My first foray into the Ace Attorney series dates back to a rather uneventful school semester back in 2010. At that point in time, the Ace Attorney trilogy, which was originally released on the Gameboy Advance, had already been ported to the Nintendo DS. A friend of mine was playing through the introductory case in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and she swore that this was a game I couldn’t afford to miss. After the first few minutes of finger-pointing, gavel-banging, and screaming ‘Objection!’ into the DS microphone, I was hooked. Since then, the Ace Attorney series has found its way to the Wii, iOS devices, and now it’s finally returned to a Nintendo handheld device as the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD.
In case you’re completely unaware of what Ace Attorney is, or if you’ve never heard of Phoenix Wright ever in your life, here’s the short version: you take on the role of a dashing, spiky-haired defense lawyer who often finds himself caught up in grisly murder cases where he has to prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the innocence of his client. As if that wasn’t tricky enough, you’re also tasked to identify the true murderer in the case. Failure to do so will result in your client facing the death sentence even after you’ve provided reasonable doubt that your client can’t possibly be the culprit. These cases usually involve a lot of desk-banging and passionate shouts of ‘OBJECTION!’, ‘HOLD IT!’, and ‘TAKE THAT!’. Once you’ve proven your client’s innocence, the courtroom will explode into a pile of colorful confetti. You know, to celebrate and congratulate you on your hard-earned success.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD is a great way for newcomers to jump straight into the courtroom drama, especially for those looking to catch up with the series after having played last year’s Dual Destinies. While it’s not a complete remake of the games for the Nintendo 3DS, Ace Attorney Trilogy HD does look a hell of a lot better than it did on the DS. Complete with redrawn sprites, backgrounds, and 3D support, the games look visually stunning on the 3DS. Turn up the 3D slider on your device and you’ll essentially be playing a pop-up visual novel. In comparison to its iOS counterpart, Ace Attorney Trilogy HD plays as well as you would expect on the 3DS. With the utilization of the dual screens on the handheld, the user interface doesn’t feel as cluttered as it would on an iPhone.
As a visual novel, don’t expect too much in the way of gameplay when jumping into Ace Attorney Trilogy HD. Much of the game is spent pointing and clicking and talking to witnesses in order to gather evidence for the next trial that awaits you. When you’re in the courtroom, you’ll have to cross-examine various witness testimonies and identify contradictions by shoving the relevant evidence in their lying faces. Don’t let the lack of gameplay turn you away from this outlandish series, though; Ace Attorney houses some of the most memorable characters and lines you’ll ever come across in a video game. From loudmouthed old ladies like Wendy Oldbag to self-obsessed narcissists like Luke Atmey, these are characters that you won’t soon forget.
While the series has become well-known for its comedic courtroom shenanigans, it is worth noting that series creator Shu Takumi had released the first game as a satirical reflection of the legal system in Japan. Filled with snooty prosecutors and incompetent police officers, the premise has proven to be highly effective for engaging storytelling and immersive mysteries. Each game consists of five disparate cases, with the exception of Justice For All, all with their own self-contained mysteries.
In each game, Phoenix also faces off against three different prosecutors. Miles Edgeworth, arguably the most popular and well-developed character of the series, makes for a formidable opponent in the first game and never fails to keep you on your toes. Franziska von Karma, on the other hand, is a whip-wielding dominatrix with a strange liking for the word ‘fool’. And last but not least, we have the mysterious Godot who appears in Trials And Tribulations. While Godot isn’t exactly the most aggressive prosecutor you’ll face, this caffeine addict has one of the best-written backstories in the series and the development of his character arc will keep you glued to your 3DS in the final and most compelling case of the trilogy.
Of course, a visual novel wouldn’t be complete without an outstanding soundtrack to accompany it. The music of the Ace Attorney series sounds just as good as you remember it and it’s clear that Capcom’s cleaned up the game’s audio significantly for this port. It’s not just the music either; the sound bites of the slam of the judge’s gavel and the frequent yells of ‘Objection!’ sound wonderfully crisp on the 3DS.
Another addition that you’ll find in Ace Attorney Trilogy HD is the inclusion of the Japanese versions for all three games – a nice touch. You’ll get to play the games in their native Japanese dialogue tracks, though this wouldn’t be of much use to players who don’t already have a basic understanding of the language. It should also be noted that Capcom has gone over the English dialogue with a fine-tooth comb, clearing up typos and grammatical errors that were previously present in the GBA and DS versions of the games. With the visual and audio upgrades, the inclusion of the Japanese tracks, and the much-needed typo checks, Ace Attorney Trilogy HD truly is the best way for newcomers and veterans alike to experience the series.
I’ve played the original trilogy twice before; I know all the plot twists, all the lines, and Mia never fails to crack me up when we find out “whose milkshake brings all the boys to the yard”. The series is over a decade old now, but you’ll find that the story and dialogue are still as witty and charming as ever. The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD is a wonderful way for long-time fans to re-experience the classics, and for newcomers to be introduced to the wacky society that berates you for not knowing the difference between a ladder and a stepladder.