Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy


Review by · March 6, 2024

We shine a spotlight onto the things we love to display them to the world. We show them off in hopes that others can see the same great features we see in them. But light also reveals imperfections, the hairline cracks and subtle chips that may otherwise have gone entirely unnoticed before. In this way, the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy collection celebrates the second mainline Ace Attorney trilogy following Phoenix Wright’s original games. In its celebration, it manages to be the most cohesive way to play a charming but not entirely cohesive set of games.

The three games in this collection are Apollo Justice: Ace AttorneyPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice. Right away, the lack of cohesion is apparent: much of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney’s plot centers around Phoenix Wright’s departure from the legal trade, passing the torch onto the titular Apollo Justice. Yet Phoenix makes his questionable playable return in Dual Destinies, quite arguably to the detriment of Apollo and new attorney Athena Cykes, as he limits their—and especially Athena’s—chances to shine. Other plot threads instigated in Apollo Justice, such as the matter of Apollo and Trucy’s mother, are also never resolved in the subsequent games. Such unresolved issues are egregious on their own, but become much more obvious when playing the games in succession.

Individually, the games are narratively sound, although Apollo Justice feels a little held back by its measly four total cases. Spirit of Justice’s high points, including some much-appreciated Trucy focus and the absolute beast that is Dhurke, are among the series’s best. Its low points are also there, including a lack of emotional investment towards the final boss, but they never reach the level of exasperation and irritation as something like Justice for All’s Turnabout Big Top case. Apollo’s infamous ever-growing arsenal of backstories is also definitely more egregious when playing the games back-to-back, but it’s not as if Phoenix himself didn’t get an addendum to his own backstory in the final game of the first trilogy.

An Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy screenshot of Phoenix Wright speaking. His text box reads, "I'll defend him!"
While Apollo should be the main character of this trilogy, Phoenix unfortunately takes the spotlight off of him and, even more tragically, Athena.

Aside from Phoenix getting in the way of Athena’s character moments, one of the biggest drawbacks of Dual Destinies’ storytelling comes from its awkward gameplay choice to limit “examining” only to crime scenes. The typical Ace Attorney gameplay loop of examining crime scenes and taking the discovered evidence back to court remains solidly intact throughout the second trilogy collection. The catch, however, is that Dual Destinies removes the option to examine the environment at any time. A big part of the original Ace Attorney trilogy’s appeal stems from Phoenix and Maya’s banter as they examine both relevant and irrelevant details in the world around them. Dual Destinies’s lack of interaction plays a big role in why the game feels short compared to its sequel and why Athena doesn’t feel as fleshed out as Apollo and Phoenix. The odd exclusion stands out even more when placed clearly between two games that do offer examination outside of crime scenes.

Another gameplay point the second Ace Attorney trilogy is notorious for is introducing new cross-examination “gimmicks” with each title. Separated or in succession, this point is flagrantly obvious in Dual Destinies and especially Spirit of Justice, when the new mechanics start to step on the toes of preceding ones. The result is that the games, already effective enough in their simplicity, start to feel bloated with extraneous elements. On their own, these gimmicks are inoffensive, such as Spirit of Justice’s Divination Séance. The Divination Séance displays the deceased’s final moments through their perspective, allowing players to compare and contrast the memory with their evidence as part of the process of proving their client’s innocence.

The Divination Séance only occurs in the Khura’in trials. Trials set in good ol’ Japanifornia enjoy the return of Athena’s Mood Matrix from Dual Destinies. With the Mood Matrix, players analyze cross-examinations for statements conflicting with the speaker’s emotions. This spin on the usual proceedings undoubtedly has brighter moments, such as when a student comes up with the most side-splittingly absurd lies possible to keep his secrets hidden. Seeing witnesses’ emotions also serves to give them an extra layer of humanity, strengthening the series’s character-focused storytelling. That, however, makes it all the more disappointing that it appears pushed aside in Spirit of Justice

An Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy screenshot of Athena speaking while looking at her Mood Matrix. Her text box reads, "Did talking about Apollo give you some courage?"
Athena’s Mood Matrix is a fun gameplay addition that doesn’t have as much time to shine in the following game.

In Dual Destinies, where the Mood Matrix is the focus mechanic, the gameplay gimmick pushed aside is Apollo’s perceiving. In Apollo Justice, Apollo can perceive witnesses’ nervous habits during select testimonies to extract the truth they’re hiding. In subsequent games, perceiving takes place outside of the courtroom as part of the investigation sequences. Each of these features adds some fun and variety in cross-examinations or later investigations by allowing players to find testimony contradictions without using evidence. Evidence may be a key gameplay element from the series’s inception, but each of these gameplay gimmicks builds on a different innate feature instead: the series’s stunning visuals and bombastic animations. 

Visually, the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy games are in their peak, high-definition iterations that originally released on mobile devices. While each of the three games has their visual strengths, Apollo Justice is especially stunning. The 2D art gleams with fresh new life thanks to smooth linework and sleek shading. Even on the Nintendo DS, the clever character designs and expressive animations shine with the brilliance the series is well known for, but the HD glow-up enhances it all in a warm and welcome way. You can’t have too much of a good thing in this case.

The visuals of the following games have their own good points, although their less polished facets stand out when coming right off the heels of Apollo Justice. In a general sense, it’s a bit jarring to see the characters go from highly detailed 2D sprites with perfectly defined fingers and knuckles to the smoothed-over 3D models with their blocky hands. When it comes to specifics, characters designed for only two dimensions tend to have a rougher time transitioning into 3D. Front-facing Klavier and deep-in-thought, finger to the forehead Apollo are two of the most blatant examples of 3D “downgrades.”

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy screenshot of Klavier pointing. His text box reads, "Achtung, baby! Today, we play it my way!"
The devilishly handsome Klavier is at his best when in his home element of two dimensions.

The characters designed with the third dimension in mind have a much better time. Where 2D Ace Attorney shines with magical two-dimensional animations, 3D Ace Attorney follows up with an outstanding use of the new space allotted to it. Characters can now move around a 3D space for some of their animations, adding even more life and charm to the games. Spirit of Justice even includes a testimony entirely reliant on animation in a 3D space, further pushing not only what the Ace Attorney visuals look like, but what they’re capable of conveying in terms of gameplay. What’s more, the series’s iconic “breakdown” animations when a culprit is finally cornered can also make use of moving camera angles, adding even more flair and drama to the most thrilling moments. 

Exclusive to the Trilogy collection is the Animation Studio, a way to replay character animations and place their models or sprites into different backgrounds. This fun collection of the games’ art assets complements an additional concept art gallery and music player. The concept art gallery is a beautiful collection of the many pre-production art pieces that went into creating the trilogy’s beloved characters. The music player is another welcome addition, as the series’s fantastic soundtrack remains the steadfast underlying consistency between games. It’s all too easy to accidentally spend just as much time in the music player, which includes a couple of beautiful new arrangements in addition to the standard soundtracks, as you spend in-game. Small details, such as the main characters dressed up for a musical performance, add an extra splash of charm to the presentation that solidifies the game collection as a true celebration of the second Ace Attorney trilogy. And it’s a trilogy worth celebrating, even if it sometimes feels disjointed.

As a compilation of three games, the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy can’t be beat, as it includes plenty of fantastic extra features, including the DLC chapters and costumes for Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice. On their own, each game of the trilogy has its high points, although Spirit of Justice hits them with more consistency than its predecessors. The trilogy itself is full of peaks and valleys, aiming for the moon and sometimes landing in the stars, other times getting completely lost along the way. Their less-than-spectacular spots are more apparent when displayed in rapid succession with each other, but that’s because their successes are just as prominent, drawing attention to each other’s weaknesses. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy’s celebratory nature may draw attention to the second trilogy’s flaws, but it also showcases its assets, from the visual to the auditory and, yes, even the narrative. For all its pros and cons, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy is the best way to play these great, albeit sometimes incohesive, games.


Imbued with Ace Attorney charm, transition into 3D effectively makes use of 3D space, outstanding soundtrack makes the music player all the more wonderful.


Certain plot threads are abandoned between games, additional mechanics in each new game can sometimes feel overwhelming, certain characters don't handle the transition into 3D well.

Bottom Line

There is no better way to play the second Ace Attorney trilogy, and it's a trilogy worth playing—even if it has more obvious imperfections from time to time.

Overall Score 89
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Niki Fakhoori

Niki Fakhoori

Video games have been an important element of my life since early childhood, and RPGs are the games that gave me the opportunity to branch out of my “gaming comfort zone” when I was a wee lass. I’ve always spent a good deal of my time writing and seeking value in the most unsuspecting places, and as such I’ve come to love writing about games, why they work, how they can improve, and how they affect those who play them.