Phoenix Wright the Ace Attorney made his long-awaited console debut earlier this year in an HD remastered compilation pack.
The Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy consists of the initial three-game arch of the series. A series that became increasingly convoluted and in some instances, supernatural.
It’s meant more recent entries can be difficult for newcomers to jump into. The Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy, therefore, provides the perfect entry point to one of the best series’ you’ve never played.
Phoenix Wright: The Journey So Far
Like a lot of cult hits on the DS family of consoles (Detective Pikachu for example), Ace Attorney began life as a Japanese exclusive. The original trilogy was actually all released in Japan before the first title came to the west.
Phoenix Wright made his debut on this side of the globe in 2005 as a DS exclusive and quickly achieved cult status. The games were immediately famed for their excellent localisation and narrative momentum.
The quirky characters deliver dialogue with the kind of precision and wit that you don’t normally expect from translations. The original title was also ported to windows, WiiWare and IOS platforms over the years that followed.
The strong reception led to the five subsequent sequels also being released worldwide almost exclusively on mobile and handheld platforms. Phoenix Wright has also been involved in spin-offs, crossovers and cameo appearances outside of the main canon over the years.
Writing the Story
The Ace Attorney series is essentially an interactive storybook set around court case proceedings in the near future (now past) of 2016. It’s been described as a murder mystery you have to solve yourself. And we can’t think of a better way to summarise it than that.
The format is not for everyone but the Ace Attorney series does produce some of the best story-telling in gaming, even by today’s standards. Cases twist and turn as the prosecution tries to block you at every opportunity.
Creating a genuine sense of intrigue that will require some intelligent critical thinking to overcome. It’s not a series that likes to hold the player’s hand either, often you will be required to think outside the box and jump to conclusions.
In-game lore explains that within the Ace Attorney universe the justice system has been reformed. Trials may now only take three days and if an attorney makes more than five errors their case is thrown out.
These work effectively as lives to prevent players from resorting to simple trial and error tactics. The only drawback in the painfully linear design of the narrative meaning there’s only ever one correct answer.
You may have figured out a valuable piece of evidence for later in the case that seemingly contradicts the testimonies. But if the game is not ready for you to present this evidence it’ll be discredited.
This can get frustrating as you’re forced to trundle through story elements already knowing a later outcome. But as a whole, it is an intriguing method of storytelling that’s a must for any mystery buffs.
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Gameplay and Style
The basic gameplay is broken down into two key elements investigation and trials. During the investigation, you’ll scour the crime scene for evidence and interview eyewitnesses.
Then during the trials, your job is to cross-examine the witness’ testimonies using the evidence you’ve found. It’s a simple but effective gameplay loop, that as mentioned does require a good amount of critical thinking.
For example, in one of the later releases, you’re tasked with defending an assailant whose fingerprints are present on a melee weapon. The key thing to note was the positioning of those fingerprints, that held the instrument in a defensive position.
Hence, your client, in fact, caught the weapon whilst fending off an attack from the actual assailant. They’re not all simple logic puzzles and it presents a very satisfying difficulty curve as trials progress.
The eccentric anime art style keeps the player equally as engaged in the visuals as the narrative. Corrupt witnesses exhibit increasing distress as you turn the screw on their testimonies. And large evidence reveals are dealt like massive physical blows synonymous with the anime medium.
The Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy contains the original title, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice For All and Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations.
Each game consists of five cases and that equates to around 60 hours of gameplay. Cases are self-contained but there is also an overall story arch that runs throughout the three titles.
If you’ve enjoyed games like the Telltale series’ or Life Is Strange then the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy should be on your list. Don’t expect as emotionally fraught narratives but plenty of humour and compelling plot points.