Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy: Trials and Tribulations (3DS)

(Review archived from October 5, 2018)

Reviewing the third title in the Ace Attorney Trilogy is a bit like sitting down with a packet of jelly beans and writing a review for the third one you eat … after having written separate reviews for the first two. Sure, each one might have subtle individual nuances that mark it as being vaguely distinct (Oh, look this one is actually two jelly beans fused together!), but for the most part it’s the generic traits of jelly beans as a whole that remain with you rather than the individual traits of each one. And so it goes with the Phoenix Wright trilogy; each entry in the series doesn’t do a whole lot to differentiate itself from the last. Still … jelly beans aren’t half bad when the mood is right. So let’s start there.

Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations is an excellent representation of what makes this a great series. It’s a thinking man’s adventure game wrapped in the trappings of a visual novel. I think the best adventure games are the ones that make you feel clever (rather than lucky) for discerning the puzzles therein. And just like other games in the series Trials and Tribulations does a really nice job with the puzzles. Despite the fact that sometimes the puzzles are a bit overly specific (I feel like there are a few puzzles in the game that only accept one answer as the ‘correct’ one where multiple answers could technically be correct), there’s nothing resembling full on moon logic here.

Another aspect the series is known for is its strong cast of characters and Trials & Tribulations is once again a fantastic representation of this. All the old standbys are here and well represented. I don’t want to get into too much detail here for fear of spoilers, but one repeated aspect is that once again we find Maya in some kind of danger over the course of a particular trial. I found this slightly disappointing due to setting up her character as the ‘peril monkey’ of the series. C’mon Capcom, Maya’s better than that! Let’s see her saving Phoenix for a change! (maybe in a team-up with Edgeworth!). I have to say though that Trials & Tribulations introduces one of my favorite characters in the series, that of Prosecutor Godot. This sharply dressed oddball is so delightfully strange and jazz-man cool that it’s hard not to love him. Plus he’s a hopeless coffee addict just like this reviewer. “Blacker than a moonless night, hotter and more bitter than hell itself … that is coffee.” Preach it brother!

It needs to be said that the writing here is also pretty sharp. The cases are well constructed and build on one another towards a satisfying finale, not just for this single game but for the entire initial trilogy as well. Just like the end of a good book, I was a bit sorry to have to leave these characters behind, if only for the time being.

So Trials and Tribulations is a good representation of most of the qualities that have come to exemplify the Phoenix Wright series, but perhaps none so much as the steadfast lack of change. If one were to knock anything about the series it’s that up to this point it’s remarkably resistant to change. I mean I guess ‘if it ain’t broke’ there’s no point in fixing it … but it’s just by the time you get to Trials & Tribulations it’s hard to fight that feeling of ‘been there, done that’. I’m not sure I could suggest a solid strategy for ‘shaking up the formula’, but I can definitely say that by the time you get to the third game it starts to feel like a predictable formula.

All the same I’m not sure I can complain too readily about this. Coke tried to change their formula once, and look how that worked out. I suppose if you have a good thing going, maybe it’s wise to stay the course. Bottom line, if you’re playing this game it’s likely that it’s not your first day in court with Phoenix Wright. And if you’ve enjoyed his previous outings you’ll find no … Objections … here (har, har). Just don’t expect to find any groundbreaking new evidence of changes to the formula. Recommended for Phoenix Wright aficionados and adventure game fans. This court is now in recess.






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