For reasons that still aren’t entirely clear to me, I was recently compelled to start Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. And what a strange ride is has been! Since my first post on the game, I’ve completed two more cases: Turnabout Samurai and Turnabout Goodbyes. If the first two cases were, for me, an introduction to the games mechanics and style, then the second two cases proved just how tricky (and weird) a defense lawyering is! Well…in the Phoenix Wright universe, anyway. (Maybe in the real world too?)
Playing Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is largely like watching a mystery novel unfold. Each case presents you with a cast of characters and a grouping of evidence that you must then follow and use, respectively, to prove your client’s innocence. (I learned quite abruptly that getting a “guilty” verdict is akin to losing a life. The game makes you start over and try again.)
But what do you do when you’re bad at reading and remembering? Well then, like me, you end up floundering your way to the truth. This isn’t a “bad” way to play Ace attorney, it’s just not the most elegant way. However, in my defense, while the game is quite good at directing you to your next move sometimes, there have been moments where I ended up scratching my head wondering what to do next. Either I had missed something obvious or not. It really hasn’t been easy to tell always. And it’s in these moment that I wonder who’s failing: is it me or the game?
There were several times during the Turnabout Samurai where I got seemingly stuck because I hadn’t presented the proper piece of evidence to a character or because I had missed a piece of evidence somewhere. In this case that involved an actor charged with murdering another actor, I got to a point where I just kept going back and forth between scenes trying to figure out how to trigger the next event. It turned out that I needed to present an obscure bit of evidence to one particular character during a specific conversation in order to get the game to progress. I also became quite good at presenting the wrong evidence at the wrong time, which also lead to me getting either stuck or, during the trial, on the bad side of the judge.
With these lessons learned from the Turnabout Samurai, I became a little obsessive in how I played Turnabout Goodbyes, a spectacularly twisty case in which Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth is accused of murder! I’m not saying that I didn’t get stuck at all, but I didn’t get stuck as much. I also got a little crazy in presenting all the evidence all the time to all the people in order to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything.
My record during trial remained pretty rotten. Though I will say that, as Mr. Panda warned me in the comments on my previous post, the game requires one to take and accept some large leaps in logic. There remain a couple spots during that trial where I still don’t understand how the evidence linked up to the testimony!
With the end of Turnabout Goodbyes, it looked as though the game was over. Everyone celebrated and then the credits ran. I was taken aback at how short the game was at the moment but pleased with how it had gone. Only then, another case appeared! And with a title like “Rise from the Ashes,” I can only imagine what’s in store.
While all the writing here might make it seem like my time with Ace Attorney took something of a downward slide, it really hasn’t. As odd as some of the case logic might be, and as difficult as it has been for me to keep track of everything and everyone during a case, I remain no less than extremely impressed with what Ace Attorney offers in terms of game play and story. Especially, the story.
Perhaps it’s this way with all visual novel games, but Ace Attorney wastes no time in presenting its characters. From the very start, you immediately get to know Phoenix Wright and his mentor Mia. I’ll grant that the language is a little stilted and strange at times, but that could due to a little funkiness in the English translation, I imagine. I do enjoy that Wright’s confident yet slightly naïve personality comes out as much in what he says as what he thinks, which is readily presented on screen. And his conversations with others are just as enlightening and often hilarious. I mean, I don’t think that Ace Attorney is supposed to be a purely comedic game, but some of the ridiculously weird conversation threads had me rolling. Not to mention that time when Wright cross-examined a parrot in Turnabout Goodbyes. I was just about beside myself during that entire routine.
On the more serious side of things, the choice to take Mia out of the picture in such a horrific manner and so soon in the game is a very bold choice, and one that shocked me. I didn’t quite understand why that had to happen until it became clear that she really had to go (even if by murder) in order for Wright to forge his own path. (I was quite grateful, though, for Mia’s help, through her spirit medium sister Maya, in a number of spots.)
On the other side of that coin is Miles Edgeworth, whom I still don’t get. I know that he and Wright are supposed to be at odds, but there were moments during Turnabout Goodbyes that confounded their relationship further, and that was even after the reveal of his and Wright’s childhood together. It could just that I’m so used to recognizing your typical villains in games that when someone fuzzy like Edgeworth comes along, I can’t quite wrap my mind around how I should feel about him. Is he just a jerk or simply a misunderstood soul? I want to bet on the latter, but I’m just not sure. And speaking of confusion, what of Dick Gumshoe? He plays the part of the sweet but bumbling detective, and yet, there are times where I just think he’s being smarmy for no good reason. And how about Maya?! She was both helpful but a little too meek at times. Yes, she’s young and confused about life as a spirit medium, and now she’s gone! (She leaves at the end of Turnabout Goodbyes to pursue her…uh…mediumship?) Where in the world does that leave Wright?
Questions, questions, too many questions. Will everything become clear in Rise from the Ashes? I kind of hope so. But that will have to wait until my next update!