phoenix wright: ace attorney, the first in the series, is another one of those games i’d heard a lot about and was looking forward to trying out. the idea of a lawyer adventure had me intrigued, and the game seems to have acquired a large fanbase online. the DS and now the wii have both seen a resurgence in point-and-click games, and although the original PW games were originally released for the GBA in japan the transition to DS certainly has its advantages and, as you can imagine, the gameplay must have become smoother as a result.
despite the game being firmly rooted in GBA style and presentation, the over-the-top characters, settings, and music are colorful and have a nice anime feel. for the few people who haven’t played the game, gameplay is separated into two parts. the first is typical point-and-click “move around and talk to characters and examine scenes for evidence”-type gameplay, although more suited to a detective’s job than a lawyer’s. the second type consists of the courtroom scenes, which are easily the best parts of the game. although parts of these scenes do get tedious, the act of presenting evidence in court to highlight contradictions in the witnesses’ testimonies is nicely done and doesn’t get old. and if the game doesn’t include much actual law, it does a nice job of giving a good semblance of it by incorporating legal jargon in a natural way and devising situations that highlight particular courtroom procedures.
overall, though, i didn’t end up liking the game nearly as much as i wanted to. i enjoyed the characters, and the protagonist’s rivalry reached archetypal levels. but although i enjoyed the twists in the overall story arc i just didn’t find the individual mysteries to be that interesting. i got tired of how dragged-out the stories felt, and at times the amount of text just felt endless, not to mention having a significant number of typos. and although games of this type always seem to have some disconnect between real-life and in-game logic, at times the logic here seemed even more farfetched than usual. all in all the game felt shallower in characterization, style, presentation, and plot, than the other point-and-click DS game i played hotel dusk (which had outstanding characterization and presentation), even though dusk was a more straightforward point-and-click adventure. the other two games in the main phoenix wright trilogy seem to have gotten similar scores as the first, and i don’t imagine the gameplay has evolved very much, so although i’m looking forward to finding out what happens to all the characters (particularly the prickly but somehow endearing miles edgeworth) i’m not really all that eager to tackle them just yet. but of course i will eventually.
some not-too-objectionable links:
– court-records.net: a great fansite which has screenshots, animated GIF’s, official artwork, and more
– craig harris’s review at IGN
– entry at wikipedia
– a walkthrough at IGN
– funny little online app where you can create your own “OBJECTION!”‘s
– site on classicgaming.gamespy.com: includes recaps of all the games, some mp3’s, and some comparisons of characters’ japanese vs. english names