Phoenix Wright 2: Let The Madness Begin

I got thoroughly into the second Phoenix Wright game this weekend, to the point where I was so gripped by the final case that I ended up staying up ’til 2am (on a SCHOOL NIGHT!) to see the blinking thing right through to the end. The game just has this way of drawing you in with its charming, quirky characters and outrageous plot lines so you just can’t wait to find out what’s coming next. Brilliant stuff.

If you’re not familar with the games, the basic scenario is that you’re a defence lawyer who has to investigate crime scenes and come up with evidence, which you then have to present in the right situations in the courtroom. It sounds pretty dull, but if you’ve played the games, you’ll know the real driving force of the series is the ridiculous plot and the many, many twists and turns that develop as each case progresses. Interestingly, the second game seemes to have developed a wry sense of self-awareness of the increasingly outrageous ‘turnabouts’ during the court battles – at one point in the final case, the judge quips something along the lines of: “This case has completely turned around… for, what, like the fifth time?”

I can see how Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All (to give it its full, subtitle-tastic name) is not going to appeal to everyone. If you prefer action games to reading endless streams of text, then please look away now. Likewise, if you prefer your games a little more interactive, then you might be disappointed with the essential linearity of the game, which basically involves using the right object at the right time and then tapping your way through screen after screen of dialogue, before doing it all over again. But if you’re a fan of point and click adventures, you should feel right at home – in a sense, there’s very little difference between this and something like Broken Sword, except for the batshit crazy Japanese characters of course.

Speaking of which, the localization team seem to have made the bizarre choice to make out that the game is set in America, despite the fact that the settings and most of the characters are clearly Japanese. It really confused me, as naturally I assumed that all of these traditional Japanese villages were, well, in Japan, so when one of the characters started banging on about coming from the heartland of the Southern States, I naturally assumed that that particular character was American and all of the other characters were Japanese. But then said character (Lotta Hart) went on to maintain that her home state was in the same country the game was set in – which seemed a little at odds with what was being presented on screen. After all, there can’t be that many Shinto shrines in Texas. Still, I happily ignored the odd decision to somehow make out the game was set in a Japanified America and instead focused on how in all other senses the localization team have done a cracking job. It must have been very difficult to carry across all the humour of the original game, but (bar the odd spelling mistake) the team have come up with dialogue that’s a real pleasure to read, and it even made me laugh out loud in places.

Compared with the first Phoenix Wright game, Justice For All definitely pushes the envelope in terms of good taste and ethics. In particular, the character of Doctor Hotti, a deranged and perverted mental patient masquerading as a hospital director, comes out with some disturbing lines regarding his ‘fascination’ with women, and I found myself furrowing my brow in distaste at a few points. Likewise, on several occasions, the 8-year-old spirit medium Pearl Fey channels the spirit of a busty 27-year-old lawyer called Mia, and her body also transforms into that of Mia’s, although she’s still wearing her 8-year-old’s clothes. Which is… er… a bit weird to say the least.

Still, it all somehow makes sense in the world of the game, which sees you defending androgynous circus magicians and samurai action heroes to name just two of the cases. Speaking of the trials, the final case deserves a special mention – it turns into a gripping marathon of a case with revelation after revelation, and it kept me hooked right up to the very end. At a certain point in the dying stages, the ludicrousness of the situation just veers off into the stratosphere, but it’s all just so much fun that I happily went along with it and kept on tapping away to see what utter madness would pop up next.

I’ll admit that I had to resort to Gamefaqs at a few points in the game where I was just completely baffled as to what to present next, but overall I found the puzzles to be a bit more logical than the first game (or it could just be me getting used to the series’ twisted internal logic). Actually, speaking of the Gamefaqs guide I was using, I was amused and slightly confused to read the following in the ‘frequently asked questions’ section at the end:

Q:Why do most people hate this game compared to the original?

A:There’s only four cases to this game compared to the original’s five. Also, the first three cases in this game are complete and utter crap in many people’s eyes, making just the fourth case the only great case in this game. The original Phoenix Wright had three good cases.

I really have no idea what they’re talking about here, as I thought that overall the game was a big improvement on the first one, and although the last case deserves extra praise, the preceding three were all thoroughly enjoyable. But hey, each to their own!

Now, onto Phoenix Wright 3…

[As dictated by Lucius Merriweather]