I’ve always been a fan of the Ace Attorney games since Day 1. Well, I consider Day 1 as sometime during spring in 2007, starting with the first game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. These followed by Justice for All, Trials and Tribulations, and Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (featuring a new main character/defense attorney, Apollo Justice). If you’re one of those import gaming purists and have never heard of the small hype of a visual novel game taking place in court, it’s the Gyakuten Saiban (Turnabout Trials) series.
Though I’ve played numerous police/law enforcement videogames before as a police detective or a P.I. (private investigator), the Ace Attorney series is probably the first videogame I’ve played that primarily takes place in court and assuming the character of a lawyer, namely a defense attorney. Your primarily goal, as what defense attorneys should do, is to prove your client innocent, using your logic, evidence collected, and testimonies collected from witnesses.
Though this series is a localization of Gyakuten Saiban, the stories and cases remained the same. If you’re one of those squirmish people who can’t stand watching murder mysteries or reading about them in novels, this game isn’t for you. However, the anime/manga-esque style artwork from the cute to the scary can attract the curious without realizing that this is a mystery/courthouse (comedy-)drama genre. The setting of the localization is in Los Angeles, California, as in oppose to Tokyo, Japan in the original. The only reason I could think of why the localized version is set in L.A. because there are various cases throughout all five games (this includes the newly-released Miles Edgeworth: Ace Attorney Investigations) that take place in movie/TV studios involving actors/movie stars, directors, writers, etc. as witnesses, suspects, and murder victims (assuming all these cases are as “local” as they can be). Majority of the “out of the local area” locations mentioned are all fictional, from fictional cities (ie. Kurain Village, Hazakura Temple, etc.) to fictional countries (ie. Borginia, Cohdopia, etc.).
What always makes a story, for me that is, are the characters. Without having a wide array of characters of different colors, backgrounds, and personalities, there won’t be a compelling story. I think the characters, from the occurring to the witnesses to even the suspects, murderers, and victims, are one of the strongest points in the Ace Attorney series. You’ve got the lawyers from both sides, the defense and the prosecution (Phoenix Wright, Miles Edgeworth, Apollo Justice, Mia Fey, Franziska Von Karma, Godot, Klavier Gavin, Winston Payne, and others), you’ve got your police detectives (Dick Gumshoe, Ema Skye, Tyrell Badd, etc.), your associates (Maya Fey, Pearl Fey, Trucy Wright, Kay Faraday, etc.), and several witnesses and suspects per case (in which one of them would be the murderous culprit). The names have several puns in them and very fitting to their characters, which makes them individually unique from each other. There are a lot of characters you’ll like as well as despise, but with a combination of both, you’ve got compelling stories that may even send a chill down your spine.
The cases are pretty standard like your everyday murder (or anything associated with a murder, such as kidnapping, smuggling, fraud, etc.) case in real life. Some of the methods of how the victims were killed were quite bizarre, mainly on the murder weapon used or simply how they were murdered. In every case and in every witness you meet from place to place, you’ll eventually discover that one of them other than the suspect is actually the killer. There are even very few cases were the suspect is actually the killer or an accessory to murder. Nevertheless, as the defense attorney main character, your mission is to clear your client’s name (which is the suspect of the crime) and get the “not guilty” verdict. If you don’t, the game is over.
Though the game is simply point and click with a stylus (it’s only available on DS and recently on WiiWare), you still need to use your own wits and careful observation and review in order for you to win this game. You get penalized via a “life penalty bar” if you do mess things up (guessing is not a suggestive option, you’d lose more penalty points that way). In short, you seriously need to pay attention with what the witnesses say (in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, not only that you have to pay attention to what they’re saying, but you also have to pay attention to the witness’ body gestures and language as well to see if they’re lying through their teeth or not), as well as the evidence and the testimonies you’ve collected. I’ve played visual novel games before with the murder mystery/detective theme but they don’t give you much penalties as the Ace Attorney games.
Well, here’s a general overview of the game, not exactly a review. After I got my copy of the latest game, Miles Edgeworth: Ace Attorney Investigations, it seems my “Ace Attorney Fever” came back to me again. It’s well worth playing the games over again if you seriously want to test yourself on how much of a lawyer you are without even going to law school.