Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney"

I have wondered whether to review all three Phoenix Wright games plus the one Apollo Justice game at one go and figured that it would be too long if I were to describe my opinions for EACH game, but individually, it will be a little short. So what the heck, I'll just do it one by one. Note that Phoenix Wright is focused on the storyline, so expect some spoilers.

"Phoenix Wright" is a fully story-driven interactive game (think Hotel Dusk: 215 and Monkey Island series). There is only one route to take and there are no shortcuts or whatever, only do what you are expected to do. If you are unsure, it isn't really a shame to check out guides from time to time since it can get frustrating when answers are not as obvious.

You play as Phoenix Wright, a newbie defense attorney under the tutelage of the famous Mia Fey. Instantly, the game throws you into the courtroom as a tutorial level. There are two parts to the courtroom battle: the witness testimony and the random QnA sections. You are given a few chances to be wrong, as indicated at the top right hand corner of the DS top screen.

Usually the prosecutor will kick off the battle by calling upon a 'decisive' witness, who claims to have witnessed the crime. The game seems to revolve around murders and frames, which is alright since they give the player a sense of importance (imagine solving a petty theft crime). You will then be asked to 'cross-examine' the witness.

During cross-examination, you are required to search for contradictions and sometimes, clues, in the witnesses' statements. They usually have around 4-5 sentences which you can review them by pressing the front or the back arrows on your touch screen, bringing you to the next or previous statement respectively. There are two things you can do during cross-examination: Press and Present.

Pressing a statement will cause Phoenix to ask further inquiries about it. You can actually Press every single sentence without a penalty unless otherwise stated by the judge (prosecutor will claim it will harass the witness). Sometimes when you Press, you will be asked to perform actions like "Press further" or "Raise an objection!". Everything is tightly scripted so there's no pattern for this part, just play along and have fun.


Presenting evidence to a statement is the most common way to advance the courtroom battle. When you see a contradiction with the evidence and the statement, you can present the evidence to advance. However, if you got it wrong, you will the penalized by taking away a chance (the top right hand corner thing). Once you reach 0, it is Game Over.

Sometimes, you have to answer questions presented by the judge and the prosecutor, in which you either have to answer as a multiple choice question, presenting the evidence, spotting something in a photo or a video, etc. Again, here, everything is tightly scripted so there's no pattern. This kind of 'freedom' in scripting aid in immersing you to the story, especially for people like me who always looks out for patterns in even the smallest things. As I said earlier, it's a interactive story-driven game so just play along and have fun.

Outside of the courtroom, Phoenix will be wandering around gathering evidence and talking to people. I wouldn't say much to this as all these are scripted according to the story. You just need to talk to people, open more dialog options, look for clues in the surroundings, and present related evidence to the related person.

And now we talk a bit about the story.
You are Phoenix Wright, understudy of the famous Mia Fey. After the tutorial level, you receive your very own solo murder case: The murder of Mia Fey. You were seen in the office by a witness who claimed that you are the murderer. Intriguing isn't it. Right off the bat, you are involved in a rather delicate case, with you as a suspect.

As you continue playing, you will gain the help of Maya Fey, Mia's younger sister. She is a spirit medium, and is able to channel dead spirits into her body to aid Phoenix's cases, although she's not very good at it and can only do so at extreme cases.

Just as you finished the last chapter, a bonus chapter will be unlocked. You will be introduced to a young forensic scientist wannabe by the name of Ema Skye. Her sister is accused of murder and she is willing to plead guilty. The strange thing about this case is that there are two murders of the same person at two different locations! Play more to find out :)

This chapter is a little unique because you will be interacting with objects you have not done before for the past chapters.

1) You will be able to look for fingerprints using a special spray and powder as well as matching them to a database.
2) You will be able to examine (in 3D) and interact with your evidences
3) Examining moving pictures aka videos for evidence


fan-made strip depicting what courtroom battle are like, in a comical way.

"Phoenix Wright" chapters are all very captivating and exciting to play. Even if the gameplay isn't much, you'd still want to see what happens next. The characters in the game are all very vibrant and outstanding. In fact, the most normal people in the game are actually Phoenix himself and Edgeworth. The rest have a range of personalities like being extremely forceful, loudmouth, geek-ish(!), and having less than usual common sense, causing all of them to be very memorable. There isn't even voice acting! Only text!

Despite all the murder cases, Phoenix Wright's story might be leering towards that of a 'suspence' or 'thriller' but it has many light momemts too. It's also great to see how the most calm looking criminals crack under pressure from Phoenix. It can be scary or funny as hell.


- Great story and cases, the only reason you even need to play this
- Interactivity may be lacking
- Linear gameplay, even for a interactive story game

NeetGeek gives "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney": 8/10

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