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ESRB RATING: T
(Warning: This review will contain lawyer jokes. If you’re a lawyer please put aside your lack of a sense of humor and realize that it’s all in jest. Besides, I might need representation at some point by one of you bloodsucking ruiners of all things good. Thanks!)
The first Phoenix Wright was one of my most anticipated games for the DS. Excited about a game that lets you play as a lawyer? Yeah, it’s true. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney turned out to be one of the best games for the system, a big seller that completely surprised Capcom, forcing them to do another run of the carts just to keep up with demand.
How did such a weird, quirky and inherently Japanese game get so popular here? Simple. The story is hysterical, the game is satisfying, and there’s just something about screaming OBJECTION! at your DS that feels oh so good.
Is it any surprise the sequel’s a damn fine game too?
It’s like being a lawyer, without wasting your life in law school! Or selling your soul!
Phoenix Wright is about to start a new case when he’s hit in the head quite violently and loses his memory. That way you can start from being a rookie all over again!
The cases are just as convoluted as you’ve grown to expect here. You’ve got a cop that was murdered in a fit of passion, a ringmaster killed by someone in his circus, a Samurai actor possibly killed by a competitor. In each case you’ll not only prove try to prove that your defendant is innocent but find the real killer… just like a real lawyer, if they cared about that sort of thing. All of the cases have numerous twists, and nothing is ever the way you think it will be from the beginning. With the exception of one case (the circus murder) every one left me questioning what the truth was until the end.
There are 4 cases here, and they’re split between 2 different modes of play. One mode is where you try and build up evidence for your case, and the next is afterwards when you’re at the trial using that evidence to catch people in lies.
It’s incredibly fun. The characters are all memorable and weird, and it’s a good thing because most of your time is spent interrogating them. The activity and dialogue is very anime-styled…. those of you wanting a serious courtroom game should look elsewhere. I’ve never been to court, but I doubt that the prosecutors can smack the shit out of the Judge with a whip without repercussions. Also, I’m pretty sure that ventriloquists don’t give testimonies from the puppet’s point of view.
But it’s the silliness of the game that makes it work. Phonenix Wright (yes, that’s his real name) is a likable character, and often comes out as the underdog in every case he gets into, but always manages to do the right thing… even if it’s through bluffing.
For those who are new to it, the easiest way to describe Phoenix Wright is an adventure game with a twist. You’ll do the typical point and click method of looking around a room for important items, and also try different tactics to get people to loosen their tongues.
Those who’ve played the original will find a new method of determining the real facts in this game. At points you’ll run into characters who are lying to you. Thanks to a handy little psychic stone that your partner gives you, you can physically see these "Psych-locks" chained around the person. You’ll have to use the stone and correctly determine what the person is lying about to crack the locks and get the truth out of them. The bigger the lie, the more locks around the person. It adds a little more fun to the Investigation portions of the game and is a nice change-up to the section, because it can get otherwise get a little stale.
This game, like the last, is a remake of a Japanese game for the GBA. While the first US game had a DS-specific case where there was some original use of the touch screen and microphone, Justice is more of a straight port. Which is not to say that you won’t use the touch screen. You examine objects by tapping on them, and you can advance the conversations by hitting the middle of the screen, which is easier than jamming on a button. But you won’t be blowing off fingerprinting dust or spraying the screen with that blood-detecting fluid this time around.
The only problem with this series is how linear it is. There are parts in the game when you’ll be going back and forth between locations, looking for that last piece of evidence or that last person to talk to in order to advance the game. But that’s something that adventure game fans have gotten used to…
The people who won’t like this are people who need action in their games. This is all about the storytelling, and if you can’t get past the fact that it’s going to be more like reading a book for the most part you’re going to hate this game. Those who are looking for a funny story with some great puzzles will be in heaven here. Unless, of course, you’re a lawyer. No room up there for you then.
The art is very good, with the characters pretty well animated and freaking out nicely when they get caught in lies. The cast is memorable, and while the graphics aren’t anything a GBA couldn’t do, it does the job.
The sound is pretty amazing. The music gets you pumped for the more exciting moments in the trials, and there’s nothing quite like slamming that Objection button and hearing Phoenix yell it out and point his finger at the guilty party. There’s lots of little stings of music that are used to perfectly call attention to important facts and ramp up the tension, of which there is a lot. (You’ll be striving for that verdict so hard…)
It’s nothing that pushes the DS hardware at all, but it’s all the game needs.
While this isn’t a game that you can immediately pick up and get back into (it is very linear, after all) this is one you’ll want in your collection to go back to years later. I’m going to go pick up Ace Attorney just because I’ve forgotten how good this series is.
While this game is only 4 cases, these cases are long. Really long. I didn’t time it and there’s no clock in the game, but I’m guessing I sunk a good 20 something hours into this one over a week before beating it.
The Verdict (fitting!)
Moaning about the lack of decent adventure games lately? Shut your mouth and pick this one up. It’s not as good as the first but it’s damn close, and really is one of the funniest and most satisfying games to come out in a while.
There are 4 of these suckers out in Japan (along with a brand new one coming out over there for DS), so pray that they continue to do such excellent jobs of translating these games for us. In a time when practically every game coming out is a sports game or a shooter (and almost always a sequel), Wright does something different, and does it goddamn well.