Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations is completely different fare to what you expect from CapCom, a company usually associated with arcade action games like Street Fighter and the horror series Resident Evil. The game is a visual novel legal thriller with elements of the supernatural. The story atmosphere is a perfect mix of dark mystery and lighthearted comedy. This series is created as a counter culture to edutainment games according to the creator Shu Takumi because of how boring they are by design.
You play as Phoenix Wright, a defense attorney, his mentor Mia Fey, and as Miles Edgeworth, a childhood friend and courtroom rival. This allows you to delve into the characters personal pasts and backgrounds. The character development is pretty good. You see how cases affect the characters and make them re-evaulate their values and also how they became the persons they are today.
The gameplay tutorial helps you understand the story and mechanics if you are new, and also a recap of who the characters are if you are not familiar with them. As a lawyer your job is defend your clients and you need to presume their innocence. Regardless of whether your client is guilty or not, you are still going to have to defend them to the best of your abilities.
The characters in the series are over the top and multi layered. The prosecutor Godot is a coffee addict and very slick with his methods. He is always one step ahead of everyone during trials and presents himself as the best prosecutor in the country. He is incredibly intelligent and he can use his skills to back up his cocky nature in court. He always has all kinds of hard questions to make the defendant squirm and he has no patience with fools. He has a vendetta against Phoenix and you learn more about the rivalry as the game progresses.
The villains in the game all have multiple goals and their complex plans are never fully clear only until the end of the case. Some of criminal can be quite sympathetic with seemingly valid reasons as to why they chose a path of crime.
Miles and Phoenix were childhood friends but their different career paths is what made them rivals in court. Miles used to be really arrogant and stuck considering that he was mentored by Manfred Von Karma, the main antagonist from the first game. Unlike the other prosecutors, Miles is by the book and has a good sense of right and wrong and seeking justice is his only agenda. The most notable thing about him is his unwavering belief that the truth will always come to light through natural means instead of using any underhanded tactics. He uses evidence to convict criminals. He uses the law for protection of innocent people and believes that the law should use a suitable punishment depending on the crime.
Miles is now humbled by his court losses and is now unconcerned about the win records because its meaningless and awards does nothing but boost the ego. Miles and Phoenix are both on the same side of justice and they both share the same goals and beliefs but just that one is a prosecutor and the other is a defense lawyer.
Phoenix Wright is one of the best defense lawyers in the business and his investigation techniques are second to none. He is always willing to go out on a limb to defend clients. He is very notable for his determination into proving clients innocence and also his sense of right and wrong. He never lets the insults or dirty methods of the prosecutors get to him and instead uses hard facts, evidence and logical explanations defeat the prosecutors and win the case.
Playing as Phoenix Wright, you are assisted by your paralegal Maya Fey during trials. She gives you clues on where to go and what to do next and also how you should proceed whenever you are stuck. Maya Fey is incredibly helpful for the most part and her spiritual powers and the magatama allows you to explore the psyche of the people you are interacting with and also even communicate with the dead. Her biggest downfall is her clueless nature and just about almost anything she touches can be easily destroyed. However, she is highly moral and she wants nothing but the best for justice to prevail and to be like an older sister to her cousin Pearl.
The character designs and art style are really great. Expressions were believable and nicely animated and the graphics and background design was really detailed and even in today, are still fantastic. The series is notable for its’ over the top characters and scenarios. Everyone has their own personality and quirks.
There are 5 chapters in the game played out as tv episodes. This is when the games started have more cases as at that time, technical hardware specs limited the contents of the game. You can replay cases anytime after completing the game. Each case is part of an overarching story where everything is connected at the end. The gradual pacing of the series means it takes time to build up the many different plot twists and arrive to their logical conclusions.
The game is fairly long. The musical and audio is very high quality and one of the best for the DS. This game has one of the best localizations I have seen in a video game. It still contains its Japanese elements. The dialogue is really good and the script is well written and feels authentic. Countless quotes from this series is referenced in many games especially the widely beloved dialogue line “OBJECTION!” I noticed the occasional dialogue hiccups when Dick Gumshoe addressed Franzika Von Karma as “sir” instead of “miss” in Chapter 5.
There is a lot of lighthearted comedy from slapstick, to seeing the embarrassment of stuck up clients and prosecutors. You can FastForward the dialogue by pressing the b button. The controls in the game are straightforward and easy to understand. In the DS version you can press y instead of touching the button and use the DS mic to say the beloved line “OBJECTION!” You use the touch screen to press certain actions like presenting profiles or evidence to characters. You can also use it to point to certain areas on photographs and then you can present it to the judge once you find the right area. Examining allows you to move from left to right to look at various parts of the area you are looking in and pressing the touch screen on certain objects allows you to use it as evidence in court.
The game is broken up into multiple story parts including investigation and court trial. While investigating, you have to move from one place to the next to talk to anybody connected to the suspects and victims in the case. Cross examination is an important part of the court trial process. You have to carefully examine each defendants statement and you are given the option to press the client to see what they have to say about the events of the story. Sometimes, you need to present evidence or profiles to counter some inconsistencies from the defendants or the prosecutor.
Occasionally, new evidence will be given to you once the testimony has been made correctly. Sometimes, multiple choice questions occur and answering them correctly: such as whether you want to press further or if there is something that is left out; will give you a clearer picture of what has happened during the case. There are also times when you are given a choice to whether you can explain logically how certain events happen if you have the right amount of evidence. You can access the court record to take a look at profiles and evidence and you can present one or the other during psych lock or in court cases.
There is a feature carried over from Justice For All called the psych lock. Sometimes associates of the defendant or witnesses may withhold information that is vital to solving the case. You have to present the magatama in order to break the psych lock to reveal what they are hiding. For each false statement they make, you need to present the right piece of evidence to break the lock and there can be multiple locks depending on the type of person you are questioning. Depending on the suspect, it can be more than 2 or sometimes 5 at max. This game also connects the previous cases from Justice For All making it more cohesive and tied into the main plot of this game.
You can save anywhere at anytime which is really convenient during longer missions. As in any court case there is a prosecutor and most of them with the exception of Miles Edgeworth is very self serving, egotistical and very determined to get a successful prosecution in order to further their own agenda, regardless of the accused innocence. They will often frame the evidence into making it look like the victim is guilty not the other way around.
The judge will hear both sides of the story and he will always ask to present evidence if something is not right during certain parts of the case. Your job is to defend the clients and also put the guilty party in prison by winning the favor of the judge, who is gullible and easily misled. He has trouble paying attention to cases and can be presumptive of the innocence of female defendants. He even admits to thinking that they are unable commit the crime in front of the jury. He gets easily intimidated by prosecutors like Franzeca Von Karma and even Phoenix Wright at times due to his skill. He also can easily mistake evidence descriptions for something else and has a lack of understanding to the most basic of concepts.
He can be pretty petty trying to take credit for others works especially Mia and Phoenix’s and never admits any mistakes. Because of his incompetence, you have to take this to your advantage in defending your clients to win his favor over the prosecutor.
Once the trial reaches its climax, you have to give the final piece of evidence. This is crucial because if you fail to present this, its game over and the guilty party goes free. Successfully presenting the right evidence will set the innocent party free and also an explanation of the events of the case.
There is also a difficulty curve with more of the later cases being more challenging to solve as time goes by and more complex story points start to appear. The health system is one of the game’s Achilles heel, if you make even a slight misstep it is going to take away a lot of your health. You can still recover at certain parts.
Franzika Von Karma is one of the most extremely unpleasant characters I have seen in a video game. She is extremely arrogant and petty and she has a vendetta against Phoenix Wright because of his job as a lawyer and is very uptight about her perfect career record. She is also extremely abusive to just about everyone she encounters and she even would still beat anyone, innocent or not with her horse riding whip and she even does so in court. She has even assaulted the judge and witnesses. Sometimes she would withhold key evidence or facts just to make the innocent party look guilty. Besides that, she also loves to call people fools or foolish every few seconds and her arrogance is what made her gullible and allows Phoenix and Miles win court cases. Even with evidence shown, she will be extremely petty trying to find ways to put innocent people in prison and torture them with her whip if she gets the chance. She has the weakest character development of all.
For my first legal thriller and first Ace Attorney game, this made being a lawyer a lot more fun in a video game. Capcom has done a really great job with their venture into visual novels and this is a series that can always be fresh and unique because of the stories. There are many more Ace attorney games to look at from the previous 2 games to future games in the series. Plus, there are a lot more criminals in the game that still need to be brought to justice like the loan shark group Tender Lender along with their mob associates and the thieving couple the Delites.
Capcom has had countless chances to localize the Japanese only games to the west but has never done so. Even more strangely is that in Japan, they had 3 physical releases of the Ace Attorney games exclusive to Japan one of which was a sequel to Miles Edgeworth investigations, which has many important plot points to what has happened over the series. Whereas the recent games are just digital only for the west.
But considering how well Capcom is doing of late, it is highly likely for them to bring the games remastered for the next gen consoles to introduce a new generation of fans to the series. Especially when the time for Ace Attorney 7 comes.
This is really one of the best visual novels for the ds and one of Capcom’s best games.
It gets 5 stars out of 5.
I would recommend this not only to visual novels fans but to even parents who want to raise skeptical children and to teach them independent thinking and looking at the facts to find the truth in order to counter false ideological theories.