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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – DS

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – DS

Phoenix_Wright_-_Ace_Attorney_CoverartPlatform: Nintendo DS

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Release Date (NA): October 11, 2001

Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel

Reviewed by Flagostomos


When you hear the term “video game”, what comes to your mind? A plumber dressed in red jumping on the heads of harmless creatures, dunking a giant turtle in a pool of lava, only to find out his princess is in another castle? How about a green tunic-clad hero, fighting off mystical forces in a barren land filled with moving statues and flying swords? What about a Spartan, trying desperately to slave planet earth sometime in the future? We want a video game to capture the inner adventurist inside, to whisk us away to another land where we are the hero.

Now what if this land were a courtroom, and you, the hero, a rookie defense attorney? Instead of goombas you face off against evidence. Rather than mystical forces, you are fighting the law of the land, a law that condemns your truly-innocent client. And the only reward you receive is that, at the end of the day, true justice was served. Does this concept appeal to you? Let me be the first to admit that it did not for me. However, I soon came to find out that maybe I had misjudged this game, and the genre as a whole.

The game begins like Law and Order. You, the player, actually get to witness the aftermath of the crime in question. All this does is let you know that you are truly defending an innocent client. But what good does it do, other than give a little background? I personally found these scenes to drag on for too long, to not really let you know anything, and to be filled with terrible dialogue. If it had been voice acted, I can guarantee you it would have been terrible as well.

Now to the game. Cut to day one of the trial. Mr. Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney, has taken on his first case. Rather than actually preparing for the case, poor Phoenix has no confidence in himself, and neither does his boss, Mia Fey. (Trust me she stands out.) So you are forced to endure a “tutorial” that introduces you to one of the five things you get to do in the game; look at your collected information. This might not be so bad, until you consider that this is the most important thing you do in the game. So we gather a little bit more background information, and enter the courtroom.

See what I mean about her "standing out"?

See what I mean about her “standing out”?

Mr. Nice Beard, as we will be calling the judge, flat out harasses Phoenix in another tutorial. Once Phoenix finally works up the nerve to respond without stuttering, the trial finally begins. This is the meat of the game, where all the action takes place. Now, there was great potential here. The idea could have been solid. You hear the witness’ testimony (who uncannily always turns out to be the real bad guy… ever heard of never returning to the scene of the crime?) and then are allowed to “Cross Examine”. You can challenge a statement made. This can do one of a few things: upset the judge, witness, or prosecutor, clarify information either already presented or maybe tweak the statement slightly, or last but not least, in a few instances, force the case to go on. By the second time you cross examine, you end up just hitting challenge after every statement.

Once you have finally found the lie in the testimony (which assuming your client is innocent there has to be one), you get to present the evidence that shows that said statement is a lie. The witness flounders, the courtroom acts up, and the judge calls for order. After a few outbursts, the prosecutor finally steps in and settles matters. After some flimsy rebuttal, the witness is able to backtrack enough so that his statement is “conceivable”. This is where I have the BIGGEST problem with this game (notice the all caps). Even if beyond a doubt you have just proved that the witness was lying, the witness can make some statement that somehow fixes everything (not to mention lying under oath). Whether being mistaken, forgetting (Oh, you see, I.. forgot…) or even because the action was so intense that the witness was confused, we have to endure yet another testimony. Now you do the same thing again.

Finally, you have the offense on the run. The prosecutor was full of himself, yet you were able to break his “rock-solid” offense. Simple really. Herein lies another problem: The game is way to easy to EVENTUALLY be able to find the right answer. I never once used up my five strikes. All it takes is a little thinking, and a lot of patience.

There’s something else I really don’t like about this game. You are supposedly the defense attorney. Yet after all four trials, who is it that uncovered the truth, and the real suspect? In fact, once you go down that line of thought, wouldn’t the entire formula have made a lot more sense if you were the prosecutor? Think about it. You try to find lies in the testimony. You also present evidence that shows who really could have done it. Not to mention the fact that you end up trying to find the person who really did it. So you really end up playing both roles.

Not only is the game insanely easy, you always know the answer to the most “difficult” parts. For example, there’s a part in the game where the prosecution tries to get you held in contempt of court. So should you shut up? You say yes, but wait! No penalty and you end up objecting anyway. At other times you are presented with a few options. There are two flat out ridiculous answers and then one obvious answer.ace attorney training

Probably the biggest complaint I have about this game, is how nothing like the real justice system it is like. I already touched on this above, (lying under oath being a major problem for starters). Now, I am no lawyer or in any way actually know how the system works in real life other than portrayed in the media. But I do know, that if you somehow are able to convincingly show that your client is innocent usually the case takes a different turn. Not to mention the fact that if you are able to uncover the real perpetrator in the process would this change some things. Yet with every trial, you are able to come up with evidence, solid evidence that shows your client is innocent. Not only that, the witness is clearly shown to be the real bad guy. Yet he flounders, backtracks a little, and the judge says, “Yes that would appear to make sense. I guess the defendant really is guilty.”
I just proved to you he can’t be guilty! I should have taken better note of this in preparation for the review, but I hope I explained my frustration with this problem well enough.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if someone punches you in the face, that’s assault right? If someone hits you with a taser, strong enough to knock you unconscious, that’s also assault right? Why doesn’t this ever come back to haunt von Karma, or that flashy dude wearing purple? Why is Mr. Defense Attorney so stupid so as not to at least tell in court that this was how von Karma reacted when told you have a piece of paper that would ruin him?

And last but not least, I don’t understand limiting the trial to three days. This does nothing for the game. Nothing, other than trying to put some sort of pressure on you as the player. It’s not like you call the shots on which days does what. It’s not like you need more than three days to present your case. It’s not like you end up not being able to finish the case in three days, but you could have done so in four. It’s just a weird addition, given too much spot light, that adds nothing to the game.

I actually think the stories are very well conceived (for the most part) and the dialogue is written quite well. The game feels more like an interactive story rather than a game, and it doesn’t do a very good job of emulating how real life trials work. Overlooking those flaws, I can see how some people would like this game.

In review of this review (hehe) I realized that most of my qualms with this game stem from personal things, rather than game play mechanics. I try to present my review scores unbiased in such a sense. However, I do also feel that there are genuine things with this game that could have been changed, and definitely would have benefited the game as a whole. Did I completely not enjoy my experience with Phoenix Wright? No. But this game is not the kind of game for me.

Gameplay: 7
Story: 8 (Depends which case)
Sound effects/ Music/Graphics: 7 (Does what it needs to, a little over the top at times though.)
Presentation: 7
Overall: 7

A few last things:
Mr. Nice Beard is a complete pushover. I thought that after all the things you have to go through to be a judge, you command a HECK of a lot more respect than that.
Maya is one of the most annoying side kicks ever. Even worse than.. gasp.. Slippy.

Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon


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  1. Ugh. Slippy is such a little bitch in Star fox 64! Just awful! Great comparison


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