Everyone’s spiky-haired attorney is back, as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy touches up a classic visual novel series’ origin stories.
Title: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (version reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: April 9, 2019
I remember the first time I had heard about Phonix Wright: Ace Attorney. It wasn’t from a recommendation from a friend, hearing about the wacky stories of a totally-not-Japanese lawyer defending the innocent in intense investigations. It was from a loose screenshot of a man in a suit, with the intense determination of a thousand suns, demanding that he cross-examine a witness’ pet parrot.
Any game where you are interrogating a parrot immediately piqued my interest, and more than a decade later, the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is finally available on a non-Nintendo console gaming platform to bring its warm, endearing, doe-eyed charm to a grizzly series of murder court cases shared to players in the style of an interactive visual novel.
This collection contains three titles; Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations. The trio tells the story of rookie Phoenix Wright; a bashful defense lawyer who does right by his clients by destroying prosecutors’ cases with facts and logic.
Gameplay is split into two halves. Often, the first half sees the events of the case unfold before Phoenix Wright takes on an innocent client, beginning the Investigation phase where crime scenes are investigated for clues (manually with your analog stick like it’s an adventure game) and witnesses are questioned. All the important facts are gathered into the Court Record to be used in the second half of the game; the Trial phase.
Here is where the Phonix Wright: Ace Attorney games truly come alive. Witnesses trotted in by hotshot (shady) prosecutor Miles Edgeworth (and a rowdy assortment of other characters in the other games) share testimony where players have a chance to cross-examine their statements. Pressing for information may lead to more clues as to where the witness’ stories break apart and presenting pieces of evidence to contradict them results in a glorious “Objection!”
Whereas this may seem rather dry and mundane, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games thrive in the absurd. Updated from its Game Boy Advance origins to a crisp 16:9 with a modernized visual HD upgrade, there’s a decidedly lighthearted, childlike anime core that breathes life from within. Visual novels live and die on strong writing, and these bombastic scenarios carry themselves later close to two decades after they were first created.
Characters are as colorful as they dress, and with names like Redd White of Bluecorp and April May, you aren’t bogged down by the notion of seriousness.
From working with a teenaged psychic medium who’s always hungry for burgers to learning more from an oafish, well-intended detective who manages to slip up every case, it’s easy to laugh your way through some of the darker tones that would otherwise clash with the subject matter. Characters are as colorful as they dress, and with names like Redd White of Bluecorp and April May, you aren’t bogged down by the notion of seriousness.
The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy ramps up its difficulty progression slowly, but surely. At first, you are given a variety of clues as to where to search in investigations and which statements to press or present evidence during trials. However, as you become familiar with the mechanics, you might have to deduct negatives based on implied statements or re-read files for one line that contradicts a smaller line of testimony. Difficulty balance is masterfully struck because of it.
The series in North America was built on the backs of touch integration with the DS, and for the Nintendo Switch, that remains the truth once more. With a higher resolution, you can see more of these layered environments and tap on clues to investigate when you’re out and about, and you can speed through dialogue by tapping the screen.
Though the updates to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy’s titles are through visual fidelity, a clearer UI and accessibility improvements, I would have preferred to have heard an updated soundtrack. The original tracks are certifiable bangers in their own right, driving the emotional highs and the tense lows of a courtroom drama, but they are still limited in creative range to the DS sound files from a decade and a half ago. They’re a bit too tinny for modern games.
There are few video games that are truly comedic, and it’s downright crazy that our own list of funny video games doesn’t include the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry; you’ll learn the difference between Christmas and almost Christmas. More importantly, they set the foundation for a larger franchise worthy of more attention in the West. Just give us those spin-offs already, Capcom!
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.