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You're Not Paying Enough Attention To Square Enix's New Time-Traveling Detective Game

Although The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story was only shown during the Japanese Nintendo Direct, it's getting a U.S. release too

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There’s one other thing I wanted to ask you about, Kinu Kotomiya...
Gif: Square Enix / Kotaku

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct had a little bit of something for everyone, from Wii Sports jocks to Mario Kart speedsters to Kirby vore fanatics. But that doesn’t mean that something incredible wasn’t missing. In fact, the Japanese Nintendo Direct included something pretty terrific that the version we got didn’t: an announcement trailer for a live-action murder mystery game by Square Enix that looks like a sleeper hit in the making.

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story follows Haruka Kagami, an up-and-coming mystery writer, in her pursuit of the Scarlet Camellia, a secret group or entity that’s taken the lives of four members of the Shijima family over–get this!—the span of a century. The Scarlet Camellia’s motive for their century-spanning persecution of the Shijima family is an elusive McGuffin called the Fruit of Youth, a Shijima family heirloom. To solve the case, the trailer voice-over guy dramatically reveals that Kagami must “transcend time and relive past murders” to unlock the truth behind the killings. Seems simple enough.

“Every story has a mystery, as well as clues to help solve that mystery,” Kagami says in the trailer while walking in an ethereal space in what I can only assume is her detective version of Jujutsu Kaisen’s domain expansion, or Benedict Cumberbatch’s “mind palace” in the BBC’s Sherlock. “In this cognitive space,” she continues, “I fit the mystery and clues together like a puzzle, come up with a hypothesis, and build a connected path of logic.” Word.

Three photos of one of the actresses in The Continental Case playing different characters are lined up in a row, all of them wearing fashionable purple clothes from different eras.
The Multi-Role System is my new favorite murder mystery concept.
Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku
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One neat mechanic allows you to check up on clues and character backgrounds in real-time while watching a surprisingly breathtaking FMV play out. Once a scene concludes, you enter the previously mentioned cognitive space for what’s called the Reasoning Phase, where you’ll shift into Columbo mode and deduce the answer to questions like “What did the killer use in the murder?” Arriving at the wrong answer can lead to a bad end.

To spice things up, the cast members play multiple characters across the game’s different eras including 1922, 1972, and 2022. Someone who plays a mild-mannered character in one era might be the killer in the next, which could work to throw you off the culprit’s trail (making it a clever approach for a mystery game), and also allows the actors to display their range.

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As someone who’s read classic murder mystery stories like Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes and taken a fancy to family-centric detective tales like Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, The Centennial Case tickles my fancy something fierce. Thankfully, although it was only shown off during the Japanese Nintendo Direct, The Centennial Case will be available for American audiences to play as well. I can’t help but imagine the scenario in which someone asks me what I’m playing while I’m on my Switch in the wild and responding with “my stories” while happily brandishing this Netflix-drama-looking game.

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story comes out on May 12 for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.