For the first time ever, Ace Attorney is available on other platforms besides Nintendo’s. While there is over ten games in the series if you count spin offs, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is the first three games in the visual novel, legal drama, offering a nice package that can introduce new players. Most likely this is testing the waters for more ports.
While I had heard about Ace Attorney before playing the trilogy I had never actually played any of the games. I could be wrong but it seemed very much like the trilogy is just a high res’ port. While this doesn’t exactly harm the trilogy since it’s mostly aimed at getting new players because it’s on new platforms, it doesn’t really give existing fans any reason to pick it up. For first time players though, the trilogy does a great job of making a first impression and with it consisting of the first three games it opens the door for players to get into the rest of the series without any gaps in what’s happened.
Being a visual novel most of the game is reading text but there are point and click elements when outside of the courtroom. The point and click elements are used in the investigative process that takes place before court days, allowing you to gather information and evidence to help you win in court. Due to the nature of the game it is a mostly linear process but with the way collecting evidence is structured between finding items, talking to key people, and inspecting environments, you will find yourself having to at least re-visit areas and people rather than just progressing from one place to the next. Having the investigative process structured this way takes out any incentive to just click all over the environment and actually think about what you’ve learned and where to go next. For how old these games are it’s actually really good game design that holds up even today.
When it comes to the court days the gameplay switches to cross-examination in which Phoenix has to examine a testimony and find contradictions, while using the evidence he has gathered to prove the person isn’t telling the truth. Because of the linear design of the games the gameplay does stumble a bit when it comes to being in court. Since you have to offer evidence that contradicts statements there are times when it may seem as though a piece of evidence should work for an objection but the judge will penalise you because it’s too early in the case to use said evidence. Another downside to the series overall is that when you actually look at it there isn’t much depth to the actual gameplay. The Psyche-Lock mechanic introduced in the second game brings more depth to the interrogation aspects and more evidence choices to submit brings more to the court segments.
Of course, given it’s age some of these gameplay stumbles can be forgiven but it does get a little annoying at times when you present that evidence you was surely going to help but then the judge dismisses it because you thought ahead of what the game wanted you to. It also really ruins the flow of the moment, causing dialogue to come to a halt as Phoenix embarrasses himself by presenting something that is “irrelevant.”
Dialogue and the art is where Ace Attorney really shines though. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a visual novel if they wasn’t good… Probably the most impressive thing about the dialogue is the ability to swap from comedic to serious dialogue without ruining the moment. While you have to cut a little slack to the fact some of the jokes are being made on things like murder cases and not take it too seriously it really does a great job of keeping the tone. My only criticism of the dialogue is that there isn’t a log that shows all the most recent text so it can be easy to get lost in some of the longer conversations.
The art is where I feel a bit split. Visually it’s very crisp and smooth, honestly you wouldn’t think the trilogy were originally GameBoy Advance releases. I feel like age does mean a little more could’ve been done however, there are some scenes that really set the tone, for example it’s dark when there’s mini cutscenes of a murder taking place. However, in game when you arrive at the scene the really bright, colourful art style conflicts with the fact you’re at a murder scene. This could be due to earlier Gameboy Advance’s lacking a backlight so a brighter art style was needed to stand out. I just feel like a missed opportunity is there with setting the tone with the art in some of the areas as part of the upgrades. At the same time I can understand keeping it like the original. In the courtroom is where the art really shines though. Having the iconic “OBJECTION!” and other phrases flash on-screen like a comic strip accompanied by the more tense audio and more exaggerated visual expressions and motions of characters really gives the games more character.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher