Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (Nintendo 3DS)

Reviewed by Titanica, posted Nov 16, 2018, last updated Nov 16, 2018
This was the game that got me interested into Ace Attorney. I absolutely fell in love with the series after playing the first case, so I felt that I should review the trilogy version for the 3DS/2DS! All my other reviews have been about sandboxish games, so I'm deciding to switch it up a bit!
Nov 16, 2018
  • Release Date (NA): December 9, 2014
  • Release Date (EU): December 11, 2014
  • Release Date (JP): April 17, 2014
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genres: Visual Novel
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • Also For: Computer
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
A collection of three games where you play as a lawyer and point your finger at people. Is this trilogy really as silly as it sounds like, or is there more to the game than what meets the eye?
Titanica
Phoenix Wright is quite an iconic character. Most people know him for pointing his finger and screaming 'OBJECTION!', but many haven't played the games he's starred in. Luckily for people wanting to get into the series, Capcom released a trilogy of the first three games on several devices and consoles. For fans of the series who want to replay the games, this should satisfy anyone craving nostalgia, but does this game really remake the golden trilogy in a good way? Or is it just a cash grab by Capcom to take from fans and new players alike? Let's find out.

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Story


The Ace Attorney games are visual novel games, so it relies on the story much more than other video games. Throughout the three games, there is one overarching plot that is furthered during certain cases. The story is what makes the games popular with the people who have tried out the game.

Now, of course, I don't want to spoil the overarching plot or the several twists that happen throughout the games, so I'll try to keep major spoilers out.

You play as a young rookie Defense Attorney named Phoenix Wright, whose job is to defend innocent people from being falsely convicted of murder. Over the three games included, Phoenix and friends develop as each case becomes more complex, darker (or in some cases, sillier), and longer.

The story is incredible. The main cast of the games are incredible and have deep personalities. It is incredible to watch them develop over three games. Phoenix himself makes for an incredible protagonist because he was designed to represent the player. It feels like the player IS BEING Phoenix Wright, rather than WATCHING him.

Every case has a prosecutor, whose goal is to get the Defendant (the person being accused) a guilty verdict. In total, there are 5 prosecutors from the original trilogy. The Prosecutors are fantastic characters and are all extremely deep. From the cunning Miles Edgeworth to the tragic Godot, you are sure to fall in love with at least one of them.

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Each game in the trilogy has a new prosecutor to face off against. From left to right, this picture shows Miles Edgeworth, Franziska Von Karma, and Godot.

The side characters also deserve praise. They are very well written and are very lovable (for the most part), whether they are villains or not. The villains themselves are always a blast to interact with and encourage the player to defend the innocent person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The story isn't always moving, however. Although fans have mixed opinions about this, the third case of each game usually doesn't have much impact on the overarching/main plot. These cases are usually good murder mysteries that have wacky scenarios. Some people dislike these cases because they seem like a drag because the player wants to get to the final case(s) of the game, which tends to be the best ones. Some people like the mid-cases because they give a break from the dark story and/or give a pure murder mystery without any complex backstories. These cases are usually referred to as 'filler cases' which do slow the game story-wise (The cases themselves are extremely good, though. See the gameplay section for more on this).

I cannot stress how amazing the story is without spoiling the whole thing. Spoiling the story would basically ruin the wondrous experience of the trilogy. All you need to know is that the story is incredible, and you should play this game if you love plots.

If you have already played the trilogy, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Presentation


All three of the Ace Attorney games have an anime-esque art style, that brings a special and charming vibe to the game. All the characters are represented in sprites when they are on the screen. Like most visual novel games, communication is in a text bubble filled with, well, text! Each character has a multitude of sprites to convey emotions. The sprites are hilarious! They are extremely well made, and you can easily tell how a character is feeling without even reading their dialogue:

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In the sprite above, you can easily tell that Phoenix Wright is pleased and cocky over something.

Each sprite is extremely well made, and it's always a joy to see a character use a new one. Sometimes, sprites can show actual animation. These are showcased in the breakdowns of each villain.

Breakdowns occur when the player finally pushes a witness on the stand too far. The developers go all out with these little animations and usually have over-the-top sprites or smooth animation. I absolutely LOVE watching breakdowns because of how satisfying it is to watch the annoying, cocky villain fall to pieces.

Besides the sprites, the locations are also extremely well done. In investigation scenes (See gameplay), the player is able to explore the crime scene and more. These little locations the player visits beautiful to look at and usually have numerous things that pop out.

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This is one of the many location backgrounds, Gatewater Hotel.

The only true negative about the use of sprites is that there are times where there isn't a sprite that can be used to convey a certain emotion, so the game uses the closest thing it has. For people who haven't really played a visual novel game, this can bother some people. However, this problem exists because the original releases didn't have much space to put extra sprites in.

For people who have already played the original games on the DS/GBA, you'll notice that all the sprites and locations have been revamped for the newer systems. Everything looks more crisp and better than ever! Overall, the presentation in this game truly matters, and they have done an excellent job for newcomers to the series and nostalgic fans alike. It gives the charming, wacky, and sometimes serious feel that the game should have.


Gameplay


Visual Novel games don't truly have that much gameplay. They consist of mostly dialogue, and this might turn down a lot of players.

HOWEVER!

The Ace Attorney Trilogy isn't just dialogue. There is a lot of mechanics that require the player to think carefully about the mystery they are solving.

The first and probably most famous part of the games is the Cross-Examinations. In court, the Prosecution usually calls up a witness who apparently saw the Defendant committing the murder. Most of the time, the witness is a liar, and it is up to YOU to prove that they are. Cross-Examinations require the player to look over the testimony the witness gave and check the evidence found at the scene or relating to the murder. If any part of the testimony contradicts with what the evidence says, then you present with a mighty OBJECTION and 'Rub it in their faces' as Mia Fey would say. You can also press the witness and question them for more information that might help you find contradictions. All the evidence and profiles of people are put into the Court Record.

Cross-Examinations are a smart, yet flawed mechanic that is present in every game in the trilogy. It is super satisfying to find the contradiction and watch the witness squirm as you prove that they are not telling the truth to the court. It CAN be tiring to press the witness, however. Sometimes, Cross-Examinations can drag on (especially when questioning detectives) when you're forced to press. Pressing takes a while, especially when you're forced to press EVERY statement. I personally didn't mind, but some players might get a bit bored doing this. Along with that, the contradictions can be a bit strange at times. It can be tough when Phoenix has different thinking than YOU, and you might not see the contradiction and be stuck. I've had to look up several contradictions because I was stuck and couldn't move on.

The newer games in the series fix this problem by allowing you to ask your co-council for help after several failed objections. The co-council would point out a suspicious statement, which relieved a lot of the confusion. It would've been REALLY helpful if this feature was added to the original trilogy, but it sadly wasn't. If you get object to the wrong statement or present the wrong evidence, you get a penalty from the Judge. Too many penalties and you get a game over. The game over is really underwhelming, as all that happens is that your client gets a Guilty verdict and the game puts you back to your last save point. This can get really annoying because you'll just be forced to fast-forward through most of the dialogue that you've already read just to get back at where you were. It is possible to save-scum and save during a cross-examination, that way, you can start back at the cross-examination if you get a game over. It's a bit tedious though, and it isn't a really good way to treat game-overs. It would've been much more fun to see multiple different bad endings added to the trilogy, but that never happened (except for a few exceptions, but those were already in the original games).

Along with cross-examinations, there are parts where the players must pick a choice from multiple options. Picking the wrong one sometimes gives you a penalty, and sometimes doesn't.

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This is what a typical Cross-Examination looks like.

Besides the court-room scenes, there is also investigation scenes. After a trial, the player is allowed to explore areas in the universe to look for clues or talk to people who may know about the crime. The four things you can do in investigations is Examine, Move, Talk, or Present.

Examining can be really fun. You can pick up clues that the police missed to use as ammo for the next trial. You can also examine random objects for some very funny dialogue (including the running step-ladder vs ladder gag).

Moving allows you to go to different areas to examine or talk to other people, and presenting allows you to show evidence or profiles of people to a person you're talking to.

Talking is probably the most important feature of all. This allows you to chat with NPCs that are involved (usually) in the murder. Talking can get you evidence, knowledge, profiles, or new locations to go to.

The investigations are not nearly as exciting or fun as the court-room scenes, but they can give some very memorable moments. The biggest downside is that is very easy to get lost. Sometimes, a certain person you need to talk to or a location you have to go to won't pop up because you forgot to examine a little thing. The game won't progress unless you do everything required, so if you forget a single thing and try to move on, nothing will happen. You'll be forced to backtrack to find the missing clue you need, and I've had to look at guides for help a lot of the times. This is also fixed in the newer games. The newer games have a notes section that lists what the player needs to do. This wasn't added to the trilogy, and I don't see why not.

Each game has 4-5 cases. The first case is essentially a tutorial one. These cases may sound annoying, but they don't really feel like a tutorial. After you're told what the basics are in dialogue, the case continues as a normal one. The second case usually has a bit to do with the overall story, and it's the first ACTUAL case with investigations and such.

The third case is controversial (as I said before in the Story section). For those looking for a good murder mystery, these will satisfy them. They take a break from the main story usually and are really just good fun. Some may not like them and rush them to get to the fourth or fifth case. I personally like these cases, but they may seem like a boring roadblock from the finale to some.

The fourth and fifth cases are usually the finale of the game. They are the biggest and most complex part of the game and are usually considered the best. They are a great way to finish off the game.

Overall, the gameplay is a great interactive way to add some gameplay to a novel, but it should've been revised a little bit to make this trilogy even better.

Music


The music in this game...Where do I start?? It's fantastic- no, incredible-, no...

It's SPECTACULAR.

For a game that had to use the DS/GBA's speakers, the soundtrack is incredible.

The Ace Attorney's music is essential to the experience of the games. Each tune is played at the best of times. For example, each game has a 'Trial' theme that plays at the beginning of a trial. The first game has a rather mellow trial song, the second game has a tenser and sort of building-up feel, and the third trial theme is extremely tragic and intense. It perfectly represents each game.

In investigations, there is usually an investigation theme that serves as good background music, but the character themes blow it away. Many characters have a theme song that seems to perfectly represent their character. Godot's theme, "The Fragrance of Dark Coffee" is tragic and sad, just like him. Jake Marshall's theme, "Wandering Detective from the Wild West" has a cowboy feel, just like him. Damon Gant's theme seems mighty, yet sinister (like him). Every character theme is catchy and is so well made.

In court-room scenes, there is a cross-examination theme that works great for questioning. There is also an objection theme that plays every time you get onto something. It is always satisfying to hear it play, knowing that you're on the right track.

As the game gets more intense, so does the music. The 'Announce the Truth' theme plays whenever the truth begins to get clearer.

Probably the most iconic and best tracks are the Pursuit themes. These play whenever you're cornering the true villain, and they are the most intense songs in the games. Just listen to the Cornered theme from the first game:



The game's music is a joy to listen to, and it helps adjust the mood or tone of the game. It is a necessary feature of Ace Attorney, and I can't describe it with words.

Lasting Appeal


The Ace Attorney Trilogy doesn't really have much replayability or rewards for beating each case. When you beat a case, you unlock the next case, along with some cover art for the case you beat. That's really all you get.

When the first Ace Attorney game was ported to the DS, a new fifth case was added called Rise From The Ashes, which is probably the longest case in the series. If you haven't played this case, then I recommend this game, even if you already have beaten it.

For new players, once you beat the trilogy, you've finished the games. There isn't a reward for beating every game, but I don't believe that the lack of reward should be a disappointment. The true reward you get from beating these games is an experience you'll truly never forget.

Unless you want to replay the games, the game doesn't last too long time-wise. The true lasting appeal is the experience the games will give you, and the great fandom that creates awesome fan-content.

Verdict
Pros
+ Amazing story that you won't forget.
+ Satisfying and memorable moments.
+ Unforgettable soundtrack.
+ Funny AND deep characters.
Cons
- Nothing truly new for people who have played the original other than the revamped graphics.
- It is easy to get lost and stuck.
- Making mistakes is underwhelming.
10 Presentation
The presentation is beautiful for both old and new fans. The revamped graphics make an already good-looking game into a gorgeous one, especially for the new console versions coming soon.
7 Gameplay
The gameplay is pretty solid, except for a couple of confusing parts. The visual novel can get addicting with the story, so the gameplay doesn't have to be perfect, yet it is able to hold up and be fun.
6 Lasting Appeal
There isn't much the game offers other than replaying the cases, similar to a real novel. This isn't really an issue, because Ace Attorney really is unforgettable.
8.4
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
The story and music is the true star of the show in this game and despite the slow parts, the game truly upholds. If you don't really like reading, I wouldn't recommend it. This isn't really the game's fault for the amount of dialogue it has. That is simply what the Visual Novel genre is.


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