A lawyer adventure game may not sound like the best idea, but Capcom Japan managed not only to make Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (逆転裁判 蘇る逆転, 2006) successful, they’ve created a franchise out of it. The current sequel count is five, with more on the horizon.
Also described as a “visual novel,” Phoenix Wright is a text-heavy game in which you play an up-and-coming defense attorney. During play, you’re either sniffing around for evidence or duking it out in the courtroom. Most of the interactions involve a simple touch and tap, whether it’s to search a crime scene, throwing out an objection in court or choosing that clever, winning dialogue option. The game succeeds through its simple-yet-snappy gameplay, over-the-top dramatic effects, and solid game writing — each chapter of the game reveals a gruesome mystery along with a cast of whacky personalities.
If you think this quirky Japanese game could not possibly translate well abroad…
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was sold out when it initially reached North American shores in 2006, forcing Capcom to ship more units the next month. (Though total sales in North America were and are still less than that of Japan.)
Originally developed for the Gameboy Advance, and then popularized during its Nintendo DS release, Phoenix Wright has also been released on Windows, the Wii and for iPhone/iPod.
Interestingly enough, the two genres that Phoenix Wright straddles, the visual novel (Japan) and the adventure game (US), are both small-time genres whose releases typically don’t make a big splash. For the adventure game genre, Phoenix Wright came at the right time; it and Telltale Games were often cited for reviving the genre in 2006 and beyond.
Article by Jason Li, October 20, 2010.