Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Reader Review
Apparently, this is the third in a well-known series, but was my first taster of a Lawyer-'em-up game. The concept was strangely sound and the interactive mechanics that the NDS provides seemed to suit it well. Never would I have thought that defending the innocent would be such a laugh.
The game is simple enough; you're Phoenix Wright, an (ace) attorney who is contracted out by various people who find themselves in a bit of a pickle. In fact, sometimes you go out of your way to represent them. There are five or six cases that make up the game and, although that doesn't sound like much, they do get pretty lengthy especially those towards the end. The game eases you in nicely with a simple case, allowing you to go through the different options without too much repercussion if you get something wrong. Each case has three parts: pre-court, where you find out what you need to know about the case and build an evidence list; court-session/judgement, where you must fight your case and win; post-case celebrations, not really much else other than getting a nice thank you for saving the client.
Some of the cases are quite bizarre and most are quite ingenious, and although (if I remember correctly) each one features a murder, it is all played out in a comical fashion that comes about from the graphics and comments made by the characters involved. Each case will have you smiling or letting out a slight sigh of laughter, either pre-court or during the court session - in fact, most likely on both ocassions. You'll soon find it all a bit ridiculous (in a good way) as it turns out that lawyers are now allowed to enter crime scenes and pick up bits of evidence that happen to be left lying about the place. Not only that, but you'll soon be examining the evidence closely and getting fingerprint marks or gluing things back together. Yes, totally wrong and is likely to get any lawyer on the front of The Sun, but anything goes in this game.
The game mechanics are simple; static screens and a touchpad. Your task is to visit various locations (via a menu system) and its local buildings/parks/whatever, and to then press on items that you think may help you win the case. The game doesn't proceed unless you have found all the evidence/information to help you win the case - so you'll never go into court guaranteed to lose. Evidence is stored in your inventory that you can go into and look at or present to characters in the game (both in and outside of court), and in the very last case the developers went all out and give you a 3D-space for examination purposes, allowing you to twist and turn the evidence to find clues hidden away from the initial view. Very smart and easy to use - it's a wonder why they didn't have it for all the cases. As mentioned, at some point you'll be doing a bit of CSI-ing with fingerprint lifting and revealing blood-traces. I know nothing about law and lawyers, but I'm sure that this sort of thing isn't done by them, but like me, you'll forgive this issue as soon as you realise it. Also, during court-sessions, the microphone is active for you to shot 'Objection' (self-explanatory) or 'Hold it' (used during a cross-examination of those on the witness stand). Or you could use the touchpad if you don't feel like sounding a fool.
There are a few characters that will run throughout the whole game and they reveal a little about themselves with each case. So that annoying detective soon becomes an ally and a friend. You get a real sense that the developers have created characters with, well, character - each holding their own throughout, but showing some vulnerability at some point. 2D characters have never been so life-like.
Furthermore, there's an underlying storyline weaving between each case and you'll find that each case is just a job; the game's actual storyline is played throughout, between the serious times before, during and after each case - all of which conclude with the final and most difficult case in the game. The difficulty increases steadily, making you think further 'outside of the box' each time, and it all really does make sense. I had been confounded a number of times on the last two cases, and during the court-sessions I would present every single object I had in the hope that something would come up. Of course, the developers realise you could do this and provide only five chances for you to get it right, otherwise you lose the case and must start from the last save. Only after you find the right object to show at the right time, do you realise that, yes, why didn't I think of that? They are challenging, for me at least, and lengthy but somehow never too long as there's usually something that needs doing/finding/talking to.
Don't be put off by the nature of the game, it really is worth getting. It's something different from your usual puzzle or adventure game; it has character and is involving. There are a number of side jokes, and I believe there was even a time when the most famous cinematic court-room banter cropped up: "I want the truth" demands Wright, only to be told "You can't handle the truth!"
Now, if that doesn't get your wallet out, I don't know what will.