Full disclosure: I have become, over the course of the DS' lifespan, a Shu Takumi fan. The Ace Attorney series, initially recommended to me by a friend, hooked me fully and completely, even as I struggled occasionally with periodic text bugs and story quirks where I had no idea how to proceed other than trying random things. But through it all, the story, above anything else, captivated me with its goofery and its drama.

Mr. Takumi is now trying his hand at something new now: a brand-new adventure titled Ghost Trick. I already knew from my E3 impressions that I was likely to enjoy the game and its fantastic writing. When I played the review copy Capcom sent, though, what sort of caught me off-guard was how difficult it was to summon the energy to put the game down when it was time to quit for the day—similar to how I wanted to keep playing long into the night during the epic finale of another of Takumi's games, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations. Only, this time, it was even more intense.


Why did Ghost Trick do this to me? Even as an Ace Attorney fan, I freely admit the games in that series have definite gameplay issues. Ghost Trick, though, has masterfully pulled off the trick of marrying Takumi's crazy and captivating tales with a gameplay system with which I simply cannot find any real fault.

In the game, you play as Sissel, recently-departed spirit, with an assortment of limited powers over possession of inanimate objects and rewinding time itself in order to save the deceased in a rather Rube Goldbergian fashion. When you arrive on the scene of a death, you get to rewind time four minutes before it happens and watch it play out. Then you rewind time again and work your way through it, freezing time as needed and jumping from item to item with the touch screen, until you've changed the deceased's fate.

If you get it wrong (and you will), you can rewind and try again; checkpoints are provided in many scenes to minimize hassle. The system works really well with me tinkering with each piece of the puzzle, gradually learning more and more about the interactions between all the objects I could possess, until I finally solved it. Running commentary from the great cast of characters makes it even better.

Getting to the solution did sometimes involve a few rounds of repetition, but I never found it either boring or annoying; using Sissel's ghost tricks absolutely has that "just one more go" feeling. The fact that very little in each scene is unimportant to your quest helped keep me from getting frustrated chasing down the wrong solution. About the only issue I could cite is that there are some occasional unskippable dialogues that I'd seen before, but needed to sit through again as I reworked a solution—thankfully, these are few and far between. There's some nice variety thrown in to keep it interesting, too; though the core game system never changes, there's one chapter that has you using your powers for stealth, and in the late game you'll additionally find yourself in command of some new powers to mix things up.

When you're not busy saving the dead, you'll use the same mechanics, though without the clock ticking this time, to traverse each scene and speak to the spirits of those you've saved. Ghost Trick gives Sissel the power to use the telephone system to quickly move himself on and off scene with great efficiency and to nice dramatic effect. (He can and must use the phone while saving the recently-deceased as well, though with some limitation—he can't dial the phone, only follow it to the other end of an in-progress call.) Little clues are dropped all the while as to the story's eventual resolution, though I still wrapped the thing up with mind suitably blown, very satisfied with the game and very unsatisfied with myself for not having seen it coming.


On top of it all, this game looks fantastic. I don't think it's a stretch to say it's in the running for best-looking DS game ever, alongside some of the best pixel art games—it puts does a number of games on more-capable systems to shame. Each character was hand-modeled and hand-animated, and it really shows. In motion, it is simply beautiful to behold, full stop. The scenes' characters move through their scenes in their own individual styles, meshing perfectly with how you'd expect them to based on how their dialogue is written. Every last one of them is great, too, from Sissel and the adorably loyal Pomeranian Missile to repeatedly-extinct detective Lynne and a whole bunch of others... I'll just let you meet them for yourself, but rest assured, there's not a bad one in the bunch.

The bottom line is this: not only is Ghost Trick, in my opinion, Shu Takumi's greatest game yet, but it's also one of the level best in the DS' whole library—and that's coming from a guy with rather passionate feelings about the system and many of its titles. You absolutely need to play this game if its premise and gameplay at all appeals to you, sooner rather than later. It's destined to be a classic; of this I have no doubt. It's just that good.