As much as I love video games, there aren’t many games I truly geek out about. I like Gears of War, but it’s not a game that has any lasting effects on me when I’m not playing it. When it comes to games I truly geek out about, such as the Street Fighter IV, I constantly talk about it, thoroughly analyze it and evangelize it as much as I can. You don’t need to dig very deep into my blog to realize that I am a huge Street Fighter IV junkie.
While I have not said much about the Phoenix Wright series on my blog, that first game is one of those I truly geek out about. It’s not a perfect, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t leave a huge impression on me.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney came out only in Japan for the Gameboy Advance in the early 2000s. In fact, the ‘original series’ was completed on the Gameboy Advance long before any of the games were ported to the DS. As much as I would like to say that I was on board from the beginning, I wasn’t even on board when the original run of DS cartridges were released. When the first Phoenix Wright finally came out on the Nintendo DS in North America, Capcom made a limited run because they weren’t sure how well an adventure game about a rookie attorney surrounded by a wacky cast of characters would sell. That initial run sold well enough to make the cartridge a hot item among collectors of hard-to-find games.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for me to discover Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. I was not into adventure games at the time, but I was hungry for more great DS experiences, particularly ones pertaining to real-life jobs. I had just come off of playing Trauma Center, which may not have been a realistic surgery simulation, was still really fun to play. I was hoping Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney would be another entertaining ‘career’ game. It was so hard to find in the store at the time, I actually imported the Japanese version, which also came with an English language option.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is an adventure game that is more or less along the lines of The Secret of Monkey Island. You, as Phoenix Wright, the rookie attorney, must complete investigations and defend your clients in court. The cases you get involved in are absolutely crazy. I don’t want to spoil anything, but all of the cases are really thought-provoking and provide a lot of exciting twists along the way. Every case felt different and fun, which ultimately built up to a final case that is as exciting as any action game. Every time I booted up that game, I had such a hard time putting it down because I needed to know what happened next.
Interacting with the game is fairly intuitive on the DS. You have a few menus to navigate through to select the appropriate items at the right time and to choose dialogue options. During witness testimony, you have the ability to go through their testimony one line at a time to find any holes in their story. When you do, you call for an objection and provide the evidence that proves they’re lying. Outside of using the DS microphone to yell “Objection!” (which is optional), the controls worked just as you would expect them to.
The biggest reason why this game left a lasting effect on me is the writing. Adventure games more than any other genre are dependent on how their written, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney delivers with great characters, story and plot progression. You will be hard pressed to find a wackier or memorable cast of characters. Right off the bat, you’re introduced to a loopy judge, a washed up prosecutor desperate for a win and an old friend whose lack of control really doesn’t help his cause. As you go through the story, you run into even crazier characters that you couldn’t conceive in your wildest dreams. All of the characters you interact with are equal parts relatable, funny and crazy. Their dialogue is so well written that it made me laugh out loud a number of times. What makes them even stronger is that these great characters are also tied into a great plot. Each case is paced so well and triggers the right emotions at the right times. It’s funny when it needs to be, but it also left me sweating bullets during the most tense moments of the game.
By the end of the experience, I was ready to jump right back into that universe with the sequel and tell everyone I know about how awesome this game is. I went out and bought the following two sequels and recently bought the first game again for my iPod Touch.
I know that I’m not alone in my love for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and the rest of the franchise. Since its humble roots as a Japan only Gameboy Advance game, the series has sold over two million copies across all platforms. This one is a must play for adventure game fans and one of the games to put on your short-list if you’re considering trying out the genre. The DS version might be a bit tricky to track down now because it’s old, but an iPhone version is available now on iTunes and a version is available on Wii Ware as well. I bought it while it was on sale for $2.99 on iTunes (which expires on July 25th if you’re reading this soon enough, so go now), but it’s still very much worth your money and still a great deal at regular price.