The 25th Ward: The Silver Case

released on Mar 13, 2018

A remaster of Silver Jiken: 25-ku

The remaster of The Silver Case sequel, originally released on mobile devices, that was known as "Silver Jiken: 25-Ku" in Japan or "The Silver Case: Ward 25" in English. This is the first time the game has been released outside of Japan.


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Peak fiction. Sumio mondo is so me-coded. I should've played Flower Sun and Rain before this, though. Oh well...

I don't really get it, but I'll pretend I do and forget about this place for the moment.

ENG:

This is a weird game. More so than the first one, which was an already weird game. I’m conflicted on how I should feel about it. In its best moments, The 25th Ward is excellent, but in its worst ones its horrible. In comparison to the previous game, this one does a better effort in involving the player in its world, filling it with puzzles and exploration sequences, but its mechanics end up hurting the game a lot. At least the way they’re laid out. The puzzles are just guessing codes or riddles that most of the time can be guessed by reading what other characters say, their thoughts or by simply paying attention to the environment. Puzzles that are solved in a matter of seconds or a few minutes if you’re slow like me. What they really are is an obstacle in the way. Beyond how their existence is justified in-universe, these puzzles don’t make for a real challenge and just get in the way in the most unnatural manner possible. As if they’re there because they need to be. To justify being a videogame.

Also, the information you’re given for puzzles is better to write down somewhere to not forget it. In my case, I wrote it down in handy piece of paper. Even though as an idea it is kinda cool, the execution is a failure. There’s only one moment in the whole game where it takes advantage of this approach, where you come back to the building from the beginning to find someone, and for that, you need to ask door by door to get indications. Unironically, this moment made me feel as an investigator in a way that games like L.A. Noire can just wish, putting together pieces and info to know where to go yourself, instead of the game doing the thinking for you. But even then, the game fucks up as the place I needed to go did not correlate to the info I had so instead I had to resort to external help (a walkthrough) to know where it was. A shame that it didn’t work out well.

On the other hand, there are the exploration sections which are by far the worst part of the game. Moments where the game kindly asks you to spend 15 minutes or more walking around aimlessly. Special mention to this moment in Correctness Chapter 4, where you need to, if my calculations are correct, ASK DOOR BY DOOR ON 280 APARTMENTS WITH NO CLUE TO WHERE TO GO. What comes out of this is that the game has like an hour or more of insubstantial filler. And talking about substance; The story. It’s not that I didn’t like it (in fact, it’s the best thing of the game), but I do still have a couple of complaints. To begin with, you spend more than half of the game without clearly knowing what the main conflict is, and I have the feeling that, until reaching a certain turning point for one of the characters, the game repeats itself without adding much. Sure, the plot might advance, but not in a substantial way. A lot of stuff happens in between, but I always had the sentiment that this was going nowhere, that everything happened with no direction whatsoever. I was even about to drop it at one point because I wasn’t motivated to continue, and if the game went down like that, I would have been immensely disappointed, but as I said, there’s a moment where it picks up the pace. Ten hours in, more or less. I may have been too forgiving now that I think of it.

Before it reaches that point, there doesn’t even seem to be a central theme or even a conflict for that matter. It is eccentric, in that it has no center. And later on, you get introduced to an antagonist that practically came out of nowhere (although iirc he appeared very briefly at the start) when the second half starts and it’s then when the game truly begins, making everything previous to this moment feel like the prelude to what was to come. It seems like the first chapters are almost unconnected sequences of bizarre things happening that don’t seem to relate at all or even go somewhere, and it tackles a lot of themes and ideas but doesn’t explore any of them deeply. When the second half kicks in, which is another ten hours more added to the timer, it picks up the pace and becomes more understandable what it’s really about. I won’t explain what it is because I find it kind of beautiful to discover it by oneself. But still, the game has more annoying vagueness than well-handled subtlety, so it can become irritating. I personally like the way it handles the whole Placebo arc, probably my favorite part of the game, and Correctness, while it starts slow and gets really convoluted, it does have some interesting moments, specially nearing the end. Matchmaker is the least interesting of the whole, but it still has its moments, although I find its writing to be unapologetically edgy at moments.

What I leave with is with the last fourth, which reaches quality levels on the narrative equal to the previous game, but of all the previous stuff is rather uninteresting at moments. It has good ideas and not few instances to remember, but in the meantime it doesn’t add substance continuously and becomes redundant more than it should, plus the badly-executed mechanics end up as insufferable tedium rather than a meaningful addition due to the game not handling them properly. Before playing it, I thought this one would impact me more that The Silver Case, and in the end it became almost disappointing. It’s the last 5 or 6 hours which save it for me. I might be giving the impression that I didn’t like it, but I still do have a positive view on it, I just don’t think it’s that great.

ESP:

Este es un juego muy raro. Más incluso que el anterior, que ya era bastante raruno. Me tiene en un conflicto conmigo mismo, y no sé bien qué sentir sobre él. The 25th Ward es un juego que en sus mejores momentos es excelente, pero en sus peores momentos es horrible. En comparación al juego anterior, este hace mayores esfuerzos por tener al jugador más inmerso en su mundo, llenándolo todo de puzles y momentos de exploración. Pero le sobra la jugabilidad. Al menos tal y como están planteadas sus mecánicas. Los puzles se resumen en adivinar claves o acertijos que las más de las veces se pueden deducir tan solo leyendo lo que otros personajes dicen, lo que alguno piense o prestando atención a algo del entorno. Puzles que se resuelven en cuestión de segundos o unos pocos minutos si apuras. En pocas palabras, una molestia en medio del camino. Más allá de como de justificada sea su existencia en el mundo, los puzles no plantean ningún reto real y sólo entorpecen el camino de manera que a la larga no se siente natural. Como que están ahí porque tienen que estar. Para justificar el ser un videojuego.

Además, para los puzles, se te suele dar información que es recomendable apuntar en algún sitio para no perderla. En mi caso, lo fui apuntando todo en un papel que tenía a mano. Aunque como planteamiento está muy guay, en la ejecución es un fracaso. Solo hay un momento en todo el juego en el que se le saca provecho, donde hay que volver al edificio del principio para buscar a una persona y para ello hay que preguntar puerta a puerta y buscar indicaciones. No irónicamente, este momento me hizo sentirme como un detective de un modo que juegos como L.A. Noire tan solo puede soñar, uniendo piezas e información para saber a dónde ir en vez de que el juego piense por ti. Y aún así, el juego la caga, porque donde tenía que ir no se correspondía con la información que tenía y tuve que recurrir a fuentes externas (un walkthrough) para saber qué sitio era. Una lástima de sistema mal llevado.

Por otra parte están estas secciones de exploración que son, con diferencia, lo peor del juego. Momentos en los que el juego cariñosamente te pide que te tires de 15 minutos para arriba dando vueltas sin saber qué hacer. Mención especial a este momento en el capítulo 4 de Correctness, donde hay que estar dando vueltas a, si mis cálculos son correctos, 280 APARTAMENTOS PREGUNTANDO PUERTA POR PUERTA SIN NINGUNA PISTA DE ADONDE IR. El resultado de esto es que el juego tenga como una hora o más de relleno insustancial. Y hablando de sustancia; La historia. No es que me haya parecido mala (de hecho es lo mejor de todo el juego), pero si que tengo unas pocas quejas al respecto. Para empezar, te pasas más de medio juego sin siquiera saber de manera clara cuál es el conflicto principal, y me da la impresión de que, hasta llegado cierto punto de inflexión de un personaje, el juego se dedica a redundar sobre sí mismo. Puede que avanzando la trama, sí, pero no de manera sustancial. Pasan mil movidas entre medias, pero estaba todo el rato con el sentimiento de que no estaba yendo a ninguna parte, de que todo lo que estaba pasando, pasaba pero no iba en ninguna dirección. Incluso estuve a punto de simplemente dejarlo porque no me motivaba, y si hubiese seguido por ahí, me hubiese llevado una decepción enorme, aunque como digo, llega un punto en el que las cosas empiezan a pillar ritmo. Más o menos diez horas después de empezar. Quizás fui demasiado tolerante ahora que lo pienso.

Hasta llegado dicho punto, ni siquiera parece que haya un tema central o un conflicto ni que sea. Se siente excéntrico, en el sentido de que no tiene centro. Y encima te lanzan un antagonista salido prácticamente de la nada (aunque si no me equivoco apareció un momento muy breve al principio) al empezar la segunda mitad y es ahí cuando empieza de verdad, haciendo que todo lo previo se sienta como una antesala de lo que estaba por venir. Parece que los primeros capítulos son secuencias casi inconexas de cosas bizarras que ocurren pero que no van a ninguna parte ni se relacionan entre sí, y toca mil temas pero no ahonda en ninguno solo. Aunque llegada la segunda mitad, que es otras diez horas más de duración añadida, coge el ritmo y se empieza a hacer más entendible de lo que va realmente. No lo voy a desvelar ya que lo encuentro bonito de algún modo el descubrirlo por uno mismo. Sin embargo, en el juego hay más vaguedad molesta que sutileza bien llevada, con lo que se llega a hacer bastante pesado. Me gusta especialmente la manera en la que se lleva todo el arco de Placebo, seguramente mi parte favorita del juego, y Correctness, aunque empieza lento y se complica demasiado, tiene algunos puntos interesantes, más todavía llegando al final. Matchmaker es la parte que más me sobra, pero aún así tiene su algo que lo hace un poco interesante, pese a que su guión me parece descaradamente edgy.

Con lo que me quedo es con todo el último cuarto, que alcanza cotas de calidad en cuanto a narrativa similar al juego anterior, pero de todo lo anterior me sobra mucho por momentos. Tiene buenas ideas y no pocos momentos para el recuerdo, pero por el camino no sabe añadir sustancia de manera continua y cae en la redundancia más de lo que debería, además de que las mecánicas mal ejecutadas acaban resultando en un tedio insufrible más que un añadido significativo debido a que no sabe usarlas a su favor. En su momento pensé que este me acabaría impresionando más que The Silver Case, y al final el resultado ha sido uno casi decepcionante, y son sus últimas 5 o 6 horas lo que lo salvan para mi. Puedo estar dando la impresión de que no me ha gustado, pero aún así lo miro de manera positiva, es solo que no creo que sea tan bueno.

3 - But this is semantics, and we know Kill the Past and love it for its obtusities and abstract narratives and style as substance, and that’s all great and really strikes me in a deep place as always. The vibes are immaculate here, the music is fantastic, the art is mostly great - I feel bad that Matchmaker just didn’t do it for me, partially because of the art, but other people really like it so Idk maybe I’m just wrong for preferring Correctness. And I mentioned the UI already, unfortunately doing it a disservice by complaining about the substance IN the UI, but the visual style itself is so so good. I got chills getting the Catherine SFX for the first time, the “dice” you spin to select actions RULE and I’m surprised I’ve never seen that kind of thing used elsewhere. I really like the Killer7 movement commands, selecting fragmented polygons to pick a direction. I especially love the little polygon at the bottom right, that turns into stuff sometimes - which has a really great payoff when investigating the Digital Man.

1 - I’m surprised that 25W has such higher ratings than TSC and even FSR, when I don’t see it as having a stronger thesis or atmosphere than either of those games, let alone mechanical presentation or visual stylisation. It certainly feels like a culmination of all three, but only taking bits and pieces as it sees fit, instead of combining them all into one big thing. The puzzles, for example, give you a Catherine UI, but the answers are mostly numbers or keywords you have to memorize from earlier dialogue instead of a visual/narrative problem you have to solve. It’s fascinating, and does a great job continuing some of the criminal justice themes, but doesn’t seem to expand on them ENOUGH past the really cool core conceit of the post office being corrupt because they know everyone’s information, and the continuation of the “police force” being constructed out of essentially “ex-criminals” that were given work because they’re good at killing, and are hypocritically trying to stop a faction that kills people for literally just for being a “societal inconvenience.”
I'm confused because people seem to dislike the Kurumizawa plot, and call Correctness "the most confusing," but to me it feels like the most in-line with what TSC was doing. It appropriately portrays a corrupt cop becoming more corrupt and being allowed to act in morally repugnant ways as the plot thickens around the HC unit and the postal service.

2 - The options you’re presented in regular gameplay allude to “player choice” but are really just a stylised mask for a linear narrative that requires you to switch between “Look” and “Talk” and sometimes move down hallways before repeating the former commands. This is opposed to FSR’s traversal system, that’s still linear but gives you some wiggle room to explore outside of repeating corridors. I don’t dislike it, it is it’s own thing, and in fact I really love the UI, but it often feels like it’s grasping at straws to make a moment feel more interactive than it is - or should be.

There are quite a few bits where the actions you choose don’t really correlate to the things that happen in the text boxes, and are just a glorified “continue” button for the dialogue. I don’t mind this, it happens in TSC too, but it does get a little aggravating when it feels like the actions are just filler, like selecting a “wait around” button where the only dialogue you get is unrelated to anything else that’s happening, and you have to continue selecting that action until the game lets you move on and do the thing in the same room that you know you have to do next.
This happens several times across multiple characters, but take a moment with Tokio and Red for example.
You log onto your PC to check messages, get one that seems to allude to an immediate follow-up, check again, nothing, so you log out, Talk to Red, Tokio says “I should feed Red,” Talk to Red, Tokio looks for food, Talk to Red, no follow-up on the food, just an ellipses. Select Look at Cigarettes, Tokio remarks that the packaging is different but doesn’t smoke them, Talk to Red again, nothing, so you log back into the PC and get another message that continues the narrative from the last one.
This is the required sequence of inputs to continue the story, and you have to determine this by just selecting every available option until you get new text. We already know Tokio and Red, there isn’t character development happening, I’m hard-pressed to even pretend to see a point in including so many moments like this across all three stories. In other KTP games, the tedium is acknowledged in the narrative and often has a point. Read; Sumio’s time loop frustration in FSR, Tokio being aloof and unstructured and dawdling around aimlessly before being hit with a lifechanging case in Placebo, the entirety of NMH’s economical system. Here, it doesn’t do anything but establish that time is passing for the character, and us the player, except there are several moments where it just opts to say “time has passed” with a popup, and it flows so much better when we’re not fumbling around trying to figure out what to do to progress a filler moment and get back to the case.

Shiroyabu is so relatable, I would also get horny when confronted with a strong woman tasked to kill me