Where have all the good reviews gone?
When I first read IGN’s relatively harsh review of Ace Attorney 6: Spirit of Justice, my heart sank a little. As a game I have been looking forward to since it was announced, and as an avid series fan, I wanted the score to be higher. I don’t know–maybe in my narcissistic bubble I just want everyone to love the game as much as me.
When I went to Metacritic, however, my disappointment shifted to relief….and then something more akin to rage. Turns out that Spirit of Justice is sitting pretty at a high 82 rating, and IGN’s review of the game was the lowest out there.
I took some time to meditate on my rage. Really let it percolate. Because as a fan, I know how I am. When I recommend something to someone, and they hate it, my first emotion is intense, world-burning hatred. But when I let it subside, I fall back down to the rationale human emotion of it’s their opinion, and they’re perfectly entitled to that, and not everything is for everyone.
So I gave it some time, and the anger did sort of melt away. But what was left was confusion. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had some legitimate gripes with the review, and by extension, reviews as a whole.
The controls of this book suck
For one, they had some complaints about gameplay, saying it didn’t do a lot to innovate. We can talk about whether games in a series need to innovate with each installment or not, but the point here is why was gameplay such a crux of the review? Phoenix Wright, if readers don’t know, is a series more akin to visual novels. That’s like saying the gameplay in a Telltale game isn’t bad and then giving the game a negative review. The “gameplay” in those games is practically non-existent, and yet these games, for the most part, receive glowing reviews.
What bothers me about all of this is it seems like reviewers pick and choose what matters to them for a game, and there’s very little consistency. If you value story in a Phoenix Wright or Telltale game, why does baseline gameplay matter? But then again, on that token, why do Mario games–sharp gameplay with no story to speak of–get such high reviews? To some extent, yes, it’s up to the reviewer to decide which elements are the most important for each game, but it’s an inconsistent metric that leads to bias that may or may not be helpful to the audience they are trying to inform. For Mario games, clearly, the story should not be weighed as heavily. But conversely, the same weighted method should apply to Phoenix Wright…..right?
More of the (excellent) same?
Basically, what I’m saying is their review boiled down to “I didn’t like it,” helpful analysis be damned.
I guess this touches on what is my final point — IGN is a site with a stable of multiple reviewers that make up a large, influential site. This review, and all reviews, are the opinion of one person. One opinion dictates what the entire brand thinks about that game. Now, it’s unreasonable to think all reviewers should review every game — that’s insane and not at all sustainable — but would two opinions be so out of reach? Other reviewing outlets do that, like Gameinformer. If it’s not a priority for IGN, it probably should be–it’s proven that bad reviews hurt sales significantly, and bad sales kill chances of fans receiving future entries of the series they love. You know, the people that are more okay with all that mystic mumbo jumbo.