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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

February 20, 2013

This has been on the edge of my radar for ages, and while I wait for the next Professor Layton game (with a Layton Vs Wright crossover in the works), I thought I’d give this a spin.

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a game for the Nintendo DS. It follows the titular character, Phoenix Wright, a junior defence attorney, as he strives to seek justice for his clients at trial. The game places a strong emphasis on narrative as the player, through Phoenix, gradually unravels the cases.

There are five cases to work through, each of which takes a few hours to finish. This is not exactly a length game. The gameplay is split between investigation and trial. During the investigation, Phoenix talks to people and acquires evidence. This is then used in the trial to back-up criticisms of witnesses’ testimonies until the truth can be proved. It’s a fairly simple mechanic, and the story progresses by selecting the right dialogue branches in the right locations.

As I said, the game is heavy on the plot. When this works, it’s quite fun. You almost feel like a hotshot maverick lawyer when the pieces start falling into place during a trial. However, when you are at a loss about where to go, or what questions to ask, the game lets you wander around in a repetitive muddle until you stumble on the next event to advance the plot. I wouldn’t call it a criticism but you become aware that there is only one way the plot can progress and gameplay only moves on once you pick the only right answer. In short, when you know what you’re doing, it’s fun. When you don’t, it clunks…along…clunkily…clunk-clunk.

The advantage of the storyline-obsessed gameplay is that the stories are generally quite engaging. The characters, if not painted that three-dimensionally, are unique and lively enough for you to love and hate them.

This game was originally developed for the Gameboy Advance back in 2001, and was only released in Japan. The remake in 2005 brought Phoenix Wright to the world on the DS. While the remake added touchscreen and microphone support, the graphics do look their age. A decade is a long time in video games, especially those on portable devices. The characters have a limited number of sprites that they change to with each new emotion, and they appear before a number of pleasant but forgettable backgrounds. I guess that’s the price I pay for coming late to the party.

So yeah. This is a fun little game, the first in the Ace Attorney series. It’s a bit different, getting to play a lawyer, winning through logic and chutzpah. I’m interested enough to check out the other games now.

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