Releasing in Japan for Gameboy Advance in 2001, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, known there as Gyakuten Saiban which translated to ‘Turnabout Trial’ put you in the shoes of a defense lawyer, trying to find your defendants not guilty. The game would square you up against the opposing lawyer, and by listening to witness testimonies and comparing it to salvaged evidence, you would try win the case. Each case gave you five exclamation marks, representing mistakes you could make before the trial was lost. Upon hearing the statement of a witness, you would look through the evidence in your possession, find a hole in their testimony, and shout ‘OBJECTION!!!’, either ny pressing the button on the controller, or shouting it into the microphone in the case of the DS. If successful, the court case proceeds onto the next testimony, until the case is won.
The gameplay mechanics are very simple and intuitive, and the characters and humour are spot on, making you laugh out loud at times when some of them get excited or say something stupid. As a text based game, it was easy to follow and a fun experience. The game is made up of 4 or 5 cases, the fifth being added to the DS remake of the Gameboy version. Excluding the first case, all chapters involve visiting different locations, talking to different people at the scene of a crime, and collecting any evidence you can find. Once these objectives are complete, the court case begins. Sometimes, you may need to go searching for more clues before a second day of court trials take place. The characters certainly help make it interesting, and in many cases, you want to help them.
Below, you can see the first part of Case 1, giving you an idea of how the game works, and an introduction to the case you will be dealing with, where your defendant’s girlfriend was murdered by a strike to the head with a blunt statue.
Another standout point worth mentioning about Phoenix Wright is the soundtrack. Many of the tunes are fantastic, high energy beats and bass lines, There are some nice, mellow jingles in there too during the quieter moments, when interacting with the characters you work with. The sounds are great too, and the shouting of OBJECTION!!! never gets old! There are some truly great moments in Phoenix Wright, and when you make it through your first case, you feel really smart and rather proud of yourself. It almost makes you want to be a lawyer!
Phoenix Wright spawned a bunch of sequels, namely Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations, and that trilogy is now available to download via the App Store on iOS, which I would seriously recommend. The fourth game in the series, Apollo Justice, introduced a new playable character, trained up by Phoenix Wright, who lost his attorney license.
In Japan in 2012, Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright was released, which eventually made its way to Europe and North America. It combined gameplay elements from both franchises, including puzzles and crime investigations. The first three Phoenix Wright games have made their way to iOS, and if you don’t own a DS or 3DS, I would highly suggest checking the first game out at least, as you will love it if you give it some of your time.