Betsy Speicher

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

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2 posts in this topic

I’m replaying the game now. I love the premise: You are a defense attorney whose job it is to use evidence to disprove the prosecutor’s case against your client.

Gameplay: The game is divided into sections, each a different case. Each case begins with a short dramatic scene from the crime (all murders). You play part lawyer, part detective as you examine the crime scenes, interview witnesses and take your findings to court. Evidence you discover is automatically saved for you to use later.

The courtroom environment is rather peculiar. Each is a trial by judge, and only the prosecutor can call witnesses. You cross examine the witnesses to expose contradictions by using the evidence you’ve collected. Also you can “press” the witness on each point, which can reveal more information to help your case.

The first case helps to familiarize you with the layout and use of evidence, and only lasts one game day. The other cases are much more involved, requiring several days of court time, in between which you continue to investigate and get to the bottom of the crime.

The interface can be navigated by the use of the stylus that comes with the Nintendo DS. You tap the screen to advance dialogue and to select the onscreen selections. The last case was designed with the DS technology in mind and includes a couple neat new evidence discovery methods I won’t spoil here.

Challenge rating: Low. The game is story-based, and challenge really seems to be a low priority. Once you discover the evidence you were meant to discover, you go to court with it. If you’re in court, you know you have everything you need. It also means that you can only move as fast as the story allows, in that you cannot discover evidence before the game makes it available to you.

Once in court, you use the evidence to force the truth of the crime to light. If you present evidence that does not contradict the witness’ testimony, the judge will reprimand you and you lose one of your temporary “lives” while in court. The basic problem is that the game only requires you to present evidence, but not to know why it is important (Wright makes the connection for you in the game dialogue). This means you have a lot of leeway to just present random evidence without knowing what you’re doing. Also, you can save the game at the current screen to make random guesses and prevent ever getting the maximum number of reprimands.

Entertainment value: I was hooked the first time I played it. The animation for the characters is simple and repetitive, but the anime-style emotion is fun and light-hearted. The characters are memorable, unique and all have funny quirks.

As to the crimes, nothing is clear-cut. The defendant typically isn't helpful (either because they have fuzzy memories or won't share them with you) and the witnesses all have ulterior motives and are coached to hide any information that would help you win. Even the detectives give you help only reluctantly, making you the real underdog. Add to this the fact that your character is a rookie lawyer representing clients accused of murder, and it just creates this terribly comical environment. Yet you win every time, because all you need is evidence to prove your case. In that sense, it can be very pro-reason.

Cons: Although the focus of the game is on the discovery of evidence, you also have partners who claim to have supernatural insight. That insight saves you at several points by helping you to find evidence, which diminishes an otherwise pro-reason storyline.

Also I would include as a “con” the simplistic use of evidence referred to in my note about the challenge. However, it may not have been worth the resources to implement a more complex system.

Overall impression: Despite its flaws and the fact that it isn’t very challenging, I really like this game for its story, fun characters, and general design. The story-driven gameplay and the way you interact with the environment reminds me of the old pc adventure games like The Dig. The courtroom environment and focus on finding contradictions makes it unique and interesting. I give it an 8.

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