The Phoenix Wright Trilogy
March 9, 2008 by Bill
Phoenix Wright is truly a unique experience. You play the role of a defense attorney who works a series of increasingly bazaar and complex murder cases. Because all three games use the same mechanics and you can probably do the entire trilogy in less than 30 hours I’m reviewing them together.
The games are broken into two parts, the investigation and the trail. Investigations play like simplified PC adventure games. You speak with potential witnesses and look around relevant sets for clues. In the trial you present the clues you’ve found or “press” witness testimony in order to uncover contradictions. In the second and third game you’re given a device that allows you to tell when someone’s lying during the investigation. You’re given the option to trigger a mini-game where you present a series of evidence to break the person’s lie, and you’re rewarded with a vital clue.
Like the old PC adventure games, Phoenix Wright is strictly linear. The story will not advance unless you uncover all of the clues available, and there is only one correct choice in any situation. To give a specific example of this without providing a spoiler is impossible, but there are times when one piece of evidence will refute an entire line of thinking, but the “correct” answer to present the evidence that directly matches the situation.
Most of the time there is no way to make the correct choice without knowing exactly what the answer is. Unfortunately you will occasionally need to present evidence to reveal the case’s twist. Maybe I was oblivious to clues that gave the twist away, or maybe there was a problem in the localization, but I found myself reaching for a FAQ once or twice a cartridge.
The story is fantastic. There is a lot of quirky humor surrounding very dark plots. While all the cases are about murder (normally motivated by revenge, greed, or betrayal) they often involve absurd characters like circus performers, spirit mediums, or transvestite French chefs, no offense to actual spirit mediums or transvestite French chefs.
The localization was great, especially for a DS game, but sometimes it was done too well. I assumed the court system used America’s judicial system – especially the notion of reasonable doubt. The first time I cast significant doubt on the notion my client was the killer I was taken back when the prosecutor demanded I prove it. Not only did I have to prove there was no possible way my client was guilty, I had to prove that someone else was. I would have preferred the setting be in some fictional Western country; if not Japan where the character’s physical appearance would seem more at home.
I found myself actually interested in the recurring characters. I admired how the relationship between Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth, the main prosecutor in the first game, was developed. I actually felt the begrudged respect between the two characters in a way that I could not have in another form of media. Bravo Capcom, Bravo.
Skip them: If logic puzzles and adventure games aren’t up your ally you’ll never get anywhere in this game. It is an original game, but it borrows heavily from existing genres.
Rent them: The first game would be a solid rental if you’re interested in a story driven game for your DS. I wouldn’t suggest starting in the middle, but they’re all complete experiences if you’re in a pinch.
Buy them: If you’re the kind of person who longs for a return to early 90’s PC gaming, this title is a must have. Even if you’re not, these games are for sale for about $15 each, so it’s very easy to justify picking them up one at a time. There’s very little wrong with the games technically, and they do a lot right.