Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney reviewer: Nish
rating: 4 out of 5
developed by: Capcom
published by: Capcom
released: 10th March 2006
rrp: £29.99
formats: DS

If all the thrills of the legal profession were extinguished with the demise of L.A. Law (particularly the loss of Amanda Donohoe’s briefs) then Capcom’s latest DS offering could reignite your passion.

The game sees you stepping into the shoes of the rookie defence attorney of the title and embarking on an adventure of evidence gathering, woolly testimonies and, of course, loud shouts of "Objection!".

This never happened to Perry Mason
This never happened to Perry Mason

Murder is at the heart of each case and because each is broadly similar to an episode of Columbo it's rarely a matter of 'whodunnit' but how and why. This means that it's a case of visiting the crime scene, searching for clues and possible evidence and interviewing witnesses and the police. Then you can take the battle to court. With less than credible witnesses on the stand, a dozy judge and the underhand tactics of the prosecutors it's crucial that you press and object to statements before identifying and presenting the supporting evidence in order to get your client off the hook.

Although each case is different there is a sense of continuation between them. References are made to certain events and you get to meet and know certain characters as you move about. This is where the care and attention lavished on the game shines through. Aside from a couple of sloppy errors, the localisation is thoroughly entertaining and has numerous bursts of well-considered humour from the characters (the put-upon Detective Gumshoe is a firm favourite).

The presentation is even more slick. The confrontations during cross-examinations in court are akin to anime fight sequences with close-ups of determined eyes and battle cries of "Take that!" filling the screen in punchy red letters when you trump your opponent. It might all be rather be silly but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Yes, you get to make girls cry. Bloody lawyers.
Yes, you get to make girls cry. Bloody lawyers.

Phoenix Wright is really nothing more than a simple point 'n' click adventure and a rigidly linear one at that. Progress is entirely dependent on eliciting the right response from characters (and also providing the correct one in return) and examining specific objects. At certain times you can be penalised (even to the point of ending the case unsuccessfully) but on the whole it's not too hard to spot the inconsistencies in witness statements and then wow the court with your evidence.

And so it goes for four cases until Phoenix Wright springs its own shock evidence. Take that! The fifth case is the main game being significantly longer than the others as well as more involving. Also, it can be considered more of an actual DS title. True, up to this point you were allowed to shout "Objection!" into the mic (there's a surprise in store for those that refuse to do so out of sheer embarrassment), but otherwise there was little interaction. Fans of C.S.I. in particular will be delighted to discover that the joys of dusting for fingerprints, spraying Luminol to detect blood, and examining CCTV footage come into play. It's all very simple and, arguably, contrived, but I'll say it again: it's fun.

There's no doubt that the game offers little replay value after completion. However, the time you spend with it until you do so is more than worthwhile (I went through a few immediate recharge periods such was my haste to continue playing). I couldn't imagine playing such a game on a console, but it's a gem on the DS.

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