On the surface, the Ace Attorney series is an odd one. You play the role of a defense attorney in a courtroom. No, there isn’t a catch. That’s it. Collect data on the case, go to court, defend your client. I had always heard that the series was great, but never went out of my way to try it. I’ve even owned the first game on cartridge for about a year. With that in mind, what better game to start an impression series off with than one I’m curious about myself?
Let me get one thing out of the way here — Phoenix Wright doesn’t have much gameplay. Not in the traditional sense, anyways. Instead, it falls more towards the category of a Point-and-Click Visual Novel. What Phoenix Wright lacks in that department, it makes up for in a charming cast (and great music!). The titular character, Phoenix Wright, is a rookie defense attorney straight out of law school. Taken under wing as apprentice by veteran attorney Mia Fey, we join him as he takes part in his first case. His client and defendant? Larry Butz, a childhood friend. Each character has his or her own traits and quirks, making for a fun group. Even the Judge and Prosecutors join in on the fun, with their own eccentric personalities.
Play is broken up between two phases: Investigation, and Trial. Between these two, you will progress in a character-driven, text-based adventure. In the Investigation portion, your objective is to gather as much information and evidence as possible for the upcoming case. This is where the point-and-click comes in, as you look for clues from screen to screen via a menu. Once you obtain enough info through your detective work and lawyer-y questioning, the game shifts over to Trial. And this is where Ace Attorney starts to shows much of its charm.
The Trial part of the game is the more Visual Novel-inspired half of Ace Attorney. As the witness’ give testimony and prosecutor their claims, you must find holes in their stories through cross-examination to prove your client Not Guilty. This is done through a menu-based interface where you present evidence to their words with the goal of a contradiction. One that puts your client in the clear. This is where you will get much of the silly banter that builds these characters into something you want to see more of.
Between the two gameplay styles, I can’t really say I ever got bored. I even laughed a time or two at the witty writing. For me, it definitely feels more like a game of shorter bursts of play rather than one or two longer sittings. Save points are even spread perfectly between shifts for such a thing (rest assured, you can save anywhere). Though in the case that you do want to play through a full Trial or two in a day, there’s no downtime, making for a near constant momentum. And there’s little to no pointless filler, with every bit of text either being relevant or a way to further a personality. The game is a tightly-knit introduction into the world of the Ace Attorney series.
Total time played for article: 3:07
The first chapter’s case is very much a tutorial, clocking in at a little over an hour total. It does teach you the ropes and help you to know the cast a little bit. But to really “get” why this series is enjoyable, the second chapter should be played. It opens up more of the game, gives you a more involved case, and introduces you to multiple recurring characters for you to grow to love. Or hate. Your choice entirely.
I will be continuing on with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in a funny character-driven Visual Novel. The game is a fun romp and can be played in full in a relatively short amount of time (~15 hours).
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney can be purchased digitally as part of an HD Trilogy via the Nintendo eShop ($29.99). You can also find the Trilogy on iOS ($17), but it has its fair share of issues. The same applies to the version found on WiiWare ($10). Original copies or the HD Trilogy on 3DS are suggested over the other two, even if it is a bit pricier.