A fantastic courtroom drama filled with some technical shortcomings.
Capcom was smart in bringing over the Phoenix Wright series to North America (known in Japan as Gyakuten Saiban) with the DS remakes. The series engaged players with its over the top characters, grand melodrama, and wicked sense of humor. Five years after the release of the first Phoenix Wright DS game, Capcom has re-released the entire trilogy on WiiWare. Despite some flaws introduced in the DS-to-Wii conversion, Trials and Tribulations proves that the value of the franchise lies in its stories and characters.
Trials and Tribulations stars Phoenix Wright once more as he handles yet another handful of cases that tests his wits and critical thinking skills. Along the way he is aided by perky spirit medium Maya Fey and her spunky cousin Pearl. With series star prosecutor Miles Edgeworth away on business, newcomer Godot steps in as Wright's main adversary. Other franchise staples, like Dick Gumshoe, Larry Butz and the Judge, return to add humor and charm to all the cases. Other famed characters will appear, but those are best kept secret.
As Michael Cole noted in his review of the original DS game, the basics remains the same in the third game. The gameplay in Phoenix Wright is simple and very easy to learn, inviting the player to look deeper into the story and come to the right conclusion. The addition of the Psyche Locks adds even more interaction to what is essentially an interactive mystery novel. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That is the motto with the franchise, and fans greatly benefit from it.
On the DS, Trials and Tribulations had neat uses for the microphone and two screens. The touch screen allowed for quick and easy navigation of menus and made for a great portable experience. On WiiWare, some elements were sacrificed. Some aren't so bad; others could be considered a bother.
For the most part, the WiiWare version employs the single screen gameplay as in the original Japanese Gameboy Advance versions. But it is clear that the game is a DS port when the game switches to a simulated dual screen presentation for scenes where you must identify something, like a specific place in a map. While not a complete nuisance, the smaller screens make for some difficulty reading text.
Trials and Tribulations on WiiWare uses a great deal of the Wii Remote's capabilities. Players navigate menus using the D-Pad. The A button is used to select various elements on screen, while the B button cancels options. Although the Wii Remote is held in one hand, the Wii Remote’s pointer isn’t used in any manner. When presenting evidence, the game encourages you to shake the Wii Remote to simulate Phoenix Wright's famous finger pointing pose. This would be bothersome, were it not for the game allowing you to also do this by pressing the minus button. As a nice touch, Phoenix's yells come out of the Wii Remote's speaker. Granted, the quality of the speaker diminishes some of the power behind the yells, but the effort in very much appreciated.
What suffers the most in the conversion is the visual presentation. The DS version of Trials and Tribulations looked great. Despite recycled game sprites and animation, the characters were large, detailed and well animated, evoking everything from outlandish emotion to subtle feelings. These same sprites look very dirty and pixilated when blown up for the TV. . Another proof of its birth as a portable game lies in the screen ratio. The actual gameplay is restricted to a 4:3 screen ratio. When played on a widescreen TV, the rest of the space is filled with an animated border that prevents screen burn-in. There are no screen options for players to experiment with.
The music and sound effects are also ripped directly from the DS game. While the music is still as memorable and effective, providing each scene with drama, humor, and power, you can tell that they were composed for an inferior sound system, and for many it will sound dated.
Despite some changes, at its core, Trials and Tribulations is exactly as it is on the DS. With no additional content, Trials and Tribulations is strictly a straight port. Those expecting more out of this WiiWare release will be disappointed.
Still, considering the rarity of the original DS cartridge and the price of the WiiWare game, Trials and Tribulations on WiiWare is still a great game, and the best entry in the franchise. The storyline never fails to impress: it dives very deep into the darkest pits of the human mind while still having a sense of humor about it. While it looks and sounds old, and the Wii-exclusive additions are gimmicky at best, if you missed out on it when it was first released, Trials and Tribulations is a fantastic story-driven experience that shouldn't be missed.