The Ninjabot

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Trilogy HD Port Review: Catching Up the Wright Way

Posted on October 25, 2013 at 11:41 am by Victor Chaves


Just this week, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies was released on Nintendo eShop for the 3DS. It is the fifth game in the Ace Attorney series, and is getting positive accolades all around. This past summer in preparation I picked up a re-release on iOS devices called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD. This had the first three Ace Attorney games with vastly upgraded visuals and an updated interface to fit with the lack of buttons that is associated with smart devices. The question here is, does this port hold up to the original Nintendo DS (and technically, the Japanese GameBoy Advance) versions?

No Objections Here.

No Objections Here.

 So Pretty, It Puts the Other Versions to Shame

Let’s start with the positives with this port, and the biggest of all being the visuals. This is an incredible step-up from the DS visuals, taking full-advantage of the higher resolution iOS screen with updated backgrounds, polished character sprites, and a general sharpness in visual acuity that there never was with the original games. This was made even more pronounced by playing the fourth Ace Attorney game that was specifically made for DS (unlike the first three which are ports of the GBA versions), where I had to start straining my eyes looking at characters and evidence that looked extremely muddy. I remember even having an easier time investigating because I was able to read the environments so clearly! This is the best-looking Ace Attorney game I’ve ever played (I’ve yet to play the fifth though) and it’s very impressive with how much effort Capcom has put into updating it visually.

Other positive tidbits are that the interface has been updated some. Obviously different from the DS, the menus are all touch-based and mostly work very well. There are two modes, when holding the device vertical the game mimics the DS visual interface where the player sees witnesses and investigations on the top, while the bottom-half offers touch controls and interactions. The second mode offers a landscape option that has the interface on the visuals, which I preferred because that allowed all the great art to strut its stuff way more than the vertical view. Probably the best part is that the game is way quicker to save than previous versions. If you’ve played an Ace Attorney game, you know how often you will save your game to rectify the bad decisions you made. Luckily this game cuts down on the time it takes to save and reload by a massive amount. What used to take 10 seconds to save now takes 3 seconds. Loading took 7 seconds while here it’s 3 seconds as well. It doesn’t sound like much, but veterans of the series will fast wish that all the Ace Attorney games followed this.

You don't know Backhanded Compliments till you meet her.

You don’t know Backhanded Compliments till you meet her.

 Excellent Game Marred by some Sloppiness

Now the problems, of which there are quite a few. Probably the largest problem of the game is that you can’t skip through dialogue you have already read through (although reading through the first time is paced well enough). An example would be if you present evidence to a witness and they couldn’t provide any useful information the first time, so they go on a somewhat humorous story that lasts for about 30 seconds. If you present the wrong evidence again, that same dialogue occurs again without allowing you to skip. In the DS version, this was no problem as you can just skip past these failures very quickly, but the iOS version is infuriating when you don’t know the evidence and you have to sit and listen for minutes on end about the same story. This hinders the game terribly, especially when you have those psyche-locks in the second game which will cause you to lose ten, maybe fifteen minutes if you haven’t gathered all the evidence you needed.

Another issue I have with this port is that it’s not smooth. Sure this is nice and pretty to look at, but menu navigation and interaction is just doesn’t feel good. Certainly it’s functional, but they stutter and react in a way that is incredibly unpolished. The menus behind the game don’t react very well and are designed extremely poorly; this menu doesn’t even have any transitions in it and feels so shoddy that it feels like it could crash at any minute. Courtroom transitions stutter plenty of times, as well as the Court Record menu transitions just look unfinished. This is a game with a ton of menu interaction, and seeing as the art looks very polished, they could have put some of that into menu polishing as it’s just an eyesore every time I entered it.

Some Bugs, But Not a Hotel

But at least the game is stable and bug-free, right? Well it kind of isn’t bug-free. Stability-wise it crashed on me only once ever, but the awesome save system really saved me. Bugs do show up every once in awhile, mostly as bad text where some parts of the dialogue spilled over to other parts, showing that whomever set the script up for this game didn’t do a great job, as at least seven times throughout all three games the text was placed incorrectly. Another time the audio for the court audience murmuring lasted till the end of the chapter, not going away even when the game was restarted. But what I thought was a game-breaking bug that I barely passed was in the final case of the first game where you had to trace a name on a vase. Even though I would trace it correctly, the game would fail me for it each time. Beware that when you reach this point you must go to the Internet and find a way around this issue, as I did. Bugs like this where the game requires a specific touch that the DS versions never needed plague this iOS port, and makes it hard to recommend.

Seeing a usually dour character smile is often its own reward.

Seeing a usually dour character smile is often its own reward.

Final Thoughts

So would I actually recommend this port? It’s a very tentative “Yes”, as the bugs that the game carries are pretty harsh at times, and the interactions in this game are incredibly clunky. But I must say that the improved visuals, the very easy-to-use save system, and the price for all three games, games that took me at least a month to beat each, makes it well worth picking up. Not to mention, the game is around $15-$20 each on Amazon, and the whole package is $16.99 total, with the the first two cases being free to play. These titles offer the best in fun story and characters, as well as some very interesting puzzles and set pieces; if you haven’t ever played these games before, this is an acceptable place to start.

Presentation: 8.5

Gameplay: 6

Replay Value: 3

Legacy Score: 6.5

This game was played on an iPhone 4s.

Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score.

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