Imagine all of those testosterone soaked cop shows from the 70’s and 80’s in convenient handheld form, that is Miami Law in a nutshell.
As the kind folks over at Hudson have stated “Miami Law is an action-adventure game worthy of its own prime-time TV show.” Just imagine a pulse pounding handheld version of a cross between the 80’s mainstay Miami Vice and 2000’s mainstay 24. It’s got all the action TV staples you can imagine including a storyline with a shadowy terrorist conspiracy, furious shootouts in abandoned warehouses, challenging crime-scene detective work, and car chases; what more can you ask for in an adventure game.
I was really anticipating this game for two reasons: I am a huge fan of adventure games, and the localization was handled by Gaijinworks, the successor to the fan-favorite yet sadly gone Working Designs production house. This game starts out somewhat similar to another adventure game that I played not too long ago called Jake Hunter, but has something that Jake never had: a soul. This comes across mainly because of the meticulous work done in the localization department, as the dialogue is great. The storyline is also fairly mature, so no ambiguous kiddie-fied translation here.
The main story revolves around the intense loose cannon Law Martin from the Miami PD and the brainy tech-savvy Sara Starling from the FBI, who is put in charge of your case. Martin is in deep undercover trying to infiltrate a drug syndicate to avenge the death of his former partner Sam. Sara is put in charge of keeping an eye on Law, to make sure he isn’t too far from the good graces of his civic duty. Depending on what you would like to do, you can choose to switch characters at various points in the game, and depending on what you choose; the gameplay ends up worlds apart. For instance, one scene places you in a tense situation as you are trying to trick the sub-head of the syndicate into thinking you are a former prisoner from an Arkansas Prison rather than a detective. If you Choose Law, you get a dialog segment, where you are buying time, but if you chose Sara you have to plant a fake prison record into the Arkansas penitentiary database, so his story checks out.
Generally there are huge differences like that throughout the game and the “minigames” are quite varied. Law usually ends up being the man to engage in car chases, gunfights and detective work, and Sara usually is behind a computer screen hacking, wiretapping, or, if she feels adventurous, sniping with a high caliber rifle from the door of a nearby helicopter. These “minigames” are really fun and really help to break up the sometimes-monotonous nature of games like this. I especially liked the shootouts as they were essentially handheld versions of Time Crisis, complete with reloads, headshots, and a cover button. Due to this duality system, the game already has built in replay value, as you could play the whole game as Martin, then play it again choosing only Sara.
The normal gameplay works out just like many other recent visual novel games. You have icons for speaking, looking, moving from one area to another, a cellphone to call out on, a PDA that acts as your log book and displays character bios, and sometimes a fist shaped icon that allows you to rough folks up. This navigation is pretty easy to understand and is rather intuitive, but seems a little bit too linear. Except for a few instances where people give you the run around, you pretty much know exactly where to go at any given time. The gameplay is really good, but almost too standard sometimes, but the minigames really help that out.
One good thing that Miami Law implements is a quick restart option for when you die or make a bad decision. For instance, at one point in the game you are looking for a drug dealer on a beach amongst a handful of random residents. I foolishly tried to rough this one man up that I thought seemed like a good idea. I got too pushy and started brandishing a gun on the guy and yelling, and was immediately booted off the case, as Sara was keeping tabs on me via a wire. In most games I would have reverted back to a previous save point, then would have to endure the same dialog over again. Not so, thankfully, in this game. All you do is choose “restart” and you are taken back to that exact point where you made the bad decision. I really liked this as it moved the game along.
Unfortunately “moving the game along” may be the one big gripe I have about Miami law, as it is really far too short. The game consists of five chapters that clock in at around 5 hours total. Taking into account two consecutive play-throughs in order to play as both characters and Miami Law still clocks in at a brisk 10 hours, this is far less than many of these games now. I would assume that this is due to the fact that the dialog, although masterfully written, is pretty short and to the point, so the novel side of this “visual novel” is a bit weak. If you look at this game the way they want you to, as a cop TV show that you are in control of, it suits it just fine.
The graphics in Miami Law are stylish, well-drawn and very different to what you may see in some of these games. The characters show a good range of emotion in their static pictures, and a lot of detail was put in place to make this game look like it really takes place in Miami. In most games like this you see a ton of Caucasian folks walking around no matter where you are, but this game is full of Hispanic, black white, and any other race of character that you would find in Miami. This sounds like a minor thing, but this very small bit of detail really helps make this game that much more realistic.
The same bit of detail was put into the games sound presentation as original music was composed by Grammy-nominated Miami Beat Wave, a music production group hired to give the game an authentic Miami flavor. The soundtrack has 15 tracks that really pull off the feel of the areas in the game, whether it be a high tension warehouse area or the beach. The only things that are missing are voice acting and lyrics to the music, but I guess that’s just me looking for rust in the armor.
Miami Law is a great game, but a bit too short to really warrant the price it holds. Although you can play through the game multiple times and experience all-new events, this really should have been a budget game from the start, or a tad bit longer. Really, this is the only bad thing I can say about the game, but it really hurts it, I kind of hope that this game does well, and a decision to make a sequel is made, as the characters and gameplay are pretty good, but more would be awesome.
All in all Miami Law may have been the best Adventure game that I have played in a while that wasn’t in some way related to the Phoenix Wright series. With all of the top notch music, dialog and attention to detail, this is a title that all adventure game fans on the DS should love to play – that is if they can get past the short playtime. If you are looking for a good cop-based adventure game that mirrors television shows of the genre, then you really can’t look any further than this little gem.