Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review Image

If you’ve been in the adventure game space in the last twenty years, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Ace Attorney. Those games are absolutely iconic, with creator Shu Takumi leaving his mark on the entire genre by the time the finale of the original trilogy came out. The Nintendo DS ports were especially popular, and it only made sense that when Takumi was done with his initial run he’d be allowed to try to give it another shot. 

If you’ve been in the adventure game space in the last ten years, you’ve probably heard a very loud minority of passionate fans scream another name. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective fans are probably some of the loudest people I’ve ever heard, and you know what? You have no idea how deserved that is. Since the moment I played the original DS version on my Nintendo 3DS in college I knew I was playing something special. 

The protagonist is the titular phantom detective Sissel, who awakens to consciousness in a junkyard one rainy night. He sees his corpse in the rubble and realizes that he’s now a ghost with the ability to manipulate inanimate objects around him. This is the titular “Trick” where he can possess an item in the world (for example, let’s say we have a collapsible ladder) and then make it do a particular action (we’d be able to extend). He discovers that he has a single night to solve the mystery of what happened to him, and from there the game begins.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Review Screenshot 1

In addition to this, he has the unique power to attune to the spirits of recently deceased people, allowing him to rewind their clock to the last four minutes of their life and try to change their fate. This is where most of the puzzle-solving segments take place, as the loop involves repeating the same events until you’re able to figure out how to change just the right thing to cause a difference in how things play out. You’ll jump between objects, activating them and combining their Tricks together to see what combination will either get you to where you need to be or make a specific thing happen. 

For example, the game’s very first 4 Minutes Before Death sequence sees Sessel try to save a detective also found dead at the scene of his murder. He jumps between different pieces of trash bit by bit to inconvenience her would-be killer, eventually setting off a wrecking ball that falls on the assassin. Her life is saved, and the future has been changed. For most of these segments you’ll even have the spirit of the recently deceased person (or more dog, believe it or not) to chat with Sessel and give him hints if you need them.

Ghost Trick utilizes trial-and-error gameplay masterfully, with its gradually trickier puzzles letting you restart them at any time if you can’t seem to figure out what to do before your time is up. This is something that seems to typically upset a certain subset of gamers, but I’ve never been mad that some games design puzzles like this. You can certainly use this as a crutch for bad puzzle design, but with smart puzzle design and a story-defined reason about why you’re repeating this time, it can work expertly. Ghost Trick does both of these, to tremendous results. Ghost Trick is one of the most creative puzzle games I’ve ever played, and fully utilizes its innovative gimmick in some wild ways.

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The narrative shines for several reasons, but the pacing is the glue that binds it all together. As a ghost, Sessel is able to travel between phone lines to go to different parts of the unknown city the game takes place in. Because of this, the narrative never lingers in one place for too long, and it’s able to jump between new scenes in such a natural way. You’ll typically find yourself shot between massively different and quirky locales with a wildly entertaining cast of characters you could really only ever find in a Takumi game. The storytelling is ambitious and enthralling to see play out, with each twist outdoing the last.

I’ll always commend this in my review of Nintendo Switch games but thank God the team who remastered this game actually utilized the touchscreen. Being on the DS, the touchscreen was always a crucial aspect of interacting with Ghost Trick. It was one of those DS games that felt designed around the console, something we just don’t really see anymore. So my biggest worry when this was announced for consoles without touch screens was how it would control. I’m stunned to say: effortlessly. In the original game you would draw a line between the object or person Sessel was currently possessing with the stylus to make him jump. You can do that now by dragging your finger on the touch screen, with it being pretty responsive. The alternative control scheme is that the line can instead be drawn with the left thumbstick, and extra care seems to have been put into making it feel snappy. I actually prefer using the thumbstick to play, something I never could have thought would be the case in a million years.

This remaster is all around a grand success. The DS resolution was never a huge hit to Ghost Trick’s visual identity, thanks to the very cartoonish aesthetic in all the 3D models. Their animation was also so incredible, that you were able to overlook the system’s limitations and not be judged for thinking it’s one of the best-looking games ever made. I adore how the game looks on DS, but I think I can say without a doubt that the remastering work here lost none of the original soul in the process. 

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Ghost Trick previously received an iOS port with similarly high-quality models, and they also looked great. This remaster takes that a step further, cleaning up the visuals to look great in crisp 1080p. You probably would never even think this was a DS game by looking at this remaster. All of the 2D assets look immaculate and blend perfectly with the 3D models. This being on the RE Engine also reminds me that Capcom’s main engine is capable of literally everything. 

Putting a bow on the entire package is the remastered soundtrack, which is a great listen. You can swap between it and the original DS music at any time, and both are of such great quality that I don’t think I can say one or the other is definitive. The new tracks just sound like cleaner versions on a better sound card, but the old tracks have never – and will never be – subpar. Ghost Trick’s soundtrack is catchy and matches the nighttime detective vibe the whole game gives off.

I don’t have too much to say about Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, because the game speaks for itself. If we lived in a world where The Great Ace Attorney never existed or maybe was never even localized, it’d be tremendously easy to call this Shu Takumi’s best work. I might not like this as much as those games, but it’s only by the tiniest sliver. Ghost Trick is incredible, and this remaster is outstanding. I tend to avoid making grand declarative statements over products these days, but I think if you have any interest in this genre you owe it to yourself to experience this game. Especially with a remaster this good. It’s Ghost Trick, but in HD. It’s never been better, and I’m glad leagues of new people can play one of the most fun puzzle games ever made. 

Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom

Total Score
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