IGN Review of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials & Tribulations
Not too long ago -- about two years ago to the month, in fact -- the very first Phoenix Wright title graced American shores. A DS-modified port of a GBA game that came out in Japan four years prior, Phoenix Wright wasn't expected to garner much attention Stateside. Apart perhaps from niche gamers and adventure enthusiasts, the game didn't outwardly appeal to many. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney wasn't like any point-and-click adventure game, though. It had incredible personality, interesting characters, and better yet, allowed the gamer to take on the role of a lawyer. This kind of approach to the adventure genre was unique. It was interesting. It allowed the series to thrive in an environment not deemed fit to command a localization of the game when it first appeared in Japan.
Now, two years after the US was first shown Phoenix Wright in all his glory, he's back to wrap up his trilogy, a trilogy which Japanese gamers got to experience in full on the GBA by 2004. And not only do we find ourselves glad that he came into our lives in the first place, we're glad Capcom gave fans the opportunity to see the series through to its conclusion. Fans be warned; Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations is a must-own if you're a fan of the other two games. That much can be said from the outset. But this game, just like the other two titles in the series, isn't without its problems, either.
If you're not familiar with the Phoenix Wright games, the premise itself is easy enough to understand. You take the role of Phoenix Wright (as well as, from time to time, other characters). Phoenix is an attorney practicing law under a unique system where defendants are tried not by a jury of his or her peers, but by an all-powerful judge. As Phoenix, you are expected to talk to witnesses, gather evidence, and represent your client to the best of your ability in the court of law.
The entire game, existing solely in the realm of adventure gaming, is point-and-click on the Nintendo DS, never actually requiring a single button stroke whatsoever to play. This makes the game incredibly comfortable to pick up and play, as all you must do is hold the stylus and press a large button on the touch screen to continue the endless streams of dialogue that come your way. You also use your stylus to traverse between areas, view collected evidence and character profiles, and conduct all of your other business as an ace attorney. It's a great deal of fun to simply rest the DS unit on a table in front of you, or on your lap, and adjust your screen as you tap away with your pen. It's a relaxing game that you can spend your time with. You're never racing against the clock. The series has always been, and continues to be, a refreshing change of pace, even for the many gamers populating the legions of fandom for more action-oriented genres.
Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations features five cases to work through, just like the original (the second title in the trilogy, Justice For All, features only four cases). This is immediately a positive, since lengthy, intensively engaging cases are at the heart of what makes Phoenix Wright such a successful series. Game length is no issue here, as the game could easily take you ten or fifteen hours to get through, and perhaps even more if you're inclined to explore every crevasse of every case. All of the cases are separated into two parts, investigation and trial. There could be one investigation chapter and one trial chapter per case, or multiples of each depending on the detail and intensity of the case. Sometimes, as with the first and fourth cases in the game, there're no investigation chapters whatsoever.
What is a major issue, however, is the old Capcom MO. The layout of the game and the way the game is played and presented hasn't changed in any of the games in the trilogy. Capcom is absolutely infamous for doing this, especially with some of their more-loved series (Mega Man, Street Fighter, and all of their incarnations, for instance), and one can't help but wish that tired system would come to a screeching halt. This may not immediately seem like a negative. After all, good gameplay is good gameplay, right? This is true, of course, but when you factor in characters identical to characters in other games appearing seemingly for no reason, the issues start to mount (you'll meet Maggie Byrde again in this game, for instance
and would it have been that big of a deal to change the Judge to another character for some of Phoenix's cases?) The developers responsible for good series like Phoenix Wright need to realize that great games can continually be created while the way the game is presented or played can change. The game is also almost entirely linear, and there's no reason to play through a case again once you've already done so. When you've seen a case through from beginning to end, you've seen all it has to offer.
Disappointingly, Capcom seems to be headed in the direction of ruining the system that made Phoenix Wright so great in the first place. This is evidenced by the recent Japanese release of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. A new trilogy of Phoenix-like games, the first title uses an identical engine to the DS Phoenix releases, begging the question "Why!?" But this shouldn't be held against Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations, which itself manages to be a great game in its own right. What's fun is fun
we just don't want it to get overdone, played-out, and tired, like so many of Capcom's series end up.
Phoenix Wright fans will find everything they're looking for here. Phoenix is the lawyer in three of the five cases, and is the defendant in another. Some old favorites, such as Maya Fey and her cousin Pearl also appear regularly. For all of the complaints about the "same old" feel of the third Phoenix Wright game, it remains pretty cool to see characters from the other two titles and learn more about them. What's especially cool is learning how the various seemingly-unrelated cases in Trials and Tribulations actually fit together, as well. Play to your heart's content, and you will no doubt see what we mean.
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