DS Review: Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney

Taking much of why text adventures are no longer with us, Phoenix Wright's bright exterior raises it above what would have been a slightly strained DS experience. It's engrossing inside the courtroom as players destroy cases with found evidence and pushy dialogue. The segments leading up to the trials seems to falsely extend the game, while the complete lack of replay value makes this a tough purchase.

In the role of rookie lawyer Phoenix Wright, players are introduced to a gameplay system based entirely around text. It's familiar territory for those who grew up in the early PC era, while something fresh for those who started with the Playstation. The game follows a basic formula for each of its cases, broken down into two segments.

The first is the evidence phase. Here, players visit various locations pertinent to the case at hand to collect items to prove their point. The simple touch screen controls make it simple, though you could just as easily use the buttons and d-pad. The second phase is the trial itself, where you'll need to cross-examine witnesses until they break, but within reason of the court.

All of this sounds great in text. Execution wise, Phoenix Wright has problems. Most notably, it's just shy of becoming its own strategy guide. It's impossible to miss any clues when digging up evidence since the game won't let players advance until they do. It will allow for a few missed pieces that will make the trial slightly more difficult, yet well within even a child's basic logic range.

These segments take forever to get through too. Much of the dialogue is utterly wasted without a point, and since the game never even tries to throw the player off until the final chapter, you'll spend most of the game tapping the screen to get through text trying to find the right questions to ask. The game is artificially lengthened this way, and the game's quirky anime' aesthetic wears thin quickly when dealing with segments like this.

The trials themselves suffer a similar fate. The early cases solve themselves, with extra help right when the player is trapped in a corner. For instance, the second case ends when an aide pulls out a piece of paper that solves the entire case. The player never could get their hands on it, never knew it existed, and the trial would have been over in a matter of minutes had the person submitted the evidence at the start. All the questioning feels for naught.

The DS itself rarely comes into play either. In all actuality, you could play the entire game without once removing the stylus from the holder. Aside from the option of yelling "Objection!" when the time comes (though you can say anything since the game has no voice recognition), this could have ended up on the Game Boy Advance with little struggle.

When Phoenix Wright works though, its works. Scenes can be tense as you juggle numerous pieces of evidence, any of which seem appropriate to the situation. It's hard to lose, but it can happen (you have six chances to provide the wrong evidence on each court date). When you're down to that final chance, you'll be sweating it out just as much as the on-screen character.

Sadly, those moments should be far more prevalent. That disappointment coupled with a total lack of replayability (there's only one solution out of every case), and Phoenix Wright misses its chance at success. It's unique nature will help it find an audience, but everyone else will likely stay away from the two sequels Capcom has yet to bring to the US.

(** out of *****)

Comments (2)


I'll be all over any sequel they bring to the US. One of my favorite DS games this year. Not a lot of replay like you said but one time through for me was enough for me to love it. I think replay value can be overrated when we have so many games to play I never have time to go back through a game twice. Only games that get replay from me are sports and racing games.


I think your enjoyment of the game relies on how you play it. If you simply try to win cases, it's pretty easy to go through your evidency pretty much by trial-and-error. It's also pretty boring.

If you try to think about the case, try to figure out what happened, and not simply waste your "exclamation marks", it becomes a lot more involving and interesting.

Personally, I found it to be the most engrossing game I've played on my DS yet, and I hope that Capcom will port the two sequels, too.

I think I played through the whole game in about three sessions, each lasting for hours, into the early hours of the morning. I played that game like I would read a book, not really how I usually play games.

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