GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations
CASE: Turnabout Beginnings
CONSOLES: GBA, DS, Wii, iOS, 3DS
This is much more like it.
While the first case in Trials and Tribulations took us back to the start of Mia Fey's successful career as a defence attorney, it wasn't her first case. Here we are a year earlier, dealing with heartbreak, murder and some incredibly serious themes. There are no fanservice cosplays or out-of-date stereotypes here.
Mia is a far cry from the wise mentor Phoenix will meet in a few years' time. She's nervous, unsure and stuck in a very awkward case. Playing up her vulnerability here is no coincidence, as will become clear when we get to the ending. On the opposite side of the courtroom, Miles Edgeworth is also experiencing his first case, albeit with an entirely more cocksure approach.
People who are paying attention may recall that canonically, neither of these lawyers had ever lost a case by the time Phoenix appeared on the scene. This is not forgotten by the time the case concludes.
Rounding out the cast, the defendant is an escaped death row inmate, accused now of a second murder on top of the one for which he was originally sentence. Acting as Mia's mentor is Diego Armando, a cool, coffee-sipping defence attorney with more than a little something familiar about him.
The case plays out like a prologue chapter. There's no investigation, no fluff, merely one day in the courtroom. The drama comes thick and fast, the plot twisting and turning, betrayals and deceits piling up. The only weak link in the case is seeing the murderer dress up as the victim to create a false witness when this was seen in literally the previous case. It is done to much better effect here, so it serves less to weaken this case than to add to the feeling that Recipe For Turnabout was underwhelming filler.
The defendant is presented, with varying degrees of delicacy, as a mentally handicapped man. While some of the animations are a little too cartoonish for comfort, the writing is actually fairly touching. His two supposed victims are a pair of sisters, one he was infatuated with and the other a police detective, with whom he arranged a con to steal a diamond.
They both betray him, one shooting him in the arm and the other faking her death, only to five years later kill her sister and pin it on him. His unwavering trust in his so-called "teen angel", and inability to comprehend when that trust is betrayed, leads to the harrowing final moments.
The elephant in the room, and spoiler for a fourteen year old game: the case is brought to an end by the defendant taking his own life. What might have been a cheap writer's ploy to allow the defence and prosecution to both leave without "losing" a case is instead dealt with very maturely. The event is horrifying and tragic, with far-reaching consequences for every character in the room.
I saved the game and closed my 3DS. There's still another case to go, the grand finale of not just Trials and Tribulations but the whole Phoenix Wright trilogy. I'd like to stop for a while and have a little cry, but as we all know . . .
Pun of the week: This case is mostly played straight, so I'll give a shout out to oft-embarrassed prosecutor Winston Payne.
A gut-wrenching, emotional tour de force that uses a slight playtime to deliver all killer, no filler and leave us unbearably hyped for the conclusion.