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Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy

Written by Sean Cahill on 4/17/2024 for PS5  
More On: Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

Full disclosure: I’m a bit of a fanboy for the Ace Attorney series. It stems from my love of the drama that comes with crime shows. Growing up, I watched the COPS series before going into the original Law & Order. My college dorm room often had Jack McCoy on the TV in the evening because who doesn’t want to watch six straight hours of a show seen many times over? Simply put, I love a good crime show and, in turn, I love mystery and crime games. The Ace Attorney scratched that itch in a new way when it came out in 2005 for the Nintendo DS. I was hooked immediately, so to get a chance to review a love letter to part of that series is great for me. I’m here to tell you that if you’ve never grabbed any of the Apollo Justice games, this is an excellent chance to dive in.

Solid graphics with wild stories!

For those who have never played the games, the Ace Attorney series is described as “a visual novel adventure game” but, essentially, this game is one part detective, one part defense lawyer, and 100% insane stories. The world itself isn’t far off from the real one, except that the law system is pants-on-head crazy. With this trilogy being the second in the series, the opening episode tries to give you a little leeway and tutorial, but the system is simple: Trials are not by jury anymore. A singular judge determines the guilt of a defendant and trials never run longer than three days. Compounding the situation, most of the lawyers in this world are corrupt as hell and silly things such as “disclosure” don’t exist. It’s what made the first trilogy so good.

The games are broken up into cases and each case has a story to tell along the way. While playing through the games, we also get to experience backstories of the primary characters. As mentioned, you're not only taking part in the defense of someone accused of a crime, but you have to do the investigation as well. That includes finding evidence, interviewing witnesses, and trying to piece the puzzle together. Once the investigation is done, the game shifts to the courtroom. Witnesses are called by the defense to try and paint the picture that your defendant is guilty. It's up to you to cross-examine the witnesses and present evidence that exposes contradictions. Getting these correct means advancing the story and breaking down witnesses with usually hilarious responses. Failures mean incurring penalties that are imposed by the judge. If you're penalized too much, the trial comes to an end and your client is found guilty.

While this series suggests that it’s centered around the man known as Apollo Justice, that’s not really the case. Phoenix Wright, the original protagonist of the series, is almost as front and center throughout the entire series. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it really throws things off for someone jumping into this series blind expecting to be playing as Apollo the entire time. We go through a progression where the first game is Apollo gaining his experience before Phoenix makes his return to the bench in Dual Destinies. Again, this is strange given the title of the trilogy, but it doesn’t make the games less fun.

Visually, this is the best the games have looked, even if the 3D portions look a little off when we hit Dual Destinies. This isn’t a remake, so it’s forgivable, especially since the models still look excellent. Apollo, Phoenix, Klavier, Athena, everyone looks fantastic without sacrificing anything in the menu, text, etc. The system settings are quite customizable for text speed, transparency, etc. Simply put, anyone can find a pace that works for them without much trouble.

Great characters, even if we don’t see enough of all of them.

It’s important for me to mention that what made the first trilogy memorable for me was the cast of characters. Phoenix Wright, Mia and Maya Fey, Detective Gumshoe, Edgeworth….the whole group is easy to enjoy from a fan perspective and throughout all three games, they make their appearances as needed while the storylines intertwine quite nicely.

Apollo Justice, unfortunately, doesn’t get the same treatment. He’s a great character and you want to get behind him immediately given his adorable nervousness and desire to do right no matter the job, but this trilogy doesn’t do a great job of serving him. The game named specifically for him, the first in the series, only gives him four cases and one of those is an absurdly short tutorial-style case that is extremely forgiving. Does it do the job for setting you up in the series? Sure, but you have to remember that this was once a standalone game and not bundled into a trilogy. This was three years after Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations was launched and fans of the series were itching for a new entry. To make this just four cases is disappointing. Despite that, it’s still fun and there's a good supporting cast such as Phoenix's adpoted daughter, Trucy, and Klavier Gavin, the part-prosecutor, part-rock and roll star.

However, the series turns up the bonkers scale to 11 when Dual Destinies comes around. No amount of words I could type can prepare you for some of the stories told in the second game (Look, there’s a point that it involves killer whales, okay?) and brings into the series a mechanic called Mood Matrix. It’s not just about trying to find contradictions in testimony now, but it’s a weird mini-game where you have to compare and contrast a character’s emotions with the situation. It uses a four icon system and being able to figure out whose mood is off depending on what’s going on is how the game will progress. Also, one of the best characters in the series, Athena Cykes, makes her debut and she is just too much fun. I cannot stress enough just how much I enjoy Athena's character and what she brings to the series. It’s important to re-iterate that the biggest problem though is that, when we hit Dual Destinies, there isn’t enough screen time for characters and Apollo Justice has to share the spotlight with Phoenix far more than the first game. I’ve often wondered if this was by design or if the first Apollo Justice just wasn’t that well received and the need to bring Phoenix back was truly necessary. Either way, I always enjoy when Athena is on screen as she brings so much to this series.

The third game does make it up to Apollo even if he has to share the spotlight again, but it does fall a little flat for me as a whole as Dual Destinies I felt is just a much better game, though that comes down to the insanity of the stories for me in the middle entry of the trilogy. Even with that make-up to Apollo, I will shamelessly admit that I was just glad to see Athena back for the last game. She's just the best and I would play an entire series with her at the center. This game also features one of the strangest characters in the series, Queen Ga'ran. While I would love to spoil this for you because she proves to be quite the antagonist, it's best to experience her character. As much as I liked facing her, she's no Miles Edgeworth.

Is this game worth getting in 2024?

Given that the first game in this series was released in 2007, that’s a complicated question to answer! So, let’s talk about it.

First off, if you have never touched the Ace Attorney series, I implore you to pump the brakes and play the Phoenix Wright trilogy or you’re going to be a tad lost as to why you should care so much about Phoenix, Apollo, and the rest of this gang. Phoenix’s character in the first game of this trilogy is wildly different from the one from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Or, if you want a condensed version, watch the Ace Attorney anime as it stays pretty true to the first trilogy and the characters are just as enjoyable.

If you’ve only played the first trilogy, there’s no reason not to pick this up. Personally, I think this trilogy does hold up well to the first three games in the franchise, despite some of the flaws that I’ve pointed out earlier. There’s hours of enjoyment and the cases get pretty challenging.

If you’ve played all of the Ace Attorney games out there, it’s going to depend on how you felt about this trilogy and whether you want the remastered edition. I do remember playing these games on the DS and 3DS, with the last two games getting that major emphasis on 3D sprites. I think the hardcore Ace Attorney fans can appreciate this, especially getting it on Steam and playing it on their PC screens instead of on the handhelds.

So, in short: It’s worth the buy but make sure you’re familiar with the series first before diving in.

Wrapping things up

It had been years since I touched an Ace Attorney game, so this was a fantastic piece of nostalgia I didn’t know I needed and it made me want to watch the anime and play the original games again, so I believe it served its purpose quite well. This genre certainly isn’t for everyone as this isn’t going to be filled with action. It’s telling you an intricate and particularly wild set of stories that you just so happen to help shape along the way. I once referred to them as a truly interactive Choose Your Own Adventure game, but they are more than just that. For the youngster in me that loved detective stories and wanted to figure out “who dunnit” before getting to the climax of a case, that itch is effectively scratched again. Are the games perfect? Certainly not, but they’re good, and they’re worth experiencing.

It's not the best trilogy in the series, but it's still a very fun set of games. It suffers a bit from spotlight sharing issues and the puzzles maybe aren't the most well-thought out, but the stories will pull you in and has some memorable characters to add to the full cast from the series. The visual upgrades are wonderful in almost all cases and makes it worth picking it up just to play on your PC monitor.

Rating: 7.5 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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Sean is a 15 year veteran of gaming and technology writing with an unhealthy obsession for Final Fantasy, soccer, and chocolate.

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