While Ace Attorney has always been one of my favourite series, I could never quite get into other games in the Visual Novel genre. There is just something about Ace Attorney and its zany cast of characters and kooky writing that makes it infinitely appealing to me. The series has appeared on many platforms in the past, but there’s no place on the current generation of consoles to experience the first definitive arc of the Ace Attorney games. Ace Attorney Trilogy is, thankfully, just that.
The Ace Attorney trilogy brings together the first three games into a neat little package for a reasonable price with some visual upgrades. Thankfully, Capcom has done a pretty good job at making sure these games look and play like they were released this year, which is a big ask for games that were initially published on the Game Boy Advance eighteen years ago, though subjectively the art direction they’ve used will probably divide fans. Still, while this is missing three other games in the franchise, the three included in Ace Attorney trilogy represents a complete story arc for the characters and one that won’t leave players disappointed.
Thankfully the phenomenal English localisation from the original DS releases has been brought over here too, meaning that the characters themselves are all overflowing with charm and personality. Even throwaway witnesses who appear for a short time are given interesting looks and dialogue that really makes them stand out. The writing is ridiculous and over the top, but it’s still so charming and compelling (except one particular case in Justice For All) that it’s hard to put Ace Attorney down once you’ve started it.
The games themselves are visual novels, interspersed with slightly more involved courtroom sequences that form the crux of the “action” in the game. For the most part, you play as Phoenix Wright himself and his assistant Maya Faye in two distinct segments. In the investigation phase, you’ll do a lot of investigating to discover evidence and testimony that could be used to exonerate your client. These are typical adventure game scenarios – you’ll move from location to location inspecting everything you can to discover everything you need before moving on to the next area or part of the story. They’re not the most thrilling parts of the game and can grow admittedly dull at times, but the writing is strong enough to carry them.
Without a doubt the strongest aspects of each of the games it when you’re in the courtroom undertaking the trial itself. In these parts, witnesses will be called to the stand by a prosecutor and give testimony in bite-size chunks. The idea is that you must read their statement carefully and present evidence that contradicts what they’re saying, to corner them and either get a confession out of them or learn more about the case to convict the real culprit. The courtroom segments are probably the best part of the game, though this can mean sometimes the pacing suffers during the slower paced investigation moments.
Thankfully there is some minor quality of life improvements that make investigating a little less tedious. For one, when examining areas, your cursor will change colour and notify you if the location you’ve investigated has already been studied. This is a godsend from the original versions of the games, which had you mashing the examine button on every pixel just to see if you’ve missed something. It’s a small change but one that made the investigation, especially as someone who has played the games to death before, much more palpable.
Unfortunately, not many more improvements have been made here, and as such the issues the original games had are still present here. One case in Justice for All especially drags, and while I’m not quite sure what could be done to fix it, it’s the only truly bad one out of the twelve or so cases included in this collection. Similarly, and this is entirely subjective, some players might find the logic of some of the solutions to the problems the game presents particularly bizarre, though I personally feel this gives the games a garish charm, unlike any other visual novel I’ve ever played. Prepare for things to get ridiculous, mainly, but in a good way, I promise.
In terms of value for money, the Ace Attorney Trilogy is worth your time. The package is reasonably priced especially given the current rarity of the original games, of which each game will get most players debating in court for fifteen to twenty hours each. Your mileage may vary, obviously, but these games are meaty text adventures that won’t leave you feeling disappointed after the verdict has been handed down. Obviously, being an entirely story-driven game, there’s little replay value here, but the journey you’ll take to get there is so enjoyable it’s hard to say it matters.
While I mentioned before the improved artwork in the game might be controversial amongst fans, Ace Attorney Trilogy is the series looking it’s best. While it’s clearly built on the mobile phone ports released around ten years ago, it’s clear that the developers have still gone over everything and redone any aspects that didn’t quite look as good when upscaled. Similarly, most of the game seems to have been redrawn to be suitable for modern displays with a full widescreen picture rather than just bordered pictures as they originally appeared on the Game Boy Advance and DS. It’s an all-around great looking and sounding package, whether you play docked or handheld.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Ace Attorney Trilogy is a modestly priced collection of thrilling adventures that highlight the best narrative arc in the series thus far. The writing is smart, the narrative is enthralling, and the characters are charming if not kooky. There’s a personal concern that the newer and cleaner art direction will put off some series purists and the cases can feel a bit slow in some parts, but otherwise, this is the best the series has ever looked and played and easily worth your attention.