03 . 25 . 2024

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy


Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy was requested for review by one of our patrons. If you’d like to see a certain game reviewed, or want to support CGR at a different tier, go to the DONATE tab up top and head on over to Patreon. Special thanks to an anonymous patron for requesting this review!

HOLD IT! PeaceRibbon is the resident Ace Attorney Reviewer! As you’ll see in the Court Record, he’s even reviewed games inspired by Ace Attorney!

OBJECTION! …uh, PeaceRibbon was busy reviewing Baten Kaitos. I’m sure he’ll be back in the witness stand soon reviewing another Wright-like, but for now I’m filling in. Is the prosecution ready?


Let the review commence!

The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is an HD remaster of the first 3 games in the series. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, it’s actually rather unique in the gaming landscape. You play as Phoenix Wright, a defense attorney fresh out of school. In the game you’ll interview persons of interest, collect evidence, and build up your case for the defense. Once you reach the trial phase, it’s your job as Phoenix to press the witness for information and present evidence indicating there’s a contradiction. If forced to break it down, I’d say it’s a combo of a visual novel and puzzle game, but I think it’s unique enough in gaming that it feels like neither of those things.

This collection comes with ‘updated’ art, but not much else that’s new. Those apostrophes aren’t there for sarcasm, but to note an interesting caveat. While playing PW, I was entirely ready to ding the art for feeling off. As the originals were on Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, they were pixelated, and the art in this remaster felt too vectorized and smooth. Some colors that worked on a pixel display just didn’t congeal nicely on an HD screen, and I figured the redrawn assets were inferior to what we once had. Once I researched the process of the remaster’s visual upgrades though, I got coffee egg on my face. 


As it turns out, I had the process entirely backwards. The art was done first and ported over to pixel art – and so this remaster actually uses the original assets of the game. The art can still be criticized for looking overly smooth. The background art in particular is not well done, and should have been redrawn to match the higher fidelity. But to criticize the character art knowing what I now know would be disingenuous. 

Now I have egg on my face, but for the opposite reason! A reader pointed me to a news source indicating Capcom had actually redrawn every frame and background for this remaster, and did not in fact use any of the original files. While they did downscale illustrations for the original GBA and DS versions, the art for the remaster was in fact entirely redone. Apologies for my mistake. My initial criticism stands then: while the characters aren’t as good as they were, they’re generally fine. But there’s still no excusing the backgrounds, which are jarringly bad. My score has been adjusted to reflect this.

Except this guy. This design offends my eyes and I don’t feel bad saying it.

 However, it’s still only a remaster in that slightest sense. The dialogue, music, and cases remain entirely unchanged. The writing is still very fun – you can tell the localization team had a blast translating, with all the early internet memes they snuck in. (“You’re the man now, dog!” and “This is Sparta!” both make brief appearances). It dates the game, but in a way I didn’t mind since I lived through those memes. 

The music is still a bop, though you will hear one theme altogether too much. Thankfully, they added a few quality-of-life features to this remaster, so whenever I heard that saccharinely upbeat theme, I just turned down the music and continued interviewing my witness. 

In regards to those quality-of-life updates: you can now save whenever you want, as opposed to the original when you could only save at chapter checkpoints. And loading saves is incredibly fast too – the temptation to save scum will be real. In addition, there are volume sliders for each sound category, and options to set dialogue speed and how quickly you skip through textboxes when holding B. It doesn’t sound like much, but when a game has gameplay as light as this, it doesn’t need as much to make a difference.

This is technically a review for 3 games, so now that I’ve reviewed the collection as a whole, let’s break down my review for each game individually. 

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney


The first in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is the solid bedrock that the rest of the franchise has continued building on. The writing for the characters is strong, and the cases are personal to each of them. This character work is crucial for the rest of the game to work, as the main mode of interaction is dialogue with people. If you don’t like Maya, Detective Gumshoe, or Edgeworth, you won’t last long. So it’s a good thing they nail it. 

The cases build on your personal relationships – some suspension of disbelief is required, but almost always these cases have a personal connection to Phoenix’s or Maya’s lives. While admittedly a bit soapy, these connections are what flesh out the characters in detail. We often learn the most about people when they’re put under duress. How we handle that stress is one of the spiritual themes I drew from Phoenix Wright. That perseverance is Phoenix’s greatest trait – he never gives up on his client, and believes in them fully. That’s a terrible idea for a lawyer in the real world, but I can’t help but admire it. 

The music in this is just as foundational as the bulk of this game. The songs that play in court are particularly tense, releasing in ecstasy as soon as you crack the case wide open. Earlier on in a trial you’ll have smaller victories, squashed by the prosecution’s objections, and the music follows suit – it paces itself, not going further than you are in the trial. But you know when this music hits, you’re in for a volley of “Objections!”, with Phoenix ultimately ending up on top. Those moments make these games, and Ace Attorney pioneered it all.

There are times where the logic isn’t perfect – you can present the right evidence to a statement the game says is wrong, even though the evidence still clearly contradicts your chosen statement. Sometimes this was probably just me being sour grapes: maybe there was some technicality I missed. But they did fix this starting around the 3rd game, so I don’t think it’s all on me. (Specifically, in future installments you can present the right evidence against multiple statements and have it advance the case.) 

Earlier in the review I said Phoenix’s unyielding faith was a terrible idea. And don’t get me wrong: it is. Putting your faith in a person is something many of us have done, and we all have the scars to prove it. To keep on having faith in someone even if all signs point to them being guilty is foolish. But that faithfulness is how I would want people to treat me, despite my own undependability. And that’s how God treats me, despite my times of faithlessness. Maybe being like Phoenix isn’t such a bad idea after all. 

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All


Justice For All is a tough sequel to love. It still gets the most important beats right: the characters continue to be believable (in their universe, anyways), and the writing is par for Phoenix Wright. But the logic feels more tortured, and the investigation phase feels much more arduous. The music also suffers, but only in comparison to the first and third entries in the series. This game is still great in comparison to many others out there, but it’s no star witness to Phoenix Wright’s quality. 

For all its flaws, JFA has a clear moral: dependency on others makes it impossible to flourish. This moral requires a fair bit of explication, but the situations and writing in the game do a clearer job than I’ll be able to of demonstrating the dangers of dependent behavior. 

“Be yourself” & “finding yourself” are phrases we hear often nowadays. Individualism has become a bad word of sorts recently, but there is in fact some truth to it. If you let the world dictate who you are, you won’t find your authentic self. The world will tell you a thousand things to be, but that’s not who you were made to be. You have to put in the work to find that. You also don’t determine the truth of yourself – you find it.  Ultimately, the self is a mystery that’s only revealed in relation to Christ. 

That’s not to say community should be shunned, and JFA isn’t saying that either. It very much emphasizes the importance of relationships. Community can be a great place to learn about yourself, providing direction and guidance when it’s all too much to sort through. The danger of codependency is suppressing your own self so as to provide for another’s needs. This is not self-sacrificial love or denying oneself – the full delineation between these and codependency would require a whole essay to go into. But to keep it as short as possible, one can deny oneself if they, with clear eyes, recognize their decision isn’t harmful to their own intrinsic dignity. If you’re so invested in another that you’ve lost yourself, that’s codependency.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations


Trials & Tribulations improves on what AA and JFA got wrong. Investigations are less tedious, there’s a better sense of what to do next, logic tracks better, and you can present evidence correctly on more than one specific statement. And the strengths of the franchise continue to be on display. The characters remain strong and are developed even further, the music remains great, the art is still good…only nostalgia for the first game keeps me from ranking T&T the highest.

Each of these games all stick the landing with a fantastic final case, but the fifth case in T&T feels like a great wrap-up for the series (even if it has continued to go on for many games). Writing a convincing murder case is a difficult task, which is why it’s so impressive they’ve ended each game so neatly.
That all being said, T&T doesn’t have much new to say in regards to morals. It’s once again “believe in your client and never give up.” Still a worthy point to drive home, but I wish they could have found something new. Justice For All has T&T beat in that department for sure.


The Phoenix Wright collection is the easiest way to play the original trilogy these days, and with the few quality-of-life features they added, it’s also the best. Unless you like shouting “Objection!” into the DS microphone, which was admittedly pretty fun as a kid. As for its moral character, I’ve heard enough deliberation at this point – the court find Phoenix Wright: The Ace Attorney Trilogy not guilty.

Scoring: 80%

Art: 3 / 5

Music: 4.5 / 5

Story & Writing: 5 / 5

Gameplay: 4 / 5 

Design: 3.5 / 5

Morality/Parental Warnings:

Violence: crime scenes are depicted, though not in an overly gratuitous way. Blood and dead bodies are featured in the murder cases, though they don’t linger on gruesome details. 

Suggestive Content: Some women are designed provocatively, though usually just the femme fatales – it’s not every woman in the games. There is a scene in the third game where Mia dresses up as a French waitress to get a witness to open up. It’s very short, and the outfit is pretty tame compared to other designs in the game, but it’s still pretty overt objectification. There is a fair amount of innuendo, though none of it is deeply suggestive.

In the game, your quasi-paralegal assistant is in fact a psychic medium who can channel spirits. The theological implications of this are brushed aside, which is actually fine – I’d rather they not got lost in the weeds there. However, when Maya or Pearl channel spirits, they assume the physical form of the channeled spirit. Most of the time, they channel someone larger and bustier than them, so cleavage shows up. This feels worse than your usual cleavage though, considering Maya is 17 and Pearl is 10. It’s played for a joke with Pearl, but it doesn’t ease your discomfort, nor does it stop them from doing it over and over again. This is honestly what bothers me the most about the original games. 

Language: language is minor – an occasional “damn” or “dammit”. Nothing more offensive than that. 

About Matt "PBnJ" Palardy

Video-game lover since I first jumped around in Super Mario 64. Tolkien nerd and music enthusiast to boot. Hope you enjoy long rants about miniscule details!