Saturday, 26 May 2007


So I mentioned that I had picked up a Nintendo DS. To that effect, I yesterday picked myself up a copy of 'Pheonix Wright: Ace Attorney'. I got it in the bargain bin at the local GAME, and to be honest, I didn't have high hopes for it.

My fears were put to rest soon. I love this game. Basically, you are Pheonix 'Nick' Wright, a defence attorney fresh out of college, and you are in your first real case. Your best friend, Larry Butz, is up for Murder 1, and it's your job to prove he didn't do it. Well, that case is basically the tutorial, showing you how to go through witness testimony and find contradictions and falsehoods. After all, if Larry is innocent, then the witness who claims he saw it must be lying, right?

After that you get thrown into the game headfirst. You must talk to people, examine the scene of the crime for clues, and then battle it out in court to prove your client's innocence.

This game could have been a real dud, and the worst mistake they could have made would be to have a series of completely unconnected murders for you to solve on by one. This game instead has an actual storyline. For example, for the first two major cases the prosecuting attorney is Miles Edgeworth, and there are masses of rumours surrounding him. They say that he hasa never failed to get a guilty verdict, and isn't above faking evidence, hushing up testimony and surpressing clues that don't help him. You can see how this could have gone wrong? He could have been a cardboard cutout who escapes at the end of each trial screaming 'I would have got away with it if it hadn't been for those meddling kids!'

No, Edgeworth has a storyline, a background, and reasons for doing the things he does. In fact, it seems that both Wright and Butz know him from before. This storyline all comes down to the line in the fourth chapter, where the defendent is Edgeworth himself and the prosecutor is his erstwhile mentor.

I won't say more for fear of spoiling it, but I will mention a few problems I had with the game. Firstly, it is too dependent on dialogue trees, and it never feels like you have quite enough freedom to say and do what you want. Secondly, it always seems like your are about to lose, and there is nothing you could have done to stop it, when suddenly some deus ex machina comes in to save your ass. This is somewhat lazy storytelling, and detracts from what I was saying about the otherwise high quality of the storyline. The last major flaw is that, once you have played the game through, it does not have great replayability, as you have already learned the dialogue trees that will get you victory.

Overall, however, this game is a superficially flawed, yet fundamentally innovative and interesting concept. I will definitely be getting the sequels.

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