Video Game Challenge Progress Report (Special & Redux): Phoenix Wright – Trials and Tribulations

When you set out to accomplish a goal for yourself, you often have to expect the unexpected and be flexible. What I’ve learned from doing my video game challenges is to be open to what life throws at you and make the necessary adjustments to work around sudden developments to still be able to achieve what you want to do. My most recent challenge involved a lot of adjustments because of vacations and other responsibilities cropping up, but I sorted through all of them to make finishing this particular game something I wouldn’t allow myself to neglect anymore. Let me say that persistence and determination will always win no matter what happens in your life. That being said, it’s finally time to report on my progress with Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations.

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As a huge fan of the Ace Attorney series, trying to finish the third installment of the Phoenix Wright saga before the series shifted focus away from our favorite attorney to give another budding ace attorney a chance to shine (Apollo Justice, which comes after Trials and Tribulations) hasn’t been easy. Factors for taking a long time to finish this game, when previous Phoenix Wright titles have been easy to play in quick succession, has mainly to do with time and being in the mood to play the game again. Restarting a game after leaving it on the shelf for the last few years isn’t as easy as you think. You have to deal with remembering what you last did in a game and sometimes newer games have a bigger allure to prioritize than older games that almost everyone you know has played and beaten already. This doesn’t mean my love affair with Phoenix Wright died. In fact, it only refueled my love for the series even further.

Part of the charm for playing these games lies with the characters themselves. Cases like Turnabout Memories in Trials and Tribulations will give you better insight on Phoenix Wright’s past before he became a lawyer and it gives you more backstory on his deceased-but-sometimes-comes-back-from-the-dead-through-spirit-channeling mentor Mia Fey. Though the formula in all Ace Attorney games are the same (gathering evidence and presenting the right evidence in court to expose a contradiction in a witness’s testimony), what makes each case a fun and exciting experience to play is being able to learn new information about the characters you have come to love across all three games.

Take Mia Fey. Mia is Phoenix Wright’s mentor who unfortunately gets murdered by the second case, Turnabout Sisters, in the first game. The player doesn’t have enough time to get too attached to Mia. The only exposure you get is from the first case when Phoenix Wright is introduced to the player as a new defense attorney who is being guided by Mia. With Mia’s death, you would think her story ends there, a character who is merely an entry point to establish the main protagonist of the series. Instead, Mia becomes an integral part of the series and a continuing influence on Phoenix’s life as a lawyer. Because Mia and her sister Maya come from a long line of spirit mediums, this allows Mia to come back from the dead, if briefly, to help Phoenix in a pinch or provide pearls of wisdom to help turn court proceedings back in Phoenix’s favor when it seems like he may lose to the prosecuting attorney he’s up against. Mia may be dead, but not completely gone. And the way they structure the cases, it’s also easy to provide more backstory for Mia through the use of flashback and building upon past cases from previous games.

I’ll admit, I didn’t think Mia Fey was a particularly standout character in the beginning, a sentiment I expressed last year when I was invited to take part in At the Buzzer’s Top 25 female characters from video games. I saw her importance in the games as Phoenix’s support in a time of crisis during a trial, but beyond that, I thought she was a mostly forgettable character. By the time I played through Turnabout Beginnings and the final case Bridge to the Turnabout, it made me see Mia Fey in a different light. I appreciated how this character displays an immense amount of determination and an unflinching resolve to believe in her client’s innocence no matter how bad the evidence is stacked against them. This may be telling of where Phoenix Wright got his own attitude and approach to defending his clients in court, much to the annoyance and consternation of every prosecuting lawyer he is pitted against in the courtroom. My respect and changing opinion of Mia Fey is further cemented in one key scene in Bridge to the Turnabout when she makes one more appearance to face down an old enemy, Dahlia Hawthorne. That confrontation is deliciously good and it makes Mia a badass in the realm of intelligence and wills. It can only be enjoyed by playing the game.

You may know I’ve tried tackling Trials and Tribulations as my video game challenge in the past and failed many times. Revisiting the challenge again with the intent on beating this game once and for all is what drove me to not throw in the towel when life happened to me again. I kept at it and I finally, FINALLY finished the game. Take that, backlog! Besides merely wanting to cross this game off my list of unfinished games, I wanted to remember why I fell in love with the series so much.

What originally attracted me to Phoenix Wright the first time I watched my friend play it, before I eventually bought a Nintendo 3DS Lite, is how the game played out like an anime. The humor, the high drama action in the courtroom, and the unusual witnesses you get in each case already has the look and feel of an anime. The only difference is it’s an interactive story where you needed to help Phoenix Wright expose the real killer and prove the innocence of the accused. There are plenty of witnesses and accused who are all memorable in different ways and it’s extremely difficult to name them all unless I do a separate post on them (which is something to consider in the future). There’s an excitement and anticipation in finishing one case and immediately wanting to go onto the next to see what new set of characters, as well as returning ones, will be making an appearance.

Knowing the next game I play in the Ace Attorney series won’t be focusing on Phoenix Wright but his protege Apollo Justice, I can only wonder how fast I’ll warm up to this new character. Will I be longing to hear Phoenix Wright yell, “Objection!” once again? Will Apollo Justice have the same winsome personality Phoenix Wright has? Will I miss that signature hairstyle?! Time will tell. For now, I’m absolutely content to have finished all three main games of the Phoenix Wright saga and it has fired up my excitement to get acquainted with new characters, like Apollo Justice, and eventually play the last few games to have Phoenix Wright come out of retirement, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright and Duel Destinies. I’ve got plenty to satisfy my Ace Attorney fix for a while.

Check back next week when I finally start a new month with a brand new game for my challenge!

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9 thoughts on “Video Game Challenge Progress Report (Special & Redux): Phoenix Wright – Trials and Tribulations

    1. Yeah, the collective opinion I’ve heard is Apollo Justice is an inferior game to come out of the Ace Attorney series. I’ll save my own judgement until I’ve actually played the game. I kind of think it’ll be refreshing to play a game with someone else in the lead. I also think Phoenix Wright taking the role of mentor this time is a nice change of pace for the series.

    2. I think it had mostly to do with the MC switch. People got attached to Wright and then his fate in Apollo Justice was almost like a slap in the face. I don’t know if I like AA4 more than AA1-3. It’s a hard call for me since I pretty much view them as equally awesome. That said, I do think AA4 did a lot of things better than AA1-3. Mainly I liked how (except for case 2), every case was connected to the main plot. Instead of AA1-2 being random cases, and AA3 having only 1,4 and 5 connect. It made AA4 feel better thought out and made me care more about each case because they were all a puzzle piece that you had to fit together.

  1. I’m so happy you have enjoyed the Ace Attorney games as much as I have~ They really are such a treasure trove. I still have AA5 and Layton vs. AA to work through myself. :3 I actually had the exact same reaction to Mia. I didn’t really think her all that memorable until this game. I’m so glad the devs let us see her in action. It definitely enriched her character so much more.

    The characters are definitely the highlight. My personal favourite is Larry. He’s just too damn hilarious and goofy. xD But I also like the prosecutors Edgeworth and Franziska. Plus Gumshoe, who is also just too cute and goofy. I do also recommend you check out Edgeworth’s game, Ace Attorney: Investigations if you get the chance. It’s great in terms of cameos and I loved the dynamic between Gumshoe and Edgeworth that you get to see in full glory. Also personally I thought Edgeworth got the best female sidekick, Kay (although Apollo’s sidekick Trucy is also pretty awesome). With that said, my one complaint about Investigations is that, yes the last case does drag on. The internet was right about that. Still outside that, the game is well done and the system is actually pretty similar to the mainline games. You cross-examine people, but instead of just presenting evidence, you also put different bits of info together in the Logic System to expose the contradiction in their statement.

    1. I actually played and finished the Edgeworth game long before I finally finished Trials and Tribulations. Strange, huh? 😛 I definitely remember liking the Edgeworth game a lot, which is why I’m really disappointed that they haven’t made a move to localize the second and final Edgeworth game. That one would have been interesting to play because it goes deeper into his childhood and his father who was tragically killed. The slight difference in gameplay mechanics was also great too.

      There’s just way too many characters in the Ace Attorney series I’ve liked over the course of all three games. Definitely enjoy Larry and Gumshoe as the comic relief. No wonder Phoenix and Edgeworth are constantly exasperated by those two. 🙂

  2. It’s not often that a character receives more characterization after their death. I thought it was an interesting approach.

    I have trouble deciding on whether I like Trials and Tribulations or the original more. It’s kind of a draw for my second-favorite game in the series. My favorite game in the series is Prosecutors Path also known as the sequel to Investigations. It ties up a loose end that the third game doesn’t address and is by far the most challenging game in the series – even the first episode has a lot of twists to it. It wasn’t localized, but the fan community translated it themselves, and it was really good. I highly recommend it if you haven’t given it try.

    1. It’s actually refreshing to see character development still occur for a character who is in fact dead. I agree it’s a different approach but not unwelcome since the writers manage to handle it really well for the Ace Attorney series. For most stories, once a character is dead you don’t get any further story about them except through the perspective of someone who knew them and is still living.

      It’s such a shame that the second game of Investigations never got localized and it shows no sign of ever making it to the west anytime soon. Maybe never. From the basic details I got about the game, it looks like it’d be the more interesting one to play as far as story goes. I really wanted to learn more about Edgeworth’s father. If I can find an unofficial copy of it somewhere, I’d love to try it out.

      1. It is a bit of a shame, but the fan translation was really good; it’s tantamount to an official localization. It’s one of my favorite games that never saw the light outside of Japan alongside the fourth Fire Emblem game, Treasure of the Rudras, and Live A Live.

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