Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Premise

You are Phoenix Wright, a brand-new defense attorney determined to get your clients found “not guilty.” To do so, you must investigate the various crimes committed to gather evidence, then use that evidence to uncover the truth in court.

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Good Points

  • easy to put down and pick back up because of separate cases
  • funny
  • tricky mysteries with (mostly) logical solutions
  • fun character animations

Bad Points

  • sometimes difficult to trigger events
  • inability to explain thought processes sometimes results in frustration
  • some solutions extremely far-fetched
  • mic wouldn’t work (this was probably a hardware issue on my end)
  • entire final case

TL;DR Review

Super fun, with some minor gameplay flaws. Pick it up if you like charming visual novels.aa_logo

Review

Overall, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a great game. It’s funny and lighthearted, despite the grisly nature of some of the cases. Puns abound and witty retorts are par for the course in the courtroom. PW:AA has puzzle elements, but is, at its core, a visual novel. The wordplay is where the charm of the game shines through brightest.
But don’t let the charm fool you – the gameplay has some teeth. In court, it’s your job to point out contradictions in witness testimonies and providing evidence to back up your claims of falsehood. The difficulty of spotting these contradictions ranges from laughably easy to mind-numbingly difficult, but mostly stays within the realm of totally doable – if you’re paying attention. This is not a game you can play if half your brain is somewhere else. You’ve really got to focus in on what’s being said and how it relates to what has already been established.
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I keep talking about the trials, but there is a second part to Phoenix Wright‘s gameplay: investigation. Between trials, you run around investigating crime scenes, collecting evidence, and talking to the people involved to dig up information for your defense. The investigations are a decent chunk of the game, but feel like a necessary evil. The entire time I was investigating, I was just working towards getting to play the next trial.
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Part of this lack of enthusiasm came from the trouble I often had in getting events to trigger. Sometimes the things you needed to present to people to get them talking were odd, unintuitive choices and the case couldn’t progress unless you’d done everything with everyone. That caused some grief, especially in the final case.
In the courtroom, everything worked much better. Things made a bit more sense in the context of questioning and challenging people. However, play could have been a bit more sophisticated with a better punishment/reward system. During the trial, if you don’t have a true contradiction, you can push a suspect on a topic in the hopes that they’ll slip up. You can do this for every statement, as many times as you want. I would have liked to have seen some sort of reward for only pushing when necessary, or at least some sort of light punishment for abusing the privilege.
I had similar problems with the “choices” occasionally presented. There was never a consequence for always pushing forward, which meant they weren’t really choices at all – just interruptions in the flow of the game for the player to pick the option that said (paraphrased) “keep going.”
Even with its small problems, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a fun game that’s well worth your time if you enjoy visual novels, mysteries, and/or criminal justice. And, since it’s older, you can often find used copies for very little money.
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