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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS) artwork

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS) review

"It is completely linear, it involves a lot of reading, it has an annoying bit here and there where you're wondering how to convince the story to move along, and once you've finished it, any replay will be precisely the same...and I'm still absolutely in love with it. "

It is completely linear, it involves a lot of reading, it has an annoying bit here and there where you're wondering how to convince the story to move along, and once you've finished it, any replay will be precisely the same...and I'm still absolutely in love with it.

Phoenix Wright puts you in attorney's shoes in a world where courtroom Drama is spelled with a capital D - sneaky, untrustworthy prosecutors who don't give a damn who's guilty and who isn't, but just want to win their case, judges who mean well but are so easily swayed by witnesses or the prosecution that it's downright embarrassing, and each court case involving a murder, an innocent defendant, and an elaborate setup that makes them look very, very bad. And your job is to break through it.

Every case (excepting the tutorial case the game starts with) consists of alternating investigation and courtroom sessions. During investigation, you visit such locations as the crime scene, the jail (to talk to your client), and whatever else comes up during this particular case, and you'll investigate still locations by clicking hotspots and talk to witnesses hoping to make sense of what really happened. These sections last as long as it takes for you to collect all the necessary evidence (so you can't miss any), then it's off to the courtroom, which is the more interesting part of the game.

Court proceedings consist mostly of witnesses testifying what they saw, but there are always inconsistencies or outright lies in it. To find these, you scroll through their testimony line by line, press them on certain statements to get more details or slight corrections, then when you find something that is clearly's time to object. Objecting is done by selecting a piece of evidence that contradicts a witness's statement, then either tapping a button on the lower screen...or, much more fun, yelling "OBJECTION!" into the DS microphone. There is some margin for error, and you can get away with a couple of erroneous objections (often to humorous effect), but too many mistakes means your case is thrown out of court and your innocent client found guilty of murder. Correct objections will usually result in witnesses hastily adjusting their testimony, getting caught in different lies for you to root out, and eventually learning more about what really went down. This will usually cause a case to go back and forth between the courtroom and further investigations for a couple of game days until the truth is revealed, the real murderer found, and your client acquitted.

Storyline is the best aspect of the game by far. Each case is nicely convoluted, characters are memorable (and usually wacky), and the game seamlessly goes from absurd humour and surprisingly up to date pop references to shocking revelations and outright sad moments as the truth comes out. It is the combination of the simply point and tap gameplay and the engrossing stories that'll keep you glued to each case until it is resolved.

Originally this game was a Japan-only GBA title, so the graphics aren't stellar, but they get the job done nicely. Character portraits are stills with various exaggerated "emotion" poses, and these are done great. Backgrounds are functional but unimpressive, and you'll be seeing a lot of the same locations over the course of the game's cases (and in fact, recycled into the sequel). Music is likewise of high quality but repetitive, helping to set the mood (speeding up, for instance, as you're breaking down testimonies) but not likely to wow you.

The original GBA game had four cases and a fifth has been added specifically for this DS version - this one includes a few more DS specific gameplay aspects, such as fingerprinting items by tapping powder on the lower screen and then blowing it off. Nothing too difficult here, but a nice addition, plus the fifth case is very long and satisfying and adds hours to the game's lifespan.

Phoenix Wright comes in at an 8/10 for excellent, engrossing storytelling with just the right level of interactive gameplay around it. Higher score prevented by the linearity and the lack of replay value, but even a single playthrough (which will still be a good 15-20 hours to solve all cases) is well worth the money.

sashanan's avatar
Community review by sashanan (September 10, 2007)

Sashanan doesn't drink coffee; he takes tea, my dear. And sometimes writes reviews. His roots lie with the Commodore 64 he grew up with, and his gaming remains fragmented among the very old, the somewhat old, and rarely the new.

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