ADD Gamers – Game Review
By: Luke Harris
Game: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Letter Grade: A-
+ Incredible writing.
+ Excellent characters and development.
+ Funny, suspenseful, and sad appropriately.
+ Save the game ANYTIME.
+ Detective work at its best.
+/- Episode 5
- That retarded judge.
- No voices.
- Stale animations.
- Little actual game play.
- Uninspired ending.
A port from a Japanese GBA game, Phoenix Wright is a game where you play a young defense attorney, Phoenix Wright, and try and keep your defendant from being sent to the brig. This may sound boring, but the game itself has so much to it, it’s hard to stop playing. Clocking in at around 45 hours of game play, this is not a game you can simply pick up and put down in a week. Unless you have no real friends. Or life. Or if you don’t eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, shower, or go to that job you did to get the money you used to buy the game with.
The majority of the game is actually spent reading dialogue, usually presented in the first person perspective, and acting accordingly to what they or you are saying. Now this may sound boring, but only a little bit. The writing itself isn’t a direct Japanese translation. In fact, some of the writing feels like it should have come straight out of a Sherlock Holms novel. One character even speaks in 1337. The cases are very long and in-depth. As are the characters. By the end of the game, you’ll be able to shout character’s first and last names, their nickname, age, and occupation. And they each have a completely unique back story and personality, so you’re never just looking at stale, cardboard characters…unless you’re talking about repetitive character animations. You’ll get used to them and memorize them quite quickly. And it’s very unfortunate that no words are spoken in the game, aside for “Objection” “Hold it” and “Take that”. On the plus side, the microphone recognizes your voice when you yell these into the microphone. Who needs a stylus?!
There are three basic game play paths. Reading, examining, or cross-examining. Reading is divided up into each of the other two categories and is basically getting information, giving information, learning vital clues, and all that stuff. Examining is the longest and most detective-like part of the game. You’ll ask questions to suspects, examine crime scenes with tools, pick up clues, present people with records, and a few other things. This can take a while to do, because there isn’t just one place you can go. You can go to your office, Site A, Site B, or Site C, but each of those sites may branch out to Site A1, and A2, then one of THOSE might branch out to Site A1a. So you’re never crammed into a small area looking for tiny observations. Sometimes this means you’ll do frequent backtracking, but there’s no load time and no animation you have to sit through. Just point and click.
The actual court part of the game is where things heat up. This is where you have to “press” people to get more info on the information they gave you. Or you can “present” evidence that (usually) contradicts that statement. If you present too many false evidences though, you’re penalized and you lose a “!”. Run out of those, and it’s game over. This is where most of the information is revealed. And given you just spent 3 hours gathering evidence from people and places, what the suspect may be saying is not always true. (Thank god you can save anywhere at any time in the game you want.) It’s your job to show the judge that. Oh boy…that judge.
The judge in question is probably the most non-believable thing in the game. And this game has a few far-out things in it. I’ve been to court a few times, I’ve served jury duty, I know what judges are like. This guy is either retarded or more noobish than Phoenix himself. He has no free thought at all, and is easily manipulated by several of the suspects and the prosecutors. Everyone but the people on your side, really.
What makes the game obvious that it was a GBA game was the fact that after you beat Episode 4, the game “ends”. Credits roll, one of the main characters leave, and everything’s good and dandy. Then they add a new episode, #5. This episode was made fresh and new for the DS. Whereas the first 4 episodes were entirely practical and simply for the GBA, this episode uses the full potential of the DS. You MUST use the stylus, you MUST use the microphone, and very, very often. Not only does this use the DS more, but it uses more of the actual game. Coming in at 15 hours, episode 5 is definitely the longest episode, with new characters, fully cell-shaded animations, and a ton of new uses for the DS. The only downside to this is that it’s much, much harder. You must examine the crime scenes VERY carefully. I mean, you miss less than a millimeter of the screen and you could miss a vital piece of evidence. You must present a piece of evidence to exactly the right person or it could end the game right then and there. The suspects leave little to no traces of a contradiction in their testimony, so it takes several swings and misses to get it right. Episode 5 alone could have been the game itself, but it’d probably be too much for the casual gamer.
The only thing I have a major complaint with is the games’ dual ending. The first ending is at the finale of episode 4. It’s not a bad ending. It leaves it open for a sequel, and it’s pleasantly tolerable. The ending for episode 5 seemed as if it was written in oh…30 seconds. I can see it now. The writers are sitting at a desk…
“The trial’s over, now whoever writes the best ending within the next minute gets a cookie!” So the ending is basically some talking, the characters say see you later, the credits roll, and that’s it. No hint for another game, no killing off of other characters, nothing really to make you want to hit up Phoenix again. Which is a darn shame, because this was an EXCELLENT game experience for me, and I’m very glad that there’s a second one on the horizon…