Way back in the heady days of 2005, a video game developer by the name of Capcom tossed out a lawyer-theme adventure/visual-novel game for the Nintendo DS called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It was an incredibly clever game, with interesting if not kooky characters, catchy music, and for many gamers, a fun underlying story and gameplay that most gamers either had never experienced before or hadn’t in some time. The initial release of the game was incredibly small, and quickly sold itself out of print due to more people actually wanting to play this game than Capcom realized. As people looked into the origins of the game and it’s history of development, it turned out what new and interesting for us English-speakers was but old-hat to our Japan counterparts. The 2005 game for the Nintendo DS turned out to be a port of a 2001 game for the Game Boy Advance. Which got people thinking, if the director Shu Takumi and his team at Capcom was able to pull off this fun stuff on the Game Boy Advance, what could they do with improved capabilities with the Nintendo DS? We thought that the answer was in the extra fifth games in the first Ace Attorney game, or possibly the eventual DS-only sequel Apollo Justice.
The actual answer, was a game called Ghost Trick.
Now with a game called “Ghost Trick” one would imagine that one would play a ghost, right? Well you would be correct, as the game promptly starts itself off by killing the main character, leaving his ghost confused, and without memory. Thankfully, a fellow ghost just happens to be around to show you the ropes on how the game is played, what you can and cannot do, and oh by the way that girl over also just died so you may want to go save her life. But don’t worry, you get go back to the four minutes before the person’s death to use your newfangled “powers of the dead” to save them, one ghost-possessed Rube Goldberg-inspired movement of an item at a time. Which gives gives you the basic crux on how the game is going be working from here on out. As a ghost, you can inhabit various inanimate objects, and move them and position them just so in order to meet your ends. From this point out, the devils in the details, and thankfully the details in Ghost Trick are very, very good.
If there is one thing that Ghost Trick can’t help but exude, it’s style. Ghost Trick is simply dripping with it. The entire game is shown from a flat 2-Dimensional perspective, with cars and buildings shown as cut-outs, like if one were to just buzz-saw them in half and leave them there for you to look in. It does an amazing job of making you feel like you are in fact a ghost, from outside your DS looking in. Further, the game never leaves this perspective, even if a car is being driven you see the cutout of the car moving about so it never breaks it’s immersion. On top of that, the characters that run around in this 2D playland move with absolute animated grace. In fact, at first I thought that I was watching actual animation, until a couple of hours in I then realized that nope, these are in fact polygonal models! That’s how well this game’s art style is executed. But that’s not the only trick up this game’s sleeve, either. Ghost Trick’s score is composed by Masakazu Sugimori, the same composer that laid down the score to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. And Ghost Trick’s music has all the synthy-jazzy music that you’d expect, bounces about in perfect sync to the characters bouncing about on screen.
Which brings us to the lynch-pin of the game: the characters. Oh, the characters in this game. Just like the Ace Attorney series, if anything will endear you to Ghost Trick, it’s the game’s cast. They are as wacky, goofy, eccentric, and loveable as you are going to get in adventure game. In fact, thanks to better capabilities of the DS, they are in even more vibrant than even the Ace Attorney cast could ever be. Everyone has their own unique movement animations, whether it be slinking, dancing, marching, or just plain walking. All the main characters have their own theme music, and every tune matches them to a tee. The story is excellent, with an interesting mystery, with all sorts of hooks and curve balls as you learn just whom the main character is, and the overarching plot that strings the cast together. If there is anything that game is a let down about at all, it’s that the ending is a little too earnest in trying to tie every possible loose end up at the last second in the final moments of the game. But really, if that’s the worst fault of the game, I’m not going to complain too much about it! In the end, it is still a great ride with a ton of fun brain-twisty problem solving, with a great cast and excellent presentation to boot. If this is what Shu Takumi can do on the DS, then with the 3DS on the horizon I can’t wait to see what he come sup with next.