I’m on a bit of a nostalgia kick right now. After burning out on new releases after a hectic 2023, I found a renewed love for gaming on my Nintendo DS. Games like Metroid Prime Hunters and Kirby Mass Attack brought me back to a unique era of two-screen game design brimming with innovative ideas. I’m not the only one missing that time, apparently; 2024 is already filled with DS throwbacks like Another Code: Recollection.
That emerging trend continues this week with Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy. The latest collection brings another batch of classic Ace Attorney games to modern platforms, following 2021’s The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. More importantly, it preserves three games that were facing a preservation crisis due to their two-screen experimentation. While the refreshed package has to do away with the original games’ more creative tech gimmicks, I’m always happy to see more games saved from the brink of obscurity — especially when they’re still this enjoyable.
Revisiting a classic trilogy
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy pulls together three beloved games that spanned the Nintendo DS and 3DS era: Apollo Justice, Dual Destinies, and Spirit of Justice. Like the Ace Attorney games that proceeded them, all three are beefy visual novels that balance point-and-click adventure gameplay and sharp courtroom deduction. Those core tenants still hold up in 2024. Trials are an engaging linguistics puzzle that have me hunting for contradictions and busting my brain to present the one piece of evidence that will illuminate the truth.
That system works as well as it does thanks to sharp mystery writing that does a great job at obscuring the truth. While a few suspects are easy to deduce, each case tends to take a few left-field turns that are hard to fully predict. An early case in Apollo Justice, for instance, ties together a hit-and-run, a shooting, and a panty theft (an eye-rolling detail that reminds you of the games’ age) into one engrossing case.
Granted, there are still some frustrating moments in the lengthy adventures. Evidence gathering is a slow process that often requires players to deduce obscure game logic to figure out how to progress a scene. And long run times can make for overexplained cases that drag on with circular details. Even with those flaws, the trilogy still stands out thanks to genuine laughs that keep its heavy procedural elements light. The titular Apollo Justice, who stars in all three games in varying degrees, helps that too. He’s a delightfully awkward lawyer fighting to find his confidence in the courtroom. I felt myself taking more time before any deduction simply because my heart couldn’t take seeing the well-meaning lad laughed out of the room.
The only unavoidable bummer is that the new collection can’t fully capture the tactile features of the original. Everything is pushed onto one screen, which mostly works. A feature that allows players to closely inspect witnesses for their physical tells feels perfectly normal with a joystick. It’s only a shame that the collection had to lose its oddball microphone controls, which would allow players to dust for prints or shout “Objection!” themselves. That’s not a major loss, but it does take a bit of the trilogy’s identity away. That’s the price of experimentation.
I’m just glad Capcom was able to save this lovable trilogy at all. Like last year’s great Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective remaster, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy puts in the effort to make sure these games can exist in a more timeless state. Its single-screen concessions assure that it could work on any platform going forward and its visual tweaks still feel true to the original. While everything’s been smoothed out to replace the crunchy pixels of the originals, it doesn’t sacrifice any of the vibrant designs or colors to do so. This is still the same collection of wacky courtroom dramas that felt so fresh in the 2000s. Toss in some welcome bonus features, like a music player and a cute animation studio, and you’ve got yet another respectful Ace Attorney collection.
I rest my case, your honor.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy launches on January 25 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.