I enjoyed 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, Professor Layton and the Curious VIllage, Ghost Trick Phantom Detective, So it would make sense that I would end up playing the most well known visual novel for the DS, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. But is this series of murder cases interesting enough to have me search through the series, let’s find out!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review
Release Date: 11/10/2005
Platforms: DS(Reviewed), GBA, WiiWare, iOS
Price I Paid: $14
The game centers around Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney during his first trial. His job consists of three tasks, searching around crime scenes to steal little knickknacks, showing people everything in his pocket, and pointing out contradictions in witness’s testimonies via evidence. However, he is a newbie, and always need the help of his tutor Mia Fey, and she is needed in every single case. And I do mean all five of them And even when she is nowhere around, he still has epiphanies about her telling him what to do. I think that might be a way of showing how he defend murder suspect himself, but it makes him feel incompetent. And he really isn’t since the trials you get into become simple murder, to elaborate schemes spanning a decade of deception and destroyed evidence.
The game keeps on saying how he needs to get 3 years under his belt, but he seems to be just as good, since he mostly engages against a somewhat ruthless prosecutor, MIles Edgeworth. Serving as the closest thing to an enemy in this game, Edgey has over two years of very successful experience, and he gets foiled every time you meet him. I appreciate that they are establishing him and not having a bunch of adversaries, but seeing as how colorful the supporting cast of suspects and witnesses is, I must wonder why they feared to add more. This is the exception to my rule of keeping the character count low, from the hyperactive kid who has been held back twice, the 1337 5934k1ng film director, and the cartoonishly overconfident posh final boss. Well, he’s the final boss of the fourth case, but the fifth one was added for this remake, since this was a GBA title. And guess what? It has next to nothing to do with the first three titles.
Speaking of characters, to juxtapose Phoenix’s straight man logic based approach that is not afraid to joke, we have a hyperactive 17-year-old sidekick. Mia’s sister, Maya Fey is a spirit medium who, and this is fairly common knowledge, so I don’t feel bad about spoiling it, channel’s her… well endowed older sister so that she can talk to Phoenix and present withheld evidence.
And moving to the gameplay, that is something that really ticks me off about certain items in this game, more than once, you lose a piece of paper that you could have just as easily copied the document, and you wouldn’t have lost it. This also applies into the contradiction search, which is called cross-examining. There are a lot of descriptions that request them to do things in a certain way, and for presenting a related piece of evidence, I was penalized by losing one of my five points. Writing a very precise cross examinations would take hours upon hours just to write for a game like this, but who uses the term, “sound the clock,” when the clock states the audio of the time?
But the actual writing has a lot of clever twists, funny lines, great characterization, and it keeps on feeling fresh even though you repeat the pattern of, search for stuff and talk to chaps, use your evidence in court, leave and find more info, over 15 times. But the actual searching part amounts to just placing a cursor on something, move to another room when you ran out of stuff to do, and hope the green text appears to state the area, because that means you are on the right track.
And I understand having a linear path structure, but most areas feel jumbled together, rather than important sections in a city. A simple map system could have remedied this, since that at least gives you a sense of location. However, regardless of the lack of gameplay in these parts, it is where you get the majority of the character bits, and the constant revelations do push me through figuring out what was going on that boat on Christmas Eve, and why people think there’s a loch ness monster here.
But the cross examinations in the courtroom remind me a lot about the puzzles from Portal 2. You have all the time you need, but if you do manage to get the contradiction right, the sense of satisfaction is most certainly noteworthy. Especially because of how on the surface level, the cases should be done within a day, rather than three, which is the maximum for cases in Japan, I think. Well maybe not, since the game takes place in 2016, where black and white photos are the norm.
Visually this is still a GBA title, except for the final case which has 3D models and touch screen segments. However, due to the nature of visual novels, they are allowed to be very well drawn and this game offers one of the best mixes between realistic proportions, and anime style expressions. And while limited, the animation is very smooth, but I praise a 2D game for having more than two mouth movements per characters, so maybe it’s not that great, but it is very distinct in the designs of the characters, and the backgrounds look lovely, so that must amount for something. Oh, and the music is pretty great as well. There are only a few tracks, but all of them are memorable, grant the title personality, and enhance the mood. A sound cue and screen shake can really help the mood a lot, and when you are basically taking a script and putting it into a game, you pretty much need that to justify it.
Overall, Phoenix Wright impressed me. The gameplay is what I refer to as the good kind of repetitive, where the structure remains the same, but the set pieces are good enough to hold it through to the end. It also does something that I really enjoy seeing from a game, make you feel really smart when you figure out what is wrong with the information provided to you. And while you can often be overloaded with supplies, especially during the last case, that just amplifies the feeling of accomplishment.
The characters you interact with are memorable and very expressive, with each of them having a clear personality by the end, and I do mean every character to have a very well drawn series of animation cells. Tie that in with memorable music that I’ve been humming since I started playing, and sound cues that make it feel like a waste of time to play the game without them, and you have a very well done package that is good enough for me to dive into the other 4 games we got thus far.
An exceptional product that merely suffers from a few nagging issues that do not distract too much from this experience.