I’ve been hearing about Phoenix Wright games for quite some time now, but I’ve never had the chance to try them out until recently, so I the first one in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, a try:
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a visual novel with point-and-click adventure and puzzle elements where you take on the role of a defense attorney named Phoenix Wright. In the game, you take on several murder cases, defending suspects who are almost certain to be found guilty without your help.
The game alternates between investigation sequences and trial sequences. During investigation sequences, you go back and forth between different locations in order to obtain clues or find evidence by talking to different people or examining different objects in those locations.
During trial sequences, the prosecution calls out different witnesses for their testimony. You then get the chance to cross-examine the witnesses, looking for holes and inconsistencies with what they claim to have witnessed. Cross-examination involves either “pressing” the witness for more information or presenting any gathered evidence that contradicts the witness in the hopes of drawing out the truth.
A testimony is separated per statement – you can “press” the witness on all statements, but to avoid players getting through the trial sequences by virtue of trial and error, there’s a limit on how many times you can present evidence to refute a statement. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney allows players to make up to five mistakes per trial sequence. Once you’ve had five mistakes, you automatically lose the trial which results in a Game Over.
There are a total of five different cases that you’ll handle, with four of them taken directly from the original version. I like how the cases progress from very basic at first, aiming to get you to be familiar with how trial sequences work. During these cases, it’s very obvious who actually committed the crime, all you need to do is prove it in court. Later on, cases play out like mysteries – you’re not sure if your clients are innocent because you have no idea who the real killers are.
I liked Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, even though I was a little underwhelmed. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is an enhanced remake of a Japan-only Gameboy Advance game, and it shows. The puzzle elements were lacking for me, especially on the earlier cases, and it wasn’t until the final case (the only one exclusive to the remake) where I really got challenged.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney also suffers from an issue that I have with visual novels where I sometimes find myself choosing all options at least twice, just to make sure that I’ve covered everything. This resulted in a lot of text being repeated, and unfortunately there’s no way to skip conversations that you end up repeating. The game is also very linear – while you can go about your investigations and trials with no fixed pattern to follow, you need to meet fixed requirements to get to a fixed story outcome. Because of this, the game has very little replayability – there are no alternate endings to aim for. Multiple endings would have made it worthwhile to play a second or even a third time. I guess it’s too much to expect for a game originally released for the Gameboy Advance.
Despite the shortcomings, I enjoyed Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Again, it’s a visual novel with puzzle elements and not a puzzle game, and the most important aspect of a visual novel is a good story, which Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has. Playing through the first cases introduces the main and supporting characters, and the latter cases put these characters through adversity and make them grow and gain layers to their personalities. The latter cases also have a layer of mystery that will make you want to find out who’s actually guilty, and the puzzle elements make for a more engaging experience because unlike simply reading a book, you become actively involved in the story.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney isn’t a game for everyone though. If you like reading, this is a game that’s right up your alley. But if reading bores you and you’d much rather play something with more action, then you shouldn’t bother with this franchise. Personally, I liked this first entry, it was a good enough introduction to the world of Phoenix Wright. I can’t wait to play the rest of the games in this series.