November 8, 2007

Miles Edgeworth: Star Prosecutor

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is the first in a series of court simulation games for Nintendo's dual screen hand held. Originally developed for Gameboy Advance in Japan, Capcom took a gamble and had them ported to the highly successful DS platform for an American release. They shipped out a very limited quantity as they were unsure if Westerners would go for this new take on the point and click genre. I guess since the rest of the series was quickly localized for our side of the ocean that it was received very well.

The instruction manual reminds the gamer that "All characters, laws, and legal matters in this game are works of fiction." Pay particular attention to the last two. The setting of this game is a few years in the future where the proceedings for court cases are a bit different. Trials for crimes are held pretty much the day after they are committed. Cases last for a maximum of three days, so both lawyers and prosecutors must dig up as much info on defendants and witnesses as they can to prepare for trials.

There's a colorful cast of characters, many whom have supporting roles in most of the cases featured in this game. You play the part of Nick "Phoenix" Wright, rookie attorney. He's smarter than you are, which can make playing difficult since you have to choose his actions. Then there's your arch-rival Miles Edgeworth, the headstrong star prosecutor who is rumored to go to any lengths to ensure a guilty verdict. Mia Fey is your boss and mentor, and her little sister Maya is a psychic-in-training who becomes your assistant. Another regular face you'll see is Dick Gumshoe, a slightly dimwitted but reliable detective who will give you valuable info on your cases.

The game is rated T for Teen for the following reasons:
-Suggestive Themes: Slight sexual innuendo from one witness in the second case, but nothing that will turn any youngins that play this into sexual deviants.
-Language: Damn and Hell. But never in the same sentence if that counts for anything.
-Blood: Each and every single case in this game is a murder charge. You'll see blood-stained evidence and cut scenes that show the murder as it happens. Nothing visceral, though.
-Violence: Goes hand in hand with murder, doesn't it?

There are five cases in all, but don't think you'll blow through this game in a day. Each takes a progressively longer time to complete. The first case is a tutorial of sorts, beginning and ending in one courtroom session. The following four cases take two to three days for a satisfying verdict to be reached. The usual process of a case is that you find a client convicted of a crime they claim they didn't commit. After interviewing him or her, you go to the scene of the crime, talk to people involved with the case and investigate the area. When you believe you have enough information to form a good defense in court, you enter the courtroom phase of the scenario and listen to witness testimonies. You try to look for holes in what they say and present gathered evidence to contradict them. If the judge feels there isn't a satisfying conclusion reached by the defense and the prosecutor, he will extend the case for another day. Based on the events that occurred in court, you get to go back into the world to question more people and snoop around more locations for evidence. This cycle continues until the maximum three days is reached, when a verdict must be rendered based on the finds of the defense and the prosecution.

It may sound boring by the way I explain it, but that's just an outline of how the game plays out. The characters are humorous and the courtroom proceedings are dramatic, and you'll oftentimes think that there's no way you can find your client not guilty and may even believe they are in fact cold-blooded killers. But soon you submit that one piece of substantial evidence that will break down an entire witness' case and you'll see your client in a whole different light.

Three words describe the gameplay of this game card: Reading, searching, and thinking. It's especially wordy during the court sessions, so it would be wise to save your game when you get to a point where you have to present evidence. You see, the only way to get a game over in Phoenix Wright is if you incorrectly try to contradict a witness' testimony five times. If that happens, you start over at the beginning of that day's court proceedings. That may not seem like a big deal, but due to all the text you have to go through, plus remembering which parts of a testimony to either press on or present evidence on, it can be a lengthy and tedious process to return to where you were before you last lost. But when you save with a few tries left, and end up losing them all, you can go back to the case at the exact moment you last saved, hopefully a bit wiser than you were before.

I personally loved this game, but if you prefer a lot of action to reading and thinking, you may have a different experience. Since this game is long out of print, you should be able to pick it up at a bargain price at a used games outlet. If this review is enough to pique your interest, then playing the actual game will demand your attention until the last case is solved. And guess what? At the time of this writing, there are two other Phoenix Wright titles available now, with another on the horizon. I also hear there's a Phoenix Wright manga that is being imported from Japan, localized in English, and sold on our shores sometime soon. You may hate lawyers, but you'll love Phoenix Wright.

The only one you'll hate at the end of it all is that fucking judge.

And that's just the way it is.
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