Friday 20 April, 2007
So, I finished the 5th case. For a "bonus" case (it becomes avaialable after you supposedly beat the game and watch the credits) it was definitely a lot longer, more involved, and interesting that I expected.
Surprisingly, it introduced new gameplay, letting you manipulate some pieces of evidence by rotating and zooming your view in. So, some of the clues required you to find clues in them... Very neat!
So, what is worth it? Totally.
I'm really surprised by how much I enjoyed the game as well as how involved I became with the courtroom drama. And all of this while playing without any sound!
It's also been interesting to view this game as an evolution of sorts of the typical adventure game (including the text-based ones). These games normally fall prey to a problem wherein the player is trying to outwit/outguess the designer of the game. The solutions to puzzles seem arbitrary and the player often ends up going for the brute-force method of problem solution. Trying to use everything in your inventory with everything in the environment quickly gets out of hand. Also, many puzzles require you to guess ahead too far. The player doesn't really know what is expected of him and WHY he should perform some sequence of crazy actions in a specific order. In many cases you feel like you're working on a giant Rube Goldberg device where you don't know what the final goal is and you don't know if the little step you just did was in the right direction or not.
I felt that Phoenix Wright largely solved this issue in a few ways:
(1) The game is segmented in such a way as to limit the combinatorial explosion of options. In court, for example, you're usually "stuck" in a particular witnesses testimony which is maybe 4-5 "screens". When hunting down evidence, there are never more than 5-6 locations you can visit.
(2)The game automatically "progresses" to the next step/stage when you've done all that you need to do. Sure, it's a more linear, but you never second guess yourself. If the plot isn't moving, you still need to do something, somewhere..
(3) Clear goals, that are the same regardless of the actual case. For example, when you're in court you need to poke holes in the witnesses testimony. Always. The context and circumstances may change, but your end goal is always the same. If you get it right, the case moves on...so you don't have to think in terms of long chains of elements-actions (no need to think of a Rube Goldberg device)
I guess in some ways it's a simplified formula where the scope of your actions has been narrowed down and the narrative experience is structured more tightly. But it sure is effective! :-)
It's my understanding that Phoenix Wright was originally a series of GBA games, and the bonus case was created to take advantage of the DS's features. Ace Attorney 2 and 3 don't have bonus cases or the evidence examination feature introduced in case 5. They do, however, introduce a new mechanic which serves to point out most of the points in investigation where you have to present evidence to a character in order to proceed - one of the few places that I got lost in any Phoenix Wright game was when I had to show someone some piece of evidence and I somehow couldn't tell who I had to bother. 2 and 3 are worthwhile stories - the translation is every bit as good as here.
Friday 25 January, 2008 by ajrich