes together isn’t all that difficult. It also doesn’t help that reloading the game after getting a clue wrong takes very long. The main issue we had with the hypothesis system though, was that placing hexagons felt very clunky and took some getting used to. The game’s explanation of how the overall hypothesis system works also isn’t very elegant, and it takes some getting used to, but it’s definitely worth pressing on and learning how to master this system just to see the story unfold.

While getting clues wrong doesn’t affect gameplay or even the overall outcome of the game, you do get a lower score at the end of each chapter depending on the number of mistakes you make. It does lead to some genuinely hilarious scenes, where a wrong conclusion sees the other characters treat you like an idiot, to the point where we occasionally deliberately screwed up just to see these scenes before returning to the singular true storyline. Later on in the game, the interactivity is also ramped up a bit as a veritable puzzle section is introduced, and while this shift in gameplay did feel a little forced, it was also a nice diversion from the usual clue connecting gameplay.

There’s also an in-game database that gives a ton of background information on the characters and their relationships, as well as historical information. It all adds up to an impressive package that is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of mystery games in the vein of the Ace Attorney series or Famicom Detective Club, or if you’re simply curious to see what a high budget FMV looks like. It’s also a title that we were happy to have on the Switch, as it kept drawing us in and the portability factor really came in handy, as it meant we could keep playing even during our commute or lunch break. However, if you do decide to get the game on Nintendo’s hybrid, keep in mind that the download size is quite hefty -by Switch norms at least- clocking in at 15GB. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re playing the game on PC or PlayStation, but Switch players might want to upgrade their SD card.


Despite a few flaws, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is probably the best FMV game out there. It certainly is the best one we’ve ever played, and despite the clunky controls and lack of branching endings, it’s definitely a title that we can see ourselves returning to in a year or so, hopefully after a patch to make the interface more streamlined. The high production value and excellent writing make for a highly entertaining watch, even if you’re not the one playing. There is also enough content here to keep you occupied for quite some time. This is an easy recommendation to anyone that loves a murder mystery.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.