Spiky Haired Freaks And Me

cloud_sm phoenix

It’s been a bit over a decade since my wife and I played through Final Fantasy VII, but one thing sticks with me.

Well, a few things, really.  Chocobo racing, giant nasty sandworms, flower girls meeting unfortunate ends… but mostly what sticks with me is the frustration factor involved with maneuvering Cloud around some of the spiffy pre-rendered backgrounds.

When you got to a new screen in FF7, you could press a button to see where all the exits were on the current screen, and this was a big help since they weren’t always obvious.  The problem was that, once the exits were pointed out, you then had to maneuver Cloud to get to them, and the game got awfully finicky at times.

This lead to occasional shouts of “go where I want you to, you spiky haired freak!”

“Spiky haired freak” has become one of those phrases that’s outlived the game.

This brings me, somewhat awkwardly, to the latest game I borrowed off her DS shelf, Phoenix Wright : Ace Attorney, which features a spiky haired, sometimes-clueless,  lawyer and endless variations on the old adventure-game play mechanic of “I have a dozen things in inventory.  One of them MUST be the thing I need to proceed.  Oops, that wasn’t the one, is it this one?

I will be pedantic and nitpicky here and point out that it’s actually not an adventure game, but a “visual novel”, a genre dominated by the sorts of games you probably wouldn’t want to be seen playing in public. This, however, is one of the rare non-adult examples of the genre, though I’m sure you can get no end of Phoenix Wright doujinshi, if that’s your thing, and who am I to criticize you if it is?

But I digress.

Phoenix Wright, surprisingly enough, manages to make being a lawyer look kind of fun.  You get to go out and question people and gather evidence and break into safes and all sorts of things that I’m not actually sure lawyers do, and then you get to take all this information to court and try to pick holes in testimony with it, generally in order to prove your client innocent and coincidentally convict the Real Bad Guy.

Fortunately, the Real Bad Guy is usually a thoroughly vile person and your client is usually innocent.  I’m not sure I’d like a game where your goal was to get your obviously-guilty client off on a technicality.

It does sometimes veer into “damnit, I KNOW this is the right evidence, why are you not letting me present it, you spiky haired freak?” territory, particularly at the start of the final case, but the ratio of “time spent nailing people to the wall with evidence” compared to “time spent trying to figure out what the heck I need to do to next” is favorable on the side of nailing people to the wall, and if you like the sound of that, this is a good game for you.

And, yes, the fact that it has three sequels and a fourth on the way DOES sort of suggest that it’s a decent game, but now you have my word for it as well.

Just don’t let the final case grind you down too much when you start on it.  There’s a sticky point you have to get past pretty early, and then it’s pretty much smooth sailing until the end credits.

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