Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials & Tribulations
Reviewed by Edwin Kee, March 2008
Looks like everybody's favorite in-game lawyer, Phoenix Wright is back yet again in the third installment of his series, with a grand total of five more trials and tribulations heading his way this time around. Of course, you can't just release a second sequel to a game without introducing anything new, can you? There are a few small tweaks here and there, coupled with hilarious (and mysterious) new characters who are guaranteed to keep you chortling as you rack your brains trying to figure out various holes in testimonies given by dubious (and seemingly righteous) characters as well. Without much further ado, let us get down to the nitty-gritty at hand.
For those who are new to the entire Phoenix Wright series, this game requires a whole lot of reading and a clear mind while you're at it – I'd strongly recommend those who are hankering after shooting action to look somewhere else as this virtual courtroom drama has more twists and turns than an F1 track, requiring a fair bit of gray matter to solve the crime. You play the side of the defense, where in this game it won't be all Phoenix as I will describe in further detail below. Your opponent across the room would be the Prosecution who more often than not, seem to have an upper hand at all times in their case against your seemingly hopeless client, but somehow Phoenix tends to have more than one trick up your sleeve that will stump everyone else – including you!
The third iteration of the Phoenix carries forward tweaks made to Phoenix Wright 2: Justice for All, including the infamous Psyche-Locks. We are disappointed that this title does not take advantage of the DS' other unique features such as the microphone and fingerprint dusting segments used in the final case on the eponymous title.
You will fill the shoes of different defense lawyers throughout the game, with Mia Fey being in charge of the first case. While Mia is definitely a looker, her nasal voice over doesn't seem to suit her body, but it is something that you'll get used to it in a while. More gaps in the story are filled as you realize that Mia aims to acquit Phoenix of murder chargers in that case, and that is where both client and lawyer know each other. The next three cases will see a time warp to the present moment, where Phoenix is presented with a plethora of mind-boggling situations, but his doggedness in believing his client's innocence along with a dose of luck here and there will see him through. As for the final case, you get to hear how Miles Edgeworth is like as a defense attorney – We like his rather no-nonsense approach and sense of sarcasm, very British in all.
The game goes like this – you normally arrive at the scene of a crime, talk to the investigating officer and gather some clues. Once you have decided to represent the “culprit”, you will continue looking for more clues before moving on to the courtroom as witnesses are called to the stand and you try to find holes in their testimonies. You can push the witnesses at times without any penalties (your life bar), but certain situations require you to be more careful in your dealings. Should your life bar run out during a court case, the game ends there and you will have to resume from your last saved point.
Shorter cases will see you entering the courtroom once or twice, but as you get better at your vocation and go further into the game, you will notice that there will be many opportunities to update your clues and search for new ones as you make your way in and out of the courtroom, shooting down flawed testimonies one by one.
On some occasions, you will encounter witnesses who seem to clam up before revealing the truth. These are often denoted by Psyche-Locks which you must break – and to do so, you normally have to scout around for further clues and use that as evidence to break down their resistance. Be careful though, presenting the wrong evidence will see you lose ground on your life bar which will definitely add an element of panic whenever you enter the courtroom. Thankfully, your life bar can be replenished once you have successfully unlocked all the Psyche-Locks.
You will find yourself using the stylus and touchscreen most of the time – while the game itself is playable with the D-pad and buttons, it just isn't quite as efficient. We would suggest taking occasional breaks as cases can get very drawn out and protracted the further you go into the game, so your hand might feel a wee bit cramped. As usual, the control schemes remain the same as the first two iterations, with the novel use of microphone retained, enabling you to yell “Objection!” and “Hold It!” to raise the realism level a notch. I guess folks are still not too used to seeing people talk into the DS Lite's microphone, especially on a bus or train.
Since this game relies on a whole lot of text to get it moving, you will find many graphics from the previous titles. Characters look more refined though, and there were some tweaks in the drawings that help smoothen out the rough edges. There is an anti-aliased feel to it where faces of characters are concerned. Overall, the user interface and layout is exactly the same, which can be a good or bad thing. Folks who don't like reinventing the wheel will find that easy to jump straight in, while newer gamers who have just picked this up might think it to be rather dated. Thankfully, the fonts are of the right size and you definitely won't find any vision fatigue even after going at it for a few hours – chances are, the battery in your DS Lite or your brain will be the first to go instead. Overall, there is a manga feel to the title which suits it perfectly.
Other than Mia's rather nasal voice (The Nanny, anyone?), all the other sound bites are still as charming as they were a couple of titles back. Return of old faces and their voices definitely lend an air of continuity to the entire title, while the soundtrack goes with the flow. We love the courtroom soundtrack that changes whenever you are in different phases, especially the Testimony and Cross-Examination sections.
We hope that the strike from the screenwriters won't spill over to the Phoenix Wright series. After all, who can forget those colorful characters that are loved by the fans of this series? While it might get a little bit tedious during the investigation segments, all the courtroom action still retains its charm and intrigue from way back when Phoenix was a greenhorn. This is in all probability a title that you will play through once, but hey – if you have three other folks in your family who do not happen to play video games, I would say this is a pretty good way to get them started. You'd best get yourself another DS Lite first before you hook your family on this game though.
Tips & Tricks
− Save frequently as you never know when you might actually screw up during a court case. Good thing the save system works at virtually any segment of the game.
− It requires a logical mind to work out each case, so one would do well to pick up books on lateral thinking along the way.
− Pay careful attention to every word that proceeds from the witnesses' mouths. More often than not, a subtle contradiction is there that will probably be missed the first time round.
− Make sure you examine every single part of the crime scene as it can be rather easy to overlook a clue.