There are a handful of games that I find it difficult to talk about, because my calm, collected journalist demeanour gets overtaken by my extremely over-enthusiastic inner fan.
I can't tell you how much I adore Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, because I'll legitimately get too emotional about how utterly brilliant it is, and if you ask me to tell you about the Glitzville chapter, I might cry. You could pay me One Thousand British Pounds to give a talk on how Fantasy Life is a game so exceedingly wonderful that it's an actual crime against humanity that it'll never have a true sequel, and I'd have to give you a refund because I'm too busy banging on Level-5's door and pleading with them to sign my petition for Fantasy Life 2.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is also one of those games. I can't put into words how much joy this game brings me. And now it's on iOS, so that means I get to play it again, and my partner is going to have to deal with me sobbing over the animations and the existence of Missile the dog for the next couple of weeks. But, nevertheless, here I am, writing a Memory Pak on the first time I played Ghost Trick. Wish me luck.
(Please imagine one of those wiggly dream transitions here. I can't add those to an article because it is made of words and apparently we don't "have the budget" to make the words wiggly, and also "that's not possible, Kate, please stop asking".)
The year was 2011, and I was at university in the south of England. It was my first time living away from home, and I was an irresponsible young idiot with a student maintenance loan and absolutely zero sense. And there was an HMV just fifteen minutes' walk from my flat. I would spend hours browsing its pitifully small game selection in the back corner, surrounded by rolled-up posters of the boy band du jour, trying to find something good to spend thirty quid on.
(I'd like to say I'm better with money these days, but my unplayed Steam backlog says otherwise.)
I spent so much at HMV that I ended up with something like ninety-thousand points (seriously) on my HMV loyalty card, which I promptly spent on a one-year subscription to Official Nintendo Magazine (which I would later end up working for, so I probably got my money back in a roundabout way). The lads at ONM would steer my purchasing decisions, just as my teenage subscription to Kerrang! would tell me which emo band to idolise. One fateful day, they reviewed Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi's new game, Ghost Trick — and I was sold.
Thirty quid later, it was mine. I'd lie on my godawful prison-cot bed in my overpriced one-room student flat, tapping the tiny DS screen to direct Sissel, the ghost of the title, as he tried to figure out all the murders that kept happening.
Now, presumably, most people reading this have played Ghost Trick, because once you've played a game like Ghost Trick, you want to read other people talking about Ghost Trick. But, for those who haven't: Ghost Trick is a detective-ish story-adventure game in which you wake up dead — but then find out that you can rewind time, possess objects, and interact with those objects to change the course of events. You end up using that power to save people (and one dog) from death, in order to unravel what happened to you — and who you are.
In true Shu Takumi style, the game is full of incredible plot, twists, turns, and, as I've already mentioned, Missile the dog, who was originally in Ace Attorney. More than that, though, Ghost Trick has a fantastic sense of style, which does impressive things even within the limits of the DS's graphical capabilities. The animation is sharp, dynamic, and memorable, even ten years (oh my god) after its initial release. Hang on, let me grab a gif, because writing about animation is like dancing about architecture, as they say.
Every now and again, a game will come along with such a unique visual style that it seems obvious. Ghost Trick conveyed a lot with its goofy, expressive characters, and though some of its areas were busy with objects (they had to be, because jumping from object to object is the main mechanic) it never seemed cluttered or unreadable. Each scenario that Sissel has to solve is weird and wonderful, from a chapter set in a chicken-based restaurant with a dangerously heavy roast chicken chandelier to a complex stealth level set in a prison full of strange people. Every single level is a beautiful Rube Goldberg machine of chaos and surprise, and I want more.
Oh dear, I've reached the part where I've run out of ways to talk about how good this game is. I've used "incredible", "fantastic", and "impressive" already! That's ALL the good words, and even then, they don't accurately convey how this game left its stamp on my heart. You know when you start playing a game, or reading a book, and then when you look up, it's suddenly two days later and you've been in a fugue state that whole time? That's Ghost Trick for me.
Sometimes, you know when your life is forever changed. I'd love to say that Ghost Trick was one of those moments, but you know what? I didn't even know what I had at the time. Sometimes, that realisation dawns on you, slowly, over the course of ten years, as you desperately try to recreate the feeling of the first time you ever played Ghost Trick. If I ever win the lottery, which would be pretty impressive considering that I've never bought a lottery ticket, then you can bet I'll be giving all my money to Shu Takumi and his team, and begging him to just keep making games forever.
Is it cheating to say that the entirety of Ghost Trick is a formative gaming memory for me? Oh, probably. But I made Memory Pak up, so I can do whatever I like. I want everyone to experience the sublime perfection of Ghost Trick, and the rollercoaster drop you get after finishing it and realising that nothing, nothing will ever feel like that. At least, until Capcom can be convinced to make a Ghost Trick 2.
This is also one of those games that I can’t help but get emotional about. I played it not long after release and have only replayed it once, on iOS. But it’s just absolutely fantastic. It’s hard to talk about without spoilers but there are a few standout chapters and the overall gameplay loop is completely unique.
I was lucky enough to buy this jewel for really cheap, used (but complete with manual and all), back then when it wasn’t old enough to be a collectors item. It’s truly a special game, I loved every moment of it, but the ending sticks with you.
Paper Mario and the thousand year door was so fun that it ruined every paper mario game after it, except super paper mario.
This article is mostly about Ghost Trick though and... Yeah, the game was amazing and still one of my personal favs.
Really glad I finally got a DS copy a couple of weeks ago. 40€ isn’t cheap but it’s a far more reasonable price than the prices it usually goes for these days…
So far I really enjoy it and the story is very captivating
Very underrated game
Had it on DS, but was foolish enough to not hold on to it like I did the Ace Attorney games. Might get on mobile.
That was quick, did you just write this after that article a few hours ago or was it coincidentally already planned, Kate? It's just making me even more desperate to get this game, and also Fantasy Life because, although it's still available for fairly reasonable prices at the moment, it seems like all your favourite games are cursed to explode in price after a decade or so. Thank god I already have Paper Mario TTYD!
Man such a good game, both the gameplay and storytelling.
Played it for the first time earlier this year. Missile is a very good boy.
I've loved Ace Attorney since around the time the series was released on the DS, but for some reason I decided to skip Ghost Trick at the time. I finally put that right at the start of 2020, just before the pandemic struck and caused retro game prices to skyrocket. It turned out to be a brilliant decision: I got the game on eBay for £17.50 (the going rate now seems to be about £60!) and it was brilliant. I didn't quite get the same giddy vibes as Kate, but it was really innovative and stylish with a fantastic story that's up there with the best Ace Attorney titles.
(I do share Kate's sentiment about Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, though, but maybe that's because those feelings are from 2004 when it first came out!)
Glad to see all the love for Ghost Trick, legit one of the best DS games in the entire library - I miss the unique DS games that really took advantage of the form-factor, I guess Nintendo can't afford to be quite as whacky now as they used to be...
Never played Ghost Trick, but I’ve wanted to try it for a very long time. Never had a DS, so literally the only DS game I’ve played on hardware are Pokémon and that was on the 3DS. Really, only played through X, Black, Black 2 before my 3DS sat for a few months without use and quietly died. Super excited to give this game a shot on my phone, though I wish it’d go to Switch instead.
Still, what a phenomenal year for Capcom this year. They just keep giving and I love them for it.
My all time favorite ds game and that was my first Nintendo console so you know I have a lot of favorites!
I picked up a new copy of Ghost Trick for a bit of a premium in late 2019 (~$47, still much better than now) and finally got around to it last summer. I didn't even know it existed until it ranked quite high on one of the polls conducted here. I don't regret my purchase at all. It's a BRILLIANT game, with an awesome plot, fun and unique puzzles/scenarios, unique, eccentric characters, an amazing soundtrack, and an animation style (for the DS) that really sticks with you.
The only major criticism I have is that brain bleach doesn't exist, so I can't experience the game blind again. I'm fully convinced nothing will replace the moment when everything just clicked.
I love this game.
I got Ghost Trick for Christmas a few years ago and stayed up all night playing it, which wasn't really the optimal experience. I definitely have to give it another chance sometime.
I have the Nintendo Channel to thank for introducing me into this game via the demo distributions.
I always tell how GameStop absolutely screwed me by selling to me a "new" copy of GT on a paper sleeve, no manual, no Club Nintendo code, no box art, no box, just game cart and full price. I was so desperate for the game I didn't care!
On the other hand the game ended up being as good as the demo I played so I very much enjoyed it.
Played for the first time last year on my DS Lite. Deserves all the praise hat is heaped upon it. A one-of-a-kind game in every way.
@AlienX hah they once sold me a new game (Kirby Super Star Ultra) with the price sticker permanently glued to the paper... Not the plastic shrink wrap (it didn't have one), not the layer of plastic that keeps the paper in place, they put it on the paper insert with the cover art.
Definitely not reading this. Just started the game 3 days ago
I know "like if you cry every time" is an outdated meme, but... This game seriously makes me blubber like a baby. I'll always recommend it to anyone that will listen.
This game is incredible. It holds such a special place in my heart and I feel ill reading the words ‘10 years old’.
Would love to experience this again. Great game. What a era the DS one was.
For everyone saying how sad they are that they can't experience the game again, it's still very much worth replaying, especially if you leave it a long time between playthroughs. That's what I did last year, having not touched it since launch. Obviously not the same experience, probably not quite as magical; but going through it again, seeing how THAT twist is subtly seeded throughout, wondering how they could possibly tie up all the loose ends and being amazed again... that was still intact for me. The replay cemented this as one of my top five games of all time - up there with Thousand-Year Door incidentally.
Oh god, this game is SO good. Easily one of the most memorable games I've played in the past 10 years or so, and I imagine I've played AT LEAST 10 games during that time period.
MISSILES ARE UNSTOPPABLE!
There is a way for there to be a sequel, but saying how would spoil an important plot point.
Sissel rejects Ray the first time they meet and goes off by himself. In the first game Ray goes back in time and tries again with success. But what happen to the Sissel who rejected Ray’s plea? That’s what the sequel could focus on.
@Dogorilla I was feeling inspired, so I wrote it up after the other Ghost Trick news piece
@KateGray I know this wasn't the main point of the article but you convinced me to order a copy of Fantasy Life this morning
@Dogorilla Yessss! I hope it wasn't too expensive!
@KateGray It was actually cheaper than I expected, only £12 at CEX!
@Dogorilla I miss CeX so much 😭
@KateGray Is there no Canadian equivalent? You'll have to stock up on obscure DS games next time you visit the UK then!
you got me interested in the game... found it on amazon for $140..... yikes
I managed to dig up the ONM review of Ghost Trick! The captions for the images are funny, seeing the review and other places the game got mentioned brought back a lot of nostalgia. I only managed to finally play the game this year, I'm kicking myself that I didn't play it on release lol
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