While the Ace Attorney series hasn’t seen a new entry in seven years, that hasn’t stopped Capcom from keeping the legal drama visual novel franchise in the popular consciousness with regular remakes and remasters of the games, and in doing so appear to have captured new generations of fans. The original three games, first released in Japan on the Game Boy Advance, over the years ported to DS, iOS, 3DS, were finally brought to modern consoles and PC with the 2019 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy. Next, followed The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles in 2021, more notable for bringing two Japan-exclusive games, set in a 19th century London, from the 3DS officially outside the country for the first time. Now, the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy brings together the three remaining releases from the main Ace Attorney storyline, remastering and bridging evolving art styles and technologies into a remarkably enjoyable package that feels like the definitive way to experience these games.
You’ll notice series’ mainstay protagonist Phoenix Wright’s name is absent from the title of this trilogy, even if his name was restored to the titles of the two individual games for marketing purposes. That’s because newcomer Apollo Justice is generally the driving force between the plots of the three games included – Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice. There’s a time jump between the original three Phoenix Wright games and these of seven years, enough time for Phoenix Wright’s fortunes to have dwindled since his victories in the trilogy, and a young fresh-faced lawyer to step up and become his apprentice of sorts. Apollo is a likeable character, with many of the usual underdog qualities you come to expect out of an Ace Attorney protagonist, he’s just given three wildly different backstories throughout these three games that drive the narrative, when it would have been a stronger choice just to pick one and build on it. Alongside Apollo, Athena Cykes also joins the team from Dual Destinies on as a playable character, and while she has an interesting trauma-filled past that is touched on, she never quite gets the chance to take centre stage.
If there’s a through line in all these games, I suppose it is Apollo’s maturation into a fully fledged lawyer, as well as a man with his own beliefs and causes. However, the actual plots of all three games are a wild spread of episodes that cover an array of cases and adventures for Apollo, Athena and Phoenix. In Apollo Justice, Apollo is employed by a disbarred dad-mode Phoenix and finds himself investigating a panty thief, a mob-related hit and run, and eventually a years-long conspiracy around Phoenix’s adopted daughter Trucy. His frequent rival is prosecutor Klavier Gavin, a famous rock star as well as a prosecutor whose success and confidence is an amusing constant source of frustration for Apollo. In Dual Destinies, Apollo, Phoenix and Athena find themselves pitted against Simon Blackquill, a literally convicted prosector released from prison for his court appearances, while investigating the murderous events at a NASA-esque space centre. In Spirit of Justice, the most supernaturally-inclined entry, Maya Fey from the original trilogy returns as Phoenix journeys to the Kingdom of Khura’in, a society centred around the occult and mystic practices of channelling spirits, although Apollo is soon drawn into his own ties to this country as well.
Throughout all three games is the Ace Attorney series’ trademark sense of wit and humour. These are still very funny games, that still manage to capture your attention with their drama. The way the direction of a case can change on a dime, by thinking about evidence or a situation differently, is where the series’ Japanese title gets its name from – Turnabout Trial – and it’s what make these still standout experiences. Are they as good as the original trilogy, or the Great Ace Attorney games? Probably not. The selection of prosecutors isn’t especially strong, with neither Spirit of Justice‘s Sahdmadhi nor Blackquill being especially threatening, and Klavier Gavin often coming off more friendly than fierce. But getting to spend time with Ace Attorney characters is always a delight nonetheless, particularly in court sections as you press witnesses for information and cross examine them to catch them in lies. The moment they ‘breakdown’ is always spectacular, particularly in the 3D entries in this collection.
Apollo Justice was originally a 2D game on the DS with some minor 3D elements and pre-rendered cutscenes. For its remaster in this collection, all the sprites have been re-drawn and upscaled to look crisp and clean in HD, and even things like the pre-rendered cutscenes which I thought would receive no love, have been re-rendered to fit the larger presentation. Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice both made the switch to using 3D models on the 3DS, and these too have been upscaled. The result is a clean presentation that is as consistent as is possible to be across all three titles. Touchscreen-based gameplay and other elements (such as dusting and blowing away fingerprint powder with the microphone) are easily handled with simple button presses or analogue stick movement, which works well enough considering they were always gimmicky to begin with. Each lawyer has their own ability as well that works fine with a regular controller, with Apollo able to detect subtle movements in witnesses that may betray a lie, Athena able to pick up on emotional cues with a ‘Mood Matrix’ gadget, and Phoenix able to break through chains inside people’s psyche with a mystic magatama.
As a collection, it’s also impressively complete, and . The DLC-only cases for both Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice are also included, as is the previously YouTube-exclusive anime prologue for Spirit of Justice. There are collections of artwork and concept art, as well as a jukebox of Ace Attorney‘s always-excellent soundtrack, including selections from the orchestral concert held for the 15th anniversary. There’s also a theatre where you can watch animations for any of the characters, cued up on any background you like. There’s also lots of quality of life improvements for fans who may have played these games before, from being able to quickly skip through text if you want to, to being able to jump to any specific part of any case and just pick up from there – a major departure from having to unlock everything from scratch in the last Ace Attorney Trilogy. It’s absolutely a really solid overall package.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy collects three hugely fun Ace Attorney games from two different consoles, and polishes them up in a HD release that’s complete, consistent and convenient for both longtime fans and new fans who are journeying through the series for the first time. It’s hard not to have a fun time with any one of these games, but maybe that’s because I have a huge Ace Attorney shaped hole in my heart that these games know exactly how to fill, with charming and hilarious characters, off-the-wall cases and hugely dramatic moments. While these aren’t quite as good individually as the earlier Ace Attorney and Great Ace Attorney games, the package itself is incredible, making it the best way to experience these games. As for what’s next on the horizon, surely there’s a Miles Edgeworth collection bringing together his two DS titles, and perhaps we might even see a remaster of the bonkers Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney? In any case, for now across these collections we’ve now got eight incredible stories to enjoy, and there’s certainly no objections from me.
This game was reviewed on Xbox with code provided by the publisher.
-Ace Attorney games always spark joy -Impressive remaster of one DS and two 3DS games -Comprehensive collection includes music, art, anime scenes and DLC cases
-The games can be uneven, particularly in dealing with Apollo's backstory