Video Game Reviews

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy Breathes New Life Into a Classic Mystery Game

Inverse Score: 8/10

Originally Published: 

My client, the son of a local mob boss, was about to be convicted and sent to jail. Then, in a moment, a realization dawned and I presented a key new piece of evidence, a leaf print stained into the bottom of a shoe after someone stepped in paint. The music kicked into high gear, causing an adrenaline rush you almost never find in text-based games.

The Ace Attorney games loosely fit into the visual novel genre, but the series stands out by uniquely blending puzzle solving, drama, and mystery into a courtroom-style experience. There’s truly nothing else quite like Ace Attorney. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy collects games four through six: Apollo Justice, Dual Destinies, and Spirit of Justice. It’s an impressive package that does an admirable job of updating all three games while adding some fun new bells and whistles. However, grouping these three games together makes some of the missteps taken with Ace Attorney’s fifth entry more obvious than ever.

An Unobjectionable Update

Apollo Justice’s visual upgrade is brilliant, and a clear improvement over the previous trilogy.


Before diving into the specifics of each game, it’s best to just get what’s new out of the way. Capcom has taken liberal steps to make playing these games as easy as possible, especially for those that might just want a visual novel experience without any of the puzzle solving. To that end, the trilogy has a new “Story Mode” option that automatically advances events, and it's a fantastic option if you just want to turn your brain off for a bit, or simply want to see the story through.

At the same time, an auto-advance option has been added, and it baffles me that the original games omitted this feature. Now you can jump into any chapter right at the beginning, an option that’s helpful for returning fans or simply replaying the pieces that you want. All of these well-implemented additions help remove any frustration that used to be present.

Just like the last trilogy, Apollo Justice adds in a Museum feature that lets players peruse music tracks and a hefty art library that includes concept art, as well as an animation studio that lets you pose your favorite characters and run through all the various animations in each game. This doesn’t just feel like some tacked-on addition, but a thoughtful exploration of the legacy of Ace Attorney, and the concept art is especially fascinating to dig into, seeing wildly different designs and ideas from what was eventually executed.

The Museum feature is a treat for longtime fans, grouping a vast amount of content into easy-to-navigate menus.


Of course, the final change of the trilogy is updated visuals, but it’s clear the bulk of the work went into the fourth entry and namesake, Apollo Justice. (Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice marked the series’ jump to full 3D, and because of that those entries simply don’t need as much enhancement visually, even though they do look great with a better resolution.)

Capcom has done an exceptional job with the fourth game. Characters’ sprite art are drawn with hard lines that make each animation pop. Everything looks so colorful and vibrant, from the lavishly drawn backgrounds to the absurdly over-the-top character animations. It’s a clear improvement from what Capcom did with the Phoenix Wright trilogy.

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Dual Destinies is the odd man out of the trilogy, clearly lacking the same punch and interesting characters that the other two games have.


It’s fair to say that Apollo Justice was a turning point for Ace Attorney when it was released in 2008, marking a shift in both character and tone. It was much more grounded than the past couple games, eschewing the paranormal elements for a tried and true investigation or courtroom formula. Apollo Justice has a palpable sense of experimentation, with some truly inventive ideas in terms of where the story goes and investigation techniques, like gathering and cross-referencing footprints from a crime scene, or using Apollo’s intuition to look for nervous ticks that witnesses display during testimony.

Apollo Justice has absolutely fantastic writing that introduces a new character and arc, while simultaneously building on the legacy of Phoenix Wright. The game manages to effortlessly bounce between an array of different tones: kitschy humor, dark drama, and intrigue. Fifteen years later it stands out as one of the most different games in the franchise, and it’s only become better with time.

That being said, Dual Destinies fails to properly follow-up on that spirit of experimentation and variety. While it’s not a bad game, for my money, Dual Destinies is easily the weakest game in the entire franchise. A few of the cases feel too long and drawn out with huge leaps in logic, the investigation segments are overly simplified and remove intriguing gameplay, and the entire game has a weak villain that fails to be compelling in the context of the game’s themes. Dual Destinies takes place in the Ace Attorney series’ “Dark Ages” of law era, when the entire legal system is on the brink of collapse. The problem is this darker theme often feels at odds with the kooky, light-hearted antics of each case.

The investigation segments of the last two games can be disappointingly simple when compared to Apollo Justice, but Spirit of Justice makes up for it with inventive mechanics and charming writing.


Dual Destinies’ shortcomings become more apparent when you play its follow-up, Spirit of Justice, which takes a sharp turn into embracing supernatural elements and brings back that feeling of experimentation that made Apollo Justice shine.

The unevenness between these three games is the only real issue that springs up with the trilogy, as Dual Destinies starts to feel like a slog to get through when compared to the stellar Apollo Justice and Spirit of Justice. There are still moments worth experiencing in Dual Destinies, of course, especially if you want to see Apollo’s entire character arc.

While Dual Destinies may pale when propped up against its siblings, it’s impossible to not recommend this trilogy as a whole. The thrill of piecing together a court case and turning the tide with a crucial piece of evidence is, to this day, one of the most enthralling experiences I’ve ever had in video games.

The Apollo Justice trilogy does a phenomenal job of updating these three games for a modern audience, and making them more seamless and enjoyable to play than ever. Missteps with Dual Destinies aside, this is an essential collection for both fans and newcomers alike.


Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy launches on January 25 for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Inverse reviewed the Nintendo Switch version.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.

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