I’ve played many Capcom games over the years but one franchise I never got around to checking out was Ace Attorney. Thankfully, Capcom has just released the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. As a complete newcomer to the series, it was interesting to see what people have been raving about for nearly 20 years. Though I can’t say I’m now an Ace Attorney devotee, I can at least understand why people love these games so much.
For those who don’t know, the first three Ace Attorney entries center on a young defense attorney named Phoenix Wright. The titles combine the mechanics of visual novels and point-and-click adventure games. There is no real “action” in the traditional sense. What drives each entry forward is the dialogue, which is equal parts poignant and absurd. Memorable characters like the titular Phoenix Wright and conniving prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth, keep things lively. They also distract from the simplistic gameplay.
Each of the three games in this collection contain four to five separate cases. Though stand-alone, they usually have some narrative throughline. Cases involve investigating locations for clues and interviewing witnesses. After gathering all pertinent clues from crime scenes and persons-of-interest, the game heads into the courtroom. You’ll have to listen to witness testimony and press for more information in order to find any faults in their story. Witnesses often revise their tales, which forces you to press them further or present evidence which contradicts their statements.
The courtroom shenanigans are the best part of these games. I love the way the camera shoots back and forth between characters, as well as Wright shouting things like “HOLD IT!” or “OBJECTION!” It’s hilarious. The dialogue from director Shu Takumi is absolutely brilliant. You’ll genuinely root for and against the characters as the cases progress. I know I’m late to the party with this statement, but the Ace Attorney series has some of the best writing I’ve seen in video games.
While I love the zany courtroom hijinks and the bonkers characters, I can’t say the same for the actual gameplay. Despite the fantastic dialogue, reading through countless text boxes gets frustrating after a while. Having to remember so many details about each case can also get tiring. I realize this is important to the gameplay and mimics the job of a real attorney. However, I don’t always want to keep 10 mental tabs open when trying to discredit a witness. I am not dumping on visual novels since I know the genre has its audience. I just don’t like this type of interactivity.
The biggest offender gameplay-wise is the out-of-court investigations. Point-and-click mechanics have their place — and I suppose they make sense here — but man is it boring! It boils down to checking every innocuous item in a location with the hopes of uncovering a clue. It’s a good thing the game lets you know what you can or can’t investigate. If you’ve checked out a lamp or painting, you won’t have to do it again. I can’t offer a better alternative to the point-and-click segments. With that said, I would not be against an entry with nothing but the courtroom.
As expected, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy contains updated graphics befitting modern platforms. Each game now has a 16:9 aspect ratio and runs at high resolution. The characters look good on a big screen. It is now easier to appreciate all of the detail the artists put into them. Backgrounds do not have much detail and betray their Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS origin. Most setpieces look bland and unimpressive. Though simplistic by today’s standards, the games look solid considering where they came from.
I’m glad Capcom released Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy as it has given me a chance to finally play this franchise. While I now get the appeal, I don’t see myself playing these titles beyond what was necessary for this review. With that said, I think this is a nice, no-frills collection that’s perfect for longtime fans and newcomers alike.
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