Capcom cultivated an entire generation of visual novel/text adventure fans with the Ace Attorney series. Beloved as those games are, I’d dare to claim they weren’t the best of the genre back on the Nintendo DS. Don’t get me wrong – Capsule Computers still holds the crown in this regard. It just belongs to a cult classic that’s about to get the second chance I never thought it would.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective will return on modern consoles in about two weeks, sporting updated visuals and new features in an effort to bring it up to contemporary standards. I’ve been fortunate enough to preview this new version of the game. More specifically, I’ve played through its first two chapters, which was more than enough to remember why I loved the original in the first place.
I won’t be going too deep into the game’s story, but if you’re a fan of supernatural mystery with a comedic edge, Ghost Trick more than delivers. Waking up as an amnesiac is nothing new, but being thrust into a world populated with highly exaggerated character designs (just look at main character Sissel’s hair) as you try to solve your own murder via corpse-centric time travel? Now you’ve got my attention.
The core hook is in possessing various objects within a location and manipulating them in some way. That’s the titular Ghost Trick right there, and its broad applications to each environment turn every murder mystery into a puzzle. For Phoenix Wright fans, this offers the same sort of trial and error approach as presenting evidence and then getting some sort of reaction from a witness. And yes, I’m highly guilty of trying obviously wrong things just because, but thankfully there are no strikes from the judge here.
Instead, there’s simply the constraint of working within four minute long temporal loops. These unfold and lead up to various deaths/key moments in the overarching story. Your progress here is represented by an hourglass populating the side of your screen. While I love the stylistic flair the visual motif brings, it did give way to one of this remaster’s quirks. See, because of this, your field of vision manages to feel “boxed in” the whole way through. This made sense of the DS, but on a large monitor the bars were somewhat distracting.
Thankfully the HD remake’s visuals pull attention right back to the events of each chapter well. Characters have been cleaned up so as to not look as pixel-y around the edges, and animations are still smooth and evocative of the game’s events. The second chapter, for example, has you in an apartment where moments like headphones slipping into a fish tank or a trolley of donuts rolling along the floor have a certain eye catching fluidity to them. This chapter also has Missile, a top pomeranian and the greatest sidekick you could ever dream of, so well done on Capcom’s part for making sure he made it in the demo.
Another praiseworthy element here, and one I had been eagerly awaiting, is the arranged soundtrack. You see, Ghost Trick has fantastic music throughout. The prospect of the entire collection of tracks getting new treatments was an appealing one from the get-go, as is the option of freely picking between them and the originals.
I already knew I’d be onboard with the return of Ghost Trick, but having actually played the new version I’m that much more pleased it’s coming back at all. This is one that slipped under the radar for a lot of people back in 2011. Yet it struck me as some of Shu Takumi’s finest work, with a style all its own. If you’re a newer fan to his brand of lawyering, or simply missed out on being a Phantom Detective the first time around, don’t make the same mistake once this one returns in full on June 30th.