“You see, this is a Suda51 game, and 'obtuse', 'irritating', 'painfully slow' and 'hard-to-follow' are kinda his thing.”
-I don’t understand why you’d describe Suda51 games in this way if you admittedly...haven’t played them? Some of them certainly have some pain points but no more than other cult hits. I also find it weird that the reviewer describes them later on as compelling stories you have to deal with ‘nonsense’ to get to, as if they aren’t whole packages where the narrative choices are influencing the story and vice versa.
“The Silver Case is, at its heart, a murder mystery investigation, which may entice fans of Ace Attorney or Danganronpa, except that The Silver Case shares almost no other DNA with them”
Wrong, super wrong. There’s a whole Twilight Syndrome callout (one of the games Suda worked on at Human Entertainment before going independent) in Danganronpa, and there’s definitely a clear influence and exchange of ideas going on in places between Grasshopper and Spike Chunsoft.
“The interface is weird, artistic, abstract, and distracting; shapes cascade across the screen, the text and the speaker portraits jump around seemingly at random, and the actual visuals are relegated to a small window. It's kind of cool, sometimes, but most of the time it's visual clutter that only serves to give you a headache. In fact, that's what it reminded us most of: an ocular migraine.”
-The character speaking is indicated with an (admittedly sometimes hard to see) square highlight. This is apparent from the beginning of the game. It’s really...not that hard to tell who’s talking and when.
Other than that comparing the visuals, which are pure y2k-flavored and Serial Experiments Lain-esque to an ‘ocular migraine’...come on. That’s just histrionics. They’re no more distracting or cluttered than your average MMO screen and much of it is flavor. They happen in the background, underneath every other element.
“To cut to the chase: large swathes of The Silver Case are tedious, lengthy, and feel more than anything like busy work. You're usually either reading through poorly-written or poorly-translated (or both) dialogue, which often veers off into pseudo-philosophical diatribes or entirely irrelevant, occasionally sexist rants, or you're stuck knocking on every single door in an apartment complex until the game decides that you've wasted enough time and now you get to see the rest of the story”
-Reading...did you say ‘reading through’? Yes, that’s typically what you do in a visual novel, reading.
YMMV on the writing, obviously, but I will say I find it bizarre as to how anyone would characterize most of the dialogue as ‘irrelevant’. I will note that while I can understand people not used to Suda’s writing style bristling at the way he writes characters, whom are normally not super well realized but are more like symbols that drive the plot forward (with a few exceptions), Ooka’s writing in Placebo was some of the best writing I’ve ever seen in a VN and really balanced out the brusqueness of the Transmitter chapters.
Also the part being referenced here with the apartment complex- this is a part of the game during which you’re interrogating/interviewing people about a suicide that happened at said complex, so why it’s being characterized as time-wasting rather than relevant to the chapter is beyond me. It is completely plot relevant and takes maybe less than ten minutes.
“It doesn't help that the interface is bonkers, too. Moving and interacting are done by selecting separate inputs, which means you're constantly going back and forth from menu to menu to get things done. Occasionally, the game will expect you to know that you're supposed to do something specific, like looking up or talking to a specific character while facing a specific way, without ever telling you that. You can get stuck for AGES in a scene because of this.”
Okay, seriously, what are you talking about?
You have a shortcut button for moving and interacting on both controllers and keyboards. You never have to manually toggle and switch between the menus if you use this button. The moving is also just standard four-way dungeon crawling with looking up and down. There are also obvious symbols on each square where you need to interact with something. There’s only a limited amount of directions you can turn, or look.
The one instance in which I’ve seen people get stuck is when they have to look at someone in the upper floor of a complex, and if you do get lost, a character eventually tells you exactly where to look.
Also it should be mentioned- these instructions are all painstakingly explained to you like, five minutes into the game. I’d even say they hold your hand a little too much.
“The story is occasionally interesting behind these layers of obfuscation, but it's hard to tell. There are so many characters, all of whom love swearing and going off on tangents; the actual intrigue with all the twists, reveals, and secrets is often relegated to the most boring way of portraying it possible, like someone uninterestedly recapping a huge plot twist via email, or a character dying suddenly, and everyone in the room acting a bit annoyed that it happened. It's remarkable how The Silver Case manages to turn something horrifically dark and intriguing — a serial killer whose crimes are so messed up that they put you into a catatonic state — and turn it into something more closely resembling paperwork with the world's most jaded and unimpressed detectives.”
-Yes, almost like it’s trying to demonstrate a narrative theme or design decision of some kind by having characters whose line of work has made them so morally fucked that they react in this way to horrific murders. Like I’m really...trying hard not to be cynical and mean. But this is not a story that spoonfeeds itself to you. Once the serial killer is revealed to be a red herring that’s a hint that things aren’t exactly what they seem. Maybe it's not for you, but it would have been like...helpful to consider the kind of environment that birthed these story themes and think about why they're being told in this way. Characterizing them as just random, edgy choices Suda makes really, really does his work a disservice.
“But one of the most egregious things that this game does is that you can't actually save the game for most of it. At least, as far as we can tell, and we tried our darnedest to figure it out — it seems like you can only save in the sections where you have the interactive menu available, which is about once every 30 minutes at least.”
You can literally save the game more often than you can’t. At the end of each chapter, but also, every time you’re able to use the menu, as you say.
There’s literally a dedicated save button that comes up in the menu as soon as you’re in control of your character! Also this 30 minutes proclamation- TOTAL bullshit. Aside from lengthier dialogue scenes, you are able to bring up that menu probably once every five minutes.
“When you trudge your way through The Silver Case and get to The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, the 2005 sequel that makes up the second part of The Silver Case 2425, you would be forgiven for thinking that the intervening six years might have polished off the rough edges.”
-You have to remember that the original game looked like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwX4lE2sCS0
“Moving and interacting is now done by selecting a face on a four-sided die, for some reason, and the same busywork is present here, too. Scenes go on for ages, or end abruptly, and you're often expected to figure out what to do next by endless, repetitive trial-and-error. This would be bad enough, but the interface is so fiddly and hard to use: it's like trying to write a letter with Scrabble tiles and forks for hands — unnecessarily difficult and pointlessly abstract.”
-Okay seriously, what? Did we play the same game?
I truly don’t understand the UI complaints here. It’s minimalistic, clearly labeled, and cool as hell. You rotate your joystick and select, like you would with a regular menu. When you move, you move automatically (and can speed up your movement speed) until you get to an intersection. Where is...the fiddliness here? It’s clean and straightforward.
“To sum up, we just did not enjoy a single second with either of The Silver Case's games. There were points where we accidentally lost a ton of progress because the episode-select screen was so confusing;”
-It literally...directs you to the next chapter in the list automatically, at the end of each chapter.
“In the case of anyone new to Suda's work, this visual novel is just too hard to recommend.”
-It really isn’t. It honestly sounds like you didn't learn some very simple controls and as a result it sort of spoiled your whole experience. Maybe the story wasn't for you. Sure, that's understandable- acquired taste, as you mention. But a lot of these technical nitpicks make absolutely zero sense. Like, not even in a subjective fashion. I mean, they literally are misinformation.