Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations – Review (DS, Import)

Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations - CoverThe third entry in Capcom’s Ace Attorney series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, continues with the same core gameplay and presentation from the previous games, but manages to bring a much more interesting story with elements that carry over not only between cases, but as well as from the previous two games. While there’s the usual issues with the text display being naggingly slow when you want it fast, or that there’s a few puzzles that may take a bit of time to wrap your head around, the game is the strongest entry in the series to date. (Of course, it should be noted that I am reviewing the Import version, which has the “early” English localization which does have a few notable flaws, which Capcom says they will have fixed for the North American version. I am ignoring any such problems in my review).

Gameplay: A
Value/Replayability: A
Graphics: A-
Audio: A-

As the gameplay is pretty much exactly the same as the previous games, there’s no need to go into these details as they carry over. (My previous reviews for the first and second game are available.) The game is a point-and-click adventure game, where you have to talk to witnesses and collect evidence, and present such evidence in trials to point out contradictions to testimony. The game continues to have the Pysche-lock feature from the second game, as well as the “health meter” approach to mistakes in court. The graphics and audio are in the same style and keep the same use of 2D sprites throughout. There are a few leap-of-logic points to solving some of the puzzles, but the game drops a lot of hints of what you should be thinking, so at worst, it’s usually determining the right time to counter a witness’ testimony with a piece of evidence that you know fits.

The only changes I will note is that first, this game contains 5 cases and feels longer and with more meat than the second game, feeling closer to the first for overall length. The other change is that the game still uses the same fixed-rate display of text dialog to represent conversation tones, at least the first time you hear something. You will likely spend more of your time involved in waiting for the text and associated animations to play out than you will actually interacting with the game. I really wish that by thing point, they would offer at least an option to have text display faster from the start; the last case itself has about 1-1.5hr of post-case dialog with one point where you actually interact with the game, which is really painful.

Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations - ScreenshotStory: A+

Where this game really shines is the story. I know that each game came out successively, and that a trilogy wasn’t originally planned, but the last case in this game really builds off cases in the first two games and ties up this “chapter” of the Ace Attorney series (The 4th game will feature a new lawyer at the bar). While one can see where these previous cases fit into the final, there still seems to be the suggestion that the earlier cases were written to support this final 5th case. Thus, while its not important to have played the first two games (the critical elements of these cases are summarized for you), you do lose a lot of the overall story if you don’t spend the time to play them.

But even without the other two games, this entry has a lot more in terms of an overarching plot to the game itself. This element is a young woman that appears in 3 of the game’s 5 cases, with two of these being flashbacks to Mia Fey as the defense attorney instead of her protege Phoenix. The timing is done well here, as the first case gives you hints and sets up details that come in later, the second and third cases are more the usual fare for the series and are not directly connected to these other elements, with culmination of the fates of everyone within the 4th and 5th cases. The 5th case is particularly long, not so much as twisty-turny as the 5th case of the 1st game, but there are a couple of significant twists that extend it just as soon as you think the trial is over. But given that this is the “final chapter” for the current cast of characters, it definitely is a worthy case to end on.

Most of the major characters return, including Phoenix, Maya, Mia, Pearl, Edgeworth, and Franziska. The new prosecuting attorney, Godot, is a rather interesting character, as his demeanor sits somewhere between the cold calmness of Edgeworth and the wild Franziska, nearly always drinking coffee during trial (which gives several opportunities for spittakes).

Overall: A

Trials and Tribulations is an excellent successor to the series, making up for some of the small disappointments that were in Justice For All. The story is one of the better ones, as it not only overarcs within the game, but also the previous two games. The bulk of the rest of the game hasn’t changed, for better or for worse, if only more notably that I really wish there was a way to speed up the text display. The cases provided are challenging with lots of twists and makes for a great puzzle solving game. The only caution against this game is that those new to the series will not appreciate the full story if they start in with this title.

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