I knew that there had been quite a lot of Phoenix Wright games on the Nintendo DS and for a long time it was something that I meant to try. For whatever reason, I never did – until recently. Having now played the first game in the series, it’s clear that I should have played it much sooner, because it’s a fantastic experience.
The game follows a young attorney named Phoenix Wright who’s only just getting started as a lawyer. He works under a woman named Maya Fey who is a sort of mentor to him and he often finds himself coming up against prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth (perhaps my favourite character). Maya’s sister, Mia (easy to mix up those names) also comes into it as an assistant to Phoenix. You’ll get to know all of these characters very well as you go through the trials of various cases – getting many glimpses into their fascinating (and sometimes intertwining) lives. The cast of highly developed characters is one of my favourite things about the game.
The gameplay is broken up into two sections for each case: investigations and trials. During investigations, you explore the scene of the crime and look for evidence (using the touch screen). You also get to question witnesses and to present different items to them in order to get more information. Then, during the trials, you have to listen to the testimonies of witnesses and ‘object’ when you notice any inconsistencies (these ‘objections’ have probably become the most iconic part of the game).
It’s a really great way of making you feel involved in the story and noticing an extremely minor inconsistency is really satisfying. As you become more and more invested in the characters, you’ll want the trials to go your way so that they’ll all be okay. It’s honestly quite an emotional roller-coaster and I personally felt very invested in what was happening.
Having said that – the story is not perfect. There was one particularly lengthy case in the middle which felt, to me, like it was just filler and I was kind of starting to bore of the game at that point. Thankfully, I did pick up again almost immediately afterwards. The investigations could also be a bit bothersome, in that it could sometimes be really difficult to know where to go/who to talk to. Similarly, some trails were really hard and if you lose a trial, you have to start it again – this then means having to go through loads of dialogue again, which is not fun.
If you’re playing anything other than the original Japanese GBA version (which is pretty likely) there’s a whole other case after the end of the main story. In this part of the game, Phoenix has a new assistant called Ema, who encourages him to defend her sister in a case. At first, this felt like a bit of a pointless bonus – but stick to it! It really pays off and turns out to have deep significance for the overall story.
So, overall, I strong recommend this game. If you favour story and character development in your game, you’ll love it – although if you’re more of a gameplay person, it may not be for you.