“Amateurs, amateurs. Listen to me, Mr. Wright. In the courtroom, proof is everything. Without it, you have nothing. You are nothing.”
Miles Edgeworth- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Reviewed by Matt Keleher
It’s a familiar trope in TV and film to portray defence lawyers as rapacious mercenaries prepared to go to nefarious lengths to get their clients off the hook – whether they believe their innocence or not…
The Phoenix Wright games refreshingly break with that convention; its sharp young protagonist is driven instead by honesty, using reason and objectivity in his pursuit of truth. Although a relative newcomer to the profession, Phoenix is smart and conscientious – firmly trusting his own judgement.
For those unfamiliar with the series, his inaugural adventure: ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’ on the Nintendo DS is arguably the best starting point:
The year is 2016 and Phoenix Wright is cutting his teeth as a defence attorney at the Fey and Co. Law offices – under the wing of his mentor Mia Fey.
There are five cases to solve in ‘Ace Attoney’, wherein players must explore the crime scenes, examining the minutiae of each case and speaking to witnesses in the area before presenting the evidence they have gathered in the courtroom.
The game takes advantage of the DS’s inbuilt microphone, allowing the player to shout ‘Objection!’ as Phoenix refutes the prosecution with a piece of crucial evidence. If you’re furtively playing during classes or lectures you probably won’t wish draw attention to yourself, but luckily there’s the handy option just to tap the word ‘Objection’ with your stylus instead…
The opening case is much shorter than the others, forgoing the crime scene investigation and bringing Phoenix into the courtroom from the get-go to familiarise players with the story and gameplay (awkward navigation could really hamper a title like this, but thankfully it’s all wonderfully intuitive).
Phoenix’s abilities are put to the test for the first time when he comes to the aid of childhood friend Larry Butz who has been wrongfully accused of murdering his girlfriend. The hapless Larry (whose name the judge often mistakes for ‘Harry’) is one of many weird and wonderful characters you’ll encounter throughout the game.
A few of the more memorable characters in this instalment include Dick Gumshoe – a kindly, yet hopelessly incompetent police detective; Miles Edgeworth -the game’s erudite chief prosecutor and Phoenix’s sparring partner and the overbearing Wendy Oldbag – an elderly lady (as her name connotes) working odd security jobs.
Their larger than life personalities and nuances are captured perfectly by the sprites’ delightfully quirky animations, many of which have to be seen to believed!
During the examination sections, you explore environments by moving from one screen to the next, quizzing the colourful characters you meet along the way. Only once you have the answer to a pertinent question or find that elusive piece of evidence that sews up the case will the story progress…
While Ace Attorney does little to exploit the DS’s 3D capabilities, (save for select sequences in the final case) its simple, yet charming anime-style sprite animation and colourful backgrounds fit the game perfectly and the ‘point and click’ adventure format works perfectly with the DS’s stylus.
In a sense Ace Attorney could be seen as an interactive graphic novel; in spite of its linear gameplay you’ll be hooked to the end, thanks to its tightly plotted stories and signature visual humour. I have no doubt these titles have inspired a handful of gamers to pursue a career in the legal profession – if they can practice with the integrity of Phoenix, then that’s no bad thing.
I was pleased to learn that the series survived the transition to the 3DS: a full 3D adventure entitled ‘Dual Destinies’ (which looks fantastic) arrived in Japan this Summer and is slated for a release in both Europe and America on October 24 as a digital only download via the Nintendo eShop.
Click below to watch the game’s trailer:
Have you played this game? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments box.