"The Phoenix Wright formula is an effective one. Take one part point & click adventure, two parts courtroom drama and three parts ongoing story about a defense attorney in a world gone stir crazy, and you have a heavily text based but very enjoyable game. And that's a good thing, because Trials and Tribulations is more of exactly the same we've already seen for the past two games. In fact it's tempting to say that if you liked what came before, you can just stop reading and go and play - and if y..."
The Phoenix Wright formula is an effective one. Take one part point & click adventure, two parts courtroom drama and three parts ongoing story about a defense attorney in a world gone stir crazy, and you have a heavily text based but very enjoyable game. And that's a good thing, because Trials and Tribulations is more of exactly the same we've already seen for the past two games. In fact it's tempting to say that if you liked what came before, you can just stop reading and go and play - and if you did not, you can also stop reading and give it a miss.
Still here, then? If you're new to the series this isn't the right place to start. Granted, you can - all game mechanics are explained as they come and all story connections to the past games have appropriate flashbacks - but there is really no reason to. The third game offers nothing new on top of the previous ones, and to get the most out of the story and the characters, starting at the beginning is the only way to go.
As before, you (mostly) take the role of Phoenix Wright, not-so-rookie-anymore defense attorney, and you defend a variety of people falsely accused of murder. Consistently, the suspect was framed or very much in the wrong place, evidence suggesting their guilt plentiful, and worst of all, the court system is heavily biased against the defense. Witnesses can take the stand, tell outrageous lies, and be allowed to amend their testimony time and time again as you expose the contradictions. The prosecution can withhold information, manipulate witnesses, and leave the entire proceedings of the case to you. If you prove their theory is incorrect, you are always challenged to tell them what DID happen instead, and prove it - and if you cannot, the adorable but moronic judge hands down a guilty verdict and ends your game. It makes no sense, but it does make for a fun game.
The game alternates between investigation scenes, where you move from place to place, talk to people and gather evidence, and the courtroom, where you pick apart the testimony of witnesses by presenting the right evidence at the right time. Both aspects of the game are completely linear. Investigations are forced in a certain order (object X does not show up until you've talked to witness Y about subject Z), and do not end until you've progressed the story and gathered all the evidence you need in court the next day. Court proceedings are at a standstill every so often until you point out the one error in the current testimony of the witness, and only when you do does the next bit of dialogue take place. The result is always a well-crafted story with lots of twists, plenty of humour, and more puns and pop culture references than you'd expect in a dozen games. But there's a downside as well and that's that once you've played through the game's 5 cases - easily a 20 hour investment - any replay of the game will be precisely the same as before.
Graphics, sound effects and many characters and locations are recycled from the past two games. A few new and interesting characters do show up, and there is much more cohesion between the cases than before. 3 of the 5 cases are directly related to one another, two cases are in fact flashbacks filling in more details of Phoenix's and other people's past, and the final case (a long, convoluted, dark and very engaging affair) wraps up just about every outstanding plot line in the trilogy. As I said before, you'll appreciate it the most if you accompanied Phoenix all the way from the beginning.
Where Phoenix Wright - Justice for All added at least one new gameplay mechanic to the original, there is nothing new in the gameplay this time around. At least we're back up to 5 cases, one more than the previous game, but there are no new cases added on specifically for the DS version this time.
All in all, if you felt the previous games already got repetitive, then you won't find anything new here. If you're a newcomer, you have no reason to start anywhere else than with the first game. Trials and Tribulation is pure fan service to those who have already played the past two games and want their conclusion. It is here, it is a good story, and it's a fitting goodbye to Phoenix Wright. The next game in the series, due in the US in 2008, will feature a new protagonist, and more importantly it's a new DS game rather than a GBA port, and will come with new gameplay features at last. Trials and Tribulations gets away with recycling almost everything from the past two games, but barely, and this is about as far as it will stretch.
Community review by sashanan (November 22, 2007)
Sashanan doesn't drink coffee; he takes tea, my dear. And sometimes writes reviews. His roots lie with the Commodore 64 he grew up with, and his gaming remains fragmented among the very old, the somewhat old, and rarely the new.
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