Objection! Objection! Objection!
In late 2005, Capcom released a Nintendo DS port of their popular Game Boy Advance title, Gyakuten Saiban, to U.S. audiences for the first time as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Eight years later, the game has seen numerous sequels and spin-offs released for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS alike (with more still to come), and now the original trilogy of titles is available for iOS systems in high definition for the very first time. But do these titles that make up Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy still hold up in court?
First, one needs to dismiss the notion that this is a “lawyer sim” on any sort of level. Rather, it is a point-and-click styled adventure game through and through, as you work within the confines of a streamlined court system of the near future (which is actually a take on Japan’s own style of court proceedings). In most cases, you’ll be operating in and out of the courtroom over a period of three days as you attempt to gain an acquittal for your client, who has been accused of murder (it’s always murder). During those three days, you’ll talk to potential suspects and witnesses, gather evidence, cross-examine them, present said evidence when appropriate, and point out contradictions found in the opposition’s testimony.
The truth of the matter is that the game is extremely linear and seeks first and foremost to tell a story; as a result, there is very little room for deviation, though it is still allowed on rare occasions to make for some pretty humorous results. Even if something makes perfect sense, and even if there is a solid argument for introducing a new piece of evidence, there is little room for any sort of widespread application of logic: progression is basically introducing the right key into the right lock at the right time. Anything less leads to a penalty that is easily overlooked, thanks to the game’s generous save/load system. In fact, it works better than ever here while simultaneously still making you wonder why they even bothered with the credit-like system of strikes from the judge at all.
Incidentally, should you ever find yourself stuck at any point in the game, getting help is just an internet signal away, as there are numerous FAQs that are very thorough on these games. Failing that, just start throwing anything you have on hand at every situation, reloading as needed, and something will probably stick eventually.
Though the gameplay is rather inflexible, it’s difficult not to be drawn along by the tales that each title in the trilogy weaves. The characters are likeable, the dialogue and happenings are entertaining, and the stories on the whole are suspenseful and engaging. Overall, it’s enough to make many forgive the perceived flaws in how the gameplay is structured, and keep you coming back for more. And with the Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy, there is plenty. The first two episodes/cases of the first title come free in the initial download, which should give you a good idea of how you’ll like this series of games. From there, three more cases await you from the first game, including the fifth case that was retroactively introduced in the Nintendo DS version, and four from each subsequent game. Unfortunately, while the core game is solid and as good as ever, little has been done to improve it, and its presentation drags it down a bit; though there are still some high spots.
On the upside, high definition versions of the images seen in the previous releases of the games really shine, and may alone be enough for some fans to want to play through the games again on their iPhone. The music and sound effects are still good, perhaps even improved over the Nintendo DS versions, and the “pixel hunts” – that is, portions where you search through different settings for clues – are made a bit easier by a set of crosshairs which turn red when you highlight an object worth investigating.
The downsides of the game will hopefully be tackled in a patch, but they still make the overall package feel a bit sloppier than it should. The text really tends to crawl, and there is no way to speed it up; sometimes this fits with the mood or tension of how part of the story is being told, but when you’re moving back and forth across a testimony to look for where to act, it can be downright painful to endure. Worse still is that while the original release on the Nintendo DS had a great script, something terrible happened to it on the way to iOS. While it’s by no means as bad as “Engrish,” there are numerous spelling and grammatical errors to be found, such as “spray” being misspelled as “sprey.” Our personal favorite was when one character explains to another of how a name was “written write at the top” of a file, as this effectively means that Wright’s “write” isn’t right.
The Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy is still a great set of games, which their enduring popularity can attest to. As a result, this collection on iOS is already pretty solid at its foundation, and even at its worst, is still playable and enjoyable, if a bit distracting due to some sloppiness at times. It’s definitely worth looking at, and with any luck, perhaps Capcom will “Wright” what few wrongs there are to be found here in short order.