To all of you aspiring games writers out there who wish to the Japanese stars you could be at Tokyo Game Show, here is another thing to watch out for when your wishes finally come true and you find yourself at a TGS demo booth: almost EVERYTHING is in Japanese. This being the case, my impression of Gyakuten Kenji (aka, Perfect Prosecutor), a spin-off title to the Phoenix Wright series, was limited to where my two years of Japanese will take me, and I’m finding that isn’t very far.
This being the case my impression of Gyakuten Kenji (aka, Perfect Prosecutor) was limited to where my two years of Japanese will take me, and I’m finding that isn’t very far. However, getting to experience how the game runs managed to restore a little bit of my faith in this spinoff. While having the tempermental, semi-crotchety Edgeworth as the lead role is promising, the walk-about format where you control a small avatar to walk around the screen seemed to be too big of a deviation from Phoenix’s standard point-and-click adventures. While at face value, this would make it seem like the game has completely changed, there’s still plenty of point-and-clickery to go around, and the walk-about setup is a plain-and-simple new feature that contribute to the game’s main focus of investigation.
The game begins with the usual murder scene, and drops you right into the scene of the crime, Edgeworth’s office. Already abuzz with several police officers, you’re joined by the ever-clumsy but kind-hearted Detective Gumshoe. If you’ll recall, in the original Phoenix Wright games, only the image of the character you were talking with would show. But this time around, the person you’re conversing with and Edgeworth appear on screen in three-quarters view (think Fire Emblem) rather than a straight-on, frontal, 2D view of the character the protagonist is talking to. It’s a minor change, but the character models are just as emotive and entertaining as the past games. The smaller, full-body avatars used in the walk-about areas of the game radiate the same expressions and exhibit matching character tics.
After some conversation, the game clears away the text boxes and lets you focus on investigating the room around you. You move Edgeworth around by pointing to different areas of a small box on the DS’s touch screen. A small icon appearing on-screen indicates that area needs to be investigated, and clicking on that area will zoom in to a full-screen view of the scene a la old-school Phoenix Wright style. You then poke around the scene until Edgeworth conjectures some pieces of logic from various clues—which kind of works like evidence in this game, in that it propels you through the case. A brief summary is recorded, a la the court record. The player then combines these logic points (literally, click on one, then another, and then click the "combine" command), to unlock more logic points. If you combine the wrong pieces of logic, then your health meter drains as a penalty. By investigating the scene, and combining different pieces of logic, Edgeworth can gather more clues and solve the case.
Although the walk-about environment seems like a major change, it so far seems to just flesh out the areas that were in between the one- or two-panel environments from the past games and promote the idea that Edgeworth’s job is more about searching and investigating. I would be worried a bit if the game designers had switched to the walk-about setup for no reason, but for the purpose of this game, it makes sense. There are other minor differences in Perfect Prosecutor from the Ace Attorney series, but all these changes are basically aesthetic, and the game is still in touch with the series’ roots. There’s the same light-hearted overtone, yet slightly gritty feel of “there’s a murder case and, damn it, we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
So, yes, I’m starting to have faith in this title…even if I didn’t completely understand the demo.