Customer Reviews: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Nintendo DS
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on October 12, 2005
Once in a while, a Japanese game gets translated, takes the scene by storm, and makes people wonder why it didn't happen earlier. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has the potential to become such a game. Originally released only in Japan, "Gyakuten Saiban" (loosely translated as "reversal judgment") is a popular legal simulation game for the GBA that gives you a chance to become a defense attorney. The series has already spanned three instalments, with one more being slated for release for the Nintendo DS next year. Before that happens, however, Capcom released "Gyakuten Saiban: Yomigaeru Gyakuten" in September to pave the title's transition from the GBA to the DS. The game included a fully translated English version, which is eventually released in the US as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (PWAA) recently.

So, what really is PWAA? Well, it's basically a point-and-click adventure game that is set in a legal background. As rookie lawyer Phoenix Wright, you'll take on five cases in this game, which includes four from the first Gyakuten Saiban game, as well as a brand new case that was created with the features of the DS In mind.

The game takes place primarily in two platforms - investigation and court proceedings. In the earlier scenario, you go from place to place, talking to people and examining crime scenes to gather evidence that may be important in proving your client's innocence. Although the investigation process could be tedious at times, it's never dull since the game throws up so many colourful characters and stereotypes to keep you busy with. Also, despite a large number of items to examine in the various locales pertaining to a certain case, the game is rather helpful as it automatically includes all evidence that will somehow have some bearings on the case. This means that you'll never really need to wonder what's useful and what's not, thus reducing information overload. It also essentially leaves you with the task of finding out why these evidences are important, which gives the game a better focus.

Information that you gather during the investigation will be added to your court record, which is one of your greatest weapons in court. The court record also provides additional information about the evidences that are collected. For example, you may score an autopsy report from the detective in charge of the case, but it's only when you look into this report in the record that you'll get a summary of the contents. This applies to most, if not all the evidences at your disposal, and because of that, reading the court record becomes an important task that you should never forget. The game also has the knack of turning the most insignificant looking clue into a decisive one, so you should take heed that a screwdriver, for example, could turn out to be that one clue that nails the truth for you in court.

During court proceedings, apart from coming against prosecutors who're eager to convince the judge that your client is guilty, you'll also come face-to-face with witnesses who can either make or break your defense. You'll get to cross-examine these witnesses as well, which is where the fun really begins. Almost every testimony you come across in this game has some weakness or two, which you can exploit to turn the tide in your favor. Each testimony is broken down into statements, and each statement allows you the opportunity either to press for more information, or object by presenting a contradictory evidence. While this may sound easy, finding the exact evidence to present could still be a tricky task if you don't follow the case closely. Of course, being good at solving puzzles of this nature helps a great deal, but the cases are all designed in a logical, though linear, fashion that even those who're not exactly quick-witted can guess the killer if only they exercise some diligence and commonsense.

Now, as there's usually only one correct objection for each testimony, it's entirely likely that, when confronted by a bottleneck, you eliminate incorrect choices by simply presenting everything in your record if no form of restriction is set. To prevent this possible abuse, the game has a penalty system that reduces your "health" if you present a wrong objection. The health gauge is represented by exclamation marks on the screen. Each incorrect objection will lead to a dramatic explosion of one exclamation mark. Do this for five times, and you'll be greeted with the game over screen. While this may sound harsh, it actually encourages you to spend time thinking through the cases, which should in turn lead to a more satisfying gaming experience.

Now, there seems to be so many things to do in the game, so the controls must be pretty complex? Well, not exactly. In fact, the controls of PWAA are so user-friendly, you can play through the game without even using the buttons on your DS at all. Every action can be performed by clicking the respective buttons on the touch screen with your stylus. Want to move to another area? Click "move", and a menu will appear to ask where do you want to go. Want to examine an item? Point your stylus to it, tap it, and you'll get your findings. It's just that simple. Apart from waving your stylus, the game also makes use of the DS' voice recognition ability, so it's possible for you to shout "Objection!" into the mic to counter a witness' statement. Similarly, you can also shout "Hold it!" to press a statement, and "Take that!" to present a decisive evidence. Although the idea is a little quirky, it does give you that sense of satisfaction, especially when you finally deal the murderer with a forceful "Take that!" after a tiresome three-day trial. The voice recognition, however, is never forced upon you, so if you're not into talking to a machine, you can always rely on your good old stylus.

Additional controls are added for the fifth case of PWAA. As I mentioned earlier, this fifth case was designed specifically for the DS. This brand new case fully utilizes the DS' innovative features. You'll get to rotate and zoom-in on evidence to examine them more thoroughly. You'll also get to join pieces of broken evidence together. You can even set powder on your screen, and then blow it away to gather fingerprints. All these features really provide a strong involvement for the player - they make you feel that you're right in the thick of the action.

Graphically, PWAA uses an anime style to portray the various quirky characters. The style should appeal to most people, even though they expectedly become repetitive as the game progresses. Still, as you'll be spending most of the time reading the conversations, you'll tend to be more forgiving when Phoenix Wright points his finger out again (for the umpteenth time) as he tells the judge that the witness' testimony is faulty. The audios of the game are also heavily anime-inspired. The music blends in with the action really well, and it's quite obvious that the developers actually tried to create different background music that are unique to the different characters. Again, this complemented the game greatly.

All in all, PWAA is a game that I'd recommend to all DS owners, even those who're not exactly interested in murder mysteries. The game may be a little too linear for players who tend to think ahead of time, but it's still a great adventure for those who want to try something different. It's not everyday that you become a lawyer, and I'm pretty sure that after you relieve your role as Phoenix Wright, you'll be itching for a sequel. If playing a quality game is a thing for you, then you should really consider making an appointment with PWAA.
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on October 28, 2005
There is a wonderful review of Phoenix Wright already up on Amazon, so I don't feel the need to go so in-depth with my explanation. I just want to cover some things I think about this amazing game, and give you a second opinion of sorts.

American's don't seem to normally fare well with text-based games. There's just something about having to sit and read and select choices that has the average american teenager running for the hills.

As such, I was amazed when I heard this game was coming to the States. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of this genre in Japan, but the US hasn't seen many of them. Yet, with the oddities of the DS and the growing interest in obscure Japan-only games among a certain cross-section of the gaming demographic (see Katamari Damashii, Wario Ware, Feel the Magic, or even such things as DDR or Para Para Paradise [okay, that last one not so much, but I'm a big fan]), publishers seem willing to take the risk a bit more than they would.

And so we have a slew of strange text-based games. There's Sprung that came on release (a very, very simple point and click text game, but actually it hardly counts, seeing as it's from a Canadian developer), and then the puzzle/text adventure Trace Memory (which I enjoyed, too), and now Phoenix Wright. While the others were fun, Phoenix blows them out of the water with one thing: style.

I'm not just talking about the anime-inspired art. No, I'm talking of the energy of the scenes and the stories, the various characters and charicatures you meet through wonderful dialogue, the forcefulness of the flow of the courtroom scenes, and just the overall feeling of giddiness underneath the suits of Phoenix and Edgeworth.

The plots here aren't groundbreaking, but they're of similar quality to your average Law and Order or CSI, and personally I think they're a lot cleverer, as they know they're melodramatic and revel in it with a cheesiness and sly humor that those shows with their self-imposed seriousness lack.

Yes, like all text-games it's fairly linear (though that's sometimes hard to tell), and the exploration/investigation parts where you visit scenes and talk to witnesses/suspects can drag a bit, but it's a text-game, and these are typical drawbacks. But when in the courtroom, Phoenix Wright pops with energy and power, turning legal proceedings into battles of wills with the prosecution (the wonderful Miles Edgeworth, who I want to see more of if there's a sequel) and the witnesses (a certain witness in Chapter 3 is memorable, a hilarious female that floors even Edgeworth).

These courtroom battles are over the top, with effects that seem more in keeping with a samurai duel than a trial, but it works in a way that is surprising and entertaining. For a text adventure, Phoenix Wright has more energy and excitement than any cookie-cutter action game out there.

And it's lengthy, too. The first case is short and quick, and leaves you wondering whether or not this game will be disappointingly short in the end (the one drawback to Trace Memory, though one wonders if these are even the same genre). Yet, each chapter gets longer and longer, until they become multi-day cases with witnesses and investigations stretching on as new facts unfold in the courtroom. Trust me, length isn't an issue, though you might end up beating it quickly just because you play it that much.

Phoenix Wright is a remake of an original game of three for GBA in Japan, and hopefully this game will prove to Capcom that there's a market for these things in America now, and all us English-speaking peoples can have a chance to experience more Wright. C'mon, give it a playthrough. It's worth picking up, and so long as you don't mind reading, and like entertainingment, and aren't put off by the idea of playing a lawyer in a courtroom melodrama, you'll love it.

If you've never played a game like this, this is the title to try. It's better than any I've ever experienced, and I can't recommend it highly enough as one of the best games on DS, period.
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on May 22, 2006
Just to add my 2 cents to an already glowingly-reviewed title, a couple more clues as to how well-received this game was:

1. After selling through the initial stock, Capcom stopped shipping copies of the game. An uproar from the gaming community ensued and existing copies started selling for 2-3 times the SRP in online auctions before Capcom announced that they will ship more copies.

2. At E3 there was a trailer revealed for a Phoenix Wright sequel on the DS, which is the sequel to the original game in Japan but will be titled in the USA as "Justice For All".

If you are up for unconventionally written games with quirky charm, this is a fun title to sit back, relax and laugh with.
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on April 20, 2006
The hilarity, adventure, wit and fun of this game is nothing shy of stupendous (amazing great, marvelous). It has a certain nostaglia to it with a new twist on the adventure/puzzle genre.

Think of all the games that consumed our time back in the day such as King's quest, Police Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry and put it to the tune of trials, evidence and investigation with hints of an RPG, text adventure and anime and you'll land on Phoenix Wright.

It's concept does seem retro but it really is like nothing you have played before. The star of this show is Phoenix Wright, a lawyer who is new to the scene and must prove is worth with the Fey & Co law offices.

As his first case, you must take on a murder case as the defendant's lawyer. In court, you will have prove to the court that the defendant is 'not quilty' by cross-examining witness testimonies. Your object is to find faults and contradictions in their testimony by referencing evidence and prior statements. You can 'press' them on everything they say to make them open up more about their testimony or to get them to confess more information.

The game doesn't stop there though, after winning your first case you will go on to also investigate the crime scenes, talk to witnesses and find your own evidence for your next case. Think law and order but you will be handling both sides of the coin. Sure, there is a detective but he is a bit slow witted and quick to come to mis-conclusions.

That is where you come in, to further investigate all the missing gaps that the detective doesn't fill, to use finding in the investigation to prove your defendant innocent later in court and to provide the court clarity as to what actually happened. It plays like a puzzle/adventure in that you must find clues and evidence and present them at the correct times (to object to a testimony, prove a contradiction or to trigger an event in a investigation) in order to progress through the game. These items are stored in your court record.

This game plays more like a interactive comic book and that is definitely not a bad thing. Most of your time will be spent reading text, I would say this takes up 75% of the game. This doesn't hurt the game's score any because for 1) the game has a great story and is intriguing around every corner 2) the interaction between the characters is oft times funny and not at all dry. It reads like a quality script written for a comic book or tv show.

The following 25% is interaction, the ability to choose the right option or to present evidence at the right moment of the game. This interaction goes seamless with the story and fits appropriately with the DS. As the stylus is greatly utilized for presenting evidence out of your court record and exploring crime scenes.

There is a good reason why this makes most people's top ten DS list.

Graphics: 3.5 out of 5. Although this game only consist of anime-esque stylings of still life characters that are only slightly animated amongst static backgrounds, the graphics still help carry the story. It looks like the makings of slightly animated, interactive comic book. The character art is well drawn and each character changes looped animations based on their current mood. However, the graphics could easily have been shown on a lesser system such as the GBA. Perhaps the graphics have been revamped and enhanced slightly for the DS version. The only real thing that separates it from a GBA title is its use of stylus and its length.

Sound: 4 out 5, good use of sound effects and use of music add suspense and drama to the game.

Gameplay: 5.

Story: 5.

Replay Value: 3.

Overall: 4.5 A must for DS owners.
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on February 11, 2006
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a fun game. It's that simple.

Graphics (4 out of 5): I would say the graphics are on par with most DS games. They could be better, but they don't retract at all from the gameplay. They are fun and in the same style as games like Sprung and Under the Knife.

Audio (2 out of 5):The audio is where most DS games fall short. I am content with the graphic abilities of the DS, because quite simply the graphics don't make a good game. Sure they help, but the gameplay is were the entertainment truly lies. It's knowing this that has kept Nintendo on top in the handheld market. I just wish that the DS had a little more power behind it for the audio's sake. I would like speaking characters throughout an entire game, especially a game like this. And the music is so repetetive, it got to be so annoying that I found myself just turning the sound completely off. I guess they do the best they can for what they have to work with, but in this case, it's just not good enough.

Gameplay (5 out of 5): As far as the gameplay goes, you couldn't ask for a much better experience. You are put in the role of Pheonix Wright who in his first trial is defending his best friend who has been accused of murdering his girlfriend. Eventually you go on to work other cases and along the way you are required to gather evidence to use in court to suppport your defense. The characters are over the top and a lot of fun to interact with. This is a text based game and I suppose you might have to be a fan of the genre to really appreciate it. But it's a simple pick up and play game that held my attention from beginning to end. I really had trouble putting it down. While a game like Sprung got a little monotonous and came down more to memorization then common sense questioning. Phoenix stays on track in that area and logic plays more of a part in the solution of the cases. I highly reccomend this game!
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on April 5, 2007
I originally laughed at the idea of a lawyer themed DS game. However, wanting to be a lawyer myself, I just had to pick it up. This is one of the best, deepest, most interesting games I've ever played. As Phoenix Wright, a rookie lawyer, you must defend 5 clients who are all charged with murder. The evidence is heavily stacked against you, which is part of the fun. The cases are never boring, and each one has at least one twist which (for me) made the game impossible to put down (until my battery died). The game gives you some cushioning in that you cannot lose unless you object without base (present evidence that doesn't contradict the testimony) 5 times. This, of course, forces you to think like a lawyer and carefully consider every segment of the case. Although at times the actual law is off, and some contradictions are almost impossible to find (though this makes your need to think even greater), Phoenix Wright:Ace Attorney is a wonderful game for people who enjoy stories with depth and a game that actually makes you think. It even made me want to become a lawyer even more than I already did.
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on July 25, 2014
Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney is a great game. As a legal, mystery buff, this game appealed to me very much. Another major bonus is that it's anime (which I love). It's an entertaining,humorous and charming click and point game with plenty of reading. If reading puts you off, then do not buy this game. I repeat: do NOT buy this game. 90% of it requires reading. I, for one, loved it. I love games that require deduction and putting on your thinking cap. I love solving mysteries and cases. It's part of the reason why I love shows like Boston Legal, The Practice, Law and Order. Some people have complained that there's little gameplay and it's true - but at its heart, Phoenix Wright's gameplay is all about investigating the truth through cross-examination and listening to testimonies. You can also look for clues at a crime scene and interview key witnesses. My chest swells with (a small) victory every time I get it right.

You're thrust into the role of Phoenix Wright. He's a young and budding lawyer fresh out of law school who works for Fey & Co law firm. The first case starts off with your buddy being accused of murder. Since it's Phoenix's first case, he is guided by the beautiful Mia Fey (chief) to navigate you through the jungle of legal tricks and fundamentals. The bevy of characters is an eclectic, zany bunch. I smiled in amusement at the jokes and clever dialogue. I loved how Phoenix gets tongue-tied around pretty ladies.

There are a total of five cases. Each case is episodic since there is a continuity to the story. At the beginning of every case, you are presented with an introduction of the murder scene. While the first case was fairly easy, the ensuing cases were complex. Trust me, I sat there dumbfounded while scrolling through the evidence frantically. "What would Bobby Donnell or Alan Shore do??" Don't let the simple mechanics of the game fool you, sometimes it gets quite challenging.

This game is well-suited for the DS's and 3DS's dual screen. (I have a 3DS.) The top screen is for the animation and text, while the bottom touch screen is where you engage with it. Aside from touching the screen in order to read the following text, you can also choose an answer in the form of a multiple choice (location and so forth) and check out Court Records. The Court Records hold the evidence you've collected. Each evidence (picture) is accompanied by a brief description (can't tell you how many times I've re-read 'em).

During trial, and specifically during a witness's testimony, you must find contradictions in their statements. You must discredit them in order to acquit your client. So you get the option of either asking the witness (and I must say, what a SKETCHY, SHIFTY-EYED BUNCH!) to explain what they meant by a particular statement or presenting the court with evidence. You are allowed to read/replay the testimony as many times without being penalized by the judge. And trust me, you'll find yourself re-reading their statements until it's practically committed to memory. You only get penalized when you present the court with irrelevant/inaccurate evidence.

There's not much of an audio in terms of a dialogue except for hollering "OBJECTION," "HOLD IT," and "TAKE THAT!" In spite of this, the music made up for it. It was suitable and changed tempo every time there was a new development.

All in all, I enjoyed this game. This was my first game in this series and I have consequently bought the rest. If you have a DS or 3DS, pick up this game. I know that there's an influx of point and click game apps for a cheaper price tag, but this game is wonderfully-constructed. Recommended. Can't wait for Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney coming this August. I hope my review helped in your purchasing-decision.
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on July 23, 2007
Reviewed for Big Boss Games by: KBN

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for the Nintendo DS is the story of a rookie defense attorney. Fresh out of Law School, Phoenix isn't quite as confident on the bench as he needs to be. Luckily, he has his mentor and veteran lawyer Mia to assist him through his first trial. Phoenix, Mia, Maya (Mia's younger sister), and a slew of other characters will come into play throughout the 5-chapter adventure. Phoenix must not only prove himself in court, but also out in the world where he and Maya must gather evidence, talk to witnesses, and finger the real culprit.

Phoenix Wright is one of those interactive story type games that are so prevalent in Japan. When at a crime scene, you must search the area for clues. Using the stylus, you will scan suspicious areas, 'borrow' vital clues from people trying to hide them, and expand your knowledge of an area for when you're in court.

The microphone also comes into play in Phoenix Wright. When in court and Cross-Examining a witness, you have the option to either call for more information or raise an objection. You can do this via the touch screen buttons, or by yelling: "HOLD IT" or "OBJECTION" into your DS system. It doesn't sound like a feature you'd use too often, but some of the prosecuting attorneys made me angry enough to enjoy yelling at them, before debunking their tower of lies!

The stylus also comes into play with the evidence itself. Often, you will be given a map or a photo in which you need to identify the flaw in a witness' testimony, or a trial-altering fact, which has been overlooked.

Phoenix Wright is broken into five chapters of play. Each one is a unique case, but fits into the overall story. For example, the murder weapon from case one will come back into play in case two, where it was again used as a weapon of murder. The characters you meet, help, and intimidate in earlier chapters will come back to help you again in later stories, and sometimes characters will follow you between stories, being a constant help or a constant hindrance. By chapter 5, you will not only be investigating crime scenes and interviewing witnesses, but you'll also be using puzzle solving, and forensics tools to help pinpoint a killer and save your client from incarceration.

Phoenix Wright is a classic-in-the-making and a game that I'll be glad to hang onto for a long time to come. The courtroom proceedings can run a bit long, so it's not a game you can really just pick up at anytime, unless you have a great memory for detail, as the game does utilize a save anytime feature. It sounds short, but can give you hours of entertainment. Sadly, there isn't much replay value. Once you figure out how the murder was done and how to prove it it's not as easy to forget. In some instances, you'll be stuck in a cross-examination when the answer suddenly hits you. After hours of thought, you're not likely to forget it, but you'll have a great sense of achievement nonetheless.

Phoenix Wright is an overall great game, worth the money to play through it at least once, and an asset to classic gameplay with a great Touch-Screen spin.

Sometimes it's hard to decide how to prove a witness is lying, even if you know what they're lying about. You need to be VERY specific at times, which can often lead to a 'Guilty' verdict for your client and a 'Game Over' for you.

Overall Score: 5 out of 5 STARS!
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on July 2, 2007
As others have observed, the Nintendo DS--through accident or design, although since the end result is the same, who really cares?--seems tailor-made for the sort of graphic adventures that so many of us grew up with before LucasArts decided to make its name churning out cookie-cutter Star Wars games, and Sierra decided to slowly and painfully kill off all of their most established titles. Of the games which have resurrected this well-loved and much-missed genre, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney stands out as a prime example.

The premise, in case it's not obvious enough from the title, is simple. The player takes control of a defense attorney named Phoenix Wright, still new to the job and quite green but with a passionate dedication to the law that knows no bounds. He's usually got an assistant of some sort--Maya Fey in the first few chapters, Ema Skye in the final chapter--who is overeager and has a tendency to get in the way, but can always be counted on to prove her worth in the end. The chapters themselves are divided up into phases: Investigation and Trial, which operate in more or less exactly the way they sound. During Investigation, your job is to visit the crime scene and other locations to gather clues and information, sometimes by questioning witnesses; during the Trial sequences, you must use what you've found in order to obtain a Not Guilty for your client. If all of this sounds as boring as watching the lawn grow, bear in mind that the game never takes itself too seriously and pretty much all of the dialogue is played for laughs.

To be sure, there are minor flaws, the main one being that the game has a fair number of spelling and grammatical errors. Also, although the game's text was altered from the original Japanese to set the game in Los Angeles of the near future, in places this clashes with the very obviously Japanese setting of the game, right down to the layout of the courtroom; the witness stand is directly in front of the judge, for instance, rather than to his left. (Worth noting is the fact that the characters' names were also altered as part of the localization process, and although they're completely different from the Japanese version, they still rely on wordplay and puns, just as the original names did.) Fortunately, these flaws are easy to overlook, and the game itself holds up phenomenally, full of humor and characters that you actually care about. The final case, which was developed specifically for the DS port (this game started out as a Game Boy Advance game that never saw release outside of Japan), is particularly well-done as it incorporates features that make excellent use of the DS's unique touch-screen interface (dusting for prints) and 3D graphics capabilities (rotating found objects along an axis to examine them from all angles).

There is, however, one fairly sizable flaw, which is that the game is at times somewhat frustratingly mum as to what you're supposed to do to advance the story, and I found myself once or twice just blindly guessing, or failing that, consulting the Internet for walkthroughs. For the most part, though, the game was challenging enough to stay interesting without seeming like a chore, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to playing the rest of the games in the series.

One final point of interest: Apparently, Marilyn Manson is a huge Phoenix Wright fan. Make of that what you will.
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VINE VOICEon April 22, 2007
When my son ordered this game I wasn't sure what to expect. I had no idea how a 'courtroom" drama could be played out on a DS. Much to my surprise he not only loved playing the game, he has learned quite a bit about the judicial system. There are a lot of sites on the net that can help with strategies for play and he's really gotten a lot of the whole experience. The ultimate in role-playing for thinking gamers!
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