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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations

The world is far from perfect. The majority of us may go about our daily lives as law-abiding citizens, but there are a few individuals out there who couldn’t care less about living in perfect harmony, and it only takes a single sinful drop of milk to destroy the pure magic in a cup of peace-flavoured coffee. Murderers, blackmailers, stalkers, thieves – when these morally corrupt individuals commit a crime, it may be the duty of the police to bring them into custody, but lawyers are the ones ultimately responsible for sealing their fate behind steel bars. However, the innocent are often entangled in the web of lies conjured up by sly criminals. In order to reveal the truth and put everything right, defence attorneys – Ace Attorneys – like Phoenix Wright must undergo many trials and tribulations to uncover what really happened behind the curtains of false allegations by shattering facades, pressing witnesses to breaking point, and through copious use of index-finger pointing.

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations is the final chapter in the titular attorney’s series of text-based adventures that make a light-hearted mockery of real-life courtroom dramas. If you are not familiar with the previous two instalments – Ace Attorney and Justice For All, it is highly recommended that you check them out first before proceeding to this courtroom; although each case is fully comprehensible on its own, there are many ties to events that occurred in the past and to gain full appreciation of the main plot arc here, you’ll need to be familiar with Phoenix Wright’s past experiences.

That said, fans rejoice – the five new cases to solve here easily meet the high standards set by the original game, definitely surpassing those that were seen in last year’s so-so follow-up.

The proceedings in the courtroom remain unchanged from previous instalments. A brief synopsis of the crime is presented by the prosecuting side, along with any incriminating evidence. Witnesses are then called to the stand where they are to provide ‘truthful’ testimonies. It is now your job to analyse what is being said and to press witnesses on certain dubious statements in order to provide clarification on what really happened. Soon enough, you’ll have ripped apart their words, pin-pointed the blatant contradictions and be yelling “Objection!” into the DS microphone. (You can press a button instead if you don’t feel like throwing away your dignity.)

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Cue the high-spirited, energetic music!

“the five new cases to solve here easily meet the high standards set by the original game” A picture may be worth a thousand words, but to Phoenix Wright, the words that shape a witness’ testimony paint the entire picture. This is a text-based adventure game that demands a relatively high degree of English (or Japanese) proficiency. Not only is there judicious use of figurative speech and wordplay, but the smallest inconsistency makes a world of difference in this courtroom; if you miss the somewhat obscure hints, justice in limbo will be served. Witnesses speak in a language of double entendres and it is up to you to make sense of it all. If a witness is adamant that he saw the victim take a sip of coffee with his left hand, why do the lip prints on the rim indicate the exact opposite? Is it because the witness’ view is not all as it seems? Is it because the old-timer’s memory doesn’t serve him as well these days? Or is it just plain and simply because the old geezer is full of crap?

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Unravelling mysteries by challenging preposterous claims and exposing discrepancies is definitely the high-point of the Ace Attorney games. Time spent in court is always enjoyable and never a chore. However, there are occasions when all the evidence is not spoon-fed to you. In such cases, you’ll have to do a bit of digging around yourself, investigating crime scenes and adjacent areas of interest via a touch-based interface. In contrast to the courtroom, these sections play out more like a point-and-click adventure: you’ll have to search for clues within still backdrops whilst chatting to locals around the scene to gather intelligence. In contrast to the buzz that you receive in the courtroom, these sections are fairly slow-paced and the highly linear nature removes what real detective work is required outside of talking to everyone, and examining and presenting everything that you possibly can. Luckily, the flow isn’t as slow as Mr Wright’s effort from last year, and before you know it, you’ll be back where you belong.

Unlike real-life court-cases – which are more often than not, rather trite affairs – the Ace Attorney series of games are full of insane tomfoolery that make proceedings seem somewhat foolish on first appearances, but it is all, nevertheless, oddly endearing. There is a robust cast of (literally and figuratively speaking) colourful characters, from a whip-wielding prosecuting chick to an over-tanned doppelganger going by the name of Tigre Furio. Well-loved characters such as little, adorable Pearls, and the dim-witted, but loyal Detective Gumshoe return once again to help our Ace Attorney along as he faces his toughest, most scrutinising opponent seen yet – the enigmatic coffee-addict who wears a strap-on visor going by the name of Godot.

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“A picture may be worth a thousand words, but to Phoenix Wright, the words that shape a witness’ testimony paint the entire picture.”The premise may seem downright ridiculous and this is reinforced by the witty, pun-filled dialogue bursting with enough memorable and laugh-out-loud quotes to inflame one’s haemorrhoids. The actual cases themselves can, however, be quite sombre and very touching at times – sure, you will laugh, but you may also shed a tear. However, a defence attorney cannot rest until everything is settled. As you expose contradictions and throw out barrages of objections, the opposing prosecution will challenge your outbursts in order to put a dent in your reputation as well as your ‘lifebar’. Along with plenty of desk slamming, unwarranted physical abuse by way of flung coffee mugs, not to mention an eclectic and generally energising soundtrack that sits comfortably between the quality seen in the two prequels, Trials and Tribulations offers up the most intense depiction/parody of criminal court-cases, full of discombobulations, drama, suspense, intrigue, deception, multiple plot threads and of course, finger pointing! It doesn’t add much to the formula concocted by its predecessors, but that’s why fans of the Phoenix Wright and co. will absolutely love this closing to a trilogy that’s well worth reading… err, playing.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in May 2007.

Gentle persuasion

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