Hello all! Last week, we talked about what just might be my favorite Castlevania game in the whole series.
This week brings us to the DS for possibly the greatest game about lawyers ever. Also probably the only game about lawyers ever.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is, believe it or not, almost ten years old in America, first coming to the States as a DS title in October 2005. It's an enhanced remake of a Game Boy Advance version in Japan.
You play as, of course, the newly appointed defense attorney Phoenix Wright, under the tutelage of his mentor Mia Fey. After defending Phoenix's childhood friend in a murder trial, Mia ends up murdered herself in a rather surprising twist, and her sister Maya shows up to promptly be arrested for the murder. What follows are four more chapters, all episodic, but also connected here and there.
Gameplay wise, you, as Phoenix, take on a case, collect evidence, listen to witnesses, and then head to court to defend your (always innocent) client for murder. Each murder always seems airtight, and not in favor of your client, but Phoenix has a knack for digging the truth out. The murders and Phoenix's solving of them reminds me of the anime Case Closed (Detective Conan for you purists) in that the cases are never simple; they're smartly written, and although you see who commits the crime in the first couple of cases, later ones keep you guessing.
The game's main attraction is the courtroom battles, and while that sounds boring as all hell, fear not. Phoenix Wright is a lawyer simulator the same way Mario Kart accurately simulates auto racing. Trials play out like a heated tennis match, with momentum swinging wildly between Phoenix and his rival, the cravat-sporting, somewhat snide prosecutor Miles Edgeworth. Oh, and there's also Maya's spirit-channeling abilities, which means the previously killed Mia continues to have a presence in the game, despite...you know...being dead. So there's that.
Phoenix Wright is a visual novel adventure through and through. You click on things to examine them, press witnesses for information and, of course, yell OBJECTION! when you spot a contradiction between a witnesses' testimony and the evidence.
Also, you point a lot.
But you spend the vast majority of Phoenix Wright reading text, and as such, the game is very character driven. And this is where Phoenix Wright brings it's A game.
It's also kind of why I took a look at this game this week; despite being about murder and crime and such, Phoenix Wright is an often lighthearted, generally hilarious romp. Lots of character names are puns (Wendy Oldbag, Winston Payne, and my favorite character in the series, detective Dick Gumshoe), and the characters themselves are all unique, funny, and endearing. If you haven't fallen in love with the entire cast by the end of the game, well, you have a heart of stone.
And I think it's great to revisit games like Phoenix Wright. The game is just so incredibly positive; I mean, you can't play it without a big smile on your face. It's so funny and so light, and then the characters are so fleshed out that you can't help but care what happens to them. It's great to play a game that seems like it's made out of fun; not every game has to be serious or morbid. Not everything has to be The Last of Us.
Edgeworth is stuffy, but he's pretty awesome too. And he got his own game later on!
There's a time and place for drama and "thought provoking" games, and there's a time and place for games like Phoenix Wright as well. The game took me by surprise when I bought it years ago; I didn't think I'd be into it, but it turned out to be a personal favorite, along with the rest of the series. It's a great example of how broadening your horizons can be a good thing.
Oh, and the music! It's better than it has any right to be. It fits in with the whole anime aesthetic, and all of it is so catchy, albeit limited. This was originally a GBA game, after all. The music changes tempo and intensity when you raise an OBJECTION, and it pumps you up.
So, yeah, go play Phoenix Wright. You can get the first three games on the 3DS eShop now, so you don't have to go hunting for it (this one was hard to find back in the day). The games are incredibly linear, which is a drag in this day and age, but they're so much fun, you won't really care.
Thanks for reading! Hit me with comments, suggest future games for me to cover, and find me on Twitter! Also, you can catch up on my Re: Gaming series here, and support me on Patreon if you like my stuff!
Next week, I look at a surprisingly good RPG on the Playstation 2. No d20 required this time around.