The original Ace Attorney series was foundational for establishing the appeal of visual novels in western markets. Phoenix Wright’s over-the-top lawyer adventures, full of melodrama, hilarious character animations, and the dopest chiptunes ever produced for the Game Boy Advance, made for a fruitful, new chapter in Capcom’s history book. When it came time to continue the series with a brand-new game for the Nintendo DS, Apollo Justice was introduced, a fresh face to whom Phoenix could pass the torch. Naturally, just like when Capcom disrupted its fighting game establishment with Street Fighter III, a huge chunk of the fanbase didn’t take to change well.
Apollo Justice was also the last sequel led by series director and writer Shu Takumi. With Dual Destinies, Ace Attorney moved on from Takumi’s tenure in many ways: 3D, high-definition visuals, a new creative team, and of course the reinstatement of Phoenix as a lawyer and main character. Apollo is still around and a big part of the story, but in some ways calling this collection the Apollo Justice trilogy is a little disingenuous. Only a little. Anyway, with this set we’re looking at both sides of a major transition in Ace Attorney’s long history, and it’s fascinating to say the least.
Apollo Justice’s Legacy: Collected
The original Ace Attorney Trilogy has been repackaged and remade several times over the years, but even its most current iteration is pretty straightforward and bare bones. Sure, there were a few adjustments, but it’s mostly the games. All business. But with Apollo Justice, Capcom has given Ace Attorney the Mega Man Legacy Collection treatment. And it’s well-deserved, if a little incomplete-feeling in comparison. But at the end of the day, this is a much more feature-rich compilation than the one before, and that’s never a bad thing.
One major feature is Story Mode. A common complaint with Ace Attorney is often in how stringent it could be with the right answer to each given question. There’s no room for interpretation, and if you accidentally saw two steps ahead you still had to present evidence the way the script demanded. “Trial and error” is a phrase you see a lot in old reviews. While the 3DS games dialed back the difficulty a little and built in some guardrails, Story Mode is a new way to go full visual novel and not worry about anything but the writing. And Ace Attorney as a whole has some of the best writing ever written by people at Capcom.
Hit the (History) Books
Aside from Story Mode and some other little UI tweaks, the other big draw is the Museum. Like the other Legacy Collection titles, you can sift through galleries of high-resolution concept and key art, alongside a few goodies made just for this release. Sadly, we’re missing things like box and manual scans, which is a bummer for history buffs. Of course the latter two titles were digital-only releases, so it’s kind of a moot point. Still, there’s a ton of music you can listen to (a huge draw), and another feature so completely unnecessary but totally cool that it gets its own paragraph.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy’s entire menu is customizable. That’s a bizarre sentence, but it’s actually pretty dope in execution. You can sift through the menu of games, and apply not only a specific music track, but also a background image for each one. You can even make one choice and apply it to the whole menu. There are fun wallpapers, compilation videos, and even orchestral music tracks not used elsewhere you can play with here. It’s such a small thing only a fraction of players will really mess with, but it’s such a cool idea, and I’ll be emotionally crushed if we don’t see it again. Make my day and patch it into the Mega Man collections Capcom, please, I am begging you!
Trials, Tribulations, and Creative Differences
Curious about the games themselves? Hopefully if you’re here you’ve already played the Phoenix Wright trilogy, and if you liked those there’s a lot more of that here. If not, it might be a little hard to get into, especially the first Apollo Justice which relies heavily on the three games before it. That being said, the bit about the transitional nature of this set is important to bring up again. There’s an incredibly noticeable difference between Apollo Justice and its two sequels, Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice. It’s not a bad thing inherently, but if you take a deep dive into the Ace Attorney community you’ll see plenty of debate over whether or not the games made without Shu Takumi are as good. Or better!
That’s the nature of a big creative shift, and you’ll get to explore that for yourself here. It’s especially relevant nowadays, since you can hop over to The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles and see what many argue is Takumi’s masterwork. That’s something that wasn’t possible when those games were new since they were never (officially) localized. I will say though, while I have my own mixed feelings about where the stories go and how the writing changes, there’s no denying how much life and energy the newer visuals brought to the series. There are some One Piece-tier facial gags in the 3DS games that I couldn’t help but take reactive screenshots of.
At the end of the day, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy is an important piece of the puzzle, the majority of which you’ll be able to collect on Nintendo Switch thanks to this release. If you want all physical you’ll have to import the original trilogy, but luckily Capcom is doing the right thing this time with a regular retail launch. I particularly loved Apollo Justice back when it came out, and revisiting it with its HD facelift was almost worth it by itself. The other games are a nice bonus, and the chance to revisit them for re-evaluation is welcome. Finally, the Museum features are a great addition, especially the wacky level of menu customization at your fingertips. Much better than a weird, talking Mega Man.EXE mascot, that’s for sure.
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System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: January 25, 2024