L.A. Noire v. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney... A Landmark Case

Two things happened semi-recently that motivated me to replay games that I’ve loved - a sale on the season pass of L.A. Noire and the announcement of Ace Attorney 5. As a result, I went back to my shelf to pull out L.A. Noire and the first Ace Attorney game to see if I would enjoy them as much as I did when I played them when they were released.

L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire was easily in my top 10 games of last year. The facial animations were astounding, and as a fan of games that involve sleuthing, I was glad it was more of an adventure/detective game, rather than the shooter that Rockstar tried to portray in the TV commercials I would often see. With the season pass going on sale on the XBLM, I thought that this would be a perfect time to go back and revisit 1950’s Los Angeles.

With the season pass came four cases: A Slip of the Tongue on the Traffic desk, Reefer Madness and The Naked City on Vice, and Nicholson Electroplating on Arson. Personally, I thought The Naked City was by far the best in the DLC. It was long, involved, and provided enough twists and turns to keep me enraptured in suspense. On the other hand, Nicholson Electroplating was severely disappointing. While the others were extra cases added that didn’t need any context of the entire story, Nicholson Electroplating starts off by referencing what happened in the previous case, and because I completed the game over a year ago, I was extremely confused with what Cole and his partner were discussing in the beginning. Although this case starts off with a literal bang (hah!), it has an extremely abrupt ending. You don’t end up even solving the case, and the whole thing is left completely hanging. The best part of each case in L.A. Noire is doing the investigating and interrogating so you’re able to catch the criminal, and without that satisfaction, Nicholson Electroplating falls flat on its face.

"If you don't stop lying, I will throw you in the slammer! ... Thank you very much for the information sir."

Revisiting this game also opened my eyes to some stuff. I was so in love with how there was a great game about police and detective work that I gave the benefit of the doubt to some of the aspects that were awkward. Now, after having distanced myself from this game for more than a year, some quirks definitely caught my eye negatively. The loudest complaint that people had with the game was the change of emotion Cole would exhibit during the interrogations. Before, I thought this was a rather minor fault to an otherwise excellent game. But after playing through the DLC cases, that reversal of tone was really jarring. One moment Cole is yelling at a suspect to tell him the goddamn truth, and the next moment he’s calmly asking a question in a normal voice. I’m not sure if this became so apparent for me this time around because I’ve heard the public mention that grievance ad nauseum, but the fact remains that I noticed it now. Regardless, this is a finely designed game, with the still ridiculously good facial animations and the ingenious sound cues.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, on the other hand, felt like it was better a second time around. This game is just so gosh darn charming. Without giving away story details, it's hard for me to articulate why I adore this game so much. Suffice it to say that this game simply warms my heart with endless joy. Enough time has passed since I completed it, so it felt like I was experiencing it again for the first time. My favorite part of each case would probably be the ridiculous animation the suspect would perform once he or she is finally caught.

Why do I have this feeling this franchise is under appreciated? More people need to play these games!
Why do I have this feeling this franchise is under appreciated? More people need to play these games!

Phoenix Wright is by no means a perfect game however. I still vastly prefer the court sessions over the investigative portions of the game. Cross-examining and trying to find the contradiction is much more engaging to me than scouring each item at the crime scene. Also, the game would only progress once you've explored each option that the game wants you to explore, so if you forgot to examine a minor detail, then the game wouldn't progress the story. It was a bummer when it occasionally felt like a pixel hunt. In addition, you would sometimes have to present specific pieces of evidence to certain individuals during the investigative phase to move forward, and sometimes the object you would have to show felt real arbitrary.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was originally a GBA game that came out for Japan in 2001. The DS version was released in the US in 2005, and it came with an extra case, Rise From The Ashes. Because this was a brand new case Capcom developed for the DS version specifically, there are new features implemented in this case only that involved the DS in more unique ways. However, because the first 4 cases were all developed at once for one game, they are all tenuously correlated, and I enjoyed that there was a feeling of continuation from each case. It also doesn't help that my favorite character was absent in the fifth case…

I saved the best part of Phoenix Wright for last: the soundtrack. Each song perfectly captures what you’re feeling at that moment, whether you’re cornering some lying bastard (every time this song would start, I would be pumping my fist in the air… in my head, of course), or having a heartfelt moment with Maya. And without further ado, here is my favorite song in the entire game:

At their cores, L.A. Noire and Phoenix Wright are both games of the same vein; they’re detective/interrogative/investigative games that you have playing the role of someone actively looking for the truth. However, the setting they present cannot be more different. In one, you’re working for a crooked police force in a glamorous city with a dirty underside, and in another you’re in a goofy world filled with charming characters that doesn't take itself too seriously. L.A. Noire is aiming for intense realism, while Phoenix Wright is light-hearted all around. Regardless of these radical differences, if you’re someone who has any sort of passing interest in these types of games, both L.A. Noire and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney are superb games that fit the bill perfectly.