Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney/Gameplay

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The gameplay is split into two modes: Trial and Investigation. In trials, you have to cross-examine witnesses, point out contradictions with evidence, and make important decisions that will affect the outcome of the verdict. During investigations, you must find clues and talk to people in many places to prepare before each trial, except for the first case. These are usually very easy to pick up.

"Maya, you could have just checked the StrategyWiki Wikibooks guide, you know..."

Trial mode

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This mode is mostly played in third person view, and your actions will decide the fate of your clients. There are five exclamation marks at the top right corner of the screen while cross-examining; each will be lost as a penalty for a severe mistake. Losing all five will make the judge end the trial (and thus the game) with a "Guilty" verdict. You can access the Court Record at the top right corner of the touchscreen (or by pressing R in the Game Boy Advance or Windows versions).


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This is a crucial part of gameplay. During trials, witnesses will testify for the court, then the cross-examination will begin. You must find contradictions in their testimonies and present evidence to support your claims.

  • Nintendo DS version: The touchscreen has forward and backward arrows (used for circling statements of a testimony) at the middle, along with "Press" and "Present" at the top corners.
  • Game Boy Advance and Windows versions: Press left and right to move between statements. Press L to press a witness for more information, and press R to open the Court Record and present evidence.


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A multiple-choice screen (Nintendo DS version)

You can press any part of a testimony. Doing so will generally provide a little more information. There are almost no risks, so get in the habit of pressing all statements. There are times when you have to press certain statements in order to proceed. Sometimes, pressing a statement will cause witnesses to provide new ones.

Occasionally, pressing a statement will provide you with a multiple-choice decision. You need to choose the correct option to advance most of the time, but if you choose the wrong one, you can simply press the same statement to display the multiple-choice screen again. If there is an important multiple-choice decision (i.e. if the exclamation mark meter appears), the judge may penalize you for making the wrong choice.


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When there's a detail that contradicts a piece of evidence in the Court Record, you can present it to the court. This will refute the witness's claims and ultimately help your client. If you present the wrong evidence or present it on the wrong statement, you will be penalized. The judge will often ask you to present evidence to back up your arguments. In most cases, submitting the wrong one will get you a penalty.

Court Record

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The Court Record contains two parts: Evidence; where items related to the case are kept, and Profiles; where information about people related to the case are noted. These can be collected in both modes. The Court Record can hold eight entries per page; you can toggle between pages to view them. Clicking an entry will give you a brief description of it. You can also "Check" some specific items to take a closer look at them.

Case 5 has a new way to check evidence: viewing them in three dimensions. You also receive more tools to perform additional tasks, since scientific investigation is key in this case.

Investigation mode

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Options in investigations (Nintendo DS version)

This mode is played in first person view, and there are many locations you have to visit (some are wider than others). To advance the plot, you must find clues and talk to people. You can't lose the game during investigations.

When you complete everything you need to do, the chapter will end automatically and you will begin the next day in court. You can access the Court Record like in Trial mode to keep track of the evidence you have, and the people involved in the case. The main screen displays four options you can do:

  • Nintendo DS version: Select "Back" to return from any of them, along with a button used for moving the screen left/right (only if you're at wide locations).
  • Game Boy Advance and Microsoft Windows versions: Press B button to return from any of them. Press L button in wide locations to pan the screen left/right.


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This option allows you to use a cursor to select objects at the current location. If there's something you can look into, an "Examine" button will appear at the bottom right corner of the touchscreen (in the Game Boy Advance and Windows versions, the finger pointer will "tap" at the object). Pressing it will trigger a discussion, which will either give you some information or add the object to the Court Record. Examining is tricky and required many times to proceed, so be sure to examine all you can in each location.

Using this will show different locations you can go to, some can only be accessed from another. You may have to visit the same place more than once in a case. When certain criteria are met, new people or new evidence may show up at certain locations.

This option is available only if you meet someone at a location. To gather information about the case, you must talk to people using this option, which will display a list of topics to discuss. You may unlock new topics by discussing one or by presenting items in the Court Record to a person. A covered topic will show a red check mark before its name. Remember to cover all available topics with each person; you might learn some useful information.


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Presenting items during investigations is mostly the same as in court, but you won't get penalized, so present any item to anyone as much as you like. Sometimes you need to present an item to someone to advance the plot. Like the "Talk" option, you can only do this if you meet somebody at a given location.

Press Start (or Enter for the Windows release) at anytime while playing to save. You will also be asked to save after finishing a chapter of a case (when the "To be continued." appear). When loading your data, you can load from save point or from chapter start.