The events of the game are not limited to just courtroom drama, as you'll take your investigation to the scenes of crimes, interviewing witnesses on their home turf and interacting with the defendants and police officers down at the precinct. For each trial other than the first one, you'll begin with the news of the murder and the subsequent arrest. Then you'll meet up with the defendant to take on the case, and after that you'll get the opportunity to explore the scene of the crime. This part of the procedure is critical for procuring evidence and for getting testimonies you'll have to uncover in the courtroom. This gives the game a whole Law and Order vibe, as you play the role of both the detective and the lawyer for each case.
At many points during the game, you'll be given the opportunity to choose between multiple options, whether it's to direct a line of questioning a certain way or to reveal new information. Though you'll have a genuine desire to get the correct answer (probably because of the rich reactions of the characters), all choices inevitably lead to the same result. So if you pick "Give up" as opposed to "Press harder," your legal partner will stop you and say "Oh come on, you can't give up now!" This forces you to object anyway. This makes the gameplay really safe, and if you remember that it's almost impossible to lose the game, you might not be compelled to think out the reasoning fully. Instead, you may guess for a heavy portion of the game. What makes the gameplay significant, though, and what will ultimately drive you to want to come up with the correct answer is the way in which the characters interact with one another...and with the pitiful but adorable Phoenix Wright. It's almost impossible not to find him endearing, and the numerous ways in which other people in the courtroom--including the judge, the prosecuting attorney, and even the witnesses--pick on him will have you searching to come up with any way to get him an edge.
The presentation of the game is really quite unique and outstanding. The graphics are simple but work very well to reveal the personality and mood of the characters. Though they're not taken from an existing anime, they're cohesive enough that you would think this entirely probable. Each one is over-the-top, from the naive Phoenix and the severe but gullible judge, to the sexy, evil, and quirky characters you get on the witness stand.
Very much like any evening drama or soap opera, you'll revisit the same characters in multiple trials, and you'll learn more about them and their relationship to Phoenix as the game progresses. You'll get as much information about the characters in their appearances as you do from what they say to you, as everything is revealed in their mannerisms and in their reactions to the events of the case. And although it's almost always clear what Phoenix is thinking, since he generally grimaces about some new piece of evidence or the action of the other attorney, he frequently makes asides that reveal how he really feels about a person or something that's just happened. Of course, the music and sound effects do an excellent job of keeping you clued in to the drama as well. When things get particularly hectic for Phoenix, the music speeds up appropriately. It gets dour when times are tough, and a tuneful reveal plays when something noteworthy is discovered. There's an aspect of the game's atmosphere, most noticeable within the sound effects, that makes Phoenix Wright almost feel like a fighting game. The cross-examination graphic shows the two attorneys going head-to-head, and the sound of unsheathing swords plays during moments of conflict. It's this facet of the presentation that makes the game feel really unique and much more compelling than your average adventure game, and it gives you the incentive to really want to win each case.
Phoenix Wright is a unique game that capitalizes on the DS touch screen and its microphone functionality wonderfully. Depending on your murder-mystery skills, you might find the occasional puzzle too difficult, or you might find the occasional puzzle offers you too much help. But despite being a little linear at times, it's completely satisfying. You'll get a kick out of uncovering clues, revealing different aspects of the characters' personalities, and ultimately solving each case. If Phoenix Wright starts any kind of trend, those fearing the demise of the adventure genre need not worry any longer. Adventure games are back and are hipper than ever. And they have Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney to thank for it.