Video games have given us a way to become things we couldn't be through normal means. We can be assassins, space marines, or robotic unicorns for that matter. We can even be things a bit more down-to-earth, such as doctors, musicians, and even artists. But what happens when you can become something a bit more litigious: an attorney?
In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, you fill the shoes of the eponymous Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney who seeks to defend those who can't defend themselves. In one of the first cases, Phoenix's mentor, Mia Fey, is killed, and after solving her murder case you gain an ally in her sister, a budding spirit medium named Maya. From there, you'll tackle a couple of cases such as a murder surrounding the cast of a children's action show, defend a childhood friend from allegations of murdering his girlfriend, and even take on a case left unsolved for fifteen years, all while butting heads with rival prosecuting attorney, Miles Edgeworth.
All in all, Ace Attorney is rather light on its number of cases, murder being the common theme in all 5 of them. While the number of cases seems lacking, the cast of characters and branches of dialogue certainly make up for that. Indeed, the heavy use of text and the lack of any 'real' gameplay could be a huge turn-off to many gamers, though anyone who has played through a visual novel will feel right at home.
The game is split up into investigation and court trials. During investigation, you're charged with talking with your client and any witnesses, as well as examining the crime scene and gathering clues and pieces of evidence in gameplay familiar to those who have ever played a point-and-click game.
During trial, you will take witness testimonies, and from that, you'll press them for more info or present evidence that contradicts with what the witness says. Through this, you can not only prove your client not guilty, but you can also find the real perpetrator and bring him to proper justice.
Of the two modes of game, investigation felt the more stagnant. At times you're left with a complete loss as to where to go, who to talk to, and what to search for. Indeed, a few times you'll have to really stretch your imagination as to what you're supposed to do next. That very same principle is used in court, as you'll really be picking your brain and thinking outside the box to prove your client not guilty.
As far as the graphics department goes, the characters boast an anime design fleshed out with cartoony reactions. Indeed, if you're looking for realism, you'll find more of it in its backdrops and evidence design. At any rate, the graphics have a mostly-clean, sometimes-pixelated 2D look that, when coupled with the simpler chiptune soundtrack, works to improve the game's charm than it would otherwise.
As stated previously the game has 5 cases, but its fifth case, Rise from the Ashes, can only be played after completing the first four cases. This 2005 DS game was originally a Japan-only GBA title back in 2001, and for the remastered DS version, developer Capcom added this additional case to the roster. Not much sets this case apart from the previous four, though use of the DS' touch screen and microphone are exclusive to this case and used many times throughout its length.
To its advantage, Rise from the Ashes is one of the longest, if not the longest, case in the entire Ace Attorney series. As such, Rise from the Ashes helps balance the rest of the game's otherwise paltry length, though its difficulty and general vagueness in direction during investigation scenarios can be seen as a disadvantage to the additional case.
All in all, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a charming game. While its reliance on reasoning and heavy use of text may be off-putting to some, those who are fans of the point-and-click and visual novel genres will be treated well with this gem. If you own a DS, you owe it to yourself to check out this title.