Monday, November 26, 2007

The People vs Phoenix Wright

This post does not have any meaningful spoilers in it.

I finally played Phoenix Wright. Just the first one. I don't play many DS games.

There's a lot that can be learned from a game like this. First off, that the word "game" is a really poor one. It's really just an interactive movie. Not even. It's kind of just an interactive comic book.

But it's fun as hell.

For me, the telling bit was the last case. For the final case, they suddenly give you a wide variety of investigative tools: a spray to detect blood, a fingerprinting kit, the ability to analyze clues in 3D...

But although the case was very clever, I enjoyed it least out of all the cases. In looking carefully, the reason I enjoyed it least was because these tools took the focus off of people and put it onto stuff.

The strength of the game is the people. For the first four episodes, gameplay consisted largely of running from person to person and trying to convince them to say something useful. Even in court, it's mostly about badgering them until they tell the truth.

But the final case is mostly about stuff. In fact, even in court, it's not about getting witnesses to tell the truth. It's about simply discrediting the witnesses and presenting the truth through stuff.

This can most easily be seen in the "court record", IE the inventory. In the first four cases, you generally have about a dozen items, sixteen at most. In the fifth episode, you end up with more than thirty. It's not simply that it's a more complex case: it's a fundamental shift in the focus of the game.

I found it irritating. What I liked about the first four episodes was the people. They didn't require any high-tech silliness like blowing on your DS or solving jigsaw puzzles. It was just me, a dialog tree, and a ton of really entertaining writing.

I think there may be a lesson in this, but only if I'm not unique... did anyone else notice the same thing?

4 comments:

Mory said...

I'm in the middle of Phoenix Wright now. Should I stop playing at the end of Chapter 4?

Craig Perko said...

Certainly not! Just keep in mind that the last day of the last chapter takes at least five hours...

Jojo said...

In case you were unaware, that's a remake of the original GBA game (released only in Japan). The first four cases are exactly the same, just retrofitted for touch control on the menus (and shouting into the mic for 'objection', and 'hold it'). The final case was created just for the remake, to take advantage of the DS. There's definitely a difference in focus and quality of the two, probably because they were done by different teams with different target hardware.

Craig Perko said...

That explains a lot, actually. Thanks!