There’s never been a better time to get into Ace Attorney. Developer-publisher Capcom has spent the last few years remastering and re-releasing every game in the series, and with the Apollo Justice trilogy, you can now play every mainline game on modern consoles. And even though the three games in this collection are unchanged story-wise, after going hands-on, we can comfortably say that they’ve never felt better.
The collection contains three games: Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice – alongside their respective DLCs. The games don’t really feel like a cohesive trilogy the way the first three in the series do, but you still need to play them in order. And while Apollo’s name is only in one of the titles, he’s a central, playable character in every game.
As mentioned above, these games are remastered, not remade, so if you’ve played them in their previous forms, you’ve more or less got an idea of what to expect. The main audience for the collection is either people who didn’t get a chance to play these games on other platforms or people who want to revisit them with new graphics and quality-of-life features. In addition to a revamped UI, the game features an auto-advance setting, which automatically scrolls through text, no button mashing required. Personally, this is a huge highlight for me, and since you can use the History button to catch up on any text you accidentally missed, it’s my go-to playstyle – especially if I’m eating or doing something else with my hands. For those that want even less input, there’s also a Story Mode, which automatically progresses through the entire story, even solving puzzles and investigating.
The trilogy also comes with a new museum mode. In addition to an Orchestra Hall that allows you to hear songs on demand and a gallery of concept art, there’s an animation studio feature that lets you to cycle through every character animation the game has. I don’t see people spending that much time in the animation studio, seeing as there’s not really much to do, but it is fun to be able to rewatch certain over-the-top animations from my favorite characters. It’s certainly not a game-changer, but it’s a nice touch for those who have a deeper appreciation for the series, and it’s exactly the type of thing I’d hope to see included in a remaster like this.
Finally, for those unfamiliar with the games in the trilogy (or just rusty in the years since their release), here’s a refresher course on the games themselves and my impressions after spending time with them.
The first game, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, takes place seven years after the events of Ace Attorney 3 and introduces Apollo Justice, a young new lawyer who’s guided by Phoenix Wright and his daughter, Trucy. While the general structure of all three games of this remastered trilogy is the same (50% investigation and 50% trials), Apollo’s debut will feel the most familiar to fans of the original trilogy. I first played this game on mobile a few years ago, and from what I’ve played of the remaster, it holds up well. Aside from the protagonist, the main differences between this and prior games are Apollo’s ability to “perceive” signs witnesses are lying and the ability to view most evidence in a 3D space – something only available in specific instances in past games.
Speaking of 3D, Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice marked huge visual jumps for the series. Originally released on 3DS, they were the first games in the franchise set almost completely in 3D, with new, animated models for characters and environments. While I’ll always lament the loss of the previous pixelated style (Trucy, in particular, has always looked odd in 3D), it’s a pretty smooth transition, and in the remastered trilogy, the art looks better than ever. These games reintroduce Phoenix as a playable character while also adding newbie Attorney Athena Cykes, who can use her new Mood Matrix mechanic to analyze emotions mid-trial. Athena is a fun character that rounds out the group well, but Mood Matrixes are generally my least favorite of the minigames. Meanwhile, Spirit of Justice introduces the Séances system, which allows you to replay the moments leading up to a murder victim’s death.
From what I’ve played of these games, both their original and remastered forms, these three games are pretty good but not the peak of the series. I’m excited to reevaluate that opinion when the full game comes out early next year on January 25.