|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Capcom||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 23, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The writing, a brilliant blend of Japanese influence infused with occasional stateside pop-culture references, is complemented by a twisty plot and some crazy characters. Many old favorites--Gumshoe, Butz, and the always entertaining and sometimes infuriating judge--as well as plenty of new faces--the aforementioned mysterious, visor-wearing Godot--are brought to life by the same anime/manga inspired characterizations supported by limited, mostly mouth-moving animations.
The quirky writing and fun characters are further supported by great music and sound effects putting you right in the cross-examining action. Similar to a televised court room drama, the music plays a significant role in setting the mood; you'll know when it's time for closing arguments not just by the on-screen action, but also by the tense audio cues rising from your DS's tiny speakers. By its nature this series really isn't able to spread its wings with technical prowess or innovative control, but it's always made up for this with its oozing style. And again, the attention paid to storytelling, characters, and sound are what successfully separate this franchise from other text-based adventures.
As always, controlling the Phoenix fun is a point-and-click breeze. The entire game can be navigated with the stylus and touch screen; you'll tap prompts such as "present" to offer evidence in the court room, or "examine" to strut your CSI stuff during an investigation, just as you would in a mouse-clicking PC-based adventure. Occasionally, you can even ratchet up the legal drama by spouting exclamations like "Hold it!" into your DS's microphone. While Trials and Tribulations doesn't stray far from the series' tried-and-true formula it does, for the first time, offer additional playable characters. Faithful fans will be delighted to turn back time and step into the high heels of Phoenix's mentor, the oh so Japanese-anime inspired (see over-the-top cleavage) Mia Fey. The Mia flashbacks also serve to introduce new gamepad legal eagles to the Phoenix franchise by opening the game with a Mia trial tutorial. However, as stated earlier, we recommend first-timers curious about the DS's court room sim start with the first title in the trilogy. While it's certainly not essential, it will be slightly confusing and less satisfying to jump in with the second or third title since many characters and themes appear throughout the series. Plus, the franchise hasn't evolved much since its first iteration, so it's not like you'd be missing out; it's not like we're recommending Doom over Doom 3.
It actually sort of makes sense to think of Trial and Tribulations as an expansion pack--a 20+ hour one--to the original. For those who've been yelling "objection" into their DS since 2005, then we definitely recommend Phoenix's latest, as long as you're not expecting anything new. This Phoenix, while more entertaining than a season of Law and Order, feels very familiar. And while we hate to see Phoenix go--this is supposedly the last title he'll star in--we can't wait to see what Capcom has in store next for stylus-clenching defense attorneys
CCC Freelance Writer