“Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Official Casebook Vol. 1 – The Phoenix Wright Files” Review

“Phoenix Wright:  Ace Attorney” is an unusual video game series.  Murder mysteries and courtroom comedy/drama set up in a point-and-click, action-free system should not – by the logic of many people who play video games – be popular.  But “Phoenix Wright” defied those expectations and provided those who played the games hours of entertainment.  Enough entertainment to spawn not only two spin-off series (“Apollo Justice:  Ace Attorney” and the forthcoming “Miles Edgeworth” game) but also a manga series, the first volume of which I am reviewing today.

“Phoenix Wright:  Ace Attorney – Official Casebook Vol. 1 – The Phoenix Wright Files” is an anthology-style manga volume starring the characters from the video game series in short stories by a number of manga writers and artists.  The stories retain a great deal of the humor found in the video game series while filling in what happens to Phoenix and friends when they’re between cases.

Readers do not need to know a lot about what happened in the video games to enjoy this.  The stories allude to some of the cases, but do not reference them so much that the reader would be confused about what the characters are talking about.  The writers and artists in many cases also give the reader enough background about the characters so their relationships and motivations are understood without overwhelming them with information.

Also, despite the wide variety of artists involved with this book, the characters are all still recognizable as their iconic selves, which is key when numerous people are drawing licensed characters.

Yet this book’s biggest strengths are also some of its weaknesses.  Like with many licensed comics, the main story takes place in another medium, in this case the video game series.  As a result, all the character and story development for Phoenix and co. takes place there.  So, while entertaining, the manga does nothing to add depth to the series.

And while the book’s stories are independent from the game for the most part, it’s not a perfect separation.  A few stories reference the games a little too much for a casual fan, and some stories could have explained character relationships and motivations a little more.

Finally, there doesn’t appear to have been much communication between the editors and creators, at least in terms of coming up with story ideas.  The reason I say this is there are two different stories in this book about Phoenix’s assistants finding and adopting a kitten, only for him to say they can’t keep it.

Still, the good points far outweigh the bad, enough for me to pick up Volume 2 when it is released in early 2009.

Overall, this was a decent book, and “Phoenix Wright” fans will enjoy it as an entertaining addition to a rock-solid video game series.  And for people who are new to the adventures of the crusading defense attorney, this book could provide an hour or so of pleasant diversion.

Stars:  3 out of 5

Dry slaps:  1, for the points I mentioned above

GS Reviewer: Luke

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