Monday, May 19, 2008

Review: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney (2005)
Developer: Capcom Co., Ltd.
Platform: Nintendo DS
Purchase Date: 2005

Death by Samurai.

Recently, I have a tremendous craving for adventure games. This is probably prompted by my current obsession with playing action role playing games - killing things repeatedly for items and level grinding made me long for a more cerebral video gaming experience. I played through Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney half way through when I first picked it up. When I started playing it again, it was definitely the perfect game to play between my RPG grind sessions.

Phoenix Wright vs. Legendary Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth.

Phoenix Wright is a defense attorney. A goofy one too. Still, he has a good heart and a strong commitment to justice. Playing as him is fun because he is very likable. The game starts off with Phoenix's first case and throughout the game, you get to see his transformation from rookie attorney to a semi-confident professional. The game is text heavy and it switches between exploration and courtroom scenes. Using the classic point of click interface, greatly implemented on the touch screen, you guide Phoenix through many different backdrops and text options. The graphics are your standard 2D but the artwork is very charming. There are some 3D elements that players can mess around with later in the game when analyzing physical evidence. The characters are well-design and they all animate pretty well and have varying facial expressions. I love the catchy music in the game. Most of the characters have their own individual theme and in the courtroom, the music changes around based on Phoenix's performance.

Look very carefully for your precious clues.

The majority of the gameplay involves having Phoenix talk to witnesses, examine crime scenes, and participate in trials. Once enough evidences are retrieved from your investigation, the trial commences. The trials are really about finding contradictions in witnesses' testimonies. Phoenix can "press" the witnesses to make them elaborate their mostly misleading statements and raise an "objection" to expose contradictions. These actions can optionally be accomplished by screaming "Hold It!" or "Objection!" into the DS mic. This flow works for the most part but becomes problematic when players are already way ahead of the trials themselves. Often times, I was ready to point out the truth to the whole scenario but then I still had to deal with the little things that needed to be proven first to proceed in the game. The game requires players to really pay attention to what is said by witnesses because some of the contradictions are very, very tricky to point out.

In one trial session, 5 wrong moves = game over.

What makes this game special to me is the story. There are only several murder cases to solve but some of them are very involved and are quite lengthy to complete. Though there are definite lapse in logic in some of these cases, they are well thought of and perfectly executed. The cases you get to defend are touching and filled with moments of genuine emotions. Though I found intentional humor in the dialogues and the names of the characters, there was an underlying bleakness to the whole adventure. The murders are cold-blooded in their nature and the truths behind them are shocking and realistic. When a trial is won, the feeling of accomplishment is grand in that Shadow of the Colossus fashion. A great game. It is so good that I have already started playing its sequel, PWAA: Justice for All because I want to know what is going to happen next to this "Ace Attorney".

RATING: 4 out of 5

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