When I review games for you, my adoring audience, I try to play through the entire game or at least get as far as I can with what little skill I have. I am sad to say that this is not the case with this review. I received the game as a gift from my husband who thought that I might like it (Our official policy is to buy each other presents we would want hence I received Grand Theft Auto 4 while he got boxed sets of news Radio). At first I did like it, until I hit a brick wall in the tutorial level. I hunted down a walkthrough and got through the tough spot. Then the game began in earnest, and I was lost. Rather than play through this game with a walkthrough always open on my laptop while I played on my DS, I simply stopped playing. When a game becomes work, it’s your cue to stop. So I apologize if this review is not as detailed or meaty as usual. I did try.
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations is the third game in a series for the DS. Perhaps I would have been better off starting with the first game, but I play what’s given to me. Your task is to defend your client (who is always innocent as far as I can tell) by gathering evidence, interrogating witnesses, and effectively solving the crime at the trial. The closest genre I can compare it to is a good old fashioned adventure game (a personal favorite which is why I was so disappointed over this game). Instead of maintaining or managing an inventory of random objects you manage evidence and testimony.
The tutorial takes you back in time to when our protagonist, Phoenix Wright is accused of murder. You play as Mia Fey, a fledgling attorney. You are assisted by your boss, who spends most of his time making jokes about his hemorrhoids. It is a bit disconcerting to see such cartoonishly drawn figures making ass jokes, especially such poor ones. Anyway, you must prove Phoenix’s innocence and the guilt of his girlfriend. I sailed through most of the tutorial but came across a stumbling block near the end. I knew she did it and I knew how, but I had a great deal of trouble finding the right piece of evidence to prove it. This would be the first time I came across the problem of communication in the game. Half the time it’s difficult to determine the best course forward because the game’s prose does not make it clear what they want from you. This leads you into the frustrating and tedious territory of guess and check. And to make sure that you can’t rely on this method, you have a limited number of guesses until you lose the case.
In order to avoid losing the first case, I hopped online and hunted up a walkthrough for the game. I found the answer I needed, slapped myself in the head for not figuring it out myself, and moved on. And then the real trouble started as I finally got to play as Phoenix Wright. A sacred urn from the village Phoenix’s assistants hail from is scheduled to be on display at a local museum, when it is stolen. Your sidekicks urge you to help them recover the urn and you reluctantly start up an investigation. And that’s all I know because I couldn’t get any further in the game.
There are a few basic instructions about how to conduct an investigation in the instruction manual, but nothing terribly helpful. There were all sorts of things I wanted to take a closer look at, but the game wouldn’t let me do so. It was so frustrating that it brought one of the primary disadvantages of handheld games to the fore. It is far more tempting to hurl a DS at the wall rather than a bulky console. I resisted the impulse and continued to tap at every section of the crime scene trying to get anything that would allow me to advance further in the game. After an hour of futile tapping I was faced with the choice of shutting down and walking away or calling up the walkthrough again. The idea of constantly looking up what the next step should be didn’t sound very appealing so I popped out Phoenix Wright and popped in Final Fantasy.
This is not a game I would recommend to anyone other than those who are already fans of the series. Obviously, if you like the other two Phoenix Wright games, this is more of the same, and you are sure to enjoy it. For everyone else a note of caution, I would recommend starting at the beginning of the series and trying the game out first before purchasing it. Considering the popularity of the series, I’m sure there is something I’m missing, so I leave it to you the reader to determine if you have the wit and patience to tackle Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations.
This columnist would love to hear your thoughts on her work. All glowing praise should be sent to her via the link on our 'About Us' page. Hate mail on the other hand, should be directed to whoever assigned Darth Vader to the PS3 version of Soul Calibur 4 and not to the 360 version, exactly where it belongs.