Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Phoenix Wright's 'Objection!' to high def handhelds

Managed to bag myself a little bargain at my local pre-owned games section. For a tenner I got the second in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series. If you have no idea what I'm talking about then maybe you should treat your DS to one of the most iconic graphic adventure series of modern times - or treat your GBA if you're got just the right lighting conditions and a huge pile of batteries. Each game contains four or five episodes in which an often embattled Phoenix Wright needs prevent his (usually framed) clients from being stitched up for a murder that they are charged with committing. For such dark subject matter the game's larger than life witnesses and absurd circumstances make for compulsive gameplay and narratives. You find the contradictions in witness testimonies when they either lie or  just plain get stuff wrong. What's more if you have a DS you can interact with the game by shouting...

...when you've spotted a goof in their account of the murder. There may be no replay value, side-quests or anything else other than a linear story progression through each of the cases but given the nature of the game I can't really find fault with that being the case. What might make the series look a bit weak to people is the fact that the sound and graphics aren't exactly up to scratch with what can be achieved on current gen handhelds such as the 3DS and the PSVita. Why would you want the basic platter of music and cartoon graphics of Capcpm's lawyer games when you can also crawl around a nicely rendered jungle environment as Solid Snake in an upcoming Metal Gear release? I'll tell you for why my friend, it's because simply designed games just won't be coming out for handhelds for much longer and that's nothing to celebrate. Do you want to know another game series that's done very well despite leaving much to be desired in its exploits in graphics and audio technology? Pokémon.
A screenshot from Pokémon Diamond.
 The idea that a worldwide phenomenon can be generated by little more than a few hundred still images (that are sometimes morphed around during their attacks by transforms we've been able to do since the 80s) is incredible. The game's rules and well designed gameplay can more than justify a less then technically rich environment. Sure they've jazzed it up a lot since the monochrome days of the original games but it's not exactly Skyrim we're looking at is it? The issue here is that since handheld gaming has got to the stage where the hardware powering it is getting pretty hardcore, it'll be a much tougher sell for these kinds of games to be released as there will be the expectation to make the most of the available specs. I have nothing against a game looking and sounding stunning but I've always had a console where that can take place and a separate handheld world where I can enjoy games that don't pack as much of a punch technically such as Castlevania games, which are still more than worth my time.

Maybe I don't need to worry too much seeing as there's so much support for indie developers from the big console giants but do you really want a) to be rooted to a console in order to play these simpler new titles and b) it to be the case that handheld machines are subject to the same AAA standards as current gen consoles when it is clearly the case that they'll never be able to achieve the same heights anyway? To me the jury's still out on that one (and there I can very roughly come back full circle to the Phoenix Wright stuff in a contrived way! That's what we call style :C)  

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