Insert Generic Objection! Related Pun Here
HIGH Still one of the finest (and best translated) stories in games.
LOW The second entry isn’t as consistently awesome as the others.
WTF Still no love for Edgeworth’s spinoff, huh Capcom?
A lot of what i’m going to say here is in my review of the 3DS re-release of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, but it bears repeating — Any western fan of visual novels owes a huge debt of gratitude to the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. While the genre has existed in Japan for decades, it never got much of a shake in the West until Capcom finally let us yell ‘OBJECTION!’ into a DS back in 2005. Without it, there’s a good chance we’d never have things like Danganronpa, Steins; Gate, or the Nonary trilogy.
While I’m still sore the West never got an official release of Ace Attorney Investigations 2 (i.e. – the sequel to the best in the series) and I’ve never been a fan of Capcom relegating the series to digital-only releases while constantly carrot-on-a-sticking Phoenix Wright fans by pseudo-threatening the end of official English translations if every release fails to hit it big, the fact we got the series to begin with is a minor miracle.
I’ll at least give them credit for trying to get the content out in as many ways as they can as many times as they have, and this has culminated in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy — essentially a remastered compilation of the previous 3DS remastered compilation featuring the first three games in the series. This marks the first time AA has made an appearance on modern home consoles, and while that sounds great on paper, the setting causes heightened expectations that this iteration doesn’t deliver on.
Labeling Phoenix Wright as a visual novel is slightly disingenuous since it’s more of a game than most others in the genre. For those new to the franchise, it’s is a courtroom drama that splits its time between a point-and-click style investigative adventure where the aforementioned Mr. Wright collects clues at crime scenes, and the other half is spent making his case in the courtroom.
Nothing here gets nearly as complicated as, say, a classic Lucasarts adventure game, and the player isn’t allowed to advance until Phoenix actually has all the clues and information necessary to properly defend his clients. The core play is the definition of ‘serviceable’, but the reasons fans adore this series are its memorable whodunit mysteries surrounded by a wide assortment of compelling and outrageous characters delivered in some sort of frenzied Dick Wolf fever dream. It’s crazy, it’s unlike anything else on the market, and it still absolutely works over a decade later.
So the three entries on offer here are soldily enjoyable, but the problem is how they’re delivered on the PS4. At the end of the day, this set is a straight port of a 3DS game (minus one screen) that was based off of (essentially) Game Boy Advance games (and yes, I know the third game was on the DS). The redone art and music was great in the 3DS version, but here those assets are now stretched and sharpened to the extreme, and the result is a title that looks and sounds rather sterilized. Saying it looks like a flash game is a tad harsh, but I certainly considered calling it one here.
The characters are still incredibly expressive and well designed, and watching them edge closer and closer to cracking during cross examinations remains immensely satisfying, but it looks objectively behind the times on a modern console. The lack of a touchscreen also really hurts, as moving the cursor with a controller is painfully slow while hunting for clues, and it’s just not as snappy while traversing through menus. It doesn’t feel bad, but it’s definitely not the best way to play.
Furthermore, and I admit this may be a personal bias, I think visual novels work better on handhelds — the limitations on those systems work in sync with the limitations of the genre itself. When playing Phoenix Wright on the DS or 3DS, I didn’t care about the fairly basic MIDI samples, the lack of voice acting, or that each animation is only a couple of frames. On PS4 Pro with a 5.1 surround system and a giant 4KTV, this stuff isn’t as passable. Presentation isn’t a problem with games like Danganronpa V3 or Steins;Gate Elite thanks to their killer soundtracks, slick menus, 3D environments, voice work, and fully-animated cutscenes. After playing those, this trilogy looks far worse by comparison.
While I still think the 3DS version is the optimal way to play Ace Attorney due to the touchscreen and menu layout, I’d also say the Switch version is great since nothing is lost from a graphical standpoint, and one can play it the way it was originally designed to be — on the go.
While much of this review has been negative, I can’t help but feel like the source material is good enough to warrant a full-on remaster with exceptional production values — especially as someone who’s been through these stories multiple times. However, the content is still great, and this offering of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy remains an easy recommendation to anyone who’s never experienced them before.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Capcom. It is currently available on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, but know that this is a port of the previously-released 3DS version. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro on a 4KTV. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode going through the first chapter in the first two games and the first two chapters in the third game, and the compilation was not completed. However, the reviewer has played and completed all three games in the past. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and features Violence, Blood, Suggestive Themes, and Use Of Tobacco. The game primarily focuses on and is centered around a bunch of murders, so there are splashes of blood periodically, but as long as that’s acceptable, a parent should have little little worry handing a pre-teen this game. Plus there’s a lot of reading involved, which the kid probably doesn’t do enough of anyway.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game’s story is told entirely through text that is large and very readable, but there are no sizing or color options for it. There are also no noticeable audio cues. Being a visual novel, I would consider this a very accessible title.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram, but available button prompts are visible on-screen at all times. Due to the Visual Novel nature of the game, fast reflexes are never needed. Controls require mostly moving a cursor around the screen and pressing confirm/cancel buttons.