Capcom’s Ace Attorney series has had quite the storied history. With five main entries, several spinoffs, and a recent crossover with Professor Layton, the unique cross between adventure games and courtroom conflicts has garnered a lot of praise and fans. While the series has already enjoyed a recent entry on the 3DS with last year’s Dual Destinies, Capcom is now making it easier for newcomers to the franchise to get their hands on the original trilogy that started it all, with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy. A compilation that will interest both returning fans and newcomers alike, it compiles the series’ first three efforts into one convenient package, while offering enhanced visuals that take advantage of the 3DS’ technical abilities.
The original games have already had an interesting sort of longevity, with their original, Japan-only releases on the Game Boy Advance, ports on the DS that marked the series’ debut in English-speaking countries, and additional ports for the Wii and iOS. With so many versions already available, those who have already played the three titles included here may be wondering if there is a reason to purchase the games all over again.
I’ll get that answer out of the way and say that, in most aspects, the answer is no, especially since the their stories and gameplay have been left completely unchanged, with no new content to speak of. However, for newcomers who have only played the more recent entries, this is a great way to experience Phoenix Wright‘s origins, especially since it’s easier to purchase the trilogy all at once and switch between the games without having to swap cartridges.
As each game’s fundamentals have been left unchanged, all of the original versions’ respective strengths and weaknesses have also returned. Naming one’s favorite Ace Attorney game is definitely a matter of personal opinion, but it’s probably best to go into further detail about how the series plays and what each individual game offers.
The main protagonist, as you might guess from the title, is defence attorney Phoenix “Nick” Wright. Each case revolves around a murder mystery that seems to have evidence pointing towards a specific character, who Wright defends in court. The games are divided into two distinct gameplay styles, one being the Investigation portion. These parts control in a fairly traditional point-and-click manner that suits the 3DS’ lower touch screen well, as Wright and his assistant Maya Fey go to various locations to gather evidence and information, both recording items of interest and talking to characters involved with the case via basic dialog trees.
The more unique and engaging part of the games come from their Trial portions, where characters give testimonies regarding their involvement and knowledge of incidents related to the case. Players are required to page through each individual statement, and can choose between two options. Therein, Wright can either attempt to press the witness for more information, which can sometime reveal essential facts, or present a piece of the evidence gathered earlier to expose contradictions, eventually working his way to the truth behind each case.
The two styles of gameplay remain unchanged across all three games, with the only noteworthy addition being the Psyche-Lock feature in the second and third titles. Essentially a way to bring one of the courtroom aspects into the Investigation phase, Wright gains the ability to see locks around specific characters when they’re hiding something, and can present evidence to them and unlock those secrets in the process. The final case of the first game also breaks from the mould by actually incorporating the 3DS touch screen for investigation, instead of limiting touch input to menu selections.
The main Ace Attorney series has always had an, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality with how it plays, but it’s not that big of a complaint, considering the continuous lineup of new characters and mysteries that each title provides.
The trilogy also provides some recurring characters besides Wright and Maya, such as the likable-but-dimwitted Detective Gumshoe and Wright’s goofball friend Larry Butz. However, each individual case offers a unique lineup of characters, sporting other humorous names like Lotta Hart, Trilo Quist, and my personal favorite, Luke Atmey.
The cases do a good job of feeling varied thanks to their unique settings and characters, but if there’s a downside, it’s that the cast can often feel a bit over-the-top and exaggerated in how they’re portrayed. It certainly provides for some funny moments, but it can also get kind of tiring in the long run.
While the Investigation phase is the lesser of each game’s two halves due to its more leisurely pace, the trials are where the Ace Attorney series shines. It’s always satisfying to nail a suspicious witness’ testimony with the right evidence, and not only are there a lot of great twists and turns within each trial, but the now-trademark presentation elements add to the rush, with memorable music when things get more intense, over-the-top animations for characters when they get more agitated, and Wright and each prosecutor having audible cries of “Objection!” and “Hold it!”
As the gameplay is relatively unchanged across the three games (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Justice for All, and Trials and Tribulations), which ones are the best come down to the plot and characters, and that’s really a case of personal preference. That said, I will admit that I think that the original game and Trials and Tribulations both stand a bit above Justice for All in terms of their engaging characters and moments.
Justice, arguably, has the least memorable recurring prosecutor with the whip-wielding Franziska von Karma, who seems more reliant on tiresome running gags than anything else. Also, unlike the other primary prosecutors, the stern Miles Edgeworth and the mysterious, coffee-loving Godot, don’t factor much into the main plot. However, the final case of the second game does help things a bit, as the conflict it ends up introducing by its final section is one of the most intense and unique in the series, and turns a fundamental aspect of every Ace Attorney case on its head with its biggest twist.
As the most notable new feature of Ace Attorney Trilogy happens to be its redone, higher-res graphics, I can say that returning fans will come away impressed. I’m sure that there will be players who will miss the pixel-art characters when looking at the smoother, more hand-drawn remastered versions, but they’re still as on-model and as expressive as ever, and it’s nice to see more detailed versions of each environment. The games’ use of the handheld’s stereoscopic 3D feature is negligible, though, as it’s generally limited to making characters look more like they’re in front of each background. Furthermore, the special illustrations that highlight important parts of each case don’t incorporate 3D at all.
The point still stands that, if previous versions of these games are still fresh in your mind, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy isn’t a must-buy. That said, even though I remembered the culprit for each case, it had been long enough that I still had fun figuring out contradictions and revisiting some of the series’ best moments. And regardless of the lack of new features, the games in here still hold up well thanks to their engaging casts and stories, and I never encountered any technical or performance-related issues.
This collection is highly recommended for adventure game fans who have been curious about the series, as well as anyone who has only played Dual Destinies or the Layton crossover. Series veterans wanting something completely fresh should, of course, wait for the next game in the franchise, but for everyone else, this is a great way to get started.
This review is based on the 3DS exclusive, which was provided to us.
For newcomers interested in playing the original games, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is a great package. However, series veterans will find little reason to double-dip.