Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy – Apollo has a silly haircut too (Picture: Capcom)
Gaming’s most famous lawyer returns, along with his protégé and a host of other bizarre characters, in a remaster of the Ace Attorney sequel trilogy.
For decades, Nintendo’s success has relied upon a two prong strategy of supporting both handheld and home consoles, with one being able to cover for the other if it doesn’t take off – such as the 3DS with the Wii U. The Switch has simplified things by focusing all their efforts on one format but while the Switch is a portable console, with plenty of support from Japanese developers, things have clearly changed since the days of experimental, low budget titles like Ace Attorney.
Although we did get the compilation The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles relatively recently it was still just a remaster of two older 3DS games, and so there’s never been a genuinely new entry this generation. Capcom has hinted that there will be new games in the future, but only using the vaguest language possible, with no clue as to when or in what form.
In the meantime, it’s remasters all the way down, with this new one containing what is technically the newer trilogy of mainline titles, even if the term new is relative. Even the most recent is seven years old but while you might not think there’s much that can be done, to make these old portable games look good on a modern system, Apollo Justice will surprise you.
The three games included are Apollo Justice, a 3DS game from 2007 that introduced the titular attorney as a partial replacement for Phoenix Wright; and then 2013’s Dual Destinies and 2016’s Spirit Of Justice, both of which were 3DS games. Phoenix Wright appears in all three games, but you get the impression that Capcom worried they went too far in sidelining him in the first one, so he’s gradually pulled back into the limelight as the trilogy continues.
Since it was a DS game, Apollo Justice still used 2D pixel graphics, with the occasional 3D object thrown in – usually as a piece of evidence to examine. That means its remaster works very similarly to the original trilogy remaster collection, that was released back in 2019. Since the original trilogy of games are technically all Game Boy Advance remasters, Apollo Justice is the only mainline entry made solely with the DS in mind.
That distinction matters little here, with the original sprites converted into more traditional animation. That’s a process that usually drains video games of all their character but here it’s more or less retained, as the game continues in the same fashion laid out by its forebears, by essentially being a mix of Japanese visual novel and a Western style graphic adventure.
The game is split between investigating and defending each of several cases per game, with the former involving interviewing suspects and making use of CSI style forensic tools. The game’s legal realism is about on par with Street Fighter authenticity as a martial arts simulation, but that’s part of the fun. The game’s ridiculous cast of characters, and love of puns, works surprisingly well despite the localisation changing many details, including pretending the games are set in the US instead of Japan.
In court, you cross examine witnesses and present evidence, with each new game having a different gimmick to aid you. In Apollo Justice it’s a magic bracelet that tells you when people are lying, signified by an increasingly hard to spot nervous twitch.
All of the games work in this same general way, introducing new characters (Phoenix’s daughter Tucy in Apollo Justice, new playable attorney Athena Cykes in Dual Destinies) and examination gimmicks (the Mood Matrix in Dual Destinies and séances in Spirit Of Justice) but the Ace Attorney series is not one of constant reinvention.
The comedic writing and absurd situations are the primary appeal and, in that sense, all three of these games excel. Fans can never agree on which is the best, which is always a good sign, but while we’d probably say Dual Destinies was our favourite of this trilogy, since it has the most consistently funny script, many will argue vehemently that it’s one or the other.
You can find our original review of Dual Destinies here and Spirit Of Justice here but in gameplay terms nothing has changed. It’s debatable whether Apollo Justice was better with its original pixellated artwork but the two 3DS games definitely look better now, with the increased resolution of these remasters – since both games already used 3D polygonal graphics.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy – Phoenix is still in all three games (Picture: Capcom)
There’s also a wealth of new behind the scenes features and quality of life improvements, that ensure this compilation cannot be described as a cash grab. For example, there’s a new auto advance option for the text in all three games, as well as a history button to check what people said, and an option to remove all interactivity and just play the game as a straight visual novel.
On top of this is a new achievement style system called Accolades, the option to browse through concept art and other illustrations, and a fully featured music player including extra tracks and orchestral arrangements. You can also view animations separately and arrange characters in court, which is strangely amusing. On top of this is all the original DLC, some of which can be quite substantial – with whole new trials to play through.
Although there isn’t an ongoing story through the six mainline games, there is definite character progression, the nuances of which may be missed if your first experience of the franchise is the second trilogy. But Apollo Justic was specifically designed as a new jumping on point, so it keeps such issues to a minimum.
There are two reasons the Ace Attorney games are the most successful visual novels in the West, the first being the unusual amount of interactivity for the genre. The second is simply that the games are funny, with likeable heroes and villains you love to hate (but who usually have at least some redeeming features). Charm is something that can often be in short supply in modern video games, but Ace Attorney has it in spades, and this remaster trilogy is not guilty of spoiling that.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy review summary
In Short: An excellent set of remasters that bring the remaining three mainline Ace Attorney games to modern formats, along with a suite of extras and some effective visual updates.
Pros: All the games are varying levels of great and the remasters do all they can to make them look like modern releases. Impressive amount of museum content and quality of life improvements.
Cons: The pixel graphics of Apollo Justice are arguably still superior and not every trial is a winner. No real gameplay evolution between any of the games.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Release Date: 25th January 2024
Age Rating: 12
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