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Phoenix Wright Is Fucking Awesome

Richard Naik's picture

As anyone who has the misfortune of following me on Twitter will know, I've been engrossing myself in Phoenix Wright for the past few days, and the game has pretty much been riding solo in my newly acquired DS. I'm just about at the end of episode 5, so not totally done yet. However, unless the game suddenly turns into Mega Man X7 within this last case, I can safely say that Phoenix Wright will rocket straight to the top of my "late to the party" list. And as a bonus, I have the correct spelling of "Phoenix" memorized after years of always relying on spellckeck.

I think Phoenix Wright's statute of limitations on spoilers has long since expired, as the game was initially released on the Game Boy Advance in 2001 and re-released on the DS in 2005 (its first US release), so most interested parties will know all the specifics. But since I'm a cool cool guy, I'll go ahead and spoiler warn you anyway.

Phoenix succeeds with an elegant adventure-style system, focusing almost entirely on static interactions. And as with any adventure game, story is key. While things do get pretty absurd at times, I think the absurdity works as part of Phoenix's charm. As someone who isn't particularly into anime, the anime-like art style and mannerisms really helped bring things to life. I found the game's world extremely interesting, as dealing with the convoluted twists and turns of lying witnesses, impossible cases, and attorneys with damage-taking animations is strangely alluring. Only once was I truly in "WTF!?!?!?!?!" mode. Everything else I was willing to chalk up to the game's quirkiness.

However, the game's quirkiness wasn't the most surprising part-that honor goes to how compelling the characters were, specifically in episodes 2 and 4. Mia was a genuinely endearing character (and no, not just for the reasons you're thinking of...) and her death was one of the saddest events I've ever experienced in a game. Nailing Redd White on the witness stand was pretty damn satisfying, and I'm not ashamed to admit that the final scene of the episode with Mia's ghost made me choke up just a bit.

Awwwwww dude. Not cool.

While not as successful on an emotional scale, episode 4 succeeds in terms of being a mystery in much the same way that Deadly Premonition does. To me a mystery is much more interesting when I care less about whodunit, and more about why they did it. After a certain point it becomes obvious that von Karma is behind everything, but the unfolding of events describing his involvement with DL-6 and the murder of Edgeworth's father was much more interesting than the actual identity of the killer. The fact that I was still hanging on every text box even after I had figured everything out is a testament to how well I had been roped in.

None of this is to say that the other cases are bad-quite the opposite. Each case was interesting enough to carry itself through several hours of gameplay, and I think Phoenix Wright could be incredibly successful with some episodic releases, which has already taken place in Japan. Hopefully Capcom gives this concept a worldwide release eventually, as a new Phoenix case every few months or so would be quite awesometastic.

There's always a lot of talk about the game-as-film dynamic and the supposed experience of "playing a movie", but I think Pheonix Wright is probably the gaming equivalent of a TV series. Each case felt like an "episode" in the truest sense, and if shows like Law & Order can survive for decades with the murder-questioning-revelation formula, why can't Phoenix?

OBJECTION! That closing statement is overly passionate! Just like the other 900,000 times!

So I hope you enjoyed reading about a bunch of crap you probably read about 5 years ago. I'll be getting to the other Phoenix games in due time, so we'll see if they can keep up. For now, Chief Gant is looking awfully suspicious, so I'm off.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Nintendo DS  
Developer(s): Capcom  
Series: Phoenix Wright  
Articles: Editorials  
Topic(s): Games as Art   Game Design & Dev  

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