Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review

By Sterling McGarvey - Posted Jan 22, 2010

Phoenix Wright's search for truth and justice makes its way to WiiWare. If you missed out on the DS adventure, this downloadable version gives you a second chance to experience the drama of the courtroom.

The Pros
  • A decent port of a cult classic
  • Worth playing if you've never tried it
  • Motion controls are as fun as stylus controls
The Cons
  • Nine year-old graphics aren't stellar on the big screen
  • Nothing new
  • Excellent fifth case is DLC coming in a few months

Since its Western debut in 2005, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has captured the hearts of millions of gamers worldwide with its unique blend of courtroom drama and quirky characters. The Nintendo DS release combined four cases from the 2001 Japan-only Game Boy Advance title and added a case designed from the ground up for Nintendo’s touch screen hardware. Capcom has seen fit to bring the initial four cases to WiiWare in a neat $10 package. If you’ve held off on trying out the series, or you’ve never been able to find a DS copy, this digital release is a stellar opportunity.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Check Out My Awesome Suit

In Phoenix Wright, players are cast in the role of the spiky-haired rookie barrister who is part detective-part defense attorney for four murder cases. The text-driven Ace Attorney series centers around a relatively straightforward framework: A murder occurs and it’s up to Phoenix to represent a client who’s been unjustly arrested and accused of the crime. Throughout the case, players seek out evidence that can be used to pick apart witness testimonies to reach the truth and ultimately free their client.

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Shake the Wiimote for Justice

It’s a proven mechanic, and it works well here. Although the WiiWare instructions indicate that this version is a port of the European DS release, the single-framed screen approach evokes the Game Boy Advance era, which fits the series. The gameplay has always been exceptionally simple and while the DS version allowed for more intuitive gameplay with the stylus, the button taps on the Wii remote suffice. In the same vein that PW:AA DS allowed you to use the DS microphone to shout “Hold It,” and “Take That,” to stop witnesses during cross-examinations, this adaptation lets you waggle the remote, and most importantly, perform Phoenix’s iconic “Objection” gesture when pointing out a glaring contradiction in someone’s testimony.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Approach the Bench

Something to note about this WiiWare release is that it only the first four cases from the DS game. The fifth case, “Rise from the Ashes” will be a pay-to-play download (admittedly, a cheap 100 Wii Points) and releases a few months after PW:AA’s Wii launch. Also, if you’ve played through the DS game, there’s nothing new here and it’s the same experience you’ve already enjoyed. The Wii isn’t exactly a graphical powerhouse, but it’s hard to forget that you’re playing a nine year-old Game Boy Advance game (remember, the DS game is a port, too). Capcom’s adaptation for widescreen TVs is most appreciated – there’s a scrolling background with the game logo that looks much better than artificially stretching out the aspect ratio -- but there’s only so much the publisher can do with the look of the core game.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

No Objections Here

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney makes a fine transition from two generations of handheld hardware to WiiWare. The formula behind the series works as well on a big screen as it does on a small one, even if the visuals are a bit long in the tooth. The motion controls feel as natural and welcome as microphone-based interjections do in the DS version. It’s unfortunate that newcomers will have to wait a few months to experience the stellar fifth case, which is arguably one of the finest plots seen in the series, but at least it’s a one dollar download. If you’ve been curious about the Ace Attorney series but have never had the chance to partake, you should download this debut without objection.