Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney review

Can a game rooted in the legal system still be fun? Guilty as charged

GamesRadar+ Verdict


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    Refreshingly unique adventure

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    Sublime blend of humor and crime

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    Easy touch screen gaming


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    No action to be found

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    Five linear cases

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    replay is scarce

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    Taking breaks can trip you up

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Who defends the indefensible? Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. This bumbling rookie lawyer has to get his facts straight and his perspiration under control, because defendants are counting on him in five cases of Nintendo DS drama. It will have you testifying that the adventure genre is alive and well.

Phoenix has his work cut out for him, including examining the scene of the crime, working with law enforcement, consoling the defendant, and cross-examining witnesses. It's a dirty job, but one made much cleaner with the intuitiveness of the DS touch screen. You won't have to touch a single button during play. The game also keeps track of all the facts and evidence in a handy menu system. But don't depend entirely on the game to remember all these facts - taking extended breaks can make you forget what was happening in the first place.

Ace takes an analytical mind and keen eye to win. Cross-examining witnesses requires you to sweat the details to find inaccuracies and present proof to back up your claims. It's a satisfying gaming experience, no doubt - even if there's no twitch action whatsoever.

Winning a case isn't simply a matter of having the truth on your side; you've got to be savvy and slick, as only a lawyer can. Though you're treated to a rundown of the events leading up to the crimes before each chapter, it takes a lot of convincing (and a wee bit of conniving) to come out on top.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney uses a comical, anime-style approach to legal battles to keep things amusing, which actually complements some of the more serious moments dealing with the crimes. One minute, a girl you know is innocent will be accused of killing her own sister and tossed in jail; the next minute, you'll be almost-unintentionally outsmarting a bumbling detective.

Even the moment of truth in court can be humorous, in no small part due to Phoenix's expressions and insecurities. How many other games could get away with having a lawyer as the main hero, always ready to shout "Objection!" at a moment's notice? Ace is another perfect example of the DS bringing something totally new to the table.

The best games are those that make the platform they're on look great, too. Phoenix Wright is another in a long line of DS-exclusive games that couldn't be done nearly as well on any other system - hence the DS' popularity. Ace Attorney's only real flaw is that you'll only play through once. But if you're looking for some brain-poking adventure, what a ride it is.

More info

DescriptionAn excellent, very unusual legal adventure game that will test your mind, if not your reflexes.
Franchise nameAce Attorney
UK franchise nameAce Attorney
US censor rating"Teen","Teen"
UK censor rating"12+","12+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)