Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on The Next, UW Bothell’s student-run media blog.
Capcom recently released the original trilogy of Phoenix Wright games for Apple’s iOS, and I was forcibly encouraged to finally give them a try. It turns out, I’ve been missing out.
The Ace Attorney games are sort of like someone adapted “Law and Order” into a delightful, fun-filled romp through murder investigations. You take the role of a bumbling but charming defense attorney, fresh out of law school with absolutely no knowledge of how the legal system works. It’s hard to blame Ace Attorney, because the game’s legal system is like an insane parody of existing legal systems as created by an impatient 14-year-old. Trials can last no more than three days, the Judge alone decides guilt, only prosecutors are allowed to call witnesses, and defense attorneys are legally required to find lies in any testimony—even that of their own clients.
Gameplay is divided into two distinct sections. The first half has you play through clandestine investigations of crime scenes and related areas, searching for clues to use in court and interrogating witnesses before the trial for any information. The second half of play is the trial itself: listening to witness testimony, pressing for more information and of course screaming objections to the court at large. Most of the trial phase focuses on looking for contradictions in testimony and presenting evidence to point them out. Some of the leaps in logic are rough, but once you get the hang of it the experience is fairly intuitive and really engaging.
I spent the game’s first trial making fun of things, taking screencaps of dumb moments and texting my friends about how stupid the legal system is. I was halfway through the third trial when I realized that I loved everything about the game. The characters, dumb though some of them might be, are absolutely charming. The legal system is ridiculous—and that’s sort of the point. You’re working in the bounds of this insane system to try to prove your client innocent, and you get to feel awesome while laughing every step of the way. The art and music work beautifully together to turn the experience into something totally immersive and thoroughly satisfying. The Ace Attorney games are unapologetically fun and absolutely worth your time.
Platform: iOS, Nintendo DS, Gameboy Advance.
Lowlights: Leaps in logic can be frustrating or unreasonable, it’s easy to get lost in investigations, and accidentally triggering the same dialogue twice is really tedious.
Highlights: Immersive storytelling, delightful characters, awesome music, game plays beautifully on iOS.
Overall: If you get stuck, use a walkthrough. Play this game.