The Ace Attorney series of games (or GYAKUTEN SAIBAN if you are a pretentious twat like me) has always stood out as being a truly unique gameplay experience. Part visual novel, part brain teaser and every bit as goofy as you’d like, Capcom really did nail something truly special with this series.
The original and best pointing and yelling simulator
The Phoenix Wright Trilogy 2019 feels to me like an ongoing effort to preserve these brilliant games. At its core, it’s a RE-re-release (the original version of this collection hit platforms in 2014) with the aim to perhaps give everybody with some form of electronic device and a pulse a chance to play lawyer. So how does a set of games from over a decade hold up?
The truth is, they hold up brilliantly well. The hand drawn visuals are still charming, and carry the game’s excellent character interactions with their whacky expressions – yet communicating the right amount of drama and gravitas when the more serious themes are explored. It’s a game about crime, people; there will be murders and all manner of nasty, naughty dealings going on. One could argue that the visuals have pretty much peaked for what they are capable of – the glass ceiling for the hand drawn art and animations has well and truly been hit. Short of a full-scale remaster into 3D or something, there really isn’t any further for this game to improve visually. As a re-release, it’s effectively all you’d need.
Perhaps the greatest set of dialogue options presented to me in any game ever
A minor gripe must be levelled against the HD-ification of the UI elements. In most cases, text and visual details are easy to make out – but the odd UI element, such as buttons or navigation controls will just be unrepentantly tiny. I was playing the game on Nintendo Switch (which has a fantastic range of touchscreen navigation for the ultimate low effort gameplay), and at times the button I wanted was so entirely tiny that I had to really aim to hit it. Considering some of the options available to me within the game’s settings for window transparency and the like, I was surprised to not see any form of scaling option. Oh, and the button to ‘present’ evidence is still a weird choice out of left field…but that has always been the case. If the button to confirm selection is the same for every other part of the game, why have a unique button just for that action? One of the universe’s great mysteries.
He’s not on trial for crimes against fashion unfortunately
Even the series’ writing still elicits the same degree of believability – it’s a cartoony setting, but the characters still feel unmistakably human in how they communicate. Gags that made me smile or laugh all those years ago still have me enjoying them now. A few forgivable flubs towards some dated themes (such as a character’s confusion towards some new-fangled technology: the digital camera) are easy to move past in the grander scheme of things. Replaying the original trilogy really did remind me just why the series became so popular – even beyond the truly one-of-a-kind gameplay, the stable of characters are every bit as lovable as they have ever been.
Name a more iconic duo – I’ll wait
The gameplay itself is still something that really didn’t need any major overhauls. Different entries into the series have always introduced little gimmicks here and there, but the core of the gameplay is still a matter of paying attention and using logic to piece together a cohesive explanation as to why your client is not guilty. Using the very interesting ‘Turnabout’ court method, go face-to-face with the opposing prosecutor and pick holes in testimonies, present evidence and channel the spirit of your dead mentor into your teenage sidekick. I mean sure, the last part seems a bit out of the ordinary – but it’s a Japanese property, surely you have to expect at least a sprinkling of oddity. Enjoy the blatantly ridiculous localisation as the game continues to try and pretend it’s taking place in America, even though every aspect of the game just DRIPS with Japanese culture. Enjoy your hamburgers, Phoenix.
With your stalwart allies, an underage girl and the ghost of your old boss – how could you not become a superstar lawyer
The truth is, this collection of games is releasing with a reach that touches every modern device. If you have played them in the past, even fleetingly – this is a great time to get reacquainted with Phoenix Wright and co. The gang’s all here, just as enjoyable as ever – and enough time has passed that you have probably forgotten most of the game’s more serious plot twists.
Or perhaps you have never played them? Well, have I got news for you… I don’t need to plead a case for why you should give them a go, they are definitely worth experiencing for yourself. TAKE THAT.
I rest my case your honor.
Reviewed on my beloved Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher