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Nintendo DS Review: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations

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Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney, returns for this third in the series with five new cases where players portray Mia Fey, Wright’s mentor from a past case involving Phoenix. Those who haven’t played the first two games can start with this one without any confusion. Of course, some scenes will have more meaning to those playing the first two in the series. Whether new players will like Phoenix Wright depends on how they feel about interactive stories that require lots of reading.

Each story comes into two parts: The investigation and the trial. During the investigation, players examine scenes, interview characters, move to different locations, and present evidence to prove a point. The stories last for a long time giving players a chance to thoroughly learn a case and pick it apart during the trial to help your client.

The game grows tedious with all the dialogue, but players can’t help but want to reach the truth and get an innocent client off the hook especially since it requires thinking to take the right actions. Object at the wrong time or present the incorrect evidence, and lose points with the judge. When the “health” meter runs out, the judge proclaims your client guilty and the game ends.

The screen shakes whenever a character turns flustered, and this gets very old after a few times. It doesn’t matter if the character feels stressed, mad, aggravated or anxious — shake, shake, shake… enough, enough, enough.

Another frustration point is the constant repetition of scenes when you take the wrong step or missed one. Though you can save the game, there are times when saving won’t make a difference or you can’t be sure where to save the game. However, what else can the game do or else it becomes too easy? It might help to let players decide if they want to repeat questioning, present different evidence, or replay a specific section.

On the other hand, the game saves you plenty of work as it automatically enters items into evidence once they enter the story. This doesn’t make the game easy at all as some evidence needs presenting at some point to gain more information as a court record before going to trial. A court record reveals more insight into evidence. You might come across an ID badge, but won’t understand its significance until you present it to someone who can offer more details. The game set up makes it possible for players to focus on figuring out the meaning of the evidence and piecing together the story.

When it comes trial time, every witness presents testimony and then you — as Phoenix Wright or Mia Fey — conducts cross-examinations to discover gaps and lies. During the cross-examination, the witness will repeat each line — one-by-one — to give you a chance to object, press for more information, present evidence that contradicts the witness’ statement, or let it go. A standard statement appears with each response, such as “Hold it!” when pressing or “Take that!” when presenting evidence. This also adds to the tediousness of the game. You can also use your voice in objections, but it’s not required — thankfully. A person with imperfect speech — like this writer — might struggle to be heard correctly.

Two spirit healers accompany Phoenix. One is Maya, Mia Fey’s younger sister, and the other is Pearl Fey, their cousin. Pearl easily gets on your nerves like a kid sister while Maya’s immaturity can grate at times. Nevertheless, the girls have good moments when they come shining through. This says a lot about the game’s characters and their uniqueness. It would help to have another likeable character or two — like Mia Fey — that don’t annoy players in the next edition.

Since Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations involves logical thinking and a good eye, it should attract players who prefer Nintendo’s Touch! Generation games such as Big Brain Academy, Picross DS, and Touchmaster. Like those, this one is easy to learn and use especially since a tutorial helps players get familiar with the interface.

Using sharp anime-style images and animation, the game presents everything with a first person perspective making players feel part of the action. After successfully winning all five cases, there may be little motivation to play the cases again. Thankfully, they last a long time, making the game worth its value. Though the game receives a few objections over its annoyances, it’s guilty of being entertaining, humorous, and getting players to use their brains. Those who want to be lawyers someday or watch TV shows like Perry Mason, Matlock, Boston Legal, or Law and Order will enjoy the playing the role without cracking open a law book.

Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Blood, Mild Violence.


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About Meryl K Evans

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is the author of "Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook" and the co-author of "Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites." She has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos.