I confess to my crime. The Ace Attorney game series by Capcom for the DS platform makes me humor the idea of becoming a lawyer or a prosecutor whenever I play it. The Ace Attorney series puts you in control of a defense attorney (Phoenix Wright for the first three games, and Apollo Justice in the 4th game) where you must investigate crime scenes, gather evidence, and talk to witnesses, detectives, and your computer controlled opponent prosecutors and defend your client in court from the crime he has been accused of.
This review is of the series thus far as a whole (Excluding the title where you play as Edgeworth and prosecute instead of defend because that is only released in Japan at this time). That means the games are as follows (Chronological Order)
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations
- Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright is a very fun and humourous game but it is not without problems, namely linear gameplay. There are two main parts of the game, investigation days and court trial days. On an investigation day you walk around collecting evidence and try to figure out exactly what went on where as on trial days you battle with the prosectutor to get your client a "Not Guilty" verdict. Although I must admit, many of the battles end up being against the witnesses instead of the prosectutor since the witnesses never make a case too easy for you (well maybe in the first couple games tutorial cases).
In any case, the lack of co-operation from witnesses and a pleathora of funny dialogue make the game very enjoyable even at it's toughest parts. You might have heard some of your friends quoting the games famous "Objection!" statement at some points. Both the defense attourney you play as and the prosecution often get into heated battles trying to contradict each others points, and it's great when they both end up with the desire to punch the nearest wall because of some new detail that contradicts them both pops up and drives the case in a whole new direction.
One thing that must be said about the game is that it's good at keeping you guessing. Just when you think you've figured out the case inside and out the game crushes your line of thought. It really does add to the mystery of the game and its ability to keep you interested. After all, if you had the case figured out from the start where would the fun be in reaching the dramatic conclusion.
I mentioned that a key problem with the game was it's linear gameplay. For the first couple cases I was under the impression that it was up to the player to make the case and that you could take whatever you wanted as evidence to make your case and the game and end result would change as a such. Sadly, this is not the case as the evidence that all the evidence that's availale is used and you don't get a choice. That means that there is generally only one answer to every puzzle which can be very annoying when you've come up with another logical conclusion using a different piece of evidence but the game won't accept it because it's not what the game wants.
Storyline - 7.0 out of 10
Believe it or not the game has it's own set of "lore". The cases you go through in the game actually effect the world and you'll be able to see the results by playing later cases and later games (part of the reason I listed them chronologically). This is a pretty rewarding feature of the game actually. It's fun to visit old locations and be able to think "Oh I remember this place, it was involved in that one case."
That said, the game is still somewhat limiting in how far it takes the storyline. Understandably, the game focuses on court cases not the game world just because of the type of game it is. The story works out in scenarios that are loosely related through references to old cases. When is comes down to it these scenarios are only a little more then just that, scenarios. It's like if you reached into a bag, grabbed out a piece of paper, and then the paper said to roleplay as an attorney and then the next few times you do it your classmates or co-workers make references back to the early roleplay excercises.
The story quality could be summed up as "Better than expected for the genre, but doesn't compete with in-depth rpg games"
Sound - 8.0 out of 10
I'll be the first to admit that the game doesn's have a lot of sound effects. Furthermore, there are no voice overs for the game, a lot of the time you just get the sound of the text going by your screen. However where the game truely shines in this department is the game's music. It has a bit of a MIDI type quality but many of the tracks I would not mind hearing on the radio or something. Of course, naturally all the music tracks have no vocals but they are incredibly catchy.
Another cool thing they do with the music is controlling the intensity of the music as the case reaches a dramatic point. The same track will be calm at one point giving you the though "Hmmm ok I better get to the bottom of this witness' story" and then at another point "WHAT!? But that changes everything! Damn, if I don't come up with something fast my case is finished!"
Although there is little sound effects, they are there when needed (i.e. door's opening or closing, gunshots, etc). The music soundtracks are nicely composed so this doesn't actually turn out to be a problem most of the time. One last nice thing to say about the music is that they don't use the same tracks for all the games, I'm glad they did this because some of the tracks would have gotten dull after four games.
Graphics - 6.8 out of 10
The series is for the DS so you really shouldn't be going into it expecting top of the line graphics. The majority of the series is done with simple sprite graphics with backdrop screens that occasionally allow you to pan the camera to the left and right. While the graphics arn't impressive, they are quite cute in a sense. Many of the witnesses have a tendency to tilt to the left and to the right while they talking and when you combine it with the neat music it's quite amusing and entertaining to watch. That said the series is totally lacking of special effects like explosions, vortexes of flame, awesome mystic artes (Ahh Tales ^^), etc. It has acceptable graphics for a game of this type.
Replay Value - Low
The game is fun and enjoyable. However, the lineariarity of all the cases means that there is nothing new to see should you want to play through the game again. A good joke is generally only funny the first time you hear it and the same applies to the series.
Overall Rating - 8.2 out of 10
Ace Attorney is a great series and I wish I had found it earlier. You can easily kill hours on end with the game series and still maintain interest. The combination of mystery, humor, and a great soundtrack make a seemingly boring concept into a great experience for just about anyone. Well in all honesty you probobly wouldn't want to teach your five year old kid the concept of murder and betrayal so it's teen rating is probobly there for a reason. That said I could see middle aged and casual gamers getting a kick out of the game.