GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations
CASE: Recipe Turnabout
CONSOLES: GBA, DS, Wii, iOS, 3DS
This case is the closest Trials and Tribulations comes to a standard episode. Phoenix and Godot are both present and correct, this is all one murder trial and it doesn't tie into any big plot revelations. Even so, it comes with a twist to up the stakes a little.
Said twist is fun but incredibly goofy. At the opening of the chapter, we hear Phoenix Wright losing in the courtroom, struggling to achieve a Not Guilty verdict against no better a prosecutor than Payne. Before long, we learn that this was all a charade. A spiky-haired phony had impersonated Phoenix to pin a murder on an innocent patsy.
What unfolds is a fairly tight little murder plot with a threateningly uncouth villain, menacing in a way that's unique from other, smarter criminals. The case is tied personally to various cast members in interesting ways; Phoenix is restoring his reputation after being impersonated, Godot is horrified at a murderer using his beloved coffee to poison a victim and the defendant is returning character Maggie Byrd, with whom Detective Gumshoe is very much in love.
The trick to the whole case, that the murderer performed a reenactment of the crime after the fact to trick a witness, feels like textbook Shu Takumi. On the other hand, the seedy world of loan sharks and debt collectors praying on desperation gives the whole thing a bleak and sinister flavour that continues the game's running themes of obsession.
This primary narrative works well enough. Unfortunately, the case has much bigger problems at the granular level. The characters encountered and the dealings with them are problematic, leaving a sour taste in the mouth. The character the player spends the most time dealing with is Jean Armstrong. A big, camp stereotype of a homosexual man, Armstrong walks a fine line between daft fun character and offensive joke. Where the line gets crossed is with regular questions about his gender. Maybe this was considered funny once upon a time.
The scene for which the case is probably most famous involves trying to get information from old pervert Victor Kudo. It transpires that he has a taste for pretty waitresses and the only way to eventually get any results from him is to dress up Maya/ Mia and have her ask him. For my money, it was actually quite funny, and the humour does come at the expense of the old man rather than the girls. As part of a case that already felt awkward, it was harder to let it slide than it might have been otherwise.
Victor Kudo is also another hilarious example of the game's awkward translation. He is very Japanese for a game supposedly set in America, though at least the script acknowledges it here. This leads into the last awkward issue I had with the case.
The villains here, particularly The Tiger, are clearly inspired by Japan's Yakuza gangsters. Throughout the case, they allude to an older, more powerful crime boss. Just like in Pokemon, with Giovanni, the translation just nonchalantly chucks an Italian American stereotype in here, with the not even particularly clever surname "Cadaverini".
In character work for the main cast, overall themes and as a murder mystery, this has all the ingredients for another delicious course in this fantastic meal of a game. Unfortunately, the garnish ruins the flavour so badly I won't be licking out the bowl after this recipe.
Pun of the week: When I first played this as a teenager, I loved the reference to 300's classic "This is Sparta" scene. A little less so in 2018 . . .
A well put-together case, if by-the-numbers by Ace Attorney standards, let down by some characters, moments and translations that haven't done well from 14 years and a jump across the ocean.