Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is a bundle of the first three Phoenix Wright games, originally released on Game Boy Advance and then later revamped for Nintendo DS, making their way to a PlayStation console for the very first time. These classic adventure/visual novel titles follow a rookie defence attorney who's thrown into a series of high profile cases in which everything is rarely as it seems, and the deck is increasingly stacked against him.
Phoenix Wright is a thoroughly likeable protagonist. He wears suave blue suits to court, styles his hair into a series of gravity-defying spikes, and absolutely loves to point his finger at people and shout "Objection!" What he lacks in experience he makes up for in good old fashioned gumption, and despite the progressively overwhelming and frequently unfair odds he faces in court, his earnest belief in truth and justice rarely falters. He's a plucky underdog determined to do the right thing and that makes him easy to root for, but the other characters that inhabit his world are equally interesting.
Maya Fey – a trainee spirit medium who becomes Phoenix's assistant early in the first game – is a perfect foil for the ace attorney: she's naive and funny, and the banter between her and Phoenix is both witty and endearing. Detective Dick Gumshoe initially seems like a bumbling, obstructive policeman, but his heart is in the right place and he proves a valuable ally.
The most fascinating recurring character is perhaps Miles Edgeworth: a ruthless prosecutor who serves as something of a nemesis for Phoenix in the courtroom. Rumours swirl about Edgeworth – has he tampered with evidence in order to keep his perfect conviction record? – and the further you get into the story the more interesting and layered he becomes.
But even the minor characters are unique and memorable. There's a cop who turns up to investigate crime scenes in full cowboy regalia and he comes with his own Ennio Morricone knock-off theme tune, a flamboyant magician accused of flying to escape after committing murder, a superstar detective sporting a monocle that looks like a little magnifying glass, and a prosecutor who cracks the whip in court – literally. It's all a bit mad.
You'll make no shortage of zany acquaintances throughout the trilogy, and the murder plots that Phoenix investigates are often so elaborate that they defy credulity, but because the game world remains consistently bonkers from start to finish our threshold for disbelief is never broken – despite the eccentric cast and implausible plot twists we find ourselves invested in the characters. It's a delicate and smartly judged balancing act, never more deftly illustrated than in the complicated relationship between Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth. Their rivalry expands as the story unfolds, and thanks to the quality of the writing, it remains engrossing even in the midst of absurdity.
Visual novels are certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but the Phoenix Wright games do veer a little more closely to the adventure genre than what one would traditionally think of as a visual novel. While there's plenty of reading here thanks to the lack of voice acting, you'll rarely spend more than a couple of minutes reading dialogue before you're looking for clues or trying to convince a witness to reveal what they know, and the writing is wonderful throughout. Investigating crime scenes and interviewing witnesses can be fun, but it's in court where things get really interesting.
Like everything else in the Phoenix Wright games, the courtroom drama that unfolds around you scarcely resembles the genuine article. You won't be spending four weeks making your case to the jury, or debating the validity of mountains of evidence. Witnesses frequently lie on the stand, and it's your job to point out contradictions in their testimony. If you're sure that a witness is fibbing but hasn't slipped up yet, you can badger them with more questions to see if any cracks will appear in their story.
Most of the trials – despite beginning in earnest – tend to quickly descend into chaos. You're generally charged with defending your client against what on the surface appears to be an ironclad case, but through rigorous questioning of witnesses and other people of interest, you'll usually be able to unmask the real culprit. It's outrageous, and over the top, and it pays barely a passing nod to the reality of how court cases unfold, but it's nearly always entertaining, and thankfully, the solutions to the crimes are rarely so obtuse that you'll find yourself unable to work them out
You may have noticed that we haven't really delved into the individual games that make up the Ace Attorney Trilogy, and there's a good reason for that: while fans will undoubtedly have their favourite, the three games are fairly consistent quality wise, there's little deviation when it comes to the gameplay, and they'll each take you around fifteen hours to complete. But if you must know, for our money the third game – Trials & Tribulations – is the best of the bunch, and while the second – Justice for All – is probably the weakest, the final trial in that game is perhaps the high-point for the entire series.
The Ace Attorney Trilogy includes no additional extras to unlock, and while we'd ordinarily bemoan a collection of old games making their way to PlayStation 4 without so much as concept art to flip through, since these games have never been available on PlayStation before the point does feel somewhat moot. Trophy hunters may be deflated to learn that there's only one Platinum gong available across the entire trilogy, but it shouldn't be too tricky to pick up. On the whole, these are minor quibbles, and it should speak volumes as to the quality of the Ace Attorney Trilogy as a package that these were the only gripes we could really muster. Still, we'd like a dynamic theme of Phoenix pointing and shouting "Objection!" Come on, Capcom.
Phoenix Wright has finally made his debut on a PlayStation console in the form of the Ace Attorney Trilogy, and you'll have absolutely no objections from us. This collection of three brilliant games is well worth the attention of adventure game fans, visual novel aficionados, or budding lawyers. The mind-bending, labyrinthine murder plots are far-fetched but engaging, the writing is consistently pithy and amusing, and the characters you'll meet are charming and unique. It's an open and shut case – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy rocks.