The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is full of engaging mobile mysteries

Instead of streaming a show on your phone or tablet, consider playing this FMV game

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story

I’m not generally interested in mobile ports of console and PC games, but The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a different story.

For one, it was directed by Koichiro Ito (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) and produced by Junichi Ehara (Nier: Automata), which immediately gives it some significant cred. Beyond that, though, the idea of a mystery writer investigating the century-spanning series of murders within the same Japanese family has a lot of potential. Thankfully, Square Enix has largely made the most of that, delivering an engaging experience that translates well to mobile.

Indeed, that was the biggest sell for me for this particular version of the game. As someone who normally doesn’t enjoy playing on a smaller screen, the FMV approach — a focus on minimal gameplay centred around scrubbing through live-action cutscenes — makes this a perfect fit for that format. Really, it’s not unlike watching a Netflix show on an after-work commute, especially thanks to the involvement of cinematographer Yasuhito Tachibana, who’s worked on actual TV series like The Naked Director.

And on the subject of Netflix, The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story often does feel like an above-average original production from the streamer. Of particular note is the fact the game sees the same actors play different characters across the years, and they switch between these roles quite ably. Some of them admittedly turn in decidedly over-the-top performances, especially when they’re revealed as the killer, and it’s unclear whether that’s intentional. If some camp here and there isn’t an issue for you, though, then you’ll certainly be along for the ride. The bigger issue for me was the optional English dub, which features extremely stiff and robotic delivery, which had me quickly switching to the original Japanese audio with subtitles.

The Centennial Case A Shijima Story FMV

Keeping up with the solid production values is the structure of the investigations. The game is broken up into individual “episodes” focused on specific murders in the Shijima family, and each of these is comprised of three parts. The Incident phase lets you see the entire murder unfold, the Reasoning phase tasks you with putting together the clues and coming up with a hypothesis and the Solution challenges you to determine if you’ve nabbed the real killer.

The initial Incident scenes are always interesting because you get to actually see the murder, and these take you to some fun settings, including a regal estate and a 1970s nightclub. The Reasoning phase builds on this by letting you put your observational skills to the test, which is undeniably engrossing, although the actual tile-matching mechanics of organizing clues in a hexagonal grid can feel a bit awkward and clunky at times. Fortunately, this all comes together in a meaningful way in the Solution phase. There’s a real Ace Attorney-style thrill to narrowing in on the killer and making an accusation, only for them to push back and force you to back up your claims.

The Centennial Case A Shijima Story clues

Outside of the works of Sam Barlow (Immortality), we don’t get a lot of FMV games nowadays, making The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story quite noteworthy from the start. But it helps that the game is well-executed, offering a compelling Japanese setting with well-written mysteries that engage you. If you’re planning on watching a movie or TV show on your phone, you might want to consider checking out this game instead.

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is now available on Android and iOS (reviewed) for $24.99. The game is also available on PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch and PC.

Image credit: Square Enix