Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, released in Japan as Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten (逆転裁判 蘇る逆転?, lit. “Turnabout Trial: Revived Turnabout”), is a visual novel-type adventure video game published and developed by Capcom in Japan, North America, and Europe, and published by Nintendo in Australia. It was first released in Japan exclusively for the Game Boy Advance in 2001, and was re-released for the Nintendo DS as an enhanced remake in 2005 with touchscreen support, microphone support, and exclusive content. This version was first released in Japan, and later in North America, Europe, and Australia. The Game Boy Advance version was also re-released for the PC as Gyakuten Saiban PC, published by the Japanese company SourceNext shortly after the Nintendo DS release. A mobile phone version of the same name as the English version was released in 2009 episodically. However, only a portion of the game has been released to date. In a Famitsu scan, a series of Wii ports of the first 3 games (including the fifth case in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) were announced, for releases to go between December of 2009 and March of 2010. The games will be distributed via Nintendo’s WiiWare download system. The game has also been ported to the iOS with episodes 1-2 first being released in Japan on December 21, 2009 and the entire game being released in North America on May 24, 2010.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney stars Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney in the Fey and Co. Law Offices, owned by fellow defense attorney Mia Fey. Other characters include Maya Fey, Mia’s sister; Miles Edgeworth, a rival prosecutor; Dick Gumshoe, a scatterbrained detective, and Larry Butz, an old friend of Phoenix’s. The game features five court cases divided into episodes. Each case flips between two game modes: investigation and the actual trial. In the investigation aspect of the game, Phoenix gathers evidence and speaks to characters involved in the case. In the trial aspect of the game, Phoenix defends his client using said evidence, cross examines witnesses and solves the mystery surrounding each case. The court perspective is usually in the third person, while the perspective outside of court is in the first person.
Since the release of the Game Boy Advance version, the series has produced many sequels and spin-offs. Two direct sequels were produced titled Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice for All and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations, which feature the same characters and gameplay as the original game and were also remade for the Nintendo DS, though without additional content. Trials and Tribulations is the last game to feature Phoenix as the protagonist. However, a new title has been released starring a new attorney called Apollo Justice titled Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Another spin-off has been released, titled Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, which stars Miles Edgeworth and Dick Gumshoe.
Players take on the role of Phoenix Wright, who acts as a defense attorney. There are two segments: trial and investigation. During trial, players must do a variety of court tasks, including cross examining witnesses, presenting evidence, and objecting to contradictory statements or evidence presented by the prosecution. Players are given five exclamation points representing their health, which is depleted when the Judge punishes them for making a severe enough mistake. While in the first episode, players do not leave the courtroom; later episodes have the Judge put the trial on recess if something is brought up that the Judge feels the trial must be delayed so that the attorneys may look into it. On these days, players control Phoenix in the first person and investigate related areas. There are four options – Talk, which allows players to speak to anyone present; Present, which allows players to present evidence to anyone present; Examine, which allows players to search an area; and Move, which allows players to leave the area. The new episode introduced for the Nintendo DS version introduces new gameplay mechanics for the investigative portion of the game that take advantage of the DS’ features. These include the luminol spray, a spray that allows people to see blood that would normally be undetectable to the naked eye and aluminum powder, which may be used to dust for fingerprints. Both use the touchscreen, while the latter uses the microphone as well. Players may also view evidence in three dimensions during this episode, which allows them to see things they would be unable to detect in two dimensions. The Nintendo DS version also introduces the ability to play the game entirely with the touch screen, the ability to view evidence and profiles on the bottom screen, and using the microphone to say various phrases in it.
The game has you controlling Phoenix Wright, a lawyer fresh off the bar who is, initially, more than a little nervous. The first case you take on, a murder trial in defense of Phoenix’s dopey best friend, Larry Butz, serves as a tutorial in which law firm chief Mia Fey guides you through the ins and outs of courtroom procedure. Each of the game’s five cases begins in the same way, as you’re treated to a brief cinematic that shows the events of the murder, during which you’ll usually get to view the killer. In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, discovering the killer is not the surprise; instead, it’s the way in which you bring him or her to justice. The events surrounding the murder always end up leading to the false accusations of innocent witnesses, and as a defense attorney, it’s Phoenix’s job to get a verdict of “not guilty,” despite the lying witnesses, shady prosecutors, and a judge who sometimes forgets the letter of the law.
The majority of the visuals appear on the top screen. Though the game has little in the way of cutscenes, the story is told through a sequence of still shots and through the different exaggerated animations of the characters. There are small details in every given scene that help to give it life, such as moving mouths and other body parts, but for the majority of the game you’re working from frame to frame. This is so well presented that you’ll hardly notice the gameplay is barely animated. For most of the gameplay, the lower screen is used to forward the text. You can simply tap it at the end of each line to get to the next one. However, during many sequences you must use the touch screen to accomplish something else, whether it’s selecting an answer from multiple choices, navigating through a tree of menus, or, most compellingly, pinpointing locations and evidence. The use of the touch screen in this game is perfectly executed, and the only problem with it is that it leaves you wanting to do more.
Each trial begins with witness testimony, and your objective is to find flaws in it, which, since the judge follows a “guilty until proven innocent” mantra, is the only way to get the defendant off the hook. After the witnesses give their testimonies, the cross-examination begins. During the cross-examination, you’re free to scroll through witness testimony line by line to better dissect it. There are two ways to reveal problems with testimony. The first is by “pressing” the witness on particular statements. You can do this silently on the touch screen or audibly by shouting “Hold it!” into the DS microphone. Though you can use the microphone in several different ways–and it certainly is satisfying–there’s never a requirement to use it.
The second method of procuring information from witnesses is to find a contradiction between testimony and a piece of evidence held in the court record. Throughout the game and trial, you’ll acquire different pieces of evidence necessary for winning cases. You’ll never need to decide whether something is important or not, because the game will do that automatically. So there’s never any chance of you coming to trial unprepared. Within the court record, there’s a brief description and a picture of the item. The description almost always clues you in to the facts surrounding the object’s importance, whether it reveals a detail about timing, location, or the method in which the object was used. Once you’ve scrolled to the line in the testimony where the contradiction lies, you can select the evidence proving the contrary, and you can, again, either object silently or vocally into the microphone. To prevent you from objecting to every statement with every piece of evidence, there’s a meter that consists of five exclamation points. When you wrongfully object, the judge will penalize you once. Get all five wrong and you lose the case and must start over. Although, admittedly, this is difficult to do if you simply pay attention to the events of the case–and use a little common sense.
I am the law!
The two methods of procuring information will be your primary tools for breaking down the witnesses and getting them to recant their testimonies. Generally, the witnesses will revise their testimonies a few times before you can push them to confession. The judge, although disdainful of many of the activities that go on in the courtroom (particularly when you falsely object), seems to put up with the witnesses’ many cover-ups, which might be frustrating if you try to take the law in Phoenix Wright seriously. In fact, you might as well suspend your disbelief about the whole procedure, since, although it feels fairly close to reality, many things go on during the proceedings that would probably horrify actual members of the legal system. Though slightly agitating, it works well within the context of the story, and you’ll just feel compelled to work that much harder for the underdog: Phoenix Wright.
|Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney|
|Publisher(s)||Capcom, Nintendo Australia|
Minae Matsukawa (producer)
Tatsuya Minami (executive producer)
|Series||Ace Attorney series|
|Genre(s)||Adventure, visual novel|
|Media||64 MB + 64KB EEPROM|
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