And so my journey with Phoenix Wright comes to an end. I bought the first game after playing Professor Layton versus Phoenix Wright, and finally found a cheap copy Amazon after dancing around the idea of buying it the better part of a decade. And this week I finished the third game in the original trilogy. It’s been a fun trip.
The three Phoenix Wright games are like a season of a great television show. While the individual cases are unrelated in the sense that knowledge of the previous cases is unnecessary to solve the current case, each case from the first tutorial from the first game to the final case from the third game have been steadily building up to a single finale to the story that really left an impact. It really was amazing, and I really look forward to the anime adaptation in the hopes it captures that same sense of ludicrous and heart breaking.
Trials and Tribulations didn’t bring anything new to the game play, but it really didn’t need to. There aren’t any new gimmicks or tools needed to get through the games, and has the exact same mechanics as Justice for All, but you don’t need Trials and Tribulations for new stuff, but for the story. The first case in the game is actually a flashback, and ties back largely to the first game as instead of following Wright, we’re actually shown his mentor Mia in her rookie days defending one of her earliest clients—Phoenix, himself. The game comes full circle by featuring many, many characters from the previous games, which works beautifully since the point is to tie up each of their stories: Edgeworth having finally learned what it means to be a prosecutor, Franziska von Karma understanding that perfection isn’t everything, and a mystery that had been under the surface of the story since the beginning: what happened to Maya and Mia’s missing mother, Kurain Master Misty Fey. And the answer to that is powerful, because behind the punny names, silly character designs and goofy court antics, the Ace Attorney games touched on serious and tragic revelations. I wouldn’t call the ending ‘happy’, since when the dust settles and the answers come to light no one really wins anything. Even the sweet little girl character, Pearl has some pretty big truths to deal with. But that’s the point from the beginning: a lawyer’s job is to defend their client to the best of their abilities, not to win at any cost, and at the end of the game people see that Phoenix ‘Nick’ Wright is the best at that.
People had been telling me the ending was amazing, and it really was. It gave me everything I want out of an ending, a sense of closure for the current issues, and an indication that life goes on after the story has reached its finale.
The game isn’t perfect though, and I do have a few quibbles about it. While all the games had a lot of pop culture gags, some of the over reliance on meme humor in the translation is really to its detriment. This game was translated in 2007, and a decade down the line those memes have aged very, very badly (I’d forgotten the Harlem Shake was a thing). I can see why Capcom is a little apprehensive to let Nintendo do its translations since the company still likes to stick meme references into their scripts. Also, my second complaint is the treatment of Maya. Maya is a fantastic character: she’s plucky, funny and doesn’t take nonsense from Nick. The back and forth between her and Nick are some of the best parts of the game, but she keeps getting either abducted or accused of murder, or both. It gets really old. Not only does this mean that Maya gets a timeout from screen time, it also feels a bit lazy. Granted, the murder accusations are about members of her family, and family members are a lot more likely to kill each other than strangers, but come on DA’s office, I think it’s pretty safe to say that if she gets acquitted from two murders, accusing her of a third is kind of stretching it. In the end, I understand the decision and it actually makes sense in the long run, but I hope they lay off of it in future games. (Though now that I think of it, Maya was also accused of being a witch in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright. Argh!)
Speaking of Maya and Nick, one thing I appreciate is that they left their relationship ambiguous. Pearl and many other characters assume that Nick and Maya are a couple, and while it’s clear he cares about Maya intensely, it’s never really confirmed. Normally I’m a big ol’ dorky shipper, but the chemistry between these two always felt more to me like a pair of buddies or a hero and sidekick. Romance in the traditional sense would have thrown a wretch in the dynamic. I much prefer these two dorks as they are, bickering and arguing and Nick being left with the bill.
I still have Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth Investigations in my backlog pile, but after everything that happened in the trilogy, I need a rest from the courtroom for now. I know Capcom pretty much ignores the Western fanbase, and that the 5th game is digital only, and thus will never be in my grasp, and that the 6th game is still a giant question mark so I don’t my hopes too high that I’ll ever be able to play past the DS games. But even if I never do, the original Phoenix Wright triology are a genuinely brilliant set of games I’m thrilled I was finally able to play.
Gamer Diary is an informal review of games I play as I more or less discuss the thoughts that pop up while I’m playing the games. They are not meant to be recommendations or strict critiques, but as a motivator to continue to play and finish games even if I get frustrated or discouraged. If you want to do a similar thing and make your own gamer diaries, please feel free to mimic the format. The Geek Empress is a comic book artist whose work can be found at bwillettcomics.com and does the regular features Craf-TAY Corner and Collecting Retro Games.