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E3 07: Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law Preview

When Capcom announced the development of a Harvey Birdman game in the style of its over-the-top attorney sim series Phoenix Wright, it seemed too perfect. It's one of those serendipitous collaborations that doesn't happen often enough in the video game world. I got a first look at High Voltage's Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law (PS2, PSP) at this year's E3, and though it was a very early build, it seems every bit like the Harvey Birdman game Birdmaniacs have wanted.

Take a gander at these albatr-awesome features: The developers will be using the original Flash animations from the TV show for the game, and the game's five cases will be written in collaboration with the show's writers, Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter. The series' excellent voice actors, helmed by the "fowl" voice of Birdman, Gary Cole, will all reprise their roles in the game. Perhaps best of all, Capcom's own stable of video game characters will make cameos throughout Birdman's ludicrous lawyerings.

Basing the gameplay off the Phoenix Wright series guarantees the basics of melodramatic Matlocking will be skillfully implemented, but the differences in presentation have the potential to make the game more than just an adaptation. The animation-driven, voice-acting supported visuals give the game the feel of a highly interactive Birdman episode, rather than a text-based adventure. Answering questions in a correct manner isn't even necessary in some cases, as some prompts serve solely as humorous interludes between plot sequences. This can be seen in the very first question Birdman encounters. The half-witted hero struggles to find a seven-letter word for "long and hard." Choosing the correct answer, "arduous," results in a different response than picking the incorrect but much more humorous "arousal," though neither choice has any actual implication on the gameplay.

This doesn't mean you'll be able to run blindly through the game by picking all incorrect answers. The Phoenix Wright system of examining and cross-examining witnesses by pressing for information and presenting evidence is still in place. And, as in the Wright games, there are points during which you can lose a case with too many wrong answers.

The case demoed for me was supposed to be a tutorial as well as the first of five cases included in the game. While the characters in the final version will be fully animated and have the show's voice actors, this version lacked facial animations for characters, and voice acting was done by the developers at High Voltage. Even so, I still got a good feel for what the game could achieve. The scenario begins with an animation showing Birdman's house burning with a feminine silhouette in the window. Birdman's coworker and resident hippopotamus of Sebben & Sebben law firm, Peter Potamus, arrives on the scene and is quickly blamed for the incident. Though the rest of the trials will feature crime scene investigations, this tutorial level had only trial portions.

I don't want to spoil the outcome of the trial, but suffice to say it captured the series' trademark humor. Even this case had a Capcom cameo--Street Fighter 2's red-blooded all-American, Guile. Birdman demonstrates what he believes to be a fake lighter by setting Guile's hair ablaze. Ever the badass, Guile, with a fawning female in tow, allows his hair to burn. No time for pain when you've got M. Bison to deal with.

Capcom is shooting for a November release date for both the PS2 and PSP versions of the game. Both games will be identical in every respect, though Capcom hasn't decided on pricing yet. With a name like High Voltage, the company should have no trouble making Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law feel like pure electricity in all of our Birdman-loving pants (it's a thing from the show).

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