Personally, when I first read about Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney I had little to no hope of it being a success. To me, the game stunk of a bad odour. Who can possibly make a game about a rookie defense lawyer WITHOUT making it insanely boring, repetitive and pointless? Capcom, that's who.
You're Phoenix Wright - a rookie defence attorney who's just started his job. Your first case appears simple, you must prove your friend Larry Butz, like every other one of your clients, innocent, or "not guilty!". But is it really what it seems? Are all of the answers completely obvious or is there more than meets the eye? These are just a speck of things you'll have to solve in Phoenix Wright, and all can be done using simple yet effective features of the touch screen.
The game is split up into five chapters, and each chapter is a case which Phoenix must solve. Is his client guilty or innocent? It's up to you to find out. You start off asking basic questions to your client, bearing in mind his or her side of the story. You're then free to explore - via the touch screen in a point and click style adventure system - all of the areas that may have clues or evidance about what really happened and it's up to you to find out how - if they are - linked to the crime in question. You'll spend most of your time tapping the touch screen to proceed the text, gathering information from what the witness or person is saying. It's then your job to prove what they've said right or wrong by exploring the surrounding area and noting anything you find. If you find something of importance, it's added to your inventory for use in the court room as evidance, and that's where all the fun begins - in the courtroom.
The trials in Phoenix Wright are probably the best part of the game. A witness is on the stand, who then proceeds to give evidance. Once the witness has said their piece, the 'cross-examination' begins. Here, you scroll through the witnesses testimony and try to find flaws in it. You can either do this by placing the DS in front of you, pointing your finger at the DS and then frowning while shouting "hold it!", or, you can simply press a button on the touch screen. This will press the witness on the part of the statement you're on, and if you're assumption is correct, you'll end up making them crack a bit more. However, if you're wrong, then the witness usually smirks and makes a somewhat annoying comeback leaving you and poor old Phoenix rather embarrased. But then again, the satisfaction from yelling into the microphone really is fantastic and it really does make you feel like you're actually Phoenix defending the poor sod who's got himself into such a mess.
You can also try to find flaws in the testimony by comparing pieces of evidance you gathered beforehand with what the witness has said. Usually you can find contradictions this way and present them to the court, however, it's usually just trial and error since the game will never let you go to court without the necessary evidance anyway. You do have five 'lives' though, so you do have only five chances, but it's never really anything massively complicated and if you actually use your brain (time to whip out Brain Training perhaps?) the answer to the problem is usually always quite clear and you almost always never end up using all of them (I certantly never did). There's one thing I really do love about this game though. Just when you think you've cracked a witness and are about to aquire a confession, it eats up everything you've done, churns it around in it's mouth and spits it right back at you. Yes, this game actually makes you feel disappointed and annoyed, and it's unbelievable how much you can get into this game, it leaves you determined to defeat the nasty bugger who's constantly smirking at you with their incredibly cute anime charm.
But when you finally do break down the witness and declare them guilty, it's really quite satisfying. You'll know as soon as you've done this as some kickass high-tempo music kicks in and the face on the witness is priceless, it definately leaves you grinning and wanting oh so much more lawyer action.
The graphics in Phoenix Wright aren't bad at all. In fact, I thought they suited the game perfectly. They're simple, cartoony-yet-serious in style and only have a few animations, but you can tell as soon as you meet a character exactly what they're going to be like, but the good thing is you have no idea whether they're good or bad until you go through what they're saying in the court room. Each and everyone one has their own little quirks, which are portrayed through the use of simple animations whenever that character is 'talking'. That's where Phoenix Wright stands out so much though - the character design. It's just brilliant. Each and every one is different and the game will leave you wandering what kind of person you'll meet next, what they're like, and what distinctive little animation they have that's going to amuse you. Phoenix Wright also has 'cut scenes', so to speak, at the beginning of each case, but these are in fact still images put together to set the scene and make you intrigued.
Sound is another aspect where Phoenix Wright seems to shine so much, it's just so perfect, and it really gets you in the mood and sets an atmosphere, too. There's low-tempo tunes when you're examing evidance or finding contridictions, high-tempo beats when you're on to something or have cracked a witnesses testimony and finally there's the incredible suspense and tension when there's no music at all! It suits the game well and Capcom did a really good job on it.
This is probably the only aspect of the game that really lets itself down, there's just no replayability in it at all, unless you haven't played it for a while and have forgotten how all the cases turn out, which is pretty doubtful. However, you have to give PW some respect, since it's quite the lengthy title and will keep you playing for hours, so I'd suggest renting it out on a weekend where you've got nothing better to do than sit down with this game and enjoy yourself.
A superb title for the DS that everyone should own. No matter what type of game you're into, give Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney a trial and I promise you won't be left feeling guilty.
+ The first of it's type, done so well - a lawyer sim!
+ Simple yet graphics that suit the game perfectly
+ Fantastic sound that really builds up an atmosphere
+ The satisfaction you get when shout "objection!" and "hold it!" at the right times
- No replayabilty whatsoever
- Only one case uses the full ability of the touch screen
- Not really worth it's price tag ($5-10 less perhaps?)
- May make you disappear for the weekend!
Overall Score: 9/10