Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - 11/03/2008

Ever wanted to be a lawyer but never had the time to go through a law degree? Well here comes your chance to fulfil something that I bet everyone dreams about at one point in their lives, being able to shout "Objection!!" without being thrown out of the court room.

Phoenix Wright allows these fantasies to become reality in a virtual reality kinda way. Here we have our very own courtroom drama of epic proportions, all the thrills and spills of your day-time soaps with the added legal edge to the proceedings.

Here's a little background on the game allowing you to understand why at times it feels so very primitive. The series, Ace Attorney, has been going in Japan for years; it's largely due to it being so popular that the western world has been able to see the title. So the first game in the series called Gyakuten Saiban/Turnabout Trail was remastered and translated for the western speaking world as well as ported from GBA to DS. You can see why it may therefore feel primitive at times?

The dreaded finger of Phoenix Wright, this time only saying 'Hold it' rather than 'Objection'...rubbish!

Due to this porting comes the problems for the game, as it was originally a GBA title and there are therefore points where the graphics do look a bit dated, which is funny to say on a DS game seeing as the console's graphics have always looked a bit like the GBA's. Not only this, but the controls are affected by porting too, which in turn affects the gameplay quite heavily. This is because a lot of the time, as you are moving to the different sections of the areas, things become difficult using the touch screen. Quite often the game doesn't register the object that you wish to look at or use.

So on to what the game is actually about: the storyline follows Phoenix in the early stages of his career. As soon as you start the game, this first episode throws you straight into Phoenix's first case, a murder case nonetheless. But don't get too excited as all of the cases you will face are murders, which is a shame really as there are thousands of types of law suits out there and to narrow it just to murders is a bit boring at times. The story is a loose one: basically it's a series of court appearances with a soap opera style narrative roped around it. The strangest thing is that it works, you actually being to feel like Phoenix's life is your life; the two are one and the same.

She wouldn't get away with talking to Phoenix like that if this was GTA.

This is all down to how the characters are drawn in the game. All of the characters are so well rounded and feel very close to normal people, of course they are all stereotypical personas, but have been fleshed out so much that you tend to ignore that aspect of their personality. Phoenix and the main characters that surround him are the best drawn of all, mainly because you spend the most time with them, which helps with understanding wholly the interplay between them all.

The interplay is integral to the gameplay, as you understand the mentality of the characters you are defending or questioning, spotting their mistakes gets to be as simple as shouting "Objection!". The gameplay is pretty much cut into two sections, the first being the courtroom battles and the second being sleuthing around the crime scenes. The courtroom battles are simple in the way that you play out, a witness takes to the stand and presents their testimony, afterwards it is your turn to cross-examine the witness and poke holes in their statement. This is done in two ways: you can cycle through the statements and ask questions about them by tapping on "Press", this normally allows you to gain more information about what the witness saw. The other option is to "Present", which means that Phoenix will show a piece of evidence to the court that disproves a fact that the witness has said. The key to presenting is picking the right statement to present about. All you have to do is move to the right statement and then "Present", simple really, but at the same time you do get the feeling that you are a hot-shot lawyer.

'Errr...yeah sure, I'm the let me in'

With the investigation, Phoenix will venture to the crime scene to pick up some clues about what happened there. To do this, it is very similar to your courtroom antics - most of the information that you gather will be from interviewing police officers or witnesses that are at the scene. This takes place in a Q&A fashion, where you can pick questions for them to answer or present them with items to spur them into talking. To gain these items you need to search the areas that you find yourself in. This is done by using the touch screen to highlight anything that you are interested in, and Phoenix will either voice an opinion of it or collect it for use later.

Sure, this game has its flaws, mainly due to the porting, but these make it far from unplayable. The characters are well drawn and really give you a sense of almost being there, making Phoenix's life yours in every way. The plot, although at times easy to see the signposts, is expertly written and amazingly funny. This is one of the best point and click style adventures the DS has to offer.

- Alec Hilton