For iPhone and iPad. Individual titles (non-HD) available for Nintendo DS.
This may actually be the most appropriate review to get started, considering the last post I made that wasn’t just composed of news and false-announcements. In a way, for this first post I will be reviewing both a mobile game title, but also providing a more in-depth look of the Visual Novel genre. That said, let’s get with the review.
What is it?
You might be wondering to yourself, “What could possibly be so interesting about something called, ‘Ace Attorney?’ How exciting can you make a game about lawyers?” These are fair questions. Actually, I even asked those same questions myself when I first heard of the series. Would it be fun to read over legal terms and papers? Could I extract some enjoyment from writing up a crookedly-designed contract with my client, so that after the trial is over, they will be permanently indebted to me so that every time they cry; I can bottle their tears so that I may drink them at my leisure? While the second example may create an amusing mental image of sorts, I believe that the correct answer for most of you is, “no”. Fortunately, neither of those examples reflect how the game actually plays.
Capcom seems to be acutely aware of the negative perception lawyers have in America, and goes well out of its way to make the job of “Defense Attorney” seem as glorious and heroic as possible. You see, to the people at Capcom, being a legal representative is just one part of the job as you also happen to be a private detective and forensic analyst. That’s not to say you actually play someone who is both a detective and forensics expert; instead, it is just entirely assumed that detective work and forensic analysis is part of what being a “lawyer” is, which is enough to make you wonder why all lawyers aren’t also police officers.
What’s the story?
In the Ace Attorney trilogy, you play the novice defense lawyer, Phoenix Wright, on a personal mission to protect all those who have been falsely accused of wrongdoing. Over the course of three games, Phoenix Wright meets a variety of different characters, both friends and foes, visits various locations, and uncovers several conspiracies, each more elaborate than the last one.
Each game in the HD trilogy is composed of a series of case files that Phoenix Wright takes on, and although each of them have their own respective story, most of them tie into one larger narrative, while some cases tie into the sequel after it. The final result is an elaborate web of expertly crafted mystery stories that seamlessly lead you from one game to the next.
How do you play it?
As I mentioned in a post, long, long ago, Ace Attorney plays very similarly to a Visual Novel. That is to say, while the narrative mostly takes place from the perspective of Phoenix Wright, you do not physically control him or move him around like a traditional video game. Rather, each case file has two different styles of gameplay: Investigations, and Trials.
Investigations are very reminiscent of a point-and-click adventure games, albeit with some more complexities. In each Investigation, Phoenix Wright must interrogate witnesses, search the crime scene, and collect evidence to help prove his client innocent, all the while determining the true perpetrator of the crime. However, the Trials are an almost entirely different beast.
After you have collected all the evidence you need, you will ultimately find yourself at the courtroom. From there, your reading skills and memory will be tested instead of your observational skills, as you are forced to go head to head with the prosecution and cross-examine the witnesses. It is through the testimony of the witnesses and claims of the prosecution that you must find the lies or contradictions made, and point them out with the evidence you gathered from the scene of the crime. These sequences can be brutal if you can’t remember everything that happened, and the courtroom judge will penalize you for presenting the wrong evidence at the wrong time. With too many penalties accumulated, your defense will be overturned, and your client will be found guilty. While this can make picking the correct evidence all the more satisfying, sometimes the correct lines and pieces of evidence are so unintuitive the only logical way to handle the situation is to save your game, and guess wildly until you found the right piece of evidence (or just look up the correct answer online). That said, the logic-defying choices are most common in the first game, and are less common in the other two games.
What’s the final word?
Overall, I had a fantastic time playing through that game, and I’m willing to bet that anyone who is a fan of legal dramas and mystery stories is bound to enjoy it as well. Along with that, at only seventeen dollars for three games (although you can buy each title individually for roughly six dollars through in-app purchases) you will definitely get your money’s worth. And although there may be some frustrations along the way, the experience only gets better with each game you play.
That’s all for now,
Riknas, signing off!