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Geek Review – Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy

The visual novel genre has always lingered on a niche space in video games, with its point-and-click, text-based approach and generally minimal gameplay evoking a very characteristic brand of charm. In lieu of tense action, cinematic visuals, and rich voice acting, it breathes life into the written word by blending prose with both static and animated illustrations.

Geek Review — Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice Trilogy

With the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series of games, Capcom showed that it’s possible to break into the mainstream market. The beloved series, entrenched in goofy humour, courtroom drama, quirky characters, and inconceivable-yet-oddly-brilliant story twists, furnished the mould with fresh elements – presented in the form of various investigation tools and cross-examination mechanics, some of which even border on magical abilities. 

Now that blue-suited lawyer has left his mark on the genre, his protégé Apollo Justice is set to follow in his legacy. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy shines the spotlight on the young aspiring attorney, whose name is only included in one of the titles, but remains a crucial presence because of how his story plays out. Uniting the last three mainline games all into one place, this rehashed collection is a welcome homecoming for longtime fans, serving as a reminder of its endearing allure that continues to withstand the passage of time. 

Geek Review — Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice Trilogy (2)

For first-timers, it proves to be a worthwhile adventure, with the visual polish and new content bringing a modern touch to its Nintendo DS and 3DS roots. More importantly, most of these entries work just fine by themselves, requiring little to no knowledge of past events in the franchise. Turning to Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy as a starting point comes highly recommended, and it does a good job at easing newcomers into the sleuthing, objection-shouting adventures to come. 

The bundle includes Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, and Phoenix Wright – Spirit of Justice, with no changes to the original narratives and DLC content. The series of events in each game, from investigating crime scenes to interrogating suspects and cross-examining witnesses, unravels in the same way that veterans would remember. Likewise, familiar elements make a return here, allowing them to revisit ladder-versus-stepladder arguments, glorious, groan-worthy puns (Ted Donate and Ahlbi Ur’gaid, anyone?), and over-the-top witness breakdowns. 

To that end, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy inherits identical mechanics for the main trio’s respective lie-detecting abilities. Phoenix’s trusty magatama bead, for instance, still sees players forcing guarded secrets out of their suspects by presenting the right piece of evidence, while the Apollo’s special bracelet singles out  nervous tics or unusual behavioural cues through the ‘perceive’ system. 

Geek Review — Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice Trilogy (3)

Athena Cykes, completing the Wright Talent Agency roster, uses her excellent hearing and Mood Matrix software to pick up speaking tones that don’t match an individual’s facial expression. Spirit of Justice takes things up a notch by introducing divination seances, as it veers more into the areas of mysticism and supernatural magic. 

For the most part, this nostalgic sheen is comparable to an old friend’s embrace: warm and welcome. However, it can also be a double-edged sword, highlighting the flaws in the original games. The new coat of paint doesn’t change how Dual Destinies is the weakest of the trilogy, the occasional repetitive and weary loop for some cases, or the dated nature of a small crop of jokes. 

In particular, the interactive bits during investigation, such as fingerprint dusting, no longer share the unique flavour that the original afforded with specific microphone and touchscreen capabilities built for DS devices. Case in point – where the feature would previously require players to blow into the microphone, it’s now reduced to a mere press of a button. The excitement, by comparison, just doesn’t feel quite the same, even if these parts still maintain a certain degree of freshness.  

Fortunately, there’s plenty of delight and enjoyment to be found elsewhere. Apollo’s evolution from a shaky, greenhorn apprentice to a confident, full-fledged attorney continues to be a high point, and the bread-and-butter process of shouting ‘Objection!’, pointing out contradictions, and presenting evidence remains an enthralling affair. When the truth gets pieced together, especially in a way that ties everything in spectacularly, the aftermath’s unfolding always brings about satisfied closure and at times, enlightening awe. 

As a longtime fan, it’s also nice to see the examination of real-world issues play out again in the collection. The series may be known for its wacky humour and lighthearted cheer, but it doesn’t shy away from portraying and addressing the issues of the legal system, as well as the darker undertones that stem from these multifaceted experiences. It’s symbolic, too, in a way, with the handing of reins over to Apollo reflecting the franchise’s leap to modern consoles, as it passes down a well-lived legacy to a new audience. 

Between a fixed navigation flow outside of the courtroom and the need for wildly unconventional thinking, the truth-seeking process can get a little convoluted. The new Auto Advance tool presents the perfect workaround, acting as a helpline for players when they are stuck at any point of gameplay. Dialogues automatically move forward, with the History button allowing them to look back at any missed bits. It also prods statements and presents evidence on their accord, and progresses all investigative and story elements without having to put in the brainwork. 

Some may argue that diminishes the very point of playing the game, but here’s the best part – it’s an optional feature, so feel free to toggle it on or off anytime. Those who have played the other modern Ace Attorney collections will know it’s not exclusive to this trilogy, and its return certainly scores some brownie points. For returning players, it’s worth noting Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy has the option to pick and skip court trials as well. 

The suite of quality-of-life improvements makes gameplay feel smoother than ever before, and with an added shine to boot. The user interface design for the selection screen is clean and sleek, sweeping seamlessly from one game menu to the next. In Apollo Justice, the updated graphics are a decent improvement over its old art style, bringing livelier and more detailed touches to animated sequences. 

These would later take the form of anime-style cutscenes in the original Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice titles, which look even better here. The visual upgrade doesn’t translate as flawlessly into actual gameplay, with elements in the background appearing blurry at times, but it bears more than enough charm across the board. 

For the more dedicated enthusiasts, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy includes a bonus treat. The Museum section grants access to concept art, music tracks (which, by the way, are certified head-boppers), cutscenes, and character animations from each game in the collection that players can cross-match or play around with.

In bundling the trio of games, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy proves that it’s as enjoyable and engrossing as before. While there are trials that, like in the original, stumble in their execution, the overall experience succeeds in delighting and charming fans old and new. It serves as a reminder of why the series is so beloved in the first place, but more than that, offers Apollo Justice the chance to step out of its shadow as a long-regarded black sheep of the family. 

Armed with visual enhancements and quality-of-life improvements, there’s no easier time to enter the courtroom, embrace the finger-pointing fun, and get started on – or revisit – Apollo’s journey. 

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

A handsome, faithful remaster of the fourth, fifth, and sixth mainline games, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy is an essential collection for fans that promises a delightful time, with little to object to.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10
  • Gameplay - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Story - 8/10
    8/10
  • Presentation - 9/10
    9/10
  • Value - 8.5/10
    8.5/10