Capcom has once again opened its locker and has remastered another of its hits. Originally debuting on Game Boy Advance in Japan, and later in the west on the DS, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is making its way to PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. What we have here is basically three games in one - a trilogy if you like - following the story of a young attorney called Phoenix Wright, who turns out to be ace. So, that's the title deconstructed, but let's take a look at the evidence to see what's really going on.
For those who missed them the first time, it's an episodic, heavily narrative-based point-and-click visual novel (well, three of them split into fourteen cases) that follows the story of Phoenix Wright, who is thrown in at the deep end from the off. Across the first three entries in the series - Ace Attorney, Justice For All, and Trials and Tribulations - this snazzy young lawyer with a haircut like a porcupine is forced to defend a variety of characters. His first ever case has him defending his best friend after he's framed for murder. Not a great first day at the office.
The first chapter in Ace Attorney eases you in quite gently, with your boss, Mia, giving you hints about what to do and when. It's a good way to teach you the ropes, which basically involves choosing dialogue options, pressing witnesses, presenting evidence in the courtroom, and so on and so forth.
While the basic premise is quite simplistic, you have to really listen intently to the testimonies of the unreliable witnesses or murderers to be able to pick them apart, and press or present at the right time. In the next episode, you basically take a more hands-on role and become a detective. Something happens to your boss from the first episode, and during your days in court, you must solve the resultant mystery.
Often, before the court starts, you get to see who commits the crime in a cutscene. The game is at its best, however, when it doesn't let you know what happened previously. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy makes you rely more on your common sense and intellect, pushing you to use them correctly, rather than just finding every item and that alone being enough.
You need to search for clues that can be found at various scenes and speak to witnesses to build a case for the defence. You head to locations like detention centres, murder scenes, and your office on a regular basis, while there are other case-specific locations like movie sets and hotel rooms to explore.
One thing that we found frustrating is that when leaving one place to head to another, you had to select from a list where to go. What irritated us is that sometimes, if it's another room in the same location, you had to move to each adjacent screen before you got to your final destination. For example, on the movie set, you select the entrance, open the list, go to the crew area, then select again before you finally arrive at the dressing room. It feels a bit laboured to make three clicks when one would have done the trick.
The gameplay in all three of the games is pretty similar, with the second introducing something new in the form of 'Psyche-locks'. This is basically a secret in the form of padlocks that Phoenix needs to break in order to get to the truth by presenting evidence to the character in question. The only other things that are different are the protagonists and stories, with the third game focussing a lot on flashbacks to your former boss and her rookie years.
The lack of innovation in the third game was the cause of a little criticism back in the day, but the story was received well. As it's presented as a trilogy, however, the lack of difference isn't as noticeable and it feels part of the same package.
Obviously, being a visual novel, there is a lot of dialogue to sift through, which basically involves reading and pressing the 'X' button a lot (we reviewed on PS4). There was no voice over, which we feel would have added something to the experience for new players in particular. Instead, you have this beeping noise as the dialogue unfolds. It feels like there's too much reading at times.
That said, we have to say that the dialogue is well written, involving, and often humorous.
While a lot of the jokes are cheesy puns, they really hit the mark and added to the game's overall charm. It really does keep you engaged, so it's not too noticeable how much you're reading once you're immersed in events. Each of the episodes is quite lengthy, and you have a fair amount of story and game to get through.
There are some well-designed and colourful characters to interact with, including a selection of outrageous villains and recurring characters such as; Edgeworth, the prosecutor who fixes cases; the loveable, yet bumbling cop-on-the-beat Detective Gumshoe; and Maya Fey, who, with mystical powers, can summon the spirit of an old ally in order to give you advice.
Combined with good writing is the overall look of the game. Considering their humble origins, the graphics are really polished and colourful and translate well to the big screen. They have an anime style, and while there is very little movement (other than the change of one still to another) and the facial expressions are somewhat limited, overall the art style really works.
The gameplay was fun, and there was so much to see and do, however, the whole experience is very much carried by the writing, although we liked that you have to use logic to deduce solutions rather than simple evidence collection. That said, it's wasn't always as logical as it could have been, and sometimes it boiled down to pure guesswork.
Before we sound too negative, Phoenix Wright is still a fun and engaging experience, and with three games in one, you have a great amount of content to get through. The writing is very good, and if you enjoy story-driven narratives, this is certainly one cold case worth examining, especially if you've never investigated it before. It looks great, and while certain improvements such as voiced dialogue and a less complicated location movement system would have strengthed its case, it still offered us lots of fun.
And so, the verdict is in. We sentence Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy to 7/10.
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