When I say the phrase: “video game lawyer”, you probably immediately think of Phoenix Wright, the porcupine-haired defense attorney who helps prevent injustice in the court-room through both point-and-click crime scene investigation and conversation trees. Well, throw out that preconceived picture of games that take place in a courtroom, because Devil’s Attorney plays nothing like the Phoenix Wright games, and the main character is not, shall we say, standing on the moral high ground.
Devil’s Attorney puts you in the flamboyant pink tuxedo of Max McMann; a likeable, albeit unabashedly manipulative up-and-coming defense attorney. From the very first case in the game, it becomes apparent that you won’t be fighting for a “not-guilty” verdict through strictly fair means, instead opting to use a combination of lies, puppeteering of witnesses, and tampering with evidence, among other things. There’s no place for the truth in Max’s repertoire of tricks; he’s just here to defend the most blatant scum of the earth no matter what it takes, and that’s where the real fun begins.
Taking its queues from various RPGs, courtroom proceedings play out like a turn-based battler, with Max using his various abilities to try to discredit (damage) the prosecution and company, while trying to stop them from discrediting you and sentencing your client. The system really boils down to “damage or defend”, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. For one, the bare-bones setup of the “combat” mechanics make the system easy to grasp. And unlike some other games that might suffer in their simplicity, the legal battles didn’t fail to remain fun throughout the game.
Outside of the courtroom, you’re given the opportunity to spend cash earned from cases on various ability upgrades or tweaks to further your battles. But aside from shopping, there’s no meat to the game here; no minigames or other mechanics, so you won’t be breaking for long before heading back into the courtroom.
Alongside the core gameplay runs a thread of a story which manages to be mildly entertaining, albeit fairly predictable. Each prosecutor has a unique personality and, with the help of individual voice actors who do the job, the lighthearted plot manages to not wear out its welcome before the game closes.
“But now what?”
In regards to flaws, there are a few apparent in the game. For starters, the core ability system, which generally works well, tends to occasionally become unbalanced due to the random damage distribution which occurs in most abilities. Although an unlucky roll of the invisible dice is never more than a restart away from being fixed; those wanting a purely strategic, static battle system may find themselves getting irritated throughout.
Also, the game’s length is a bit of a letdown, since once you’ve beaten the singular story mode, there’s nothing else for you to do aside from go back and beat it again. And even if you really enjoyed the combat, the cases come in the same order if you replay the game, so I can see boredom setting in quickly upon a restart.
Despite some moderate qualms, the rapid-fire rounds of judicial manipulation keep the game entertaining to the end. Put simply: the game is a heck of a lot of fun. An excellent helping of original art and a bright soundtrack round the game off neatly, and the package as a whole offers players a fun, unique RPG. Unlike jury duty, this game will be worth your time.