Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations
The third installment of the Phoenix Wright series, Trials and Tribulations, once again puts you in the shoes of the now somewhat famous defense attorney the game series is named after. Fans of the prequels will find more of the same, which can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on your state of mind.
A simple explanation of the gameplay in Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations (which remains exactly the same as the first two games) is a Ã¢â‚¬Å“lawyer simulation game.Ã¢â‚¬Â¯ However, such a simple explanation is far too trite and borders on incorrect. While you do play the role of a lawyer, the experience is hardly a realistic simulationÃ¢â‚¬â€¯instead the game plays out as a text-heavy adventure that is split into two portions. One half has you moving around to various locations and either talking to witnesses to find out more about your case, or examining said locations to try and find evidence to use during the trial.
The second half is, of course, the trial itself. A trial consists of you, playing as Phoenix Wright, matched up against a prosecutor. Witnesses will take the stand, give testimony, and have cross-examinationsÃ¢â‚¬â€¯this all may sound like a real life trial, but it hardly plays out that way. The general flow of the game has the prosecution calling witnesses to the stand, they give a testimony, and you cross-examine them to expose their lies. Everyone always lies, and through the revealing of these lies, you prove your client is innocent.
If that sounds a bit bizarre or contrived, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because it is. Somehow lying makes a witnessesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ testimony more reliable, and it is initially counter intuitive to make your own client look bad on the stand. Despite the awkwardness of this premise, if you can accept the fact that you arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actually playing a simulation at all, it all unfolds as an interesting sort of logic-adventure game. The characters and stories you encounter are fun and amusing, and it is often rewarding to see your real life logic turn into the acquittal of your client.
Unfortunately, it is this very same trait that is the most frustrating part of the game. During the trial, you press witness testimonies to unearth lies, and present evidence youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve collected to support your (often outrageous) claims. This becomes problematic when you know what you want to say to show your clientÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s innocence, but simply donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what the game wants you to do to officially prove it. This, coupled with the occasional point where the game wants you to submit a particularly arbitrary and non-intuitive piece of evidence, can be extremely frustrating, and either force you to consult a walkthrough, or to simply try every piece of evidence you have collected. You do have a life bar that decreases every time you present an incorrect clue and results in a game over if it is depleted, but the easy and efficient save/load system makes this game mechanic pointless. The most punishing part of this tactic is the insane amount of duplicate text you have to read as you continually present the wrong item to the judge.
The first thing fans of Phoenix Wright will notice is that the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s graphics are identical to the first two titles in the series, both literally and figuratively. Characters such as Phoenix, Maya, and the judge are simply reused in this game. New characters obviously have new artwork, and it is in the same anime-like style. Each character has a full body portrait that appears against a static background, although this doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always change depending on who is speaking, which can sometimes get confusing given the amount of text there is to read. As it sounds, the graphics are pretty simple, but they all look good and fit the gameplay nicely.
The gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s music is good, and the developers did a nice job of tailoring the tunes to certain situations or characters, allowing the mood to be shifted as events unfold or specific individuals take the spotlight. The sound effects, like much of the game in general, have been recycled from previous titles, but are still successful and enjoyable (shouting out Ã¢â‚¬Å“Objection!Ã¢â‚¬Â¯ or Ã¢â‚¬Å“Take that!Ã¢â‚¬Â¯ at the game, or to your friends and family, never seems to get old).
In a way, Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations is a game that is less than the sum of its partsÃ¢â‚¬â€¯on an individual level the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s graphics, gameplay, and sound are both intriguing and solid. However, given that the game has evolved in almost no way at all since the original cheapens the experience a bit. The developers have certainly found a formula that works, but it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t perfect, and the fact that none of the kinks in the formula have been worked out, and the seemingly low production values of the game (most notably the reused sound and artwork) is a bit disappointing.
Really, it boils down to three different possibilities: either you are a fan of the series and simply want more of the solid gameplay Trials and Tribulations predecessorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s founded, in which case picking up this game is a no-brainer; or you have played one of the previous titles, had your fill of being an ace attorney, and shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give this game a second glance. Finally, newcomers to the Phoenix Wright scene: you can really choose any of the three games out there and have a nearly identical experience, and pick up the other titles afterwards if you feel so inclined.