I am a virgin to the courtroom, both physically and virtually. Reason one is because I am a good boy who avoids trouble, and the latter is because I never got the opportunity to play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Literally never had the opportunity.
The aim of the game is pretty obvious: win the case that you are fighting. You are Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and you start out a little green in actual court cases but you quickly start to build up quite the repertoire amongst your peers. The actual court cases are easy to participate in but it takes an immense level of deductive ability (which I lack in severely) to make even an ounce of progress. It makes the text-based gameplay really exciting and wonderfully satisfying with each little step towards completion.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is strongly pushed forward through its narrative and the sheer amount of intrigue behind each case throughout the three games.
Speaking of the cases, each one plays out exactly how you would expect and then some. With twists and turns oozing from start to finish, you could be on the cusp of victory and the wonderful storytelling throughout will put you straight back in your seat and your jaw on the floor. It takes the over-the-top anime style and really takes the narration to entirely new heights not often seen in video games.
Every new case brings characters from previous cases back as well as giving us more new and quirky characters. If there is one thing that Capcom knows how to do, is create a host of characters who are both intriguing and memorable. Each of these characters makes playing through an absolute joy. Despite not using any voice over, you can visualize and feel the sheer amount of personality flow out and keep the already engaging cases entertaining.
The main gameplay element is obviously engaging in mental gymnastics as you fight your corner of a case. There is a huge focus on the evidence you collect throughout a case and the testimonies put forward by witnesses. You need to try and break down each testimony whether by applying pressure when noticing an inconsistency in their story with the evidence you have or contradictions from other witnesses.
Outside of cases, you become part P.I as you go above and beyond your duty as just a defense attorney. There are many sections of the games which require you to explore many different locations to find new clues and pieces of information which more often than not, turn out to be game changers in a case. The change of pace is great and even allows you to see more of some of the insane characters.
A nice little touch which was implemented was the incorporation of the touch screen of the Nintendo Switch. So instead of the usual flicking of an analog stick and tippy tapping a button. you can poke at the screen instead. I really enjoy when a game utilized what it has available in the hardware and I found that implementing that here was a great, and fairly obvious choice, especially with the narrative taking precedence over the gameplay.
There aren’t many mechanics when it comes to the gameplay of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Thankfully what it does have is implemented in exquisite fashion.
There isn’t any way to really talk shit about a games graphics, especially when that game is a visual novel adventure. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is mainly drawn in the style of an anime/manga. The visual style easily fits the feel as everything about it screams overdramatic. The only real thing to comment on would be the way that the characters are portrayed. Their expressions really give away what it is they are thinking. It’s nice to see that even with a simplistic look, a large amount has been accomplished to put across feelings and action.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is extremely enjoyable without a doubt. Even though it is extremely linear, it is easy to go back to the beginning and enjoy the whole series over and over again. Thanks to the way that the game is structured, it’s very similar to watching a television show or movie over and over again, just with a level of interactivity that doesn’t force your focus away from the story.
You could also play through religiously enough to maybe try a speedrun. After looking at the leaderboards for just the first game in the series here, it actually feels like a beginner-friendly challenge too. With everything being set in stone as to what to do it would definitely require a large degree of remembering the full order. So for those of you interested in the concept of dashing through games, this could be a way to get your foot in that door.
With Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney primarily being a game which was found on handheld Nintendo consoles dating as far back as the Gameboy Advance. Sure it appeared on PC too, eventually, but never had we really seen it on a home console other than the Japanese powerhouse mentioned. Before you call me out on it, yes I know I have reviewed this on the Switch but it hasn’t been limited and is even making its way to Sony and Microsoft’s platforms too.
What is great about having it move onto home consoles nearly 15 years after the franchise came about is that you can now experience the full saga with friends in its entirety back to back. With the move onto the Nintendo Switch, what you get is the best of both worlds mentioned. With it, you can involve the whole family and work your way through together, experiencing all the twists and turns together. On the other hand, you can seclude yourself and get lost in the gorgeous narrative.
Despite having an incredibly simplistic approach to gameplay, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a treasure in Capcom’s portfolio which is overshadowed by their better-known action games. The way that it weaves each tale is gripping and a great way to really challenge you mentally. The story that underlies the games core elements and cases does feel a little more like a subplot but this makes everything feel more like an exciting TV show as opposed to a game, but at least you don’t have to wait a week for the next episode.