Fun With Phoenix Wright

Hurrah! Another game has been knocked from The Mantelpiece! They’re falling thick and fast… I’ve worked out that if I can manage to finish one game a week, I might be able to get to the end of my LIST OF SHAME in about six months. Not bad. Although seeing as there are some pretty lengthy games on the list (Mass Effect, Fable II, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), that might be a bit of a tall order… Ah well, no rush I suppose.

I’ve been interested in playing Phoenix Wright ever since the first game came out on the DS several years ago, but somehow I’ve never quite got round to buying Nintendo’s much-loved handheld console. It’s a shameful confession I know, particularly as my co-author Sir Gaulian is so into his handheld gaming, but the most up-to-date handheld console I own is a Game Boy Micro (so I’m only about 5 years out of date). I do love my little green Micro though, it really is a cracking little machine.

A green Game Boy Micro, yesterday.

I was reading an article about ‘handfeel’ the other day (on how game controllers should be measured on their ‘handfeel’ in a similar way to how drinks are measured by their ‘mouthfeel’), and it immediately put me in mind of the Gamy Boy Micro – it’s small enough and light enough to really fit snugly into the palm of your hand, and even though the screen is small, it’s so bright and sharp that you barely even notice its diminutive size. The author of the article claims the the Game Boy Advance SP is the console with “the best handfeel in history”, but he’s wrong – it’s the Micro, hands down. I also have an SP, but it never gets a look-in when the Micro’s to hand.

Speaking of handfeel, the iPhone 4 has by far the best handfeel of any phone I’ve ever owned. I only bought my first iPhone this year, so I’m still very much in the honeymoon phase – you can take my gibbering ravings with a pinch of world-weary salt – but I’m adamant that the iPhone 4 just feels right sitting in the palm of your hand. I’ve tried various other smartphones, and none of them come close in terms of handfeel – the screen is always too spongy, or the plastic feels cheap and sticky, or they’re too big, or there’s just something that doesn’t feel quite right… My girlfriend still thinks the iPhone 4 is too heavy, but when it comes to handfeel, heavy is actually an advantage – it feels right. And of course, as we all know, heavy equals expensive (as I’ve previously noted in my review of Star Fox).

Anyway, after getting my shiny new iPhone, I was delighted to discover that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney had been converted to iOS, so of course it became one of my first purchases. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the game, put I was pleased to discover it has a real Japanese RPG feel to it, even though it plays very differently. The actual gameplay itself is paper thin – it’s merely a case of combing each scene for clues, making sure you go through every dialogue option with all of the potential witnesses and then choosing the right time to show evidence in court. Often, the court scenes are just a case of trial and error – going through all of the available evidence until you find the piece that’s needed. Likewise, the investigation levels are actually quite linear – often, characters won’t appear until you’ve found the correct piece of evidence, and there’s no chance of going to court unprepared because every piece of evidence you find is used in some way.

However, the game really triumphs in its characterisation – each character is wonderfully designed and completely barmy, and the localisation team have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to the dialogue. All too often in JRPGs, you find yourself trawling through reams of dull, repetitive dialogue options, but in Phoenix Wright, every single dialogue line is a treat, and often genuinely funny. The actual game has very little to it away from moving to different locations and tapping your way through conversations, but if you view it as more of an interactive storybook, it’s a real triumph. I found myself on hanging on every twist and turn as I waited to see how each case would resolve, and the various courtroom dramas have a way of really ramping up the tension and putting real importance on your choice of evidence, even if it can sometimes come down to a simple guessing game.

Sadly, only the first Phoenix Wright game is currently available on iPhone, so it looks like I’ll have to finally get a DS (or more probably a 3DS) to get my next fix of Japanese legal strangeness. It’s just a shame the DS versions don’t cost £2.99 like the iPhone game…

[As dictated by Lucius Merriweather.]

iObject pic from That VideoGame Blog.