There’s no doubt that Capcom have been delving deep into their history this generation, bringing game after game from their back catalogue to the current console generation. Their quality has differed at times, from the fantastic port of Okami HD, to the not-so-great Devil May Cry HD Collection. Because of this, there was no guarantee on what end of the spectrum the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy would land, but I’m glad to say that it’s a fantastic version of Phoenix Wright’s original trilogy.
If you’ve followed Capcom’s mobile and handheld releases in the past, you may have noticed that this isn’t the first time that Ace Attorney Trilogy has been released. While there are some similarities between the current and previous versions of the trilogy, Capcom have put some extra work in for this release. The first of these is a new single-screen HUD that is much closer to the original GBA releases of the games, removing the horrendously cluttered HUD that was used in the iOS release. The second of these is some further cleaning up of the game’s art, which results in a much cleaner style than these games have ever seen before. However, a little of the game’s charm is lost due to this, with the clean up resulting in the removal of some details in backgrounds (such as the prints on the flags in the courtroom) and the art style becoming a little too sterile.
The music also didn’t receive anything close to the attention the art did, which means that while it’s of an obviously higher quality than the original GBA games, the limited sound effects and music do grate a little over time. Considering there are orchestral and instrumental versions of much of the Trilogy’s music already, it would have been much appreciated to see it included here. Beyond the games themselves, Ace Attorney Trilogy is a relatively barebones package, unlike other Capcom compilations. While releases like the Mega Man Legacy collections and Street Fighter 20th Anniversary Collection have included bonus content like timelines and concept art, Ace Attorney Trilogy has none of this. While it’s disappointing to not have these things available, the quality of the Ace Attorney games and their engaging narratives make it less of an issue.
For the uninitiated, the Ace Attorney series thrusts you into the Japanese court system (Japanifornia, actually – ed.), where you’ll take control of a defense attorney taking on seemingly impossible cases to save innocent people. The original three games in the series contained within this collection (Ace Attorney, Ace Attorney – Justice for All and Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations) specifically have you slide into the shoes of Phoenix Wright – a rookie attorney thrust into the spotlight by a shocking turn of events. Phoenix Wright and the other characters in the games, as well as the writing surrounding them, are what really makes Ace Attorney Trilogy so special. Each character is presented as a caricature of a trope, be it the sinister prosecuting attorney Manfred von Karma or the bumbling detective Dick Gumshoe, but they’re used to great effect in the story. This is enhanced through the trilogy, as many of the characters continue to pop up throughout cases and you come to build relationships with them. This is facilitated by the stories themselves, which are a fantastic blend of comedy, melodrama and thrilling tension. This is achieved wholly through the Trilogy’s great writing, which is expressed entirely through dialogue, soliloquy and flavour text. You’re never going to be overwhelmed by emotion, but the games do a great job of presenting serious subject matter while keeping a varied style and avoiding remaining one-note.
These stories in Ace Attorney Trilogy are told in a format similar to a visual novel, with a heavy emphasis on conversation and investigation. Throughout the games you’ll jump between two main gameplay styles – presenting evidence and questioning testimonies in the court room, and searching for clues outside of it. Within the court room, this takes the form of testimonies split into multiple sections, which give you the option to press the witness or present evidence that contradicts it. Doing this involves attention and memory, as you need to figure out which parts of the testimony to press on and what evidence you have that links into it. While there are a couple of times that the links can seem a little obtuse, the threads of logic are generally there and just require thinking through what evidence you’ve found so far. Make too many mistakes though and you’ll be thrown out of the courtroom and get a game over. Investigation sections are pretty similar in style, as you’ll need to interview witnesses to find clues and trigger new learnings by presenting existing evidence, but you also have a bit more freedom to explore the various environments (presenting as 2D backgrounds/rooms you can move between). This is where the Switch proves itself, as playing in handheld mode allows you to use touchscreen controls to investigate the areas, instead of moving the cursor using the analogue sticks. The games are good at jumping between sections and not keeping you locked into a single style for too long, but if you’re looking for action you certainly won’t find it here.
Overall, I’m comfortable calling Ace Attorney Trilogy the definitive release of Phoenix Wright’s original trilogy. I’d have loved some more additions and the new art looks a little sterile, but neither of these are enough to truly detract from the great stories and gameplay presented. If you’re after some great court melodrama and engaging characters, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is for you.
- Touch screen controls are great - HUD is much improved from previous re-releases - Story and characters are just as fun and engaging as ever
- New art is somewhat sterile at points - No additional content such as concept art or galleries