Great characters, witty writing, and superb music make Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney quite the experience.
That being said, they are almost nonexistent in the western world. Unfortunately, some of them are pretty good but never make their way across the pond. So, why exactly would a game of this kind be popular in a place where most gamers don't even know they exist? Sorry, but even I don't know the answer to that question. Maybe it's because it was developed by Capcom, or maybe it's just a genuinely good game. Either way, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney and its three sequels have quite a strong following over on this side of the Earth.
As the title suggests, you play as an up-and-coming defense lawyer by the name of Phoenix Wright. You defend suspected criminals in a court of law, and you have quite a few methods of doing so. When you enter the court, where the main parts of the game take place, you'll be faced with a few tasks. First off, you'll be introduced to what is actually going on in the case. After, you can start examining witnesses. You can press their statements for more information, or present evidence at any of their statements to prove a contradiction.
When not in court, you take direct control of Phoenix and can investigate the crime scene and surrounding areas. This allows you to question different characters for information, collect evidence, and more. There is a lot of cool stuff that happens at these parts, such as a few story events, but for the most part, these sections of the games are not as fun or intriguing as the court sessions. I would end up playing through these parts as fast as possible in some cases to get to the next court scene.
It's really fun proving people wrong and discovering the truth of the situation. This is helped by a really solid story complete with death, betrayal, friendship and plot twists galore. The translation of the story is spot on, with few grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, or cases of broken English. Thankfully, there's nothing like Zero Wing in sight. The writing of the dialog is also well done and feels natural. It's witty and you'll probably find yourself laughing on many occasions. There is a large cast of characters, important and minor, that you will probably end up loving (or hating). All of this helps to immerse you in the story, and this aspect of the game is extremely satisfying.
Seeing as how this game was originally on the Game Boy Advance in Japan, and that this is a port, there isn't much DS-specific functionality to speak of. You can click through text and menus with the stylus. Additionally, you have the option of shouting "Objection!" in to the microphone when you feel like raising an objection, but this can be done via the stylus too. For this edition of the game, though, there was an extra case added to the end which features some mini-game style forensic work involving the touch screen and microphone, but they aren't particularly deep or entertaining.
The visuals in the game are quite nice. The sprites of the characters have a lot of detail to them, although they are not really animated much. The back drops of the environments during the investigation scenes are also done in great detail, and when looking for evidence you have to look closely. Next up is the sound design, which apart from the story, is the most amazing part of this game. There is a good selection of tracks, for each different part of the game. Some characters even have their own themes. During the intense parts of the court sessions, the music helps to increase the tension and makes it that much better. You know a game's audio is good when there are multiple orchestral concerts dedicated to it, right?
There are 4 cases in the game, plus the bonus one with the touch screen controls. Excluding the introductory case, which is fairly short, each case can take 1-2 hours, sometimes more. After you complete the game, you can replay any case you want, so there is a bit of replay value. Since you can probably find the game for abut $20 nowadays, I say it's definitely worth it. At least check it out for the music alone.