What's the worst profession to base a video game around? Geography Teacher? Binman? Gynacologist? All of these would be pretty terrible games, but chances are you'd expect a game focusing on the exploits of a lawyer to be right up there. Going around chasing ambulances, filing compensation claims and wearing silly wigs (here in the UK at least) sounds pretty much the antithesis of fun.
At least, that's what I believed. Until I discovered Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. A game so enjoyable that I literally played the entirety of the adventure in around three days and immediatey sought the remaining games in the series. I love the Ace Attorney games, and could arguably put any of them as my RAGGD entry (including the crossover game with the Professor Layton series which us lucky Brits are currently enjoying!). However, I've gone with the original in the series, to share my experience of what makes this game so... well great!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney follows the story of Phoenix Wright... Ace Attorney. Or at least, Rookie Attorney who is hoping to rise through the ranks by protecting his clients from false charges and the prosecutors who would lay those charges on them. One such prosecutor is Miles Edgeworth, a former friend of Wright's who abandoned a chance as an attorney to become a rather notorious prosecutor. Wright is seeking to find out why Edgeworth changed, and hopes that becoming the best attorney he can will let him do so. He's aided by Maya Fey, the sister of Wright's boss, who provides assistance using some otherwordly abilities.
As you can see, the overall plot is fairly bonkers, but AA manages to be ridiculous without never feeling too stupid. This is in part thanks to the great characters which run throughout the game's five cases. Each contains some distinctive personalities that are well thought out and generally very funny. Possibly the best characters are Phoenix and Maya themselves. Phoenix struggles against the overwhelming odds against him, with Maya providing constant support.
Over the course of these five cases gameplay is split into two types; Investigation and Trials. The investigation sequences follow Wright as he goes over crime scenes and other areas, speaking with witnesses and gathering clues for the next day. These parts are fairly enjoyable, though sometimes lacking a certain clue or missing a witness will halt progression and slow things unexpectedly. Even so, the investigation portions are a nice feature.
However the undoubted highlight is the game's trials, where Phoenix is forced to go up against a prosecutor in defence of his client. Gameplay in this section is surprisingly fast paced, while Wright cross examines witness testimony, comparing what is said with the evidence he holds to look for any contradictions. Picking out these contradictions is the key to saving defendants and getting the real criminal out in the open.
It's hard to describe just how satisfying the gameplay of PW:AA can be. Finding a hole in witness testimony, picking it up and seeing 'OBJECTION!' fill the screen as you present the correct evidence is akin to solving a tough Zelda puzzle or just winning a race on Mario Kart for myself. Likewise, watching a prosecutor backpeddling after they've casually insulted the defence up to that point is amusing as well. The trial portions of the game are very well thought out and designed. Easily the best part of the experience.
This experience is supported well by the crazy scenarios that the writers of PW:AA have thought up. Expect to be defending costumed samurais and interogating parrots before the credits roll. Thankfully, being a Japanese game originally, the translation of the game has been performed to a very high standard. Only a handful of typos creep into the literally thousands of lines of dialogue featured in the game.
Ace Attorney is presented in the 'visual novel' style of some Japanese games, meaning there isn't really an overworld to interact with. Despite that, the game's sprites excellently capture character's details to ensure that the player feels like a part of the experience. Each character has their own unique traits which the sprite conveys, especially when put under pressure by Phoenix Wright. I should also mention the game's music. While for the most part it's generally just pleasant background music, there are some really nice tunes amongst them. The best is that played during trials, which really punctuate the moments of tension and the breakthroughs in cases. The music played when Phoenix entraps the real criminal in their lies is my favourite in any video game. Ever. Seriously go Youtube 'Phoenix Wright - Cornered' right now. You'll be satisfied.
As for me, I was far more than just satisfied with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. What looked like a fair ok-ish adventure game ended up being a wonderful experience that kickstarted an obsession with a series. The game is available on the DS and IOS, so there's no excuse not to try it. It'll be far more fun than a gynacologist game at least.