Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD Review

Movies and television usually caricaturize lawyers as leeches, sharks, and the scum of the earth. But video games have at least one hero on the bench: Phoenix Wright, the ace defense lawyer who fought for all that’s right across three games on the Nintendo DS. Now those games are available in a single high-definition collection for iOS. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD is an upstanding citizen in some regards, but it still commits some sins that will make you want to condemn it to a last ride on Old Sparky.  

All the titles wrapped up in Ace Attorney Trilogy HD are adventure-style games that were initially released on the Game Boy Advance (in Japan) and the Nintendo DS. The games, titled Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, all involve the exploits of the young defense attorney named Phoenix Wright (and occasionally involve his mentor, Mia Fey).

Each game in the Phoenix Wright series is divided into several cases wherein Phoenix must defend clients that are seemingly guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt. The stakes are high: A “Guilty” verdict usually ends with the client being put to death (not on screen). Phoenix needs every edge he can get to prove his clients’ innocence, which includes investigating crime scenes, interviewing witnesses, cross-examining them in court, and gathering up every shred of evidence available to him.

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Phoenix’s journey for justice isn’t easy. He’s up against merciless prosecutors, including his complicated ex-friend, Miles Edgeworth. Also, the judge is kind of a dolt.

The Phoenix Wright games are famously text-heavy. If you don’t like a lot of story and dialogue in your games, Wright is not right for you. Even though you’re allowed to investigate crime scenes and present evidence in court, the in-game action mostly comes down to linear pixel-hunts and presenting the correct piece of evidence at the right time. If you play Phoenix Wright, you play it for its story and characters.

Fortunately, the Phoenix Wright games consistently offer strong casts and great writing. The clients, witnesses, and lawyers are all borderline hilarious—but at the same time, there can be some pretty dark moments that are sobering regardless of the fact they’re being delivered by faux cowboys and women who carry parasols into court.

The Phoenix Wright titles absolutely hold up as great adventure games, and the iOS trilogy bundles all three hard-to-find games into one extremely convenient package. Problem is, the port itself is disappointingly shoddy. The new high-definition graphics are nice, but for some inexplicable reason, there’s no way to control text speed. This proves to be an agonizing oversight when you explore crime scenes and wind up stumbling on the same evidence over and over.

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There are also spelling errors that weren’t present in the original games, as well as a few bugs. The on-screen cursor may occasionally vanish when you’re trying to examine a crime scene, for instance, so have fun with that. Moreover, there’s no iPhone 5 support, so if you plan to go to court on a 5, expect black bars at the sides of the screen.

The collection itself still offers a couple of great ideas, including the ability to buy each game individually or as a whole package. You can also skip to specific court days and investigation days, so fans can zero in on their favorite moments and re-experience them.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney HD Trilogy gets a recommendation for its convenience and affordable price. However, since there’s little polish applied to its presentation, it also gets a boot to the head.

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