Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Gyakuten Saiban: Yomigaeru Gyakuten

Courtroom drama and detective work merged in one game.


The Lowdown

Pros: Brilliant story writing and character design.

Cons: Some minor interface issues makes navigating more annoying that it could be. Also there's the next to none replay value.

Purchase at Play-Asia

Purchase at Lik-Sang

Most American gamers were introduced to Phoenix Wright or as it's known in Japan, Gyakuten Saiban, from Capcom's US announcement. The first US game entitled Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is actually a remake of the original Game Boy Advance title, Gyakuten Saiban. In the game you play the role of Phoenix Wright, a defense attorney bent on saving his innocent clients. Part lawyer and part detective you guide Phoenix on his quest for justice.

Each of the cases are presented in different episodes, but with an overarching story. You start out way at the bottom on your first case, where your old friend Larry Butz is being tried for murder. The facts are stacked against him and Phoenix has to work a miracle to spare him from being convicted of his girlfriend's death. You do this by reversing the case, revealing that the witness is the actual killer. Since Phoenix is a lawyer your only tool is your wits. You need to carefully analyze the case, look for glaring holes in the testimony and counter with evidence. When the witness testifies that he saw the victim watching TV, you can counter with a blackout record for the same time. Early on the cases are semi-obvious. Later on you're going to need to think. Just how can you edge in any doubt that the person in the photo is different from the murder? Maybe you need to soften the witness up by "pressing" her with some questions. However, you can't just throw random pieces of evidence together. After five missed leads you have to give up cross examining your witness, which means your client gets an automatic guilty. The way you cross examine witnesses is done in a battle style with objections being thrown back and forth. So, instead of merely reading each text statement, the game is presented to make what would seem to be a boring C-SPAN event as action packed as possible.

Later cases require more out of court work. You'll need to analyze crime scenes and persuade the bumbling Detective Dick Gumshoe to give you leads. In fact Phoenix is more a kin to Sherlock Holmes with a law degree than an ordinary lawyer. Phoenix and his assistant Maya can scan areas with the bottom screen. You can touch different objects to examine them and possibly pick up more clues. Since there is a set way that each case progresses, the game won't let you continue on until you've got all of the necessary clues to win the case. This requires a fair amount of backtracking, which is a little painstaking due to the interface. When you're navigating on how you walk from place to place you use the touch screen. Instead of letting players automatically move from the law offices to say a trailer in the movie studio, players are forced to sit through a couple of menus to get to where they want. A better option would have been to let players go anywhere they want once they've been to a location before. In longer cases, menu navigation can get tedious as you search for a person to talk to just to move the story along.

The story is really what makes Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney great. Cases are written with elaborate plot twists. You always start out with a client that appears guilty on paper, but Phoenix always ends up with the right facts to save them. Capcom also has some clever character design like Sal Manella. He's the director of a children's show called the Silver Samurai, but he speaks in "1337" internet talk. Phoenix's buddy Larry is always at the wrong place at the wrong time, but has a knack for picking up models. Even the Phoenix's crew is unique. His assistant is a 17 year old, who happens to be a spirit medium too. Phoenix's arch rival Edgeworth, is a stuffy prosecutor who will do anything for a guilty verdict. Within the five episode structure there is an overarching plot As you begin to unravel the DL-6 mystery you'll see many familiar faces, some in predicaments that are well... surprising. The unique cast of characters and entertaining story makes Phoenix Wright worth playing, once. After you've seen all the plot turns and twists the game loses its appeal.

There are some changes from the original Gyakuten Saiban, which make the remake worth picking up. First there is the obvious touch screen control. Then there's the upgrade in graphics. Everything is more animated, which give the already great characters new life. The real reason to pick up the game, even if you own the GBA classic, is the brand new fifth story. The fifth episode is nearly as long as the four episodes together. There are also new elements in the fifth case that take advantage of the DS hardware. When you do fingerprint analysis you blow on the screen to scatter the white powder around. Some neat tricks like that make the game more a part of the DS' library.

While it is a remake for Japan, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is new for the rest of the world. It's one part "Cased Closed" and one part Law & Order. A blend that is an engaging play, at least once through.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0

You can switch languages when you start the game by picking the second option (kanji for English) on the opening menu. From this point on the game is entirely in English, with a great translation to boot!

US Bound?

The current release date set by Capcom is October 11, 2005. Supposedly you can get the finger pointing stylus with a US order, but you'll miss out on all of the goodies from the limited edition Japanese release. The Mask Vision Murder Case package contains a manga, the soundtrack, the "objection!" stylus with a combo screen cleaner and the game.

Overall

If you didn't check out the original GBA title Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is worth picking up. Any objections to this statement?