Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Visual Novel Review - Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - The First Turnabout

The first Ace Attorney game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, was released way back in 2001 in Japan for the Game Boy Advance. Its later Nintendo DS remake was released outside of Japan and gave the visual novel genre a moderate fanbase outside of Japan for the first time. It has since been re-released on many more devices over the intervening years, but it still remains one of the best games in the genre.

The game was split up into episodes and was released episodically for Windows and Wii. It works well for this style of game, as each episode contains a new case that is taken on by Phoenix Wright, a young defense attorney. The game is set within a semi-fictional Japanese law system, where each case has to be dealt with quickly and can only last three days. As this game was released in the early 2000s, the official English translation tries to remove the Japanese references as much as possible and sets it in the United States instead. This leads to some disconnect with Japan-exclusive concepts such as attorney badges being used in the United States. Thankfully, however, it's not too distracting even if you do know about Japanese culture, as these can be chalked up as being part of the game's then-futuristic setting of 2016.

The first case was created specifically to give the player an introduction to the game's mechanics. Phoenix Wright handles a case where his childhood friend, Larry Butz, is accused of murder. Luckily, Wright's mentor, Mia Fey, is with him every step of the way as he works to clear his friend of any wrongdoing. In this game's judicial system, it is up to the attorneys to discover all the evidence they can, so Phoenix will need to look around crime scenes and talk to the defendant and witnesses to discover everything they can about the case.

The main crux of the gameplay comes in the courtroom, however, where the goal is to listen to witness testimony and pick apart any contradictions through previous testimony and collected evidence.  The witnesses will attempt to give new testimony that explains these contradictions, but after picking apart their testimony several times, they will eventually crack and admit to the truth.

The first episode of Ace Attorney is a great way to start the game. Phoenix Wright's mentor Mia Fey is invaluable, as she will help Phoenix through each step of the process. Larry Butz is also a fun character to start off with, as he is completely over-the-top and especially silly.  The later episodes will pack a more emotional punch, but this lighthearted first case is a fantastic place to start.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5