Phoenix Wright

Last Rant on Videogames: Objectionable Practices

It seems inconceivable to me that anyone who plays videogames with some regularity hasn't heard of the Phoenix Wright series by now, but every day someone learns something new.

I fell in love with the first game in this series after the first 15 minutes.  In a vaguely dystopian future, you take on the role of a lawyer in a legal system where someone decided bureaucracy and due process were terrible ideas.  Apparently, because the cost of legal proceedings became so exorbitant, all trials have 3 day limits.  Also, it's based more on the Japanese legal system than the American flavor, so there's a lot more arbitration by the judge.  By a lot more, I mean it's all that.  There's no jury.

Phoenix Wright is a young attorney just cutting his teeth.  Not to long into the game, for potentially spoilerriffic reasons, he's left on his own to run the firm he was a part of.  With the help of his mentor and her younger psychic sister, you must gather evidence and fight to prove innocence of your client at all costs.  There's plenty of melodrama and crazy plot twists, all wrapped up in a logic and puzzle oriented package.  The whole presentation is tremendously enjoyable and gets to be fairly challenging in later chapters.  Each subsequent game follows the same formula with a continuous story.  Nods to continuity make the sequels fairly enjoyable, and the cases are usually quite interesting.

Nothing beats the feeling of being on a roll in court.  Really, quick, here's a breakdown of the mechanics.  The game alternates between the "evidence gathering" mode and the "courtroom craziness" mode.  Generally, you start each chapter in the first mode.  You go around, talk to people, and poke about various scenes for clues.  The actual movement is done via a menu system, essentially just presenting the player with a series of scenes to interact with.  At any point, a scene may be occupied by a character with a list of conversation topics.  Additionally, you can use your stylus on the DS versions, or just move the cursor with the D-pad on the GBA versions, to look for evidence around the scene.  At various points, you may need to present that evidence to get someone to talk.  After you've gathered all that you can, Phoenix takes over and declares that he's done for the day.  In the later games, your psychic sidekick's adorable niece gives you a family heirloom that lets you tell when people are lying or otherwise withholding information, so you can be assured that Mr. Wright always has a trustworthy client.  Dodged a bullet there.

When you get to court, you listen to witness testimony, cross-examine, and present evidence that contradicts the their statements.  At some points, you start positing scenarios, and fire out 6 or 7 steps in a logical chain of events in a row, all with wonderfully dramatic background music pumping up your enthusiasm for lawyering.  Your rival lawyers are pretty camp, and have fairly complex characters that are revealed over the course of battling them in the courtroom.  After a day in court, you usually have to go sleuthing again to find something that will help finalize your case against the opposition.

The meat of this game is presenting an interesting narrative while giving the player enough clues to logically deduce the next series of events.  There's always some room for error, so you can take a couple stabs at the more convoluted events.  Additionally, the game allows you to save at basically every point where you have control of advancing the text, so you can always get through a day in court without any missteps.  The actual gameplay focuses on logical puzzle solving, and it's quite a thrill to see the pieces fall into place.

If you've never played these games, you can get them on the Wii VC, the GBA, or the DS.  Zany stories and lovable characters populate a world of insane lawyer battle.  If that sounds at all interesting, I highly recommend you give Phoenix Wright a try.