Category Archives: Nintendo eShop

*Gavel Sound*

A common feeling while playing

Seems like it took an entire month (well, a little over 38 hours) but I’ve finally beat Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice. After the gargantuan final case, I somewhat reluctantly have to admit that it’s by far the most massive but also the most disappointing entry in the series. On paper, everything probably looked mighty awesome. If pretty much all the main characters of the past five games make a comeback, if half the cases are solved in an exotic location abroad, and if all the murder mysteries are tweaked to be so tricky and surprising that it’ll take not just the usual 20-25 hours but 35-40 hours to solve, then surely all that will contribute to what will be the most stellar Ace Attorney experience ever! Right? Of course it will! It’s going to be huge! It’s going to be mindblowing!

Nope.

It feels like matricide to criticize a series which sports an original trilogy still ever close to my gaming heart. Still, there’s no two ways about it. Spirit of Justice is guilty of blatant overcompensation. Its pacing is all over the place and once it has exhausted the pool of cool logic, it nonchalantly dips into the pool of supernatural to explain any inconvenient contradiction. Granted, Ace Attorney cases have never been shy to teeter on the edge of credibility but Spirit of Justice takes it to another, awkward level.

The inclusive cast of the past wreaks havoc on an emotional level. Many of these characters are those we’ve come to know and love over a long period of time. Now everyone is merely a model quickly making their required turn on the catwalk, and it feels cheap. Stunts like making an assistant the attorney, or switching the positions of a prosecutor and a defense attorney are just desperate cries of a writer totally out of ideas. It’s the same with the script. It’s almost like it was written once but then given to an assistant who had to double its length by any means necessary. Visual novels tend to be text heavy, sure, but this one is blatantly drawn out. The final case in particular is so full of dot-only lines that it’s no longer a sign of drama but perhaps a sign of the writer getting a bit frustrated with excessive fat, too.

Spirit of Justice is still a potent courtroom drama(-comedy) but game by game, I can’t help but feel that it would’ve been better off as a trilogy. Since there’s no competition, even a poor Ace Attorney is still better than nothing but as it stands, it’s an uphill battle against the fans themselves.

All Quiet on the Gaming Front

Breathtaking!

This week has been mostly same old, same old. My main project is still Yakuza 0, which has temporarily bid farewell to Kazuma Kiryu and his real estate woes. The focus is now on Osaka, where perhaps the most beloved maniac in the entire series, Goro “Mad Dog” Majima, is leading a most peculiarly serene life. He is the refined manager of the fanciest, most successful cabaret in town. Instead of indiscriminate acts of brutal violence, Majima spends his time entertaining his clientele and taking care of his staff. Still, for him such ostentatious high life is but a reluctant prison. Thanks to his youthful blunder, he lost both his left eye and his position in the yakuza. He’d like nothing more than a new chance, but that’s not even negotiable without a 500 million yen apology. Bubble economy or not, that’s a sum that will probably take quite some effort to raise.

Since I’m in charge, Majima has not been concentrating on earning money but enjoying the nightlife of Osaka. Just like in Kamurocho, amusing side stories and eccentric characters pop up almost everywhere. The most wonderful aspect of the game is still its good-natured jabbing at the 80’s. As Majima, you get to marvel at the emergence of cellphones, or even have your say on how the government should improve taxation in the coming decades. Osaka’s Sotonbori (Dotonbori in real life) is familiar from Yakuza 5 but it, too, has been given a lovely PS4 overhaul. The areas in Yakuza games have never been particularly large, but what they lose in size, they win back in attention to detail. Neon signs, street adverts, vending machines, convenience store shelves, even the pavement… Absolutely everything has been designed with extreme care and authenticity. It’s because of this impeccable pedantry that I’ve already played for 18 hours, yet the story is still in the bullpen. In these surroundings, just gawking around, doing nothing in particular, and breathing in pure Japan is the way to go!

Yes… Yes it does…

Over on 3DS, I’m still making progress in Rhythm Paradise Megamix, although awkwardly. As much fun as it was to go for perfection, I’ve now more or less given up and struggle through the challenges with minimal effort. For some reason, the game no longer feels entertaining. I’m not entirely sure why, but (inadvertent) discouraging might be it. Even if the challenges themselves are still spontaneous crazy comedy, the game takes its rhythm dead seriously. The required reaction times and hit windows are becoming so small that some beats seem to hit more by accident than skill. It’s frustrating when your head and your fingers convince you of your rhythm being right but the game begs to differ. It more or less requires you to reach a flow of some kind, but even if that would only take more practice and especially repetition, it’s starting to feel more like work than actual fun. Luckily the challenges are still less than a minute each, so the game is still tolerable in small bursts.

D’awwwwwwwww!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is stumbling as well. Its third case was just as colossal and needlessly convoluted as the second. The fourth one, in turn, was weirdly short and remarkably detached from everything else. In other words, the pacing is off and the common thread lost. If Spirit of Justice was only about Phoenix and Maya adventuring in Khura’in, it might have risen to the excellence of the dreamy original trilogy. As it stands, it’s a disappointingly vague “something for everyone” experience. Despite all that, though, I must praise the holy priestess and princess of Khura’in, Rayfa Padma Khura’in. This condescending young woman resents lawyers with all her heart, but she has grown into a fantastic tsundere whose impetuous outbursts are a constant source of hearty laughs. I still have the final case to solve, too, so the game still has ample time to redeem itself. Besides, it’s not like Spirit of Justice is bad; it’s just not as good as us long-term fans of the series might’ve gotten used to.

All Present and Accounted For

Oh, it looks like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice won’t be just about our man abroad. Somewhat surprisingly, its second murder case takes place back home, fixing the spotlight on almost all the other good guys from the past games; Phoenix’s adopted daughter Trucy Wright, his protege Apollo Justice, the criminal psychologist Athena Cykes, and the forensics team member Ema Skye. In a way, I’m kinda starting to miss the good old times, when all the cases of a single game were tackled by a compact crew of just two or three. Then again, this sort of all-star setup at least guarantees that fans of any character are likely to be pleasantly surprised by Spirit of Justice.

Still, a strong line of defence is hardly redundant. As I don’t want to venture into spoiler territory, let’s just say the second case is pretty bloaty. It takes about six hours to go through and contains so much investigating, cross-examining, scheming, and lies stacked upon lies that towards the end it almost began to feel like the final confrontations of the past games. Unfortunately a good recipe cannot always be improved simply by making things more convoluted. Every now and then – even if it was still an entertaining ride on whole – the case got a little too gimmicky for its own good.

Nevertheless, I’m still intrigued to see how the game will tie seemingly individual incidents together. For now, the only link is that because of a Miraculous Coincidence™, Apollo’s adversary in court was a prosecutor on loan from – yup, you guessed it – Khura’in. There just has to be another explanation than the local prosecutors no longer even daring to enter the courtroom if faced with a defendant backed up by an attorney from the Wright agency (^^;) Oh well, let the good times roll, I’m off to case number three!

Hap’piraki!

That’s the way they greet people in the Kingdom of Khura’in and it’s where I ended up on this lazy Sunday, courtesy of the gaming world’s most popular (read: practically only) defence attorney Phoenix Wright. To put it another way, the winner of my “What to Play Next” draw is Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice. Wright might have been looking forward to a laid-back trip abroad simply to visit his former assistant, the spirit medium Maya Fey, but after his local tour guide, a young monk in training, is suddenly accused of treason and murder, our spiky-haired, blue-jacketed hero has no choice but to practice law in a foreign country.

So far, I have only completed the first of the game’s five cases but that alone has been enough to convince me that Capcom’s script writers and murder mystery masterminds are still in top-notch condition. The story flows effortlessly while the player laughs heartily at outrageous characters and a constant barrage of quality humour. In the courtroom, things get a little more serious, and the deviously elaborate plans of the cowardly culprits are torn apart piece by piece by cross-examining witnesses, pressing them for additional details, and exposing the lies with contradicting evidence – the weapon most powerful in all of gaming. Every game in the series seems to introduce its own tiny original element, which in this case seems to be Khura’in priestesses’ ability to summon forth the last few seconds of someone who has died. No biggie; if that’s what it takes to spot a crucial contradiction then so be it.

I’m quite certain to be entertained by this one for the next week or two, so expect more random posts about it as I go along. Already, I’d dare say it’s guaranteed thinking and laughing therapy. Then again, all the previous games have been that, too, so it’s a safe bet.