Game Reviews

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
The Scene: A crowded courtroom. A bearded judge presides over this most unusual of cases, as the counsels for the defence and prosecution begin to cross-examine a key witness…

Defence: My client, the video game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, is charged with being nothing more than an electronic book, with text taken from a sub-standard episode of Murder, She Wrote and requiring minimal interaction from the user. But I not only refute these malicious and ill-founded accusations, I assert that my client is, in fact, an original, imaginative and thoroughly engrossing game, perfectly suited to Nintendo's handheld.

Judge: Oh really.

Defence: Really. I call as my first witness, Mr Player. Your honour, the witness has already been sworn in on a signed copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Mr Player, would you please describe for the court your initial impression of Phoenix Wright.

Player: Well, it felt like a new idea to me. I took the role of this spiky-haired defence attorney, who seemed to moonlight as an amateur detective. I would visit the scene of a murder, search for evidence, question witnesses, and try and determine who were suspects and their possible motives. Then I'd bring what I'd discovered to court.

Defence: And how did you actually conduct this investigation?

Player: Using the touchscreen, sir. I would tap an object to examine it for clues, and if it was important, it would be added to the Court Record, so I could use it as evidence when I was defending my client. And I could talk to people to see what they knew.

Defence: Talk? Do you mean use the microphone function?

Player: Erm, no. I'd be given a list of questions and I'd tap which one I wanted to ask. But when you're in court, you do get to shout 'Objection!' into the mic to interrupt someone's testimony when you've spotted something that just doesn't add up. I really liked that… I felt like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.

Prosecution: Objection! The witness is clearly delusional. In actuality, he is doing nothing more than tapping a list of pre-determined options in a wholly linear storyline. Even when trying to prove inconsistencies in a witness' testimony, and presenting evidence in the hope that it might lead to a response over which he has no control, he is merely indulging in a crude process of trial and error.

Judge: The prosecution will refrain from bad puns. However, his objection that the game demands little more than repeated stylus taps rather than logical deduction is sustained. How does the defence respond?

Defence: Your honour, the witness has used the key word 'feel'. While it might indeed be the case that the dialogue is pre-determined, the game masterfully convinces the player he is crucial in uncovering the truth. Mr Player, did you not feel a little like Columbo uttering that immortal phrase, 'Just one more thing', when you had pressed a witness into revealing a vital piece of evidence?

Player: Definitely. I spent ages thinking through a case when the DS was switched off, and when my theory proved correct, it felt like the game knew what I wanted to say. Like when I presented the photo of the Steel Samurai actually heading for Studio Two not One and…

Judge: The witness must refrain from making direct reference to any one of the five cases included in the game, or he will be held in contempt for spoiling the enjoyment of future players.

Player: Sorry, your honour. The plots really stay with you…

Prosecution: That is indeed fortunate Mr Player, for is it not the case you will never play this game again?

Player: Well, erm, I guess once a chapter is solved…

Prosecution: And furthermore, far from being original, I can reveal this whole game is merely a lazy conversion of various Gameboy Advance titles in the series freely available in Japan!

Defence: Your honour, whilst the first four chapters are indeed taken from earlier iterations in the series, to call them 'lazy conversions' is wholly inaccurate. The translation work is superlative, the dialogue is decidedly witty, and the final case, specially written for the DS, makes excellent use of the unique interface. I refer the court to blowing into the microphone when dusting for fingerprints and–

Judge: –I have heard enough. The defendant, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, clearly has characteristics that will charm some and frustrate others. I have therefore decided to refer this case to be heard in front of a jury, as I believe only twelve good players can arrive at a fair and just verdict. Case dismissed!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright may contain as much text as a hefty legal journal and have no replay value, but the unique blend of sleuthing and courtroom drama will keep you clutching your stylus til the end