Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, from Japanese giant Capcom, was produced for the Nintendo DS in 2005, or rather, an enhanced remake was. While it’s not all that common knowledge, the game was actually first conceived for the Game Boy Advance in Japan, way back in 2001. There was also a popular port of the title on Nintendo’s archaic, yet somehow fondly remembered WiiWare service in 2010.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
The first game in the series centred on the eponymous Phoenix Wright, a budding new attorney learning the ropes of the courtroom. What struck many, myself included, was that the story was good – really good. This was essentially a lawyer simulator turned into a game but, arguably, (and in this writer’s opinion), the title features some of the best writing in one to date.
‘Gameplay’ wise, you were tasked with finding contradictions within a witness’s testimony. This started off simple, but quickly became complex, with players often running the scenes through their head and asking questions such as: “How did they get there if they were also somewhere else at the exact same time? Something doesn’t add up.” Then, once you were sure enough of your own conviction, you could make yourself feel stupid/empowered and shout “Objection!” at your DS, or TV, depending on which version you played the game on. (Fear not, you could also just hit a button if you were feeling a little bit awkward on that crowded bus to work).
It was this spark of simple genius that made the game so compelling. If you were W-right (see what I did there? Ok, I’ll grab my coat), you saw your witness squirm in front of you, trying anything to convince you that they didn’t kill him or her. What made it even better was when the opposing prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth, came into the fray with a smart ‘get out’ for the witness – upping the ante considerably. Ensue a battle of wits until the very end, all in the name of justice. Like a Sherlock Holmes vs Professor Moriarty encounter. And really, there isn’t much better than that.
Tie all this in with the aforementioned sagacious writing, sometimes silly, often hilarious, thought-provoking and incredibly dark when it wanted to be, and what you had was a game many had not ever experienced before. (It would be remiss of me not to mention the music that plays when Wright brings the justice):
But it wasn’t just the cases which were superbly put together in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, it was the surprising depth of the characters as well – each had hours of intriguing backstory that would deliciously expand over the course of the game(s).
Nick himself, for instance, was a captivating protagonist. His quirky, yet determined to succeed and find the truth manner (something his creator Shu Takumi once admitted was based on himself) made the journey a truly thrilling ride. Wright’s character and position would subtly continue to develop over the games, from rookie to outright veteran in the later adventures. (Sorry, no major spoilers here!).
Let us not forget Miles Edgeworth either, a fan favourite of the series, and rightfully so. Edgeworth would end up becoming the anti-hero construction we all know and love in fiction. He would help Phoenix in the courtroom, but would nevertheless remain a formidable opponent who Wright had to prove himself to again and again; however improbable the events that unfolded!
That’s without mentioning the rest of the cast: the loveable yet struggling to achieve Gumshoe, the endearing and curious Maya. Manfred von Karma… All of these characters felt alive.
This writer remembers getting to the last case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for the first time (many years ago), not knowing the series always ended on such an epic dénouement; the scale of it all hit me. That final case (and just wait until you play the others) is something to see; tense, absorbing and yes, moving. It’s comparable to the final court scene in the film A Few Good Men.
Admittedly, never having played Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney on the DS, it was a series I had always wanted to try, but never got around to. Bigger names always stole my attention whenever I got close. For me then, it was on WiiWare where the natural love began. The rest is history: Ace Attorney remains one of my favourite games (and series) to this very day. There’s no doubt it gets more attention than ever, but it’s still a pretty niche series.
So, you’ve never played it? That’s ok, it’s never too late! Copies for the DS can be few and far between nowadays, so the best bet is to pick it up on 3DS or on iOS devices. As for the future of the series, we now know that Capcom is working on a new Ace Attorney title for the Switch. There are rumours circulating that an ‘Ultimate Edition’ of sorts is in the works too. But, as ever, we’ll have to wait and see on that.
Indeed, while we wait, if you’ve played the masterpiece that is Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney already, why not share your memories with us below? With that said, I think it’s time to finish Spirit of Justice myself. Have a good weekend all.