Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations

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Kei
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Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations

Post by Kei » Sun May 10, 2009 10:35 pm

THIS VIDEO GAME REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY STILTS. IT HAS BEEN REPOSTED WITH HIS PERMISSION.

If This Is Justice, Then I'm A Banana

I wonder how many people will get the reference? Probably none, but I guess that would be a good thing. Uncorrupted minds and all that. Anyway, on with the review.

Phoenix Wright: Trials And Tribulations is the third game in the Ace Attorney series. As you may have guessed from the title, these Nintendo DS games put the player in the three-piece suit of the talented defense attorney Phoenix Wright. As Phoenix, it’s your job to convince the judge to give your client a "Not Guilty" verdict.

If it were only that easy.

You see, the Ace Attorney games like to play fast and loose with the rules of the courtroom, and they revel in the surrealism of it all. Most cases follow the pattern of Phoenix objecting to contradictions in witness testimony, eventually fingering a different culprit via his own theory of how the crime went down that he creates on the fly, and spending the rest of the time desperately defending his theory from the prosecution’s objections and the real culprit’s false testimony. Most of the cases in Trials and Tribulations (or any Ace Attorney game, actually) follow this formula, but it hardly matters.

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Trust me when I say this particular effect looks really cool in motion.

The real strength of T&T lies in two aspects, one of which is the writing. Though there is typically at least one character in each of the five chapters that I want to strike from existence, most of the characters—and especially the main ones—have memorable designs and sharp dialogue. The writers manage to make the many shifts between comedy and gravity feel natural and save the melodrama for the most important plot points. It also helps that the comedy is usually genuinely funny.

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An example of the awesome character design.

The second strength is what I like to call the ego-boost factor. The games makes you feel really smart when you provide the right evidence when exposing contradictions or fleshing out Phoenix’s crazy—yet often accurate—theories of how the crime actually went down. This is especially true when each chapter nears its end, as that’s typically when the player sees all the pieces fall into place. The one exception is the very last case, which remains ridiculously convoluted right up to the final dialogue boxes (Occam’s razor would never work in the Ace Attorney universe).

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Yeah, the art team really likes speedlines.

Unfortunately, there are occasions when the player can be a little too smart for his or her own good. When presenting evidence, only one or (rarely) two pieces are considered “correct” by the game. This usually isn’t a problem, but there are a few times where a player can present “incorrect” pieces of evidence that, logically, should be correct. This mostly happens during the last case, where four or five items in the court record share a common truth. There can also be problems if the player thinks too far ahead of Phoenix and presents a piece of evidence that turns out to be “incorrect” because he or she hadn’t presented a foundational piece of evidence that he or she assumed was obvious or implied by the “incorrect” evidence. Thankfully, this happens very rarely, but it is still frustrating when it happens.

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One of Phoenix's signature moves: the Pointer Finger. Also on display: common sense.

All that said, PW:T&T, like the other PW games, is essentially an old-fashioned adventure game mixed with such a large amount of text boxes that it could almost be considered a visual novel. If you don’t already like adventure games, this game probably won’t make a believer out of you; but for those of you, like me, who still keep their old LucasArts adventure games on hand “just in case,” T&T definitely deserves a rental at the very least.
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