The Centenary Case: A Shijima Story, Analysis: ‘Whodunit’ FMV

“Check seven times before questioning a person.” japanese proverb

Almost as old as the video game itself, FMV’s narrative technique, which consists of pre-recorded video files, left us speechless in 1983 when it was used by means of LaserDisc -the grandfather of DVD- in arcades such as Dragon’s Lair and its scenes animated by the genius of Don Bluth – ex of Disney, by the way. A decade later, when systems like the Mega CD introduced the CD as the physical medium for games, FMVs with real actors – and tiny resolutions – began to be seen in home games like the wacky Night Trap. , the disturbing Phantasmagoria or the famous Wing Commander. saga. .

In some cases, FMVs were used as simple narrative resources in the form of cinematics, in others, like a good part of the Mega CD catalog in titles like Power Rangers or Prize Fighting, they were directly part of the gameplay. These days, the cutscenes and graphics are so advanced that “live action” FMVs are hardly used, but there are still games like Her Story or the 2015 NFS reboot that still use them. And the one that concerns us today too.

My neighbors, the Shijima

From the start of the game, the FMV festival begins: A Centenary Case tells the same story, an unsolved centenary case within the powerful Shijima family, whom we get to know from the first hour of play/scenes. The approach is as follows: Haruka Kagami is a young writer of detective novels “Whodunit” -who is the murderer?-, and during the signing of her latest book, a scientist friend arrives, Eiji, who also belongs to the family Shijima, who has a ritual to do.

But a few days before, the Shijimas are in the news because human remains from the last century have been found in the century-old tree they have in their garden. Kagami and his editor are asked by their friend to help them solve a mystery that has plagued the family for over a century, and which even involves the appearance of a mystical object – the same one that drives the entire plot of the Assassin’s saga. Believe by the way.

From there, your job is to deal with Kagami, his questions, his conclusions, and his reasoning, always with Eiji Shijima as your collaborator to help you – although he helps quite little. Of course, plot is the strong point of The Centennial Case, a story that involves the solving of four cases and jumps between the present time and the past – 1922 Taisho period Japan.

Twists and turns in the scenario, clues, constant surprises… The game manages to keep the spectator in suspense in a narrative way, always waiting for the next clue or the next fact in the surprising story of the Shijima family.. The only thing, for those who are not familiar with oriental cinema, is that being a Japanese game, the whole story is written, filmed, edited and acted as if it were a series/movie Japanese, with its own tempo, structure, sensibility, etc., completely opposite to what you usually see in Western movies. So don’t expect it to be Death on the Nile, The Maltese Falcon or Daggers in the Back, nor any chases, epic fights, etc.

Mental space (palace)

A mixture of live action video and playable parts, The Centennial Case is something like the playable translation of the “Mind Palace” that Benedict Cumberbatch exposed in the Sherlock series: after seeing several video scenes, which we can stop , rewind and even ask for hints, begins the playable part, called Deduction Mental Space, in which one moves using a cursor.

This is where our protagonist’s deductions are made, aided by a mental version of his friend Eiji. On this screen, on the left side, we have a grid where there are the mysteries that the plot of the game throws at us, around it are the clues. And above all a ‘reel’ of everything we have seen and with which we can interact. The grace is to combine mysteries and clues to find the solution.

Following a hexagonal pattern, after having placed a mystery piece on the grid with one of the triggers -Grab button-, there are now 6 free spaces around it in which we will insert the clues to make links. You can change the scene in the “reel” of images above and watch the tracks as many times as you want. And even get “divine inspiration” by pressing L2 to have the game guide you a bit to the most correct clue – but it is of temporary use. If you have multiple unsolved mysteries, you can switch between them.

By adjusting the mysteries and clues, you will be able to formulate a starting hypothesis. It is the most important element for the deduction, and therefore for solving every mystery and case. For example, in one of the opening scenes, the protagonist guesses that the mother of one of the characters is actually the stepmother. With this information, we return to the mental space of deduction and we must search for clues in all the scenes we have seen so far, to find out how she knew this. And so on, as the mysteries grow in complexity.

To solve a case, it is necessary to select and present the hypothesis which will be the basis of the deduction. The grace is that you can only choose the hypothesis you created, which may or may not be correct.

Less mental than it looks

During the cutscenes, you don’t just have to watch, because there are things to do: with the left stick you can see the participating characters and a short biography. If you press L3, the image pauses and a written recording of dialogue between the characters appears. Important clues are marked with a button that gives extra points if pressed at the time, and can be checked with the moving video.

Another interactive element is the QTEs to choose answers, although the problem is that the game structure is so corseted that it doesn’t really matter to choose between one answer and another. And here is the main disadvantage of The Centennial Case: that it gives the player much less freedom than it seems.

You may have an idea of ​​the case and want to adapt the clues in a certain way, but the game won’t let you. It’s easy to choose one and no matter how much you move it, it won’t fit in the hex grid: The borders of the mystery token have a series of marks, which must match the marks that the mystery tokens have on their borders. If they don’t match, you won’t be able to place it in that space.

This means that the game guides you and tells you “this track has to go here yes or yeswhich takes a lot of the fun out of feeling like a detective. Too bad, because this feeling acquired through listening to FMV scenes, the way such and such a character speaks, or even his facial and/or bodily gestures, is lost. The gameplay should give the player more freedom, even if everything comes together at the same point.

Another element that ends up turning the playable part into trial and error is that if we make a mistake in a resolution, apart from seeing the character accused of murder die of laughter, it’s because the game will offer us or go back and reformulate the hypothesis, or give us additional clues.

Full Motion, ¿HD or 4K video?

Visually, the scenes are well shot, there are good behind-the-scenes production values, the actors fulfill their roles, and they are able to present you with different performances playing characters from yesterday and today. And one difference between the PlayStation 4 and PS5 versions is that in the On PS4 you have the cutscenes in FullHD 1080p resolution and on PS5 in 4K – with a client weight of over 60 GB.

The only playable section is graphically uninspired, and it features an admittedly unappealing interface, more typical of a virtual Mahjong than the mind of a detective who uses a mental palace type technique.

The music, work of Yuki Hayashi, It’s high-end and mixes traditional Japanese instruments and Western classical music, while putting more electronic tempos in the deduction parts. In itself, as a narrative instrument, it is very immersive, sometimes seeking that touch of “mystery” music as in Agatha Christie’s film adaptations. And the best thing is that you can choose between the voice actors in English, in original Japanese and subtitles and texts in Spanish.


Original, certainly with that ‘fashionable’ touch that a production with FMV scenes with real actors brings in today’s perfectionist graphic reality, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a curiosity halfway between a game puzzle game, a live-action visual novel and a film. It is a pity that the playable part is so restricted and leaves little freedom due to the imposition of the scenario, because certainly the family history of the mysteries and mystical objects of the Shijima is very interesting to follow.


  • The plot, with its ‘plot twist’, time skips and the whole mystery keeps you on your toes
  • A beautiful and effective OST
  • The sensation of feeling like a detective scrutinizing the characters, rewinding the scenes to see their gestures…


  • … Sensation that is lost when we see that the clues must be assembled as the game tells us, not as we wish, so the deductions are simplified.
  • Graphically very little inspired by the playable section of Mental Space



It lives up to expectations of what a good game is, it has quality, and it doesn’t have any serious flaws, although it lacks elements that could have taken it to higher levels.

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