Late to the Party: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Wow, I am really late to this party.  I had considered getting Phoenix Wright for a long time, but I have a little thing about doing games in order.  I could never find the first game for Phoenix Wright, so I never started it.  Well, this was made available on the Nintendo Wii, I had some points given to me free, so I finally got myself started.  Not surprisingly, I'm very glad I did this.  This game has sparked my interest in law again through the philosophies it expresses, even though the judicial system of Japan in 2016 is far from the American judicial system of 2010.  Of course, Capcom really brings it up with its music, as it always does.  If you have not started Phoenix Wright but have an interest in puzzle/mystery games, I strongly suggest picking this up (or at least start with Harvey Birdman's game).
 For those who may not be familiar with the game, I'll do my best to summarize.  There's two modes of play here.  The first case is all about the court; no investigation is necessary.  Witnesses will testify and present evidence.  You, as the defense attorney, get to cross-examine the witness.  On each section of their testimony, you can press them for more information (figurative press as in interrogate, not literal like a button).  Sometimes this will produce extra testimony which is not necessarily helpful, sometimes it will force the witness into a contradiction.  When you've found a blatant contradiction in their testimony, you can present the relevant evidence.  In Japan's 2026 rules, they're allowed to revise their testimony to reflect this, but lies always beget more lies.  In most of the game, you bluff your way through finding possibilities that your client is not guilty (though you still have to prove innocence in Japan 2026), and through the explanations that follow (true or not), you eventually stumble on the truth of the matter.
There is another part of the game outside of court, where you have to investigate and find the information you will need for the following court date.  This is where it turns more or less into a text-based/point-and-click adventure.  Through here, you will visit locations, interrogate people, and of course, grab whatever isn't nailed down.  It really is necessary, because things will be brought to light which would not otherwise have come up in court..
For more detail though, I have to go into the things I did not like about this game.  From a designer's point of view, I can understand needing to have a level with emphasis on information collecting rather than court confrontations (Turnabout Samurai, case #3), but that case really overdid it.  It actually had me going from one end of the studio to another on many occasions.  In its defense though, I was just lost throughout the whole thing.  I was extremely ready to believe that a child (or children) took the Silver Samurai costume and used it to live out a childish fantasy more than is healthy.  When that was dismissed as a possibility, my whole world crumbled and I just couldn't figure it out.  It was more or less a grind.  Plus, I'll have to play it through again, but I think there was an error in timing that really screwed me up.
I also had some trouble getting the game to communicate exactly what I want.  I eventually did figure out how the murder happened on case 3 (no spoilers if you haven't played it), but on that crucial moment, I really had a hard time figuring out how the game wanted me to say it.  I eventually just made a crazy bluff because I couldn't figure out how I could use my evidence to say it.  Sometimes pieces of evidence are very related, so one can easily miss by picking the wrong one.
Still, overall the game gave me a great feeling, certainly enough that I could get into the Phoenix Wright character and make my way through it.  Heck, I've got connections with a theatre group (small-time), I wonder if I could try making a play out of this (really ambitious, so it probably wouldn't go through).  Through all the tactics that are pulled in each case, it actually had the same feeling Yu-Gi-Oh gives.  You know the other side is cheating, but you simply cannot accuse them without proof (testimony is assumed true until proven otherwise, after all).  That means you sometimes have to run with it.and watch their own "facts" get used against them.
I look forward to further installments of the series.  I will probably get the next 2 games over the course of the next month and hunt from there.


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