I’ve always been rather fond of the Ace Attorney games. Not just because they’re fairly unique and encompass an intelligent framework, but because they’re stylish and likable too. The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy spans a total of three titles; Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations. That’s all three of the series’ first installations, compiled in one neat package. Safe to say, if you plan on grabbing this bundle, you’ve quite a bit of courtroom time to soak up.
First and foremost, at launch, the game grants players a total of ten save slots for both the English and Japanese versions of these cases, with German, French, Korean, Chinese, and Simplified Chinese translations coming out by Summer 2019. Now, much like any other Capcom comeback this gen, you can expect a number of improvements and enhancements in place to ensure that the experience sits well with the times. Here, we’ve got a new UI, fresh artwork, and a range of quality of life tweaks across the entire trilogy, and boy howdy, it’s looking fine.
To those unaware, the Ace Attorney games play out via an interactive visual novel-esque style. Players take on the role of the titular Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney that’s tasked with not only defending his clients in court, but gathering evidence to uphold and support each of his cases. There’s typically a short animated cutscene that introduces each case throughout each game, and once you’ve agreed to defend a client – often the prime suspect, you’re set on a course to prevent a guilty verdict. With that in mind, the games house two elements of play.
You’ll spend time both in and out the dock; crime investigations and courtroom trials. The investigations usually take place before and in between the trials. These serve as your opportunity to visit crime scenes, gather intelligence from people (and places) of interest, and ultimately stick your grubby nose where it’s clearly not wanted. The whole process is well structured, and not once does the game shoehorn you towards the correct conclusion. Here, you’ll need to earn your victories through the use of both observation and perseverance.
This amounts to surveying crime scenes to unearth evidence and locate useful items and objects, right the way up to studying witnesses and gaining testimonies. You’ll then use this evidence and insight to separate fact from nonsense for use in court. Suspect that someone is lying to you? Or, covering up for another person? You’ll need to weigh up all of your gathered evidence and look for loopholes before applying any pressure. Naturally, with this being a visual novel-esque styled game, the gameplay is all based on interacting with single screen imagery.
Essentially, this means that you’ll spend the majority of your time browsing dialogue options, using a cursor to uncover useful wares, and transitioning from area to area to rinse and repeat the process. That may sound fairly basic, but it’s a lot deeper than you would expect. For instance, at one point, I was clearly missing a pretty vital piece of evidence that was mandatory to my case. Little did I know that said evidence was located in a nest of files in an office that I had visited countless times beforehand, without ever paying said files much attention.
There’s many moments like this to be had in this trilogy, and they’re all as freakishly as unapparent as the next. Things as seemingly as innocuous as a photo on a desk can make or break an entire case, so it pays off to be vigilant in regards to not only your surroundings, but your evidence-load too. When you’re not cross examining witnesses or fact finding, you’ll be in front of judge and jury, battling against your direct opposition. These phases can be brutal if you’re unprepared, and even more so if the prosecutor will do anything to get a guilty verdict.
Your arguments need to be structured, need to make sense, and need to be completely airtight. Though, it’s not just about presenting the evidence and moving on, you’ll need to do much more than that. Evidence should only be called into question at the right time, and usually in the midst of a cross examination. This is where you can essentially collapse a false testimony. To do so, you’ll need to carefully listen to witness testimonies and swiftly weigh these varied statements up with the evidence in an attempt to separate fact from fabrication.
Ace can either press a witness to elaborate further on a statement, or, present a witness with damning evidence that contradicts their stories. Once you’ve got someone in a tight-spot, it’s all about moving through statements and breaking down their bed of lies. You’ll need to be mindful of the prosecutor, however, who can also object to your interference. Several times you’ll be given a number of choices when it comes to being asked a question, and the majority of these tend to only be obvious if you’ve been paying attention to statements and evidence.
In fact, there’s a few prosecutors that play sly tactics and pull out last minute evidence in a ploy to throw you off guard. Needless to say, it’s essential that you study your case thoroughly to stay ahead of the game. Outside of that, the judge may also ask you the occasional question, or, demand that you explain why you’re objecting so much. It’s imperative that you respond correctly at all times. Failing to do so will lose you some life points, which subsequently harms your case. In truth, it’s a refreshing experience to say the least.
The game’s do tend to open up as you dive deeper into each case, with each successive title being slightly more innovative and complex than the last. Though, for the most part, you’ll bob and weave between court trials and fact finding as you pursue the endgame. New mechanics are introduced at a fair pace, such as being able to find evidence in new ways, or, having the ability to utilize advanced methods. The Psyche-Lock is a prime example of this; a tool that lets you uncover a witnesses’ innermost secrets so long as you press them hard enough in distinct ways.
Now, as alluded to above, the gameplay is very straightforward. You’ll browse a collection of locations along the way. Often, you’ll have four choices to select from; examine, move, present, and talk. Examine allows you to investigate your immediate surroundings in search of evidence. Move is what enables you to travel from location to location. Present, much like how it works in court, is a tool you’ll use to show potential witnesses evidence in an attempt to evoke a response. Lastly, talk lets you pursue conversation branches to try and obtain that all important useful insight.
You’ll use these features, as alluded to above, to present and win your case. Never underestimate the small stuff, and never take a character’s personality for granted. These games make a habit of pushing you into a corner. The key to success is being confident in your findings, and being ready to be caught unaware at any given moment. Frustration does indeed mount when you hit a proverbial brick wall, but bear with it, because Ace Attorney is certainly worth being patient for. It helps, of course, that the stories within this trilogy are quite intriguing.
Each game is broken up into varying episodes, and in order to unlock successive episodes, you’ll need to beat the prior episode(s) first. Episode length can vary quite dramatically, lasting anywhere between an hour to three. The trilogy is packed with colorful characters, all of which bring their own distinct personalities and traits to the table. The game’s writing does well to find middle ground between humor and seriousness, with an end result that makes for a very enthusiastic, and, to a degree, an energetic journey. Either way, there’s a lot to enjoy the game for.
The only real downside is that of its linearity. Despite its varied conversation branches, its fairly deep fact finding systems, and its decent overall length, there’s few times you can fail before finding the correct pathway forward. That’s not a deal breaker by any means, but the replay value just isn’t strong enough. You’ll find little reason to go back and play these again post completion, meaning that it’s a very one and done sort of affair. That, and it can get slightly repetitive due to its core loop. Still, these are pretty small gripes in the grand scheme of things.
Speaking more specifically of the game’s visual design, the entire trilogy gets a thumbs up from me. The games have never looked so fresh and so detailed, with more distinction and refinement than ever before. This applies to both foreground and background imagery, collectively presenting a sharp and vibrant affair from start to finish. I’ll also commend the game’s audio design, and although repetitive, its improvements are noticeable. The bottom line in all of this is that if you’ve been looking for a reason to return to the series, or indeed you’re curious as to what it’s all about, this is the best place to be.
If you’ve never tried your hand at Phoenix Wright, the Ace Attorney trilogy is an absolute must. Everything from its memorable cast of characters and its wonderfully charismatic dialogue, right the way through to its vibrant presentation and its utterly stylish gameplay, is quite simply outstanding. Despite some moments within that are fairly linear by design alone, overlooking this compilation would be a sheer injustice.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.