Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney − Trials and Tribulations Review [3DS]
The third and final chapter of the Wright & Co. Law Office adds absolutely nothing new to the established formula, but unlike Justice for All it doesn’t have to because the game delivers on what it tries to accomplish. The heavily character-driven story told within the context of the entire trilogy elegantly ties up every loose end and provides an incredibly satisfying ending to a great series.
What’s old is new
The writing is on point and the localization once again hits it out of the park. The visuals are charming, yet slightly outdated. The gameplay remains unchanged and Psyche-Locks are here to stay. Advancing the story is occasionally an ambiguous affair, but when it flows, it doesn’t let go. The music is still awesome. This is an Ace Attorney title through an through.
The narrative however relies on its characters even more than the previous two titles. Both Ace Attorney and Justice for All focus on showing us who these characters are, while Trials and Tribulations explores who these characters are to each other. As a result, the story unfolding in front of you is much more intimate which makes you feel sad alongside the characters instead of simply feeling sorry for them.
To put it in less abstract terms, the characters find themselves in conflict with a central villain, but also with each other. We get to see honest people lie, confident people doubt and good people do bad things. The inhabitants of this world have always been surprisingly relatable, and this game takes it up a notch by refusing to label them as simply good or bad.
Mia Fey: Ace Attorney
Don’t get me wrong, you still (mostly) play as Phoenix, but the story is about Mia. Not the get out of jail card with cleavage, but the person behind it. She was originally introduced as a cool, calm and collected mentor figure, allowing her to provide a sense of stability when the main duo found itself neck-deep in trouble. Unfortunately, that was also the extent of her character, so it’s all the more refreshing when she finally gets the development she deserves.
The similarities to Phoenix stemming from her mentoring are evident, but she absolutely detests losing control during trials. It’s a minor facet to her character, but enough to set her apart from her mentee in court. We also get an insight into her personal life leading up to the events of the original Ace Attorney, which is the driving force behind the game’s story.
While both Edgeworth and von Karma make a return, we’re introduced to yet another Prosecutor: Godot. This one’s not a prodigy though, in fact, he’s a rookie who’s never won a case. It’s an oddity to be introduced to a character with seemingly no ties to anyone, but the deliberately placed question mark around him eventually leads to the most striking revelation of the series.
It’s difficult to explain the depth to his character without spoiling the entire game, but it’s safe to say that he is much more than what you’d normally expect from the masked man trope, and the game’s cover doesn’t do him justice. Also, don’t let his rookie status fool you: He is just as capable if not more than his predecessors.
The last character I’d like to mention is our villain. Unlike in the previous two games, you’re not told that she is bad, or did bad things. You feel it. This is the most vile, evil and despicable character in the entire series, and her presence coupled with Godot’s adds a very somber mood to the game.
It’s not necessarily a darker story, but the focus on a more personal conflict means that most of the characters are confronted with uncomfortable truths even after the ending, which to the game’s credit is highly satisfying as Trials and Tribulations elegantly resolves almost every character arc in the series by the time the credits roll.
But as satisfying that may be, the single-minded concentration on delivering a proper ending leaves no room to add anything new. As a result, a lack of previous investment in the characters will completely remove the immediacy of the story, making this by far the least accessible entry in the trilogy – both from a gameplay and narrative standpoint.
Trials and Tribulations contains 5 cases which took me about 15 hours to complete, but this number will vary depending on your reading speed.
The tutorial (3-1) features a young Mia during one of her first trials, defending an even younger Phoenix who at this point in time is still a law student. It’s a refreshing take on the opening case that humanizes her character (more on this later), adds a good bit of backstory and sets the stage for the amazing finale ahead.
Next up are two unrelated cases (2-2, 2-3) dealing with grand theft and identity theft respectively. They’re pretty good, but the game is so heavily centered around the opening case and its consequences that they feel like fillers – they’re the reason you play Ace Attorney, but not what you’ll be remembering afterwards.
I recommend both of these, as they provide important breathing room before the game goes into the final chapter which ties the opening case to the present. Turnabout Beginnings and Turnabout to the Bridge (3-4, 3-5) can be considered a single episode as the transition is seamless.
It’s difficult to say what the finale is about, other than it being really good. While the Fey family and spirit channeling are undoubtedly the driving forces behind the plot, the case involves almost every character in the series as it strives to resolve their character arcs. The underlying theme of pursuing of truth works especially well here as this episode in particular explores how the flaws of each character led to the events happening on screen.
This case is what makes the game, and has to be played in the context of the entire trilogy as it delivers an incredibly satisfying conclusion. That said, I highly recommend you to avoid Trials and Tribulations if you haven’t played the previous two games, otherwise you’ll waste time, money and enjoyment.