Saturday, February 23, 2008

Beaten : Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney : Justice For All

It was a long week at work, and the stress was compounded by three out of my five morning rush hour drives occurring during (or in the immediate aftermath of) severe winter storms. I kept my eye on the prize, though - on Saturday night, I'd go home, lie back on the sofa, and finish Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney : Justice For All (which I will again refer to as Phoenix Wright : JFA from here on).

I honestly have no idea why I put this game down last March and never finished it. Perhaps it's because I got my Nintendo Wii around that time and dove in to The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess and then Super Paper Mario. Like I said in my last blog entry, it's really hard to pick up in the middle of a case where you left off.

But I did it earlier this week, and was immediately hooked again. Once I had made a breakthrough, the momentum built, and that "I can't wait until I get home to play it" feeling took over. And tonight, I beat the game (and also found both a good ending and an unsuspected bad ending).

What makes these games so damn good anyway? The graphics are sparse and used over and over, and the gameplay is really just a matter of logic (and often luck). It's the story and characters. The Phoenix Wright series (the two chapters I've seen so far) totally embody the often - overlooked strength of storytelling and character depth in making and interactive adventure come alive and create an emotional attachment with the player.

I cheer out loud when I make a breakthrough and catch a witness with a contradiction. I laugh along with Phoenix as he clumsily attempts to stall for time in the courtroom. And I feel the same feeling one gets at the end of a good movie, when you know you are seeing the characters saying goodbye and you wish them well.

I have finished the first two Phoenix Wright games and am on to the third one, Trials and Tribulations, which promises an epic conclusion to the trilogy. I assume it's that because the fourth game just released is called Apollo Justice : Ace Attorney, and focuses on an entirely different lawyer.

As a gamer with a quirky sophistication developed over decades of trying every different form of interactive fiction and adventure, I am so glad to see companies like Capcom take a chance on something like this. Since there have been three sequels released in the last year, I can only assume it turned out to be a smart business decision on their part. Hopefully , more are on the way.

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