This classic GameCola article was originally published in November 2005.
So, you’re a gamer. You’ve fought fearsome, towering, multi-headed beasts in the depths of dank dungeons. You’ve waged battle upon armies of samurai across the desolate battlefields of a war-torn nation. You’ve flown in spacecrafts at speeds you can only imagine in real life, and, to top it all off, you’ve sparred with Tiger Woods on the greens of Scotland. In short, you’ve done it all.
But I bet you’ve never practiced law.
That’s all about to change with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the first in a long line of comedic lawyer sims to reach Western shores.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney plays shockingly similar to Ye Olde Adventure Games. (Note from 2012 Paul: Or, Ye Modern Adventure Games, now!) There’s pointing and there’s clicking, though those are now done with the stylus rather than a mouse. You poke at objects in order to interact with them, either examining them and then trading witty banter with your partner, or noting them for future reference. You poke your way through a series of menus to do just about everything else, too, so don’t bother with Phoenix Wright if you don’t like your games heavy on the text and light on the action.
The first four levels of Phoenix Wright come to us from the original Japanese release of Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten. Capcom, however, added a fifth level to the game before bringing it here, one that makes use of the DS’s unique capabilities. While the first four levels do support poking at the screen and occasionally shouting “Objection!” into the microphone, the fifth level also allows you to test for residual blood and dust for fingerprints, using the stylus as a spray bottle and…whatever tool one uses to dust for fingerprints, respectively.
Unfortunately for some, a good chunk of this game is just prodding the continue button and watching events unfold without your participation. With this game’s art style, it seems at times that you’re watching an anime rather than playing a videogame. But when you do get to interact with the game, you’ll be hit with logic puzzles galore—some so tricky that you’ll gnaw on your stylus in frustration. (Note from 2012 Paul: Swear to God, my stylus actually is covered in bite marks.) It’s rare that you’ll be able to solve a puzzle without really thinking it through first. You’ve got to know when to raise an objection, what evidence to present, when to press the witnesses, and when to let them slide; and you can’t typically do this via trial and error (pun absolutely intended) because the judge penalizes you if you do something that he feels doesn’t make any sense.
You’ll grow to love all of the characters in Phoenix Wright. Each and every single one of them has more charm than, say, the entire cast of Mad TV. Even with names like “Dick Gumshoe” and “Sal Manella,” they don’t resort to just being stereotypes; they all have unique personalities that you’ll mourn to see go when you’ve moved on from their levels.
Also, Phoenix Wright boasts the best soundtrack of any DS game I own. It doesn’t sound like a lawyer game, or at least what one might expect a lawyer game to sound like; it sounds like a classic Capcom sidescroller if anything, and that’s a good thing. It’s unfortunate then that, since it’s a portable game, you might not get to hear Phoenix Wright‘s soundtrack all that much, since you might be playing it in places where it’s not generally acceptable to blast lawyer sim tunes. (Note from 2012 Paul: This was of course before the invention of headphones.)
Speaking of the Metro, Phoenix Wright thankfully, unlike so many other DS games, does not oftentimes require you to shout at or blow on your DS. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not comfortable with yelling “Take that!” while standing in a crowded train station. The only time you need to do anything like that is in the aforementioned fifth level, where you occasionally have to blow away fingerprint dust. (Note from 2012 Paul: This proved to be a problem the last time I played the game, which was unfortunately immediately following some painful dental surgery. I just couldn’t muster the mouth-strength to blow the stupid dust away; I ended up having to hold the DS in front of a high-powered fan to advance.)
How long would you expect a lawyer sim to last? I was expecting five hours (Note from 2012 Paul: Because legal proceedings are usually so short?), and that barely got me through the second level. Look for around 15-20 hours of gameplay from this $30 title. Don’t expect to be visiting the game much after that initial play-through, though; the puzzles aren’t exactly difficult your second time around. With the challenge gone and with gameplay that isn’t “fun” in and of itself, the only reason to play this game again is either to show it to a friend, or to play it again years later when you’ve forgotten all the puzzles.
For me, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was a killer app. I just had to buy a DS so I could play the lawyer game. If you only like videogames in which, you know, you actually do something, this title might not be for you. But if menus don’t daunt you and if the idea of shouting “Hold it!” while pressing a vile villain about his latest lie sounds totally awesome, Phoenix Wright may be your new favorite game.
Wow, GameCola is just now reviewing this game? Now I have an article to share with my friends!
No no, read the top, Dandy Dan! This is an oldie–my original review of the game when it first came out, before Phoenix Wright was a Thing.
Ha, that’s what I get for trying to skim this article while waiting at the office! Thanks for the clarification.
I really enjoyed the article & in honestly, I return to the game every few months because I like the story, the characters, etc. and like Nate I’ve tried exploring every angle. It never ceases to amaze me how much thought the developers put into this game. Speaking of characters, GameCola’s done several podcasts about who ships with whom, but to date I haven’t seen an article… *ducks for cover*
I’m having a lot of fun in my most recent playthrough noticing things I never saw before. My favorite is this weird thing the writers have with ladders; so far, every time I’ve seen one, Phoenix and Maya have gotten into a weird argument over what kind of ladder it is.
Bonus fun fact: this is something that continues THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE SERIES. I didn’t notice until I replayed them, but that ladder joke (or some variation) shows up in nearly every game (I think even Apollo/Trucy make use of it).
Wow! I wonder if it’s more hilarious in the original Japanese text; it just seems…weird, to me, like the writers were just amusing themselves.
Ace whatnow? Never heard of it.
Objection! I believe podcast 41 is all the proof I need to prove that statement to be false.
I’ve been waiting for this for a long time…
Now you know you should buy the game!
I actually have them all except for Trials and Tribulations…
Gotta catch ’em all!
Also, bonus points if you get the spin-off game, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, too.
You know, I’ve noticed several contradictions in this review, but I’m going to just sit back and be a good boy cause that’s the mature thing to do.
Hey guess what? The producers of Ace Attorney recently confirmed that they are planning something to “make us happy” and are most likely going to reveal it at the 10th anniversary special on the 29th of this month! What could it be? Any thoughts?
Really?! Where’d you read that?
I don’t know, but that sounds amazing!
One can only hope.
A new DLC alternate costume for Ultimate Marvel v Capcom 3
They already did that. It’s him in the ugly sweater.
Really?! That’s pretty funny.
And yet I still haven’t gotten this game! What’s wrong with me.
Me neither. I don’t have a XBox or Playstation. Boo. 🙁
It mocks me.
I find it kind of vague, when they say they’re going to do something to make fans happy, for the 10th anniversary. That could apply to anything from announcing a new game to saying that they put Phoenix Wright’s picture on the outside of a gum wrapper.
I’m going to say that they’re re-releasing all the games for the 3DS. They re-released the series the last time there was a new Nintendo handheld system, after all.
Why would they do that if the 3DS is backwards compatible? And why would they put Nick’s picture in a gum wrapper and make a big deal about it? I don’t know about you, but that wouldn’t make a fan like me “happy.” What would make me happy is a new game, or haveing that damn movie subbed in English. And PLvsAA, but Japan delayed that.
I really want to see that movie, but I read some spoilers on court-records, and it appears that they changed some pretty major plot points…
Yeah, I saw that, too. I think I’d be OK with it, though; just have to go into it expecting it to be its own thing, rather than an exact re-telling of the Ace Attorney games.
…Or, at least, that’s the only way I could get through the Harry Potter movies.
At least it’s not as changed as much as the Percy Jackson movie was. That was changed so much it was terrible.
I went to see that with my literature class and when we walked out everyone said the same thing: “Was that the right movie?”
The DS was backwards compatible with the GBA when they re-released the GBA series. And the “it will make fans happy” was a statement said in Japanese, to a Japanese audience, concerning a Japanese event. It is perfectly logical to think that the news primarily concerns Japan. The statement doesn’t exclude the foreign fans from potential happiness, but they still aren’t the target audience.
Also, I would totally buy Phoenix Wright gum. It would make me happy.
On the Ds re-release they had a brand new case lined up that the gba couldn’t handle. The rest of the trilogy was Capcom’s “need” to constantly upgrade every game they ever made. (Mostly Street Fighter). But you do have some good points so… (epic breakdown)
Since other people played the downer first, I’ll chime in with, whatever it is, it’ll probably be Japan-exclusive.
HOLD IT! Think about that for a moment. Why would Capcom want to make their Japanese fans even MORE happy than they already are? I mean, they already have Investigations 2, and a freakin movie! The only fans that need to be happy, are us North Americans.
I agree! But in the past year it seems like Capcom’s decided that Ace Attorney doesn’t have a big enough target audience in the U.S. to make localization worthwhile. I’d loved to be proven wrong, but…
Paul, no offense, but you can’t take a hint if it slapped you in the face. By saying “it will make the fans happy,” thats basically Capcom telling us strait that something that will be worth our while IS coming to the U.S., because the Japanese fans are ALREADY happy, and WE’RE not! I’m not sure if you noticed, but sales in the Ace Attorney franchise have gone way up since Phoenix made his apperance in UMvC3, and the audience has gotten way bigger. Now I can’t make a comment on an Ace Attorney video without 3 people calling me a @#$%& for spoiling the games for them, Before Nick’s appearence, that NEVER happened. And if I’m wrong, may Zeus strike me with his lightning bolts and banish me to the underworld.
You make me laugh. And you also have a point.
Unfortunately, I’m inclined to agree with you, but I’ll be so disappointed…
Hey Paul, that “news that will make fans happy” was just announced: Ace Attorney 5 and Ace Attorney 123 HD (for iOS devices). If you don’t believe me check Court Records.
Thanks for the tip! I credited you in our post.