A Solid Entry All-Around
Trials and Tribulations, the latest game in the Phoenix Wright series for the DS, is exactly what fans would expect to get. A new set of cases to solve, with you – Phoenix Wright – as the defence lawyer in a court of law. Ridiculous and endearing characters with weird quirks. Sticking it to the criminals by presenting devastating evidence and causing uproars in court, and doing a little detective sleuthing in between. What you remember doing before is back again with little changed. The same characters, music, backdrops and themes still apply here. So while it’s nothing new, existing fans who want to see old favourites return to court can’t go wrong.
The game’s opening trial may be its most interesting, if only because it serves as a prequel to how Mia, now deceased, came to know and defend Phoenix against a murder charge before he himself became a lawyer. If you’ve been following the series for some time, this will definitely be of interest to you. The four cases that follow the opener, however, assume a fair amount of prior knowledge if you want to get all of the in-jokes and references. Many characters return from past games, and you’ll be questioning them outside of court, presenting evidence you’ve collected to them to open up new clues, and using your mystical Magatama to break down people’s ‘psyche-locks’ and expose their lies and contradictions.
There’s still no involved touch screen support, and you could play the entire game with the buttons if you wanted. That’s a little disappointing, since the first game’s final case – which was specifically made for DS – had some fun touch screen aspects in it. You can also use the system’s microphone to shout out for objections and the like, if you’re into that. The game still consists almost entirely of listening to people’s testimony, and then presenting the piece of evidence that breaks a piece of it down. They’ll then revise their testimony, and you continue this pattern until your client is handed a not guilty verdict in the end.
That’s easier said than done, though, as many of the cases in the game are quite difficult. The objections and evidence you must present aren’t usually all the obvious, and you’ll sometimes be penalized quite harshly for presenting the wrong thing at the wrong time. In fact, the biggest drawback to the Phoenix Wright series is still here; there is one, and only one solution to a case. You’ll often find that you are thinking in a different sequence than the game designer’s planned, and more than once you’ll find the game’s jumps in logic a little iffy.
Otherwise, though, you’ll find a clever, if familiar adventure game to play through. The writing is sharp, with a bunch of weird North American pop-culture references inserted for the game’s English translation (don’t think this game contains the phrase ‘my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard’? Think again). There’s practically zero new here in terms of gameplay, though, so it all comes down to you. If you’re in the mood for some new cases and the same old that you’ve been getting from Phoenix and his pals for years, by all means. If you’re expecting something new, you can safely miss this one.