Should I Buy? Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright

This was originally going to be a follow up piece to Monday’s Dawn of War review by talking about the expansions but I got news that made me delay that.

Capcom, why do you do this to us? You make Resident Evil 4, then follow it up with the much worse and accidentally racist 5. You make like six versions of every Street Fighter and charge full price for them. You cancel Mega Man Legends 3. You announce Ace Attorney Investigation 2 and Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright then say you’re not releasing them outside of Japan. Just as the world writes you off as a giant evil money-hungry megacorp like EA you go and announce that Phoenix Wright as a playable character in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Now I just can’t bring myself to hate you.

So in honour of that news that’ll be three days old by the time this goes up, I’m going to try to convince you all to buy a text heavy, character focused DS game based on logical deduction and lateral thinking.

The Ace Attorney series originated in Japan as a trio of GBA games that Capcom rereleased on the DS due to their popularity. They also decided to give it a chance overseas, and it proved to be a cult hit. Written and directed by Shu Takumi, the mind behind Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Ace Attorney puts you in the role of the eponymous defence attorney Phoenix Wright and has you defend people in court.

I know, I know, it doesn’t sound like much but it really is. An exceptional translation turns every character into either a deep, complex and sympathetic individual, a memorable ball of quirkiness and insanity or sometimes even both. Throughout this, rookie lawyer Phoenix remains the quintessential everyman viewpoint character while his assistant (a spirit medium of all things) Maya provides a stable source of emotion and humour.

To give anything more than a vague overview of the plot would ruin several of the many brilliant twists and character beats but what I can tell you is that events conspire to reunite Phoenix with his childhood friend turned ruthless prosecutor Miles Edgeworth while laying the foundations of an entire trilogy of this brilliance. And once the plot of the game is over, you get a bonus fifth case created especially for the DS iteration which is one of the longest and most popular in the series. It even has several new gimmicks such as forensic techniques to take advantage of the DS’ capabilities.

The gameplay can be divided into two sections. The investigation portions wouldn’t get particularly interesting until the Gaiden game Ace Attorney Investigations years later, and instead consist of Phoenix and Maya wandering around various locations talking to characters involved in the case and searching for clues. There’s a few problems with the game not moving on ’til you’ve shown precisely the right piece of evidence to somebody or clicked on some seemingly innocuous piece of the environment.

Where the game really shines are the courtroom sequences. You have to cross-examine whatever crazy witness holds the key to proceeding in the case. This is done by ‘pressing’ a statement for more information or showing contradictory evidence. Tearing apart somebody’s testimony is made even more satisfying by being able to shout “HOLD IT!”, “OBJECTION!” or “TAKE THAT!” while doing this, complete with giant red letters and the characters shouting along with a lot of dramatic finger pointing.

I just hope you like reading, cause you’ll be doing a lot of it.

Complementing the brilliant script is an exceptional soundtrack and absolutely charming character models. If you like your games to have great story or actual thought required to proceed there is absolutely no excuse not to buy this game.

Price: £20 (CEX)


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mitch Allan
    Jul 22, 2011 @ 13:48:44

    God I have wanted this game so long and now you’ve made it even worse D=
    This was another fab review. I love these kinds of games, and from what I hear, Ace Attorney is one of the best implementations of this game style around.
    And my DS is sat in a corner going WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME now I have grown bored of Animal Crossing.

    Will just have to wait to justify spending £20 is all >_<


    • jackcalico
      Jul 22, 2011 @ 13:58:48

      Well if you don’t I’ll shake my head and tut in a condescending manner. I would lend it to you if you weren’t over in Stupidly-Far-Away-Land, and even then I’m missing the second one. Which is of course, the middle part of a trilogy.


  2. Trackback: Should I Buy? – Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice « buythatgame

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