A few weeks ago, I finally finished Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. I have to say that everyone who told me I would like it was spot on in their analysis: I absolutely adore this game!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney follows rookie defense lawyer Phoenix Wright through five different court cases as he does everything legally in his power to prove his clients innocent. He is joined by a wonderful cast of characters who, whether working with him or against him, manage to keep things interesting and often hilarious. Phoenix’s interactions with his mentor, Mia Fey; Mia’s little sister, Maya; his rival, prosecutor Miles Edgeworth; and the ever lovable Detective Gumshoe are just priceless. Each case sheds more light on these characters and their stories to tell a bigger tale.
This game plays like an interactive novel; you can even save the game and quit any time you want. Also, you don’t have control over the story’s outcome: if you receive a guilty verdict, you just start again from your last save. However, the game does a great job of making you feel like the story is yours by taking you through the investigation outside court and the cross-examination in court.
You spend the investigative part of each case running around the crime scenes, talking to witnesses, and looking for evidence to build your case. This part is a lot of fun. At each location, you poke around the touchscreen with your stylus and examine anything that looks suspicious. In the final case, made specifically for the DS port of this game (it was originally made for the Game Boy Advance), you can even directly examine items by turning them over. The final case also allows you to check for cleaned up blood stains with chemicals and dust for fingerprints. After you’ve found all the evidence you need, the game shifts into trial mode.
The best part of the game takes place in the courtroom. During the trial, it’s your job to expose contradictions in the witnesses’ testimonies. Sometimes, they’re not easy to spot, but there’s always someone hiding information. I found myself constantly flipping back and forth between the Court Record (the evidence) and the testimonies, wracking my brain to figure out where they didn’t match. When you find a piece of evidence that shows someone was lying, you present it to the court. As you discover more lies in a testimony, the witness will start to crack (usually accompanied by a funny animation and many sweat drops) until finally, the truth comes out. I had some trouble with this part sometimes, but getting the answers after much frustration made it that much more satisfying. (I will admit, however, that there were a couple of times when I was at such a loss that I saved my game and proceeded to try presenting every piece of evidence I had until I hit the correct one. And yes, I am properly ashamed.)
In addition to awesome characters, a fantastic story, and fun gameplay, Phoenix Wright has a great art style. The whole game is drawn like an anime, which I found very appealing. Even if you don’t watch anime, there is so much attention to detail that I think anyone would appreciate it.
Another great thing about this game was that it made me care about what happened to Phoenix’s clients. When it looked like the trial wasn’t going to go in their favor, that just made me want to try even harder to prove that they were not guilty. Phoenix was convinced of their innocence so thoroughly that as the player, I was too. I was so invested in these characters that I was genuinely happy when it was possible to see the innocent go free, the truth revealed, and the guilty exposed.
This first installment in the Ace Attorney series was fun, and I definitely plan to play the rest. If there is anything negative I can say about this game, it would be that my brain was fried from playing it so quickly. I found myself trying to finish the story fast because I was scared I would forget some tiny fact about the case. (Kind of like not being able to put down a good book, right?)
If you enjoy a good puzzle adventure, hilarious characters, and a great story, I highly recommend Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. If you’ve never played this type of game before, give it a try: it might just introduce you to a genre of games you never knew you’d love.