Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (Switch eShop) Review
After the absurd heights Ace Attorney has reached in its more recent entries, it’s a strange feeling revisiting the humble roots in which the series was born. After re-releases on iOS, 3DS and even the Wii, in full force, Ace Attorney Trilogy has finally made its way to the Switch alongside a slew of other platforms, ready to recapture the hearts of many once again.
For nearly two decades, the Ace Attorney franchise has primarily been a handheld franchise. With this latest launch, it marks the first time newcomers and fans are able to play the games in full HD on their bigger screens. While that sounds amazing in theory, in practice, this decision isn’t quite as charming as it sounds. While the case might be different for future games, Ace Attorney Trilogy always gives off the vibe that it was never meant to be blown up for higher resolution screens. This has always been a problem every single time they’ve decided to update the original trilogy, but the problems rear their heads this time around more than ever.
Pixel sprite animation can get away with a different subset of things than its hand drawn counterpart. If you’ve played any of the original games on the Game Boy Advance or the original Nintendo DS, it’s something you’ll notice almost immediately. Many of these illustrated portraits were designed to make way for the pixel art they would become, and perhaps they weren’t necessarily meant to ever be ‘HD’ in the first place. Every character feels a little more soulless and rough around the edges than they should, and much more of the animation feels rather choppy. In HD, you’re able to see shortcuts the animators took — shortcuts that were taken in order to accommodate the limitations of the original hardware they were on.
It’s why it’s such a shame that more care and love weren’t put into really remastering these games for a brand new generation of systems. Capcom has shown how good Ace Attorney can look — especially in their most recent entry, Spirit of Justice — so it’s a shame that the games that started it all haven’t gotten the same treatment.
That said, not all the charm is lost. Once you get used to the look of Ace Attorney Trilogy, you’re essentially in for the same great experience as ever. These games hold up incredibly well, too. For a nearly 20 year old game, the humour, suspense and emotion in the writing has aged like a fine wine. Plots are almost refreshingly simple compared to the more modern games, and its still so easy to fall in love with every quirky character these games introduce. Even after revisiting these games multiple times, I still find myself spitting out my drink during certain moments, or being unable to pull my eyes away during the more dramatic turn of events. There’s definitely some problematic humour that hasn’t stood the test of time, but it’s never as bad as it could’ve been, and it’s easy to overlook when the good outshines the bad by so much.
Ace Attorney Trilogy’s newest update also comes with a few quality of life improvements. For the very first time in the series, you’re able to change any of the settings right from the pause menu. Now that I think about it, it might be the very first time you’re able to change the settings full stop. Some of the options include switching features like screen shake and text skipping on and off, and while there could be more of a variety, the existing selection of options is definitely appreciated. My favourite addition is being able to see what you’ve already examined during the investigative portions of the game. Not having to worry about pixel hunting is a huge relief, and helps streamline things immensely. Another godsend is being able to also load your saves from the pause menu. No more soft resetting!
Capcom doesn’t quite go as far as they probably should with updating the games, though. Long time criticisms that have generally been addressed in the newer instalments, Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice, have not been in Ace Attorney Trilogy. The most notable is the absence of any hint system. This is especially unfortunate considering that, game design-wise, these first three games are the most rough around the edges. More than a few times, it feels like the writers are thinking in an extremely specific way with extremely specific solutions. Even after playing Ace Attorney for so long, it can still be frustrating trying to figure out how the game wants me to think, rather than figuring things my own way. A hint system would’ve come a long way.
Ultimately, despite its flaws as a remaster, Ace Attorney Trilogy is still the same set of phenomenal games it has ever been. Even after all this time, it’s easy to see how these games have influenced so many people so deeply. Newcomers will definitely feel frustration at some of the ways these titles have aged, but will surely exit with just as much of a full and rich experience as those who played them over a decade ago.
+ Extremely witty writing
+ Quality of life improvements
+ Another excuse to play Ace Attorney
- Could be more accessibility options
- Aged gameplay
- Lackluster ‘HD’ treatment