Objection! Courtroom drama with Phoenix Wright

Waiting outside a local county court today, various courtroom moments from television came to mind such as Sideshow Bob decrying someones truth-handling abilities and Bob Loblaw lobbing law bombs, but when it comes to gaming, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is Exhibit A.

Originally released in Japan in 2001 for the Gameboy Advance as Gyakuten Saiban,  Capcom’s Phoenix Wright has spawned an entire series of sequels and spin-offs including a musical by an all-female theatre company and a recently announced feature film.from Takashi Miike, director of cult films such as Audition and 13 Assassins.

You play as the titular “Ace Attorney” and are tasked with guiding him on his quest for justice as an inexperienced defence lawyer. Gameplay is divided into two parts: investigation and trial. The investigation portions resemble standard adventure games as you explore locations looking for clues and questioning witnesses to form your case. Once investigations are complete the action moves to the courtroom for the trial proceedings.

These unique scenes involve facing the prosecution (usually your nemesis Miles Edgeworth) to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses on the stand. Picking out the holes in testimonies is achieved by shouting “Objection!” into the microphone at the appropriate moment in the DS version . This, combined with presenting the correct exhibits at the right time will cause the judge to render a ‘not guilty’ verdict and win you the case. Choose the wrong evidence or question insignificant points too often and the judge will rule in the prosecution’s favour.

The unique gameplay mechanics and setting may be Ace Attorney’s major selling point but in my opinion the real enduring strength of the Ace Attorney series is in the characters and writing. Although some of the cases may be overly long and drawn out with leaps of logic required to solve some of the puzzles that reduce you to trial and error, the variety of characters, well-judged humour, and unexpected storyline twists keep it engaging. Special mention must also go to the English localisation team. While most text-heavy japanese games suffer massively from poor translation, the dialogue in the Ace Attorney games often sparkles, and replaces the japanese cultural referencing with western pop-culture nods.

After playing all three of the original Ace Attorney games I’m a firm fan of the series and if you enjoy a slower paced game, I highly recommend them. It might be a bit tricky to hunt down the DS versions nowadays but they’re also available to download with improved graphics on WiiWare, and iOS via itunes.

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