Posts Tagged ‘ DSi ’

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright is an interesting little adventure. The guise of a “Lawyer Sim” actually houses a pretty nifty point-and-click adventure which is perfectly suited for the DS. Considering the majority of the content is ported directly from a GBA game that came out in Japan in 2001, the subject matter and control scheme still make this seem like a brand new kettle of fish, even if the graphics kind of give the game away.
Ooh, but I digress. You are Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney, fresh out of Law School and thrown into your first case. As a defence attorney, it is your job to prove your client’s innocence in a number of incredibly over-the-top court cases, and hopefully have a few laughs along the way.

When a case presents itself, you have numerous options to aid your investigation. You can move to different locations, talk to different people and explore the area with the touch screen, all to try and gather clues as to what really happened. When the game feels that you have enough evidence, you are placed into the trial itself. The prosecution will throw everything but the kitchen sink at you, but, being the ace attorney that you are, you should be able to prove your point using the clues that you have gathered, and by “pressing” witnesses when you feel like they are lying. Above all, and most wonderfully, you can shout “OBJECTION!” into the DS’s Microphone whenever you feel like proving the prosecution wrong. Oh my, and how it feels good.

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Phoenix Wright’s real strengths lie in the dialogue, and in its stylised presentation. Everything is in a wonderful anime style, with characters being completely static save for a few minute animations, which focuses your attention on the dialogue at hand. In a point-and-click adventure such as this, anything but would just be full-on distracting. It’s a nice touch and makes the game all the more unique. Whilst many may feel that not being in complete control kind of spoils the experience (not being able to move freely around a police station for example, you are locked to particular locations, and you can merely look around one area using the touch screen), such a function would be unnecessary in these proceedings, and wholly confusing, which I will explain all in good time.

The dialogue is nothing short of wonderful. The script writers must have had a whale of a time writing it. Every character has their own believable personality, and it really brings the whole universe to life. What’s more is it makes it a whole lot easier to evaluate people and to determine motives and find lies in their testimony. Whilst every line of dialogue is laid out (you can only ask pre-determined questions), it’s very easy to get sucked into the game and start believing people’s stories, and of course, refute others, even if the game doesn’t let you.

The script is incredibly well written, at times hilarious and really makes the game stand out. I can’t remember laughing this much at a game before. Even character’s names are funny. The first witness you need to cross examine, an eccentric individual who believes he witnessed a murder…Mr Sawhit. Honestly, it’s groan-worthy but in a way that’s absolutely superb.

The game is split into five “cases”, the first four being that of the GBA game, and the last made specifically for DS. Each story throws an even more absurd case at you and you begin to wonder how in the blue hell you are going to get out of it. These range from a case where there is a large amount of evidence against your client, to one where your client admits to the crime in the first place! Honestly, it’s insane how the writing allows you to weave your own web out of each impossible situation but its all the more satisfying when you do.

The court scenes are my personal favourite part of the game. Finding holes in witness testimonies and throwing in evidence that proves contradictions is amazing fun and there is little more that is this satisfying. The whole debacle plays out like one massive beat-em-up game, with fingers being pointed, screen flashes, that crazy anime “flying” backdrop, and characters acting like they’ve been punched in the gut when you prove them wrong. It’s a wonder why the prosecution doesn’t have a health bar.

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It’s not all roses though. You can’t just throw in any piece of evidence to prove your case. Mess up and the judge will penalize you, and there are only a certain number of times you can do that before the case ends automatically and its game over for you. Kudos to the developers of adding this element or risk in, it tasks you with actually thinking about your answers before you give them.

That being said, the game can be unforgivably linear. Being a point-and-click adventure, there are only a certain number of places you can go and a certain number of things you can say to one individual before you have done absolutely everything. The same with the trials, if you wanted to, you could in turn present every piece of evidence you own until you get the desired response, as long as you’re happy to go through a few “game over” screens. However, being a point-and-click adventure makes the game what it is, and having fully explorable areas would probably make the game near on impossible, as there would be too much to explore.

Also, there are an unprecedented amount of twists in each story, most of the time, to the point of getting silly. Each story is named something like “turnabout sisters” or turnabout samurai” – turnabout being the literal translation for the Japanese word for a twist in the story. Think you know twists because you’ve watched the movie Basic or seen a series of 24? Think again. Just as you think you have figured everything out…ooh…another twist. It’s refreshing at first, but becomes exhausting by the end. The developers love their “turnabouts” so much that they decided to put one in the end credits. Yes that’s right, the credits roll after story number 4….and then story 5 starts, almost as if it’s designed to annoy you.

This is one of the main niggles I have with the game. It’s very fun, but it’s also very long. The first 4 stories take a good amount of time, (about 10 hours), and all loose ends are tied up (it was a stand alone GBA game after all), and there’s actually a really heart-warming ending. Then, this fifth story hits you out of absolutely nowhere, and not only doesn’t really further the main storyline in anyway, it’s an absolute grind. It’s not that interesting and is a good five hours long. The game was long enough before this, and this last story just feels a little bit tacked on. It feels odd as well, with the graphics being noticeably better than that of the previous 4 stories.

Phoenix Wright is definitely worth picking up. It’s charming, hilarious at times, and what I would call the DS equivalent of a good crime novel. Take it on holiday with you, or just murder a good 15 hours of your life at home. Whether you like it or not, you will get addicted to it, and that, unfortunately is one of its flaws. It’s so addictive that by the end, you won’t want to put it down even though you know that you should, what with the last stretch of the game being so laboured.

 Hi-Score – Brilliantly funny dialogue, satisfying court “battles”, charming stylization, likeable characters. 

Lo-Score – Very linear, horrendously long, last story is poorly tacked on.

 Overall Score – 7 out of 10

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WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 DS

This year’s iteration of Smackdown vs Raw for the DS is another example of a great idea pulled off incredibly badly. Last year’s DS entry into the series prompted stylus-only controls, making controlling your wrestler incredibly clumsy and difficult, and unfortunately, Yukes do not seem to have learned their lesson.

Smackdown Vs Raw 2009 has all the makings of pocket wrestling gold. A wealth of grapplers, an extensive season mode, gimmick matches like Ladder, TLC, Cage (finally!) and even a reasonably comprehensive create-a-wrestler mode, the staple of all decent Smackdown games to date. Couple that with a decent soundtrack and graphics that wouldn’t look out of place next to the N64’s excellent “No Mercy” and you should have the ideal portable WWE experience. Unfortunately, there is one phenomenally irritating element to the game that makes the entire content seem redundant in comparison.

Once again, Yukes have opted for a stylus based control scheme, which simply does not work in a wrestling game. Wanna kick your opponent? Tap the screen. Wanna grapple your opponent? Draw a circle on the screen. Draw a circle? What the hell is that about? Not only does it have absolutely nothing to do with grappling it is simply far too unresponsive to ever constitute actually being a “grapple”. Oh, and if you get knocked down, you have to rub the stylus over the screen to get your character up. Like you’re some sort of magic healer or something. Give me a break.

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Don’t get me wrong, I tried so very, very hard to get used to the controls. I’ve played my fair share of Wii games to know that the odd gem lies behind a control scheme that is difficult to get used to at first but this is just plain wrong. The grappling controls are too inconsistent, and most of the time, you will be drawing circles on the touch screen, only to find that your wrestler either does nothing, or the computer opponent moves out of the way just as you do it. The AI is massively unforgiving and there’s no way you can even turn the difficulty down. From the word go, you will be on the floor, giving your wrestler a good “rub”. Eew. Surely the fundamentals of a good Wrestling game would feature some actual wrestling?

Trying to place all my cynicism aside, I had a crack at the Season mode, which in all honesty, angered me even more. There’s a lot to see and do, but there are a wealth of inconsistencies which would probably frustrate any other WWE fan too. You begin by choosing your wrestler, and then you get the chance to move around a large map, each area giving you a new option. You have complete control over your superstar, and you can literally walk into WWE headquarters, go up an elevator, and walk into Vince McMahon’s office.  

I started my season as Shawn Michaels, the Heartbreak Kid, undoubtedly one of the biggest stars in WWE history. When walking into McMahon’s office, I was told that I’d have to do “big things” to make it in the WWE, I’d be up against some big names, and if I don’t make a name for myself then I’d be fired. Excuse me? I’m HBK, Mr Wrestlemania! Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?
The game has an incredibly basic script that expects that you will be using a create-a-wrestler, rather than a “real” superstar, and if you’re not…well, you apparently just have to put up with the fact that nothing makes sense, and that the Undertaker will introduce himself to you when you first meet him, even though you’ve had God knows how many matches with him over the years. The console versions of Smackdown always find a way to incorporate script that makes sense for seasoned veterans and newbies, even if it isn’t character specific. Why exactly couldn’t the same be done on the DS? It’s almost as if absolutely no thought has gone into it.

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I also tried my hand at the create-a-superstar mode, which really isn’t bad at all. Whilst you don’t get all of the options of the console versions (you can’t make tattoos etc), you still get a lot to play around with, and can have your character wearing practically anything (there is a bear snout and ears…for all you bear lovers out there). You are given a very generous level of stat points to give your created superstar too; using all of the base points that you are given, you can actually make your created wrestler better than some of the weaker “real” superstars from the word go. Jimmy Wang Yang anyone?

You get to edit all of their moves and their entrance as well, which would be incredibly nice if editing their moves made the slightest bit of difference at all. I was quite disappointed with the create an entrance though. For the first time, I was able to give my CAS Mr Kennedy’s intro. Curious as to how the microphone gimmick would be played out, I watched the entire thing. To my horror, my character reached up, grabbed the microphone, and opened his mouth as if to speak, in true Kennedy style…with no voice coming out whatsoever. Humiliatingly enough, my character was standing centre ring, nattering away, with no voice. Just another example of the lack of thought that Yukes have put into this game. Surely they would realise that no one wants an entrance where their character mouths absolutely nothing to a cardboard crowd?

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And that’s SVR 2009 in a nutshell really. A whole wealth of ideas that have had almost no thought put into them. With a complete overhaul of the control scheme, I could probably overlook the shortcomings of the season mode and give this game a nice fat 7 or 8 out of 10, because it has all the makings of a great wrestling game, like the classic smackdowns or the games from the N64, but the control scheme is so damn awful and so frustrating that it really is not worth putting yourself through. Really, why buy a game where the best feature is the fact that you can create a wrestler, when he is only going to get his butt handed to him the second you start a match because the controls don’t work and the AI is brutal? The answer is, you shouldn’t. And that’s the bottom line.

Hi-Score – Comprehensive create-a-wrestler, nice graphics, walking around in Season mode is kinda cool.

Lo-Scores – Controls stop this actually being a “game” and more like torture. Inconsistencies in season mode story.

Final Score – 4 out of 10

DSi Review

Nintendo’s DS handheld has already been through a facelift once in the past, moving from a clunky and unattractive form to the stylised Lite version that saw new colours and better button placement. It was something more for the iPod generation.
Many would argue that any changes to the Lite console is needless and unwanted, However Nintendo feel that it is once again time for change and with it comes the DSi.

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The DSi is in essence a DS Lite but with more bells and whistles. Compared to it’s older brother, the DSi is the arrogant talented younger sibling whose constant superiority confuses and shames it’s older counterpart.
With more to play with in this iteration, Nintendo seem to be looking to turn the DS into a portable Wii.
By giving the base menu a complete overhaul to make it look and act like a Wii, This feels like a whole new console rather than a reboot. Upon starting up the DSi, after being greeted by the usual warning screen, You will see that you now have many channels at your disposal. These act just like the Wii dashboard and each channel will house your many applications that will build up over time.

So how do you fill these channels?
To answer this question you need to know what is new with the DSi compared to the DS Lite.
The most apparent changes are the addition of two cameras, one on the outside and one on the hinge inside the unit. You also now have the ability to use SD memory cards inside the DSi, This will enable you to play music and video content as well as saving pictures and programs to the card.
So the camera channel is one of the few channels you’ll start with and along with that you’ll notice a Nintendo store as well. Venturing in here you will see that you can download games and additional channels in exchange for Nintendo points which you also use on the Wii.

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Inside the Nintendo store you can download your next channel which is another new feature of the DSi, an internet browser. You could go online with the previous DS but you would need a cartridge to allow you to do it. Now it’s stored on your home menu you can fire it up and browse until your hearts content.
Browsing the net is a simple affair and the stylus is great as a replacement mouse. You can do pretty much anything you would with a PC except any heavy duty video streaming and such. However checking your e-mails and favourite sites is now an ability you have while on the go, assuming you’re near a wifi hotspot.

So other than taking pictures and manipulating them, buying DSiWare on the Nintendo store and browsing the net, What else is new?
Well, the Gameboy advance slot is now gone, a shame for anyone who loves portable retro gaming or strumming away the time on guitar hero, But everything else is additions.
The screen is now bigger, growing by 0.25 inches, which doesn’t sound much but is definitely noticeable. Along with the screen getting bigger the unit itself has shrunk;
Nintendo DSi: Width 137mm, Length 74.9mm, Thickness 18.9mm (touch pen is approx. 92mm in length)
Nintendo DS Lite: Width 133mm, Length 73.9mm, Thickness 21.5mm (touch pen is approx. 87.5mm in length)

With these being the main changes to the unit, you can overlook the fact that the power switch from the side of the DS Lite is now a button on the inside of the unit and the volume slider is now a toggle switch on the side rather than on the bottom.

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The last major change is purely cosmetic, the DS Lite had a gloss sheen to it but this has been ousted for a chalky matt finish. At first a great decision to eliminate fingerprints however if you manage to catch it with a fingernail or something similar it will have a temporary scuff which looks ugly. Not a huge issue but on a black unit it can be slightly off putting.

Is the upgrade worthwhile?
Yes, if you want to use the raft of DSi only games that Nintendo are bound to release once the console is in full swing. The cameras are fun for the first hour and then are forgotten, this will be until the inevitable series of games that truly utilises the new additions.
Most of these new features will only really be used if you don’t have an iPod or indeed something portable to watch video content on.
Only if these things are a necessity for you or you don’t already own Nintendo’s handheld should you purchase a DSi. Otherwise you may not be blown away by changes seen.
That being said it’s a fun console and kids will have a great time with the camera and it’s software included.

Another great handheld from the greats, but was it really needed? The decision is yours.