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Phoenix Wright Trilogy Review - Evidently, It's Aces

Sarah LeBoeuf | 9 Dec 2014 07:00
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Developed by Capcom. Published by Capcom. Released on December 9th, 2014. Available on Nintendo 3DS. Review copy provided by Capcom.


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It's been almost 10 years since rookie lawyer turned master defense attorney Phoenix Wright first hit North American shores, and even longer since the series' Japanese debut. In that time, the series has spawned a number of sequels, spin-offs, and even a crossover with Professor Layton. The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy returns to Phoenix's roots by compiling the first three games in the series with redrawn visuals, remixed sound, and even an option to play in Japanese. If you've never experienced the bizarre courtroom antics of the Phoenix Wright series, this is an ideal way to get into the series.

The trilogy is made up of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, which were originally released for the Nintendo DS in 2005, January 2007, and October 2007, respectively. All three games were ported from the Game Boy Advance versions that were released in Japan, and as such, didn't make much use of DS-specific features, save for a bonus case in the first game that was added upon localization. Despite essentially being made up of three two-handheld-generations-old titles, the Ace Attorney Trilogy doesn't feel at all dated, with the exception of a few pop culture references added by the localization team (when's the last time you heard about milkshakes bringing all the boys to the yard?).

Like its DS predecessors, the 3DS versions of the games barely utilize the handheld's touch screen, with the exception of cases added post-localization. However, the Trilogy does employ the handheld's oft-forgotten 3D capabilities, which adds impressive depth to the games. Even better, the redrawn art looks incredibly sharp, although the typos and grammatical errors that came with the games' original localization still haven't been fixed.

For the uninitiated, in the world of Phoenix Wright, courtroom sessions don't even remotely resemble the type of affairs we'd see in real life. Defendants are essentially guilty until proven innocent, defense attorneys only have three days to make their cases, prosecutors are known for twisting the law to achieve victory, and judges can hand down a verdict at any time. Naturally, this makes life hard for Phoenix Wright, and the three games in the series show his progression from rookie attorney to a prosecutor's worst nightmare.

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So how does Phoenix-and the player-go about proving the defendants' innocence in each case? Though some chapters are contained to the courtroom, most have multiple parts. First, there's a matter of exploring key locations around the murder (it's always murder), collecting evidence, and questioning witnesses; then the player takes what he or she has learned into the trial, pressing witnesses on the stand for more information and presenting evidence to reveal contradictions. Though each case is self-contained, they're often part of a larger story arc that jumps back and forth in time; over the course of three games, we learn how Phoenix gets his start and some background info on his mentor, Mia Fey, who's murdered early in the first game.

As if that wasn't a wacky enough approach to law, the Phoenix Wright games also have a supernatural twist-Phoenix's assistant, Maya Fey, sister of Mia, is a spirit medium. That means she can channel the spirits of the dead, often appearing as her sister Mia in court with Phoenix or using her abilities to help solve cases. Sure, it's weird, but no weirder than a courtroom where a judge is ready to hand down a verdict after an attractive witness bats her eyes at him.

As a fan of adventure games, I loved the Phoenix Wright games when they first came to North America and enjoyed replaying them on the 3DS. It's been years since I experienced the early days of Phoenix Wright, so all of the cases were fresh to me. Like most adventure games, all three titles are extremely linear and don't offer much immediate replayability, so if you've already purchased the Ace Attorney Trilogy on iOS, there's not a huge incentive to do so again on the 3DS. A stronger case can be made for those who only own the DS versions, as the 3DS installments are noticeably improved, and having all three games in one collection is more convenient than swapping out DS cartridges.

If the Phoenix Wright series has never appealed to you, this collection certainly isn't going to change your mind. However, for those who have never experienced the games, this is a great way to jump in. Ace Attorney, Justice for All, and Trials and Tribulations are as fun and addictive now as they were years ago. It would be easier to call this a must-buy if an iOS version of the Trilogy hadn't been released just last year; however, if you missed out on that, you'll have no objections to the 3DS remastered versions.

Bottom Line: The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy isn't worth rebuying if you already have the iOS versions or still have your DS copies in rotation. However, all three games are as great now as they were upon release, and it's hard to complain about getting more of a good thing.

Recommendation: Never played Phoenix Wright? This is the best way to do so. Haven't played through these early cases since they were released? It's time to return to court.

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