Few games, or anything, for that matter, will make you laugh as hard or as often as Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney. You play as young Phoenix Wright, an inexperienced defense attorney with aspirations to make it big. Almost every time, Phoenix ends up defending unusual clients with incredible odds stacked against them, and goes up against a colorful cast of characters, to say the least.
The humor is prevalent throughout the game, from people’s names such as April May, Lotta Hart, and Frank Sahwit (saw it), to the characters’ ridiculous personalities, to the hilarious script. Take this excerpt from the game as an example:
Detective Dick Gumshoe is a good-intentioned detective, but he is incompetent in many ways and doesn’t present himself too well. He usually ends up being taken advantage of, unbeknownst to him. He is talking to Phoenix and messes up on his name, to which Phoenix replies, “Um, no, my name isn’t Butz, it’s Phoenix Wright. You’re Gumshoe, right? Dick Gumshoe.”
Gumshoe: “Hey, it’s just Gumshoe to you, pal. Don’t call me Dick.”
Some other police officer from off screen: “Hey, Dick, come over here!”
The distinctive cast and smart dialogue make the game enjoyable and memorable, but beneath all of the funny business is a well-designed detective story that connects several different, seemingly singular cases into one coherent and surprising story. The game slowly reveals characters’ pasts, causing your opinions of them to change. Someone you thought was a ruthless prosecutor turns out to be a sympathetic character who became the way he was because of a traumatic experience he went through as a child. Once you know what motivates him and what he values, you can understand and relate to everything he does.
The experience of searching for evidence, questioning witnesses for information, and proving witnesses’ testimony wrong by presenting evidence in court never gets old. Objection!!! But the cases are never easy, and the prosecution puts together a formidable case against your clients. It takes several days of following even the tiniest leads and listening to witness accounts to figure out who really is responsible for the crime and prove your client’s innocence. It tests your powers of observation and deduction, but in a way that is fun.
Phoenix Wright is a game anyone can enjoy, and it poses dilemmas which challenge us to see what we value. For example, what happens when, during the course of a trial, you realize the person you’re defending is actually the one responsible for the crime? Do you choose to protect your client by forging evidence, or do you present the evidence proving your client is guilty? The situation is rarely black or white, but usually gray, and the game does a brilliant job of absorbing you into the narrative and making you love and hate, respect and despise, the various characters. The writing walks the fine line between being light-hearted and funny and serious and somber. For all of these reasons, and more, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney is nothing less than a work of art.