Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top 50 Games - #36

36. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Year: 2008
Format: DS

To be honest, I could have quite easily filled up several spaces on this list with Ace Attorney games.  But this is a “top 50 games” list, and not a “top 50 vaguely interactive stories” list, and since they all play pretty much the same I’ve just kept it to the best one.
   The Ace Attorneys are a midway point between point-and-click adventures and “visual novels” – basically electronic books with very mild gameplay elements that are quite popular in Japan.  You’re a solicitor charged with getting a succession of oddballs found innocent.  You do this by examining the crime scene and gathering evidence before the trial, where you pick holes in witnesses’ statements and steer round the prosecution’s attempts to send your dude/lady dahhhhn.
   They’re pretty basic, gameplay-wise (and indeed presentation-wise), being essentially a very elaborate series of multiple-choice questions.  But it’s the story you want.  The series’ universe is one of the most vibrant and imaginative in gaming, filled with memorable characters and gripping plot twists.  It’s also really, really funny, thanks to some truly sterling translation work.  And a noble willingness to indulge in some utterly horrific puns.
   Anyway, Trials is the third and best of the series.  The end of the “Phoenix trilogy” – i.e. the three games starring hapless Phoenix Wright as the player character – it was also originally the end of the series.  (The first three games were Japan-only GBA titles, before they were shoved onto DS for a worldwide release a few years later.  It’s the success of these ports that caused Capcom to start the series up again.)  And as such, it hosts the most elaborate plotting, as three games’ worth of plot arcs are elegantly tied up.  And as such as such...I’m not going to say any more, because this is a game that requires a lot of investment on your part to pay off.  But the payoff is mighty.
MAGIC MOMENT: the final case, which sees various characters team up while Phoenix is hospitalised.  Improbably exciting for a series of static screens.

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