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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

Score: 93%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Puzzle/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is a collection of the Phoenix Wright games that originally came out for the Nintendo DS. Theyíve been updated with HD, 3D visuals for the newer 3Ds. As the original DS sported a lower resolution, such an update is welcome. There are some instances where you can pick out detail in the background and the artwork now seems more crisp and more detailed. If it is your first time playing the game, this is indeed the best way to play. And yes, thereís 3D now, but I wouldnít make too much of a fuss about that. Phoenix Wrightís 3D effects are equivalent to having paper cut outs set at different depths. Itís technically 3D, but individual features like noses or hands will not pop out at you. That is perfectly fine with me, personally, but it is worth mentioning if you are looking forward to something more.

A great deal of the appeal of these games comes from the well-designed characters that make up the defendants, attorneys, witnesses, and other supporting characters. Everyone has several expressions from contented to terrified. Each expression set matches the characterís personality wonderfully. Take the caffeine-addicted Godot for example. His face is covered by a strange visor and he constantly holds a cup of coffee. He therefore has a lot of coffee-based expressions, which is an awesome phrase to get to write. Heíll sip the coffee, confidently chug it, or in moments of surprise, spit it out. Itís one example of how creative and unique each character is. There are moments to love from each character, and it can be fun to watch a favorite expression come around. I oddly enough love poor Phoenixís exasperated expressions. They make it all the more satisfying to see his confident smile when he turns the case around in the end.

Likewise, the music also finds a way into your heart. Each case tends to start with the simple courtroom theme, but as the anticipation and the stakes grow higher, it gradually gets more intense and exciting. The music is reminiscent of early 16-bit systems such as the Super Nintendo - your ears can pick up that it is synthesized, but it sounds reminiscent of a real background track to a show somewhere.

It would be amiss not to mention the very memorable, very meme-able "Hold-it" and "Objection" actions you do in Phoenix Wright. It doesnít take long to trigger these essential catch phrases. When pressing a witness on their testimony, Phoenix will exclaim "Hold-it!" and point his hand, as if commanding some sort of lawyerly super-power. These are the only words that are actually spoken in the game, the rest are just text. When a game can be recognized by a simple, one word exclamation, you know some thought went into making it fun and memorable. And heck, itís fun, and itís hard to find fans who can say the lines without smiling. A game has to have something special when that happens.

I also think itís worth mentioning how well the text timing is done in these games. Sure, itís a thankless job, but someone took the time to time the text in this game so that it "reads" like a conversation. For example, a person hesitating multiple times during their dialogue is conveyed by the text actually pausing on the screen, then starting again. You donít see this too much, not even in old-school RPGs, and you can get used to it to the point that you forget it's there. Still, itís a really nice effect that brings some life to a text-based game.


Gameplay:

If youíre new to the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy probably has more to offer than youíd think. On its surface, itís a simple text-based game, a "Visual Novel" game as the genre has been called. Youíll pay attention to clues and testimony as the defense attorney Phoenix Wright. Each piece of evidence will be helpful somewhere, but it may not be until much later. And Phoenix Wright never gets the easy cases, but thatís what makes his life exciting.

That is one of the main frustrations with this game series, actually. Phoenix Wright will often throw you a piece of evidence such as a photograph about a crime scene. Youíll want to say something about it or ask about something odd that you might notice. But you simply canít do that until youíre presented with the right testimony so you can bring it up. And even then, you might not be able to predict if the game will pick up on just what youíre trying to present. If itís not the right time to use evidence or ask a question, thereís just nothing you can do but wait. To be fair, thatís sometimes how an actual court proceeding might go. And to be fair again, this is based off Japanese courtrooms rather than American, but it is odd (at least from an American courtroom point of view) that Phoenix Wright never actually seems to have a case until the very last moment of the trial. Heís always flying by the seat of his pants.

But those good and bad aspects are part of what makes the game endearing. Thereís a running gag going that the Judge is far from impartial, easily swayed by a few convincing words, and has a soft spot for cute or lovable witnesses. This just forces our protagonist (not always Phoenix) to have to work much harder to make their case.

What makes Phoenix Wright such a popular series though? Itís really well written, clever stuff. Much of it is written like a crime drama, and you might not know who is guilty, what happened, and what all the evidence means until the very end. The suspense this builds can make that final point when you trap a witness, deliver the evidence, and convince the judge all the more satisfying. Add to that a number of memorable characters with vibrant personalities, and its easy to see where the fandom arises. Thereís Dick Gumshoe, a lovable bear of a detective. Miles Edgeworth is the well-dressed (seriously, heís bringing jabots back) and confident rival to Phoenix. Maya Fey is a psychic, spiritual adviser of sorts to Phoenix (she does interesting things by channeling spirits, but to reveal much more would be a spoiler). And then thereís Mia Fey, Phoenixís mentor and steadying hand throughout many of his cases. Those are just a few of the main characters - there are numerous supporting characters that make up the clients and witnesses in the game.

This trilogy is the first 3 games in the Phoenix Wright series. The first is Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Lest you think that these games are all about simple courtroom drama, Ace Attorney takes you through a roller coaster of supernatural mysteries, TV stars involved in murders, and rivals turning into friends. It is interesting to note that this game was originally a Game Boy Advance game that was then remade to a DS game, and of course, now comes to you in an HD remake for the 3DS. And the requisite joke is: there should be no doubt this is a Capcom game at this point. Next in the trilogy is the Justice for All game. It introduces a new prosecutor named Franziska von Karma, a rather intimidating character who takes a whip into the courtroom. Phoenixís first case in Justice for All includes the challenge of defending a client after he develops a case of amnesia, as if he needed more problems. The final game, Trials and Tribulations is where Phoenix meets the strange caffeine-loving Godot. Itís a nice game for fans as it goes back in time to flesh out Phoenix and Mia Feyís early relationship and fill in some character background on both of them. There are several interesting revelations relating to other characters and previous cases as well, making this a great game to end the trilogy on.

A bit of a bonus in this game is the ability to change over to Japanese text, actually, the Japanese version of each game. Sure, itís not unique, but with the way the game is very deliberate about its text-timing and its recognizable dramatic plot points, it actually could help a student of Japanese language as a learning tool. When you change over from English text to Japanese, little things in the background will also change over to their localized versions. For example, Phoenix Wrightís shirt will change from a "P" to "Ryu" to reflect his Japanese name (Ryuuichi Naruhodo).


Difficulty:

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy's games are easy when you have played them once. Its linear nature means that once you know which choices are correct, you really canít go wrong. But is it a difficult game on the first playthrough?

It could be argued that it is a difficult game because youíre not always given the clues you need to make a correct decision. You may think you have evidence that points to a contradiction, but when you present it, Phoenix backpedals and the Judge shakes his head, and you know that your point just isnít getting across. So sometimes you have to resort to trial and error, which is okay since you can save before a particularly tough sequence and try until you get it right. So it's tedious, but not impossible. This doesnít necessarily make the game unenjoyable, but it does put a damper on the thought that it is some sort of pure logic puzzle game.


Game Mechanics:

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is pretty simple in the mechanics department. Touch evidence to examine it. Tap the screen to advance dialogue. Honestly, this game doesnít necessarily need touch controls, but hey, itís a DS game. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy always had the odd mechanic of allowing you to shout things at the microphone like "Objection!" in order to make the appropriate action happen in the game. This is downright silly, since you still have to hold down a button to use the microphone. Why take the extra step if you already have to press a button anyway? Why not bypass the extra shouting step and just press the appropriate button? Still, if it gives you glee to shout these famous lines into your 3DS, I wonít stop you. There are a few other uses for the microphone such as blowing away fingerprint dust. It still feels a bit gimmicky, but these are thankfully not big parts of the game.

It is hard to put a summary on just what makes the Phoenix Wright games enjoyable. Thereís a bit of courtroom drama, a bit of mystery and suspense, and a lot of fun thrown in too. It makes being a lawyer seem like, well, being a hero in a fun game. With countless other spin-off games, the Trilogy is a great way to get at the core elements of the original games. I recommend it to newcomers remotely curious as to how you can make a courtroom into a fun time, and fans of the original DS games alike.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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