In gaming, there are often those titles that some people either love or hate. With the Phoenix Wright series it’s more a matter of some people “getting it” while others simply can’t see what all the hubbub is about. Personally, I fall into the former category, so I was excited when I heard news of the ace attorney coming to WiiWare. Does this bumbling gumshoe make the grade with his first foray onto consoles, or will fans of the franchise be left wondering how Wright ever passed the bar exam?
First of all, let’s clarify one very important point: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for WiiWare is not a new game in the series; it’s not an offshoot, side story, or reimagining of the original game. No, this is simply a direct port of the first game in the series originally for Nintendo DS (which was a direct port of the first game in the series for Gameboy Advance, released only in Japan). Yup, what we have here is a port of a port of a quirky, little point-and-click adventure from nine years ago. On DS, it was a welcome addition to the hardware’s library of games, since it was the first real opportunity for Western audiences to experience Phoenix Wright. But I have to tell you, on WiiWare, Phoenix looks like a fish out of water.
Let me elaborate further by saying that almost nothing of the original game has been changed, and though you can make a jerking motion with the Wii Remote in order to present evidence during court sessions (and some minor text changes have been added to explain the mechanic), Wii owners are getting a fairly archaic-looking and -feeling adventure here. For those who’ve already played through Ace Attorney, you would at least hope the novelty of using motion controls would add some enjoyment to the experience, but the fact of the matter is it doesn’t. Yes, you’ll hear the obligatory (and now culturally relevant amongst gamers) “Objection!” blaring from the controller each time you present evidence, but after the first waggle, the honeymoon’s over.
Which leaves us with a nine-year-old game to evaluate…
If you haven’t already played Ace Attorney, I can say with confidence this is still a very compelling adventure with loads of great, over-the-top characters and situations. The dialogue is occasionally out of vogue, but the double entendres and witty humor still hit their mark. Even with its sadly outdated production values, the game continues to be sexy, thrilling, and above all else, rewarding and fun.
You play as the spikey-haired, noob attorney, Phoenix Wright, whose first case sees him thrust into a lion’s den of corruption. You’ll have to investigate crime scenes and collect evidence, question witnesses, pressing them for pertinent information, as well as getting down and dirty in the courtroom. As a defense attorney, it’s your job to find the flaws in witness testimony and use the evidence at your disposal to reveal lies and, ultimately, exonerate your clients. The story and pacing are weaved together wonderfully, but it’s going to require gobs of patience on the player’s part in order to get over the shabby trimmings with which the game is presented.
With Wii Remote in hand, you can peruse your inventory of items by pressing the plus button, but the pointer functionality is never put to good use. Selecting items is handled with the D-pad and A button, as is moving the onscreen cursor around when examining various areas of the game. None of the gameplay mechanics are hindered by the controls, but there’s nothing about Ace Attorney that’s enhanced by being on Wii, either. The opposite is true, actually, since using the stylus on the DS is far more intuitive, and having the two elements – inventory and character interactions – broken up between the two screens of the DS also allowed for more practical investigation.
Normally, graphics don’t play a big role in my consideration of a game, but in an adventure, mood has a significant effect on the overall experience. Using crusty still images from a nine-year-old Gameboy game just isn’t going to cut it. The colors appear washed out, and the illustrations are pixelated. If you’re curling up on your couch or in for a long drive, the visuals of Phoenix Wright are perfectly acceptable when played on a handheld. Seeing them on a large TV screen, though, the visuals can be a shocking reminder of just how far along software technology has come over the years. Mind you, this isn’t intentional retro styling on Capcom’s part; this is simply a case of lazy porting.
It’s the same story with the game’s soundtrack. Nothing noticeable has been added or enhanced, and though the music does a great job of staying on task with the emotional weight of the story, it just sounds so… dated. No voice work has been added, and the only thing you’ll hear when characters exchange dialogue is the same tired text scroll and sound effects we’ve been hearing for years now.
Aside from the added text which explains how to use the Wii Remote to press witnesses, as well as the utterly senseless gesturing mechanic itself, there’s nothing really new or improved about the game. Players, therefore, will likely find themselves asking, “What incentive has Capcom given me to buy this game… again?” I’m still trying to figure that one out.
On the one hand, it’s really hard to be critical of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for WiiWare because the story and gameplay are still every bit as intriguing as they were on DS. You’re also getting a fairly meaty adventure here. However, it’s simply impossible to overlook the glaring lack of care put into bringing the game over to the platform; the whole premise of this port being on WiiWare feels inappropriate. Tack on the fact that Capcom wants you to pay an additional fee for content that should have been included in the initial download, and well, it’s easy to feel disgruntled.
I’m sure a lot of fans feel as though this is a classic everyone should, at some point, check out. The truth is, the handheld version is more fun to handle, the screen size means the production values are easier to swallow, and since these days you can probably find a copy of the DS game for about the same price, there’s really no reason to settle for this greatly inferior iteration.
As an aside, I do hope to see Phoenix eventually make a worthwhile appearance on consoles, one that lives up to the great legacy the series has now built up for itself. This one, though, isn’t a crowning achievement for Capcom, and throwing your money at the game will probably only serve to send the wrong message to the publisher.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 1.9 Graphics
Think PC adventures from the late 80s/early 90s, and you’ll likely conjure up a fitting image of what you can expect from this game’s visuals. 2.5 Control
Truly, why bother bringing such a game to Wii without making enjoyable use of the Wii Remote’s pointer functionality? 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music does a good job of conveying the emotional cadences of the story, as do the sound effects, but everything sounds blatantly electronic and out of date. 3.0
Still a compelling adventure but sorely out of place on the WiiWare platform. Rather than throwing fans a bone with extra content, Capcom is demanding an additional fee from players who already own the DS version.
3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.