reviewed Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
This review contains spoilers
Coming back to this game after almost a decade kinda had me questioning why I looked back on the cases on display so fondly. Maybe it's because it was the first game of its kinda I had played, but on replaying this I found the writing to be all over the place. Rather than a more complete review I just wanted to go case-by-case.
The first case is fine, a good intro to the series and since it's the first case in the series I don't really have any hangups on it being so short and simple.
The second case loses me entirely. I remember being very shocked at the death of Mia when I first played, but in retrospect her death was WAY too premature for the game's own good. The entire case hinging on Mia needing to possess her sister just to tell Phoenix to LOOK AT THE OTHER SIDE OF A RECEIPT is dumb as hell, and I don't think Phoenix being a rookie is a good enough excuse for this level of stupidity. Redd White is built up as this giant force that has the police and the courts at his beck-and-call, but ultimately he proves to be shockingly incompetent and ends up being wasted potential.
Not much to say about Case 3, for better or for worse. I think it's a decent mystery and I don't really mind having an unrelated case to break the tension.
Cases 4 and 5 are pretty good in my opinion. Not because the mystery itself was particularly well-executed, but because of the characters of Edgeworth and Manfred Von Karma just being so damn entertaining to watch. Von Karma is a cartoon villain which makes for an appropriate end to the first game. I think the final cases tie things up nicely and create a nice, neat arc for Edgeworth, so I'd say it ends on a high note.
I did however have a frustrating moment when trying to recall how Manfred killed Gregory; it made sense to me that Von Karma would seek to intentionally seek out and remove the second bullet from the crime-scene in order to implicate Miles as the murderer, but when I tried to go down that line of thinking I ended up with a game over because the game wanted me to figure out the FAR more outlandish theory that the second bullet was IN Von Karma's shoulder this whole time. It just goes to show that Ace Attorney isn't really about being a good detective, but just about picking the right item and trying to guess what insane theory Phoenix is thinking that will ultimately turn out to be right. I'm sure most people can relate to this frustration if they've ever played these games, and it's unfortunate that the player can figure out the mystery too early and be railroaded while the cast plays catch-up, or that you could come up with a theory that makes perfect sense, only for the game to shoot you down with no explanation.
The bonus case is probably my favorite on offer and it really feels like Damon Gant is the type of character that Redd White should've been; a cunning man with the law at his disposal, and working with Edgeworth to bring him down feels way better than Mia giving you the answer.
Overall though I think what carries Phoenix Wright isn't the quality of it's writing, but rather it's characters and how they interact. Edgeworth's stuffiness peeling away to reveal a vulnerable, flawed man. Phoenix's go-get-em attitude as he basically stumbles his way through each case by bidding for time and throwing out theories he knows is wrong. Maya's bubbly personality and how she riffs off of Nick. Von Karma's regal demeanor being revealed to be a cover for his more immature, bitter side. Gumshoe being a well-meaning idiot and his bromance with Edgeworth. And the Judge being a loveable moron who has NO right being the judge of anything. This wonderful cast comes together to create a fun story that wraps together nicely. It may be the most inaccurate depiction of any sort of justice system committed to a game, but it's a game I have a REALLY hard time disliking.
Reviewed on Feb 07, 2023