With Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy, Capcom's mission to bring all the series' mainline games to modern platforms is finally complete. Continuing the storyline from the beloved original trio of adventures, this is arguably the best collection the publisher has put together yet, fleshing it out with a much fuller set of fan-pleasing extras. And that's the main thing; this package will be lapped up by the franchise's passionate followers, even if the games themselves are a touch less consistent.
Essentially visual novels with some puzzle-solving twists, the titles in this trilogy follow almost the exact same template set by the original. Playing as a defence lawyer, it's your job to get your clients, usually mistakenly charged with murder, off the hook. This involves melodramatic courtroom duels with the prosecution and often uncooperative witnesses, picking apart testimonies by presenting evidence and pointing out inconsistencies. Outside the courthouse, you'll gather more details by investigating crime scenes and speaking to a colourful cast of friends and foes. That's all very much intact and is just as enjoyable as it's ever been.
However, the tried-and-tested formula is nudged in new directions throughout these latter three games. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney shakes things up immediately with a new player protagonist. Apollo is a novice attorney with a fresh-eyed drive to find the truth. He quickly gets involved with an out-of-the-game Phoenix and his adopted daughter, Trucy. Blending new characters with old expands the world nicely, and becomes a welcome recurring theme throughout the whole trilogy.
As mentioned, gameplay is largely the same as the Phoenix Wright Trilogy, but Apollo has a trick up his sleeve that helps differentiate his stints in court. At key moments, his bracelet allows him to perceive subtle tells in the witness — involuntary tics that indicate the person isn't telling the whole truth. A bracelet symbol will light up when you can search for one of these, zooming in on the witness, slowing down the dialogue, and giving you an opportunity to spot the tell. It's used sparingly enough that it always feels like a big moment in what are otherwise familiarly structured cases.
It's another theme of these three titles; each game introduces some new twist to prevent the action from growing stale. Dual Destinies brings us another playable lawyer in Athena Cykes, a young woman who uses a special gadget to enhance her sensitivity towards the emotions of others. This manifests in-court with another occasional change in pace, analysing a statement and the emotional state of the witness to find an inconsistency, such as feeling happy when talking about being injured.
Spirit of Justice provides the biggest departure from the norm. Chapters move between Phoenix Wright as he travels to Khura'in and Apollo and Athena back home. When playing as Phoenix, the new setting allows for a rather different legal system, where defence lawyers are vilified and verdicts are determined by séances with the victims of murder. The cases in Khura'in combine the usual lie-spotting action with these séances, in which you see through the eyes of the deceased moments before their demise. You can pick out sounds or other sensory clues, again finding things that don't add up. It's another welcome layer.
Gameplay has never really been the true strength of the series, though. Interactivity is relatively low in all the games, and issues like presenting what should be relevant evidence before the game wants you to, or cases devolving into guesswork because of some strange logic, are still present. However, these are predominantly visual novels, and the characters and writing are, fortunately, very entertaining.
Filling out the point-and-click investigations and back-and-forth courtroom bouts is a metric tonne of reading. Combined with characterful animations, pleasing sound effects, and some great accompanying music, the writing does a fantastic job of injecting personality, humour, and drama throughout. The whole trilogy is just as far-fetched as the first three games, if not more so, but it's delivered with such charm and wit that you can't help but fall for the cast, including the villains. There are low moments, where particular chapters drag or certain cases are simply less engrossing, but when the highs hit, the series more than justifies itself. There's a reason they're all being revamped and re-released, after all.
Speaking of which, this remaster collection gives Apollo Justice, Dual Destinies, and Spirit of Justice a wonderful new coat of paint. It's certainly a better effort than the first trilogy's treatment. Also better is a much more expansive suite of extras in the Museum. Here, you can play lots of music from the series in the Orchestra Hall to your heart's content, and view dozens of images and cutscenes in the Art Library. This includes plenty of behind-the-scenes art, like character design sheets and rough sketches. Lastly, the Animation Studio lets you plonk characters into your choice of location before picking poses, playing soundbites, and so on. We didn't get much mileage from it, but it's a neat novelty that fans will love.
It's very hard not to love Ace Attorney, and that trend happily continues with the Apollo Justice trilogy. The games themselves are steeped in charm thanks to well-written, melodramatic stories and a great ensemble cast. They've been treated with respect, too, with lovely visual improvements and an enjoyable array of extras. While some weak spots here and there are inevitable, and some of the series' flaws are still present, overall there's little to object to.