Since the sixth Ace Attorney game, Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice is set to be released in the US on September 8th I decided to go back and replay all of the Phoenix Wright main series games! I dunno if I’ll be able to get all the reviews out before the 8th, but I’ll sure as heck give it my best shot!!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban in Japan) is a 2005 Nintendo DS single-player adventure visual novel developed by Capcom and the first game in the Ace Attorney series. Prior to it’s Nintendo DS release, Ace Attorney was originally released exclusively for the Gameboy Advance in Japan.
In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney the player takes on the role of rookie defense attorney Phoenix Wright. With perseverance and a little luck, Phoenix stumbles and fumbles his way from a clueless newbie to an ace attorney. Do battle with the prosecution in five exciting cases that will have the player on the edge of their seat from start to finish. In the courtroom where a client is guilty until proven innocent, it’s up to Phoenix to achieve that much desired not guilty verdict.
Ace Attorney has an expansive cast of unique characters from witness to the police, so I will only provide descriptions for the main characters.
Phoenix Wright is a rookie defense attorney and the protagonist of the main series Ace Attorney games (except Apollo Justice and Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth). He is seen as a bit of an underdog among his peers, and a bit of a screw up. But, when the chips are down, Phoenix always manages to turn his cases around. He is childhood friends/rivals with prosecutor Miles Edgeworth.
Miles Edgeworth is a top prosecutor, known to win his cases by any means necessary. Edgeworth is the main antagonist of Ace Attorney and rival of Phoenix often going head to head with him during several cases in the game. He’s a pompous prosecutor who enjoys toying with his opponents. Edgeworth’s skill is renowned throughout the department, earning him the respect of the police and even the Judge. He often works hand in hand with the police, particularly Dick Gumshoe.
Maya Fey is the younger sister of defense attorney, Mia Fey. She reveals early on that she is a spirit medium in training, often using her abilities to assist Phoenix during his cases. She is an excitable and upbeat girl who loves hamburgers and the popular television show Steel Samurai. At the start of the game she is accused of murdering her sister Mia.
Detective Dick Gumshoe is the head homicide police detective in the game. Gumshoe is a hapless guy who’s job is always on the line due to some misstep on his part. He is the point of contact for both Phoenix and Edgeworth during case investigations. In addition to participating in investigations, Gumshoe also serves as a prosecution witness during trials. Despite technically working for the prosecution, Gumshoe has a habit of accidentally revealing sensitive case information to Phoenix.
Mia Fey is a seasoned defense attorney and former mentor of Phoenix. She is a brilliant attorney able to effortlessly obtain a NOT GUILTY verdict for her clients. Like her younger sister Maya, she is a trained spirit medium, however she left her village years prior to the events of the game to become a defense attorney. She is murdered at the start of the game.
The Judge presides over all of the cases in the game. Despite being responsible for doling out unbiased verdicts, he is easily swayed by the testimony of witnesses. The Judge can be clueless about the some of the more technical aspects of the case, often needing additional explanations. He is sometimes unintentionally biased against the Defense.
The gameplay is typical of a visual novel, the player takes control of Phoenix Wright as he attempts to successfully defend his clients in the court of law. There are a total of five cases in the game, each serving as a self contained episode within the overarching narrative of the game. Gameplay is split between two separate segments: the Investigation segments and the Courtroom segments.
During the Investigation segments, the player utilizes the DS’s lower touch screen interact with various characters (the accused, witnesses, and the police) and environments in order to gather evidence to aid Phoenix in defending his clients. Once evidence is collected, the player can present it to witnesses in order to obtain new information about the case. Typically Investigation segments occur prior to or in between Courtroom segments. After gathering all available information the Investigation segments end.
During Courtroom segments, the player uses the information and evidence gathered during the Investigation segments have Phoenix’s clients declared NOT GUILTY. Courtroom segments are presided over by a Judge who listens to the arguments of both the Defense and the Prosecution before delivering his verdict. Prior to the verdict, the player is able to cross-examine witnesses. Using the bottom touch screen players can press witnesses about suspicious statements from their testimony, or by presenting evidence that directly contradicts the provided testimony. In addition to using the touch screen, players can also utilize the Nintendo DS microphone to verbally Press witnesses and Present evidence by shouting “Hold It” and “Objection” respectively. Finally, players may be asked to answer questions from either the Judge or the the Prosecutor to additionally support claims made during the trial. Major mistakes during the Courtroom segments, are measured using a gauge consisting of five exclamation marks. If the player loses all of the exclamation marks before the end of the trial, the case automatically ends in a GUILTY verdict, resulting in a Game Over.
I love Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, this was probably my first introduction to visual novels (I can’t remember if it was this game or Hotel Dusk) and to this day I still have fond memories of my first playthrough. No matter how many times I play this game all of the puns and jokes still manage to make me laugh.
When Capcom decided to localize the game, they made a few changes to some of the puns to make them more relatable to English speaking audiences. Apparently during development the staff had some difficulty maintaining the integrity of some of the Japanese puns, especially where the character names were concerned. Many of the names and dialogue present in the Japanese versions of the game rely heavily on wordplay, so the staff had to be especially careful during localization. But despite a few inconsistencies, I feel that the team did a fair job of adapting the game.
The game features a an expansive cast of characters, each one fulfilling a specific role in the overall narrative of the game. The characters are endearing whether they’re a main character or a side character, but there were times when the side characters were more memorable than the main characters.
Despite the fact that each case follows the same basic formula, I still found the cases to be extremely engaging with their own unique challenges. There are a few times during the game that I just couldn’t figure out what evidence needed to be presented at what time or what piece of information I needed to collect during the Investigation segments. But, it was never anything that took away from my overall enjoyment of the game.
The only reason I didn’t give Ace Attorney a perfect score was because replayability is non-existent. After the player finishes the fifth and final case that’s it, there aren’t any additional special features or unlockable cases to play around with after the credits roll. But, that aside, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a fun game with likable characters and an engaging plot, that fans of all ages will love. So my overall rating for the game is…
4 Objections out of 5