Capcom’s Ace Attorney franchise might not be as popular as other Capcom franchises, but it’s been around since 2001 when the first game saw a Japan only release on the Game Boy Advance. The original trilogy has been released on the Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii and mobile devices in the West. Now Capcom has decided to release it yet again on the current generation of consoles and PC as the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy.
This updated version of the cherished trilogy focuses on rookie attorney Phoenix Wright and the many trials he must face to prove the innocence of his clients. What makes the Ace Attorney games so unique is that it’s still difficult to find anything quite like them despite how long they have been around. The action is spread over an investigative phase, where Phoenix finds evidence with the aid of other characters and the courtroom drama where evidence is used to find flaws in testimony provided by characters and eventually uncover the truth.
There is a lot of text/dialogue to read and it can be a challenge at times to sift through it to realise which piece of evidence can be used to reveal a lie or inconsistency. Sometimes information is only uncovered by pressing a character for further information regarding a piece of testimony and it might be necessary to do this several times to find it. Recent Ace Attorney titles made this process easier by making it possible to view all text history from recent to older. Whilst it’s not a major issue, it would have seemed logical to include such a feature.
The franchise’s unique take on logic is also stretched too thin at times. There are moments when the right piece of evidence is used, but it’s against the wrong piece of testimony and vice versa. Sometimes the logic behind using a piece of evidence is so far fetched that it only becomes clear once trying to present various pieces of evidence against random pieces of testimony. It’s another minor issue that can also make the investigative phase confusing when for example presenting a character’s profile to another character is what is stalling progression.
Such flaws are too minor to spoil the courtroom drama that can reach soap opera levels in terms of twists. It’s usually the case that players are given the identity of the real offenders from the start, but finding out their motives for committing the crimes and how they were done is still very entertaining.
One of the highlights of playing each Ace Attorney game is getting to know the unique characters linked to each of the cases. It’s often fascinating to see someone’s personality gradually change as more pressure is applied with each testimony that is provided. It’s difficult not to be charmed by the cast and dialogue. By the end of the last case in the original trilogy most characters are connected by their involvement in each case and events outside of the cases in a way that feels natural and makes sense. It might be the case that the true reason why Ace Attorney is still so different is how the development team takes care to ensure that every new game makes excellent use of events from previous games to continue to evolve the stories of recurring characters.
Although the first game still feels like the strongest in terms of cases and how they are solved, it doesn’t make the other two any less relevant. Perhaps it’s the reliance on a psyche-lock gimmick from the second game onwards that sometimes makes playing the other games less thrilling. The use of a special stone gives Phoenix the ability to get people to stop withholding information during the investigative phase. This is done by providing evidence and it can get convoluted to eventually find everything that is necessary to do so. It also makes it clear just how necessary it is to hop between locations. It would have seemed sensible to give player the option to quickly jump to previously visited locations without needing to go through various other locations first.
Interestingly enough, the second game somewhat clumsily makes use of amnesia, a classic in soap operas, to introduce players to the action. However, it’s no longer playing around by the third game where the first case feels like a trial by fire in a way that it would make tougher cases in the first game blush with embarrassment. In fact, the third game falters in the middle portion, but manages to recover in time for a thrilling finale to the trilogy that manages to touch on and resolve any loose ends from the trilogy.
The only significant update in this version of the original trilogy comes in the form of updated visuals. Whilst it makes sense to do so to make the games more relevant, there is no denying that it loses some of its charm. Ideally, it would have been better to give players a choice to play the games in their original state (perhaps even as they were presented on Nintendo Wii) or with the enhanced visuals. The addition of simple bonuses such as concept art and trailers could have also made for a nice addition as a way of paying respect to a franchise that has survived for so many years.
Regardless, the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is not only a great way for a new generation of gamers to hopefully experience such unique games, but it also proves that Capcom still believes that there is a future for the franchise.