Monday, March 31, 2008

Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations

Unpacking took up most of my spare time again. I was given a copy of the third Phoenix Wright game which I've been playing in snatches.

The Phoenix Wright games barely qualify as games. They're more like interactive novels, with that peculiarly Japanese fixation with dribbling text out a letter at a time. However, they are extremely well-written. You play a hapless defense attorney with a teenage spirit-medium sidekick who channels her dead older sister at crucial moments, and natters on about hamburgers and other wild tangents the rest of the time. All the characters are goofy and likable and the murder mysteries have outlandish twists. The legal system presented in the games is completely insane: defendants are guilty until proven innocent, and you have a strict three-day time limit in which to do so. Both prosecution and defense regularly pocket evidence from the crime scene in order to be able to produce it with maximum dramatic effect in court. The judge is credulous in the extreme; his opinions typically seesaw wildly over the course of the trials.

The first outing on the DS had an extra chapter written specifically for the DS, with various minigames that made use of its peripherals. For instance, you could dust for fingerprints, by tapping with the stylus to put down powder and then blowing into the microphone to clear it away. None of the subsequent Phoenix Wright games have done anything like this. I think I read somewhere that the series originated on PC in Japan and is being ported to the DS by installments. (The special DS-specific episode was also noticeably less well-written than any of the rest of the series.)

The third game is pretty consistent with my memories of the first two (barring the special episode). I'd recommend it to anyone who played and enjoyed the first two. If you're a newcomer you should be able to pick it up without problems; they do a good job of ramping you up on the mechanics of pocketing and presenting evidence. The tangled web of character relationships may take a bit longer for you to figure out, that's all.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I played Trials and Tribulations first and didn't have any real problems getting up to speed -- they go into just enough detail about past events so that you understand how the characters are connected generally, and then get on with things. Which is probably for the best.

The special features in the DS-only case in the first game were sort of a trial run for Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Which was an OK game, although it had some distinct flaws.