Aug 07 2017

Late Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review

What a fantastic gem for the original DS console. This is something I’ve been wanting to play for a very long time, having tried the demo a while back. I love the DS for allowing such innovative games in a market that’s become stale with mainstream genres, scared to try something a little different.

You start off by witnessing a murder, but what’s it to you, you’re just spectating… right? Come to think of it, how exactly are you spectating? Why do things feel fuzzy? Why can’t you move? Why can’t you remember how to move? Why can’t you remember your name? Why can’t you remember anything?

Luckily Ray comes in to help you out at this point, an entity who sadly informs you that you’re dead, to be more specific, the dead guy slouched on the floor that’s currently being kicked off the platform by some gangster. Ray lets you in that it’s not the end all of your story just yet though, as apparently you’ve got ghost powers you can use to in the real world up until daybreak of the next day. Powers that let you inhabit inanimate objects and slightly manoeuver them. Well in that case, what needs manoeuvring most importantly that your recently fresh corpse. Surely that seems to be the most sensible thing to do here. But that seems to be the issue, you can’t take control of your body. Your powers are useless in that sense. You’ve now got two options, either wallow in self-pity until dawn comes, when you will apparently fade away into the cosmos, or atleast use your new-found powers for good, and help save the redhead woman who was just gunned down moments earlier. Here, you find you’ve also have an additional power that you can use, you can go back 4 minutes before a person’s death to try to alter the events to prevent them from dying. Will you be able to solve the increasingly difficult puzzles to save them all?

After a quick investigation of the area, you notice the goon that took the redhead out using a phone booth to confirm the job is done with his boss. We learn that we now have a new ability whilst eavesdropping, that we can travel along the phone lines to the other end of the line, where we get a peek of an evil midget that seems to be orchestrating tonight’s events from his secret location. Having gained some information, you find that you’re now stuck in the evil lair, and that the four minutes to save the redhead are nearly up, lucky for us we’re able to go back to the start of the 4 minutes and back to our starting position, though any changes we made during our attempt to solve the puzzle will be reset.

Upon saving Lynne, the redhead, we are introduced to some zany characters (an absolute joy to watch), detectives now presiding over the case of your murder. At this point, we’re introduced to the flamboyant Detective Cabanela, who can not walk into a scene without pulling off a Micheal Jackson dance routine, but what is this guy about? He seems suspicious but so does everyone else, you’re going to find it hard to decide who you can trust amongst the many revelations this game regularly drops on you. As Detective Cabanela leads Lynne away, and after a quick chat about Ray, you hear a gunshot in the distance. Using your new-found power of travelling the phone lines, you rush over to the caretakers office, to find that Lynne has been murdered again. This time, you’re able to make contact with her in spirit form and let her know what’s going on with all these ghost powers. You decide upon creating a pact to try to uncover why you were killed, considering you can’t remember a single thing about the incident, not even why you were out there in the middle of the night?

What follows is 18 chapters of an absolutely brilliant visual novel of travelling around town, uncovering the many connections the characters have amongst themselves, whilst having to constantly save everyone as they are bumped off. I very much doubt anyone could guess where the story ends up taking us, on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and who done it.

The characters have been brilliantly written. There personalities really show through their animations, interactions and dialogue. The interaction between characters is spot on, and with no voice acting involved, it’s very easy to create role filling voices for the characters within your mind. Everyone is vastly unique, considering how many there are. Their personal arcs play out really well and a joy to experience. One of the best supporting characters throughout is Missile, the mind-talking dog. Really funny to listen to.

As your ghost character has to do a lot of jumping around into new locations and environments, he has to do quite a bit of learning about new characters and settings, quite like playing out an episode of Quantum Leap, having to observe and interact with the local area to save people who have no relation to you, whilst also finding answers for your own personal questions and journey.

To relate it to another show, I also feel that it has a great resemblance to the japanese show Suteki na Sen Taxi (also refered to as Time Taxi on Crunchyroll), which involved a guy who would sympathise with those who would either end up dead or just make a bad choice in life, and are given the chance to go back in time by an hour to fix the mistake, all whilst the protagonist has a twisted time travel story of their own that we get to experience at the end.

The art style of the game is fantastic, really in-depth environments with details distracting you from completing puzzles. The scenes are very atmospheric and lend a massive hand towards telling the story. On a DS screen, they make the absolute most of their resolution. The game is played in a 2D sidescroller fashion. What really grabbed my attention was how fluid the animations of characters were. With dance moves being busted out every 5 minutes, they developers have done an amazing job of capturing every gesture in movement, right down to the slight fluttering of clothing at such a high frame rate that it’s just a pleasure for the eyes to watch. Even simple interactions of a character with the environment, every single movement has been realistically captured in 3D, I can’t believe the DS is even capable of rendering such movements.  I would say that the dual screens aren’t used to their full potential, with the top screen used to display ability information, which does atleast save the bottom screen being cluttered with icons to give you a wide view of the area.

The powers are really fun and fairly easy to use in the game. Such a unique mechanic being able to jump between objects by sliding the stylus across the screen, then hitting the ghost power button to activate that object’s ability. As the game progresses, puzzles will become noticeably more difficult and the correct combination of abilities will be required to save the person from their death, otherwise you’ll have to reset back to a checkpoint to try trial and error again. There will also be at times a speed element, in which you will have a very limited amount of time to perform a certain sequence of abilities. You can view which objects can be manipulated and stop time by activating the phantom view. Also some additional powers will be gained in the progress of the game. The creativity and ingenuity of the developers does fill out the screen, offering many items that I was keen to try out to see what effect they would have. It’s interesting to see how characters interactive with the environment differently after you’ve moved something around. I do like the idea of using phone lines to travel long distances and it is somehow conceivable. What’s great is that you can later return to locations to see if any new developments have occurred with the characters usually engaged in a humorous conversation.

I normally hate amnesia getting in the way of a story, in which the main character just happens to forget their past conveniently up until the end, when all the revelations tend to spill out, but it’s honestly quite hilarious to watch two characters conversing whilst both suffering from amnesia, making for some playful dialogue and a situation I don’t think I’ve seen since The Hangover films. The game manages to turn the cliché around into an actual engaging story, again with connections between characters that weren’t at all obvious but still entirely making sense. The ending played out very nice, and I loved the outcome. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way once you’ve played it aswell.

I’m sad that another game in this genre has never appeared. I think that Capcom could have been onto something here, and with the 3DS still kicking around, it’s not like the handheld couldn’t benefit from actual entertaining visual novels from time to time. The game did get a rerelease on Android and IOS, which for some reason they split into 3 episodes that you have to buy separately, but there is still plenty of love for this game and I’m sure there could be enough pressure rallied into getting Capcom to back a second Ghost Trick. This is definitely going into my top 5 of DS games, and just can’t recommend it enough to everyone, you honestly have to play it!


Permanent link to this article: https://www.thelategamer.com/video-game-review/late-ghost-trick-phantom-detective-review/

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