Monday, February 7, 2011

Current Addiction: Ace Attorney, Part 1

That's what she said.
whooalateupdate

Yesterday, I just blathered on and on about how much I love the Turnabout Trial/Ace Attorney games.  My post gathered a mixed response; some folks liked the games, some folks thought it'd suck, and a large group of people were confused by the concept. I suppose that means I should dive a little deeper and actually review the game. Or games, rather. There are currently five games in the series, for a total of 23 cases. Twenty four victims, fifteen different defendants, five investigations to conduct, twenty three culprits to find. Every case is a Turnabout-- because you turn the case around against unbeatable odds to solve it. If you're into solving murder mysteries and being the underdog, this game is for you.


Platform: Initially GBA, Re-released for DS, Wii, and iPhone
Company: Capcom
Year: 2001 (Japan/GBA), 2004(DS), 2009(Wii, iPhone)







Overall Plot Summary
The year is 2016. Murder is treated very seriously in the future, and officers are pressured to arrest a suspect as quickly as possible, even if it means through forged evidence and shady testimony. If any defendants are found guilty, unless a plea bargain was reached beforehand, it will always end in their execution. And in a justice system that has no jury, where prosecutors lead the trial, and a "guilty until proven innocent" mentality reigns supreme, that can spell big trouble for people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Enter Phoenix Wright, a novice attorney, guided by the beautiful and confident Mia Fey. His first case is no easy one: he must defend his friend who is accused of murder. When all hope seems lost, he is told to "turn it around," a phrase that follows him throughout his entire first year. It will be a year of tragedy, hope, deception, and redemption, for both him and his clients.

While the cases are broken up into episodes, there is usually a main theme that persists. This game's theme was the friendship and growing trust between Phoenix Wright and a certain corrupt prosecutor by the name of Miles Edgeworth. It starts out slow, but in the game's final climax, it pays off.

Each case in terms of story has its own sense of crazy (that is, except for the first, since it is the tutorial case). You truly have no way of figuring it out until you get deeper into the script, and every time you answer one question, many more are raised. You really care about the individual and overall story, as well as care for your defendant-- after all, their life is in your hands!

Grade: A




Graphics
Okay, when you play this little game, you have to take into account that it was FIRST released in 2001 on the GBA. So of course, the graphics will reflect that, in all platforms. However, they are not entirely noticeable until you load it onto your Wii and play it on a big TV. But as far as graphics go, they aren't at all that bad.

The character designs themselves are unique and interesting; many characters have become almost iconic in a way. Many characters are memorable; when you see them, you go, "OH, I KNOW WHO THAT IS!"

And speaking of memorable characters....


Mia Fey. Just... Mia Fey.


The character's mouths also move to match the scrolling text, and always have a sort of movement integrated into it. The character images themselves are very good at expressing the emotion necessary for the scene. So despite all of these graphics being simple pixels, they're really quite cute, and satisfy my needs completely! It would have been nice if the Wii version's graphics were updated, though.


Grade: B






Gameplay
Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright, at its very core, is a visual novel. A large part of the story is reading and gathering information that witnesses, defendants, and other people give you. You can examine your surroundings with a simple point and click (or point and press A in Wii's case), question witnesses, and travel the world with ease. But what do you do when all that information is gathered and the trial starts? This is the part that makes this game different from all the others out there.

Roughly half of the game (or a lot longer if you get stuck) is spent in the trial part. After all, you're a defense attorney now! You were born to do this. Once you sit through the brief introduction to the case, and listen to the indisputable facts (like where the body was found, who found it, what time it was, the floor layout of the crime scene, etc), a witness will be called. They then give their testimony and are supposed to tell everything as accurately as possible. However, not all witnesses are unbiased; some have grudges that cloud their memory, some simply remember wrong because they get caught up in the moment, and others will maliciously cast doubt upon the innocent to clear their name.

For whatever reason, if their testimony can prove your client guilty, you must find something wrong with it. Luckily, the testimony itself is broken up into little pieces that you can examine bit by bit. For each bit that you select, there are two options: Press and Present. If you select Press, Phoenix makes the witness stop the testimony and asks them a question about what they just said. Sometimes this can be used to your advantage; maybe you catch someone slipping up, or they add a new piece of testimony you can combat with evidence. When you select present, the list of evidence appears and you must select the correct one that indicates a contradiction. This may sound boring, but it is anything but. I don't know how to explain it, but you just need to believe me on this. You get an insane rush of awesome like none other when you rub evidence in a lying piece of shit's face.

Slowly, you piece together the case and dig out the truth within the lies. Some witnesses completely break down, others fight to the very instant. What truly sucks is that when you begin to prove your theory about how the murder actually went down, sometimes a prosecutor will scoff and say that it's completely circumstantial and say that you have to PROVE that is the only way it happened. However, this is a reflection of Japan's own court system itself, and isn't exactly the gameplay's fault. What IS faulty, however, is that sometimes the way you go proving evidence is a bit tedious; you can make a case with two or more pieces, and present it at different points, but only ONE combination works. Almost always these make sense, however; it's just that if you REALLY think outside the box, or think far ahead, it can get hard to prove your point along the way. There were only one or two instances in the entire series that I truly wtf'd over this, though.

Overall, the gameplay is interesting if you like puzzles, but it can be very picky over how you go about proving your case.

Grade: B



Script
Like I said before, there are many memorable characters in this game. And while AA:PW tackles the serious subject of murder and a corrupt judicial system, the game doesn't take itself too seriously, to be honest. There are plenty of little humorous bits, and while even though there are some lighthearted puns, the comedy is pretty enjoyable. I've replayed this game several times because I liked the game a good deal; you know the story is good when you're willing to go through a mystery game more than once.

An early CG that helps tell the tale.
One downside to visual novel games is that you can't see many actions being done aside from the stock of short animations. However, this game is built around actions that happened in the past so it isn't at all that distracting. For the few moments where pictures will speak louder than words, special CGs are shown, which work as vital parts for the script itself.

There are a few moments in the script where I go, "Wait, what?" But the game itself is so quirky, it's easy to forgive said moments. About all of the character names are puns, but they don't always crack jokes about the name themselves, so that's forgivable as well (Harry Butz aside). 

Grade: A


Music
Holy shit. I think whenever people play this game, MOST of the time, they'll agree that the music was sublime. Whenever an emotion NEEDED to be conveyed, the music certainly drove it home. I mean, who wouldn't feel like a badass at the end of a case if this was played:


And honestly, this bit sent chills down my spine every time I heard it:


The special themes for certain characters were also a great way to convey a certain feel for them. Only a few themes here or there were annoying or otherwise lacking, and for a game soundtrack, that's really good!

If you try out the game yourself, I have a feeling the music will leave a lasting impression on you, like it did for me and so many other Ace Attorneys out there.

Grade: A

Overall
Many times during the year, there will be a great idea for a game, and it's completely ruined because it was made poorly. Very rarely are there stupid ideas for a game that are made completely badass when all's said and done. I mean, just think about the premise. A defense attorney in court. Sounds boring, doesn't it. For years, I made fun of that premise, completely confused about why anyone could think it was any good. Then I actually played it.

If there's one thing I learned from this game, it's that you must never, ever knock something until you try it. I've been an avid fan for quite some time, eagerly following any news about the series for quite some time. Sure, there are a few times where you want to throw your Wiimote at the TV because holy-shit-how-the-fuck-did-that-prosecutor-get-away-with-that-you-stupid-fucking-judge, but this game quickly soared to one of my favorites of all time.

As Judge AS of Blogspot, I order you to try this game out! Review dismissed! *Pounds gavel*

Overall Grade: A

36 comments:

  1. Damn, I actually played that game when I was younger.

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  2. I've never actually played this. :(

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  3. I've had a DS for fucking ever and i have yet to check this game out. Looks like i just might have to now.

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  4. these types of game usually arent my thing.. but this looks decent. i might give it a try

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  5. I played all the games, then ghost trick and still want more, where is my phoenix + maya happy ending.

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  6. Playing too much halo to try this out! looks fun tho!

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  7. I read your blog, I fed your fish, I didn't object.

    Well thought out, and you argued your case well. Phoenix would be proud.

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  8. Hah my sister has a few of these for her DS. I might borrow it to check 'em out :).

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  9. Wish i had a ds to play this on!

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  10. It took me all day to get through that game but I did level up.

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  11. Props on the dedication to attorney-based games

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  12. I've never played this game or paid attention to it, but now I think it's worth a try! Thanks =)

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  13. Ace Attorney series is awesome! Memorable characters, excellent story... just a great game overall. Try Harvey Birdman- Attorney at Law on the Wii... or just watch the series.. so awesome... >:3

    (cookies on dowels for you if you bother with Harvey)

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  14. Oooooh! I LOVE The Ace Attorney games, I'm currently playing Apollo Justice!

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  15. Heard of this game but didn't really like it all that much it was confusing I like the Halo games.

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  16. I've played this game for GBA and it's pretty fun

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  17. might check out this game soon :)

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  18. NEver played PR, looked interesting but I barely ever play my DS.

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  19. Looks good, I may consider it in the future just to see it for myself. Still confused about the concept but I've always heard it's a good game.

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  20. I loved playing this game, and would completely agree with you on the rating

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  21. I've never played this from what I hear I should.

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  22. I've never heard of this, I'll check it out, thanks!

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  23. Have you ever played The World Ends With You?

    It's my all-time favorite game. I never saw a commercial for it, though.

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  24. @Berate
    Can't say I have. I'll look into it, though. Who knows, maybe I'll review it.

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  25. I freaking love phoenix Wright.
    Something about fighting crime with logic is kinda awesome to me.

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  26. I knew this was an excellent game since the first time I played it.

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  27. I was just looking at this game on Amazon. It had good reviews from IGN.

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