Preview: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

Nintendo has always been the home of oddities and peculiarities in the gaming world; at this early stage in the DS' lifetime, we've already seen more original titles than on all other formats in the last 5 years. Surgery simulations, dating mini-game extravaganzas, player-drawn puzzlers and a whole load more stylus, microphone and duel-screen-based action has made it one of the most exciting platforms in gaming. You really have to wonder though, will there ever be a place in the world for lawyer sims? Capcom certainly seem to think so…

While it is part of a series of GBA titles, there has certainly been nothing like Phoenix Wright released outside of Japan. You play the role of the Phoenix Wright, the titles namesake, as (you guessed it) a lawyer, or 'Ace Attorney'. It's your job to take charge of cases and make sure you defend your client the best you can. If you don't manage to, it's game over and your client will be picking up soap from a grimy prison floor for the coming years.

Gameplay is looking to be surprisingly fun, though. Anyone who's played the likes of Broken Sword will know that text-based titles can be hugely addictive, and wholly fulfilling. While not quite a point and click adventure, Phoenix Wright certainly borrows aspects from the genre, as well as turn-based RPG's. You will have to interview various suspects and witnesses to gain information for your case in a fashion not too dissimilar to that seen in the aforementioned Broken Sword titles. Later on, this information will be vital to winning your case.

In the run up to the courtroom battle, you will also have to investigate crime scenes. Finding the right evidence is an integral aspect of play; while many objects may prove to be pointless, others can bridge the gap between success and failure; then in Resident Evil-style, you can search though individual pieces of evidence for more clues. It all seems very in-depth, and depth is one thing that the DS is dearly lacking. While anyone can have fun on pointless mini-games in Wario Ware, Phoenix Wright is exactly the type of game the DS currently needs more of.

The main bulk of Phoenix Wright's gameplay comes down to the courtroom battles, though. After gathering all of your information and evidence you will have to prove your client's innocence. Prior to each case, you'll see who the guilty party is, but the real challenge comes from actually proving this. You can call different people to the stand, and as they speak it's up to you to force information out of them, and uncover lies. The top screen on the DS shows the manga-style conversation, and on the screen below you can scour your information to see if there is anything that relates to what has been said; then you can either choose to continue, press the suspect or present evidence. As the game progresses, things will get a whole lot tougher, and stories will be more convincing and harder to pick through.

My only slight worry is that, after a while, the experience could get a little dull; there's only so much you can do with finding evidence, interviewing witnesses et al before it becomes all too formulaic and needs an injection of variety. Of course, if anyone can make it work, it'll be Capcom; when, exactly, was the last time they let us down?

While it may not hit you as a great idea at first, when you really think about, Phoenix Wright makes so much sense. It will be a title that makes you work for success, but truly rewards you in the end. While there's no way of knowing how good it will be at this stage, there's no doubt in my mind that this will be an engrossing and original experience. Keep an eye out for more news at Revo-Europe as it comes, and pray for a European release date soon…

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