If you aren't familiar with that phrase, then you lead a very sad life indeed. What deserted mountain peak on Pluto have you been climbing where you haven't heard of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney? The Ace Attorney series is easily one of my most recent favorites. While everyone else gushed over One Direction and studied for those petty things called "finals", I was neck-deep in the courtroom scouring testimonies for the slightest discrepancies. I had heard of the game a few times before and decided to do a little digging. Once I dug it up, it became one of the treasures of my gaming horde! I spent so many hours in college playing through these games. Ha-ha, there went my Organic Chemistry grade! (I truly wish I were kidding on that.) Seriously though, if you are into thought-provoking gameplay and quirky humor, then the Ace Attorney games are right for you! No objection there!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney begins with a bang...or a thud, actually. All of the cases that Phoenix Wright works with are murders, so it makes sense that the series begins a little bloody. While it isn't very graphic, the introduction sure is attention-catching! Not many games start off by getting right to the point. There's no tragic back story, and there's no elongated introduction to the main character. There's a murder, someone has been wrongfully accused, and it's up to someone to save the day! Short and sweet, right to the gameplay—exactly what a good introduction should be. Our spiky-haired attorney's first case has him defending a childhood friend, affectionately named "Larry Butz". Larry is pretty upset about his "girlfriend's" murder, informing you that he just wants to cease and be deceased. Well, that's certainly something you don't hear from an innocent person very much. Phoenix has his work cut out for him, but his mentor Mia Fey steps up to help along the way. This first case is, as usual, more of a simple tutorial that allows the player to become familiar with how to present evidence and act like you know what you're doing (when you actually don't...just like real life). Using logic and reason, Phoenix Wright ultimately wins his first defense case! You can fail the first case, but the game gives you plenty of "chances" to fix mistakes that you probably will make if it's your first time playing this game. The game really isn't difficult, but it's not going to hold your hand forever, a lesson that you will learn soon enough. And by soon enough, I mean the next case, where you and Phoenix Wright find yourselves on your own. It may seem unfair at times (like those times when you got blamed for something because you were the dumb, youngest child), but if you keep on keepin' on, you may find even your rivals taking sides with you...reluctantly, but they will be there.
HOLD IT! Before you dive into the wonderful world of Ace Attorney, you should be aware that this game is mostly talk and story, similar to a visual novel. That means you will spend most of your time listening to the text tick by like a typist on speed. Now, that's not a problem for the likes of myself who enjoys a good story and using logic to pick out small details, but for someone who prefers gun-toting, damsel-saving, boot-to-the-face, action-packed hero-ing, it's probably not the best option. As mentioned several times, Ace Attorney is very, very heavy on logic and reasoning. The logic used in the game is surprisingly, well...logical. There is nothing extremely crazy about the evidence and testimonies. The only things that are blatantly crazy in this game are these people's hair! Seriously, where do these people get their fashion sense? Animal Planet? You may look at a case in the beginning and think, "Whuuuu...how?" but you'll soon be smacking yourself in the face going, "How did I not notice that?" That is what this game is all about: looking beyond what seems obvious and finding the truth. That's what makes these games amazing! They almost subliminally encourage you to open your mind to different possibilities and question what seems to be a simple solution. Rawr, I love games that encourage thought process and imagination!
These aren't two random scenes; this looks more like a direct storyboard.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand: the gameplay! One of the things that I appreciate about the game is that it ticks off topics that you have talked about and un-ticks them when they need to be questioned further. I know that seems like such a small thing, but when a game is mostly text-based, misclicking a topic and having to read through an entire conversation over again can be extremely tedious, much like retaking a boring class with a monotone professor. And the humor! The humor in this game is lovely. It's not too crass, it's not too cheesy—it's just grate! (See what I just did there? Pretty clever, eh?) You can better sense the humor in the response options the game provides you at certain times. Have you ever felt like yelling "I'm a farce!" to the courtroom? Well, now you can! Any game that jokingly give the option for you to say "You two are lovers!" in a scenario where the people obviously are not is a great game to me.
Even in my second playthrough of the game, I found myself chuckling at a few of the jokes and jabs. I don't mean chuckling like when people say "lol" online but are secretly living a lie in that they are not, in fact, laughing out loud. I mean actual smiling, facepalming, and chuckling. Even the names of some of the people are punny enough to roll your eyes at! There's Redd White of BlueCorp, Will Powers, Sal Manella, and Lotta Hart, just to name a few. The characters even use "Phoenix Wright" as a pun several times! There was one grievance I had the very first time that I played the game: two of the names were so similar that I kept getting them confusing. The names were of the sisters Mia and Maya, and for some reason, I kept getting them mixed up. It's just a small issue that really doesn't take away from the game.
This game has characters...so many characters! Another thing that someone can really appreciate about Phoenix Wright-Ace Attorney is the fact that every character is unique and important. The writers did a terrific job in coming up with their personalities. I was in a play once and the director told us something about characters. She said that for a play to be a "good" play, each character had to have something about them that stood out even if the character seemed insignificant. That is exactly how I know that this game is good! You can look at every character and write a three-page essay about their personality, their passions, and their quirks. Phoenix Wright is the easiest, of course. He is the bumbling protagonist who is comically snarky and only needs a little encouragement to be able to shine on the defense stand. He is also oblivious to the fact that his hairstyle resembles a porcupine. Mia Fey is the golden soul who exudes confidence and grace and is more than willing to lend Phoenix a helping hand in any way she can. I could easily write about every single character in this game, but due to lack of caffeine and willpower, I'll just leave it at that and hope you get the point.
The music makes this game. I'm not sure if this game would have the same effect if the music were different or not there altogether. It is intense when it needs to be, and cuts out at just the right moment to create even more tension in the courtroom. The music will also cut off after a successful "Objection!" The music just makes the game so much more enjoyable to play! The game may not have much to it action-wise or even animation-wise, but being able to feel epic after discovering a major flaw in a witness' testimony just makes the whole thing worth it. It's fun and it's memorable. Even if you don't play the game, listen to the music! Then play the game! Then go to law school!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is game that I wish I could play for the first time all over again. You may not be able to play it for a second time for a while, but when you go back to it, you will fall in love just as much. If you are a human being with a brain, you can play Ace Attorney and possibly love it as much as I do! And if you don't...well then, you are Phoenix WRONG. TAKE THAT!
Throw his sorry Butz in the slammer!