Capcom’s Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective remaster revives Ace Attorney creator’s magnum opus

Shu Takumi’s phenomenal Nintendo DS ghost mystery is back with revamped visuals and music

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective header

Have you ever thought about whether you knew yourself? I mean, truly recognize who you are, without any recollection of yourself? Would you want to know who you were, even if it’s a dark story? Could you even accept that?

Those are some questions that Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective asks as you investigate the mystery of your own death. Spearheaded by Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi, Ghost Trick was originally a Nintendo DS game that came out in 2011 in North America.

However, Capcom decided to breathe life back into the series with an HD remaster, allowing audiences to experience what some people call Takumi’s magnum opus. After my playthrough of the game, I can see why.

Ghost Trick delivers what fans expect from the creator of the Ace Attorney games: a mysterious story with twists and turns, charismatic characters, and an inventive way for storytelling through gameplay. However, what I found remarkably different compared to his other work was how the story delved into the philosophical meaning of the self and psychological effects of identity the further you progress through the game.

All of these combine to create an excellent game that’s perfect for newcomers to enjoy while capturing the familiarity of Ace Attorney without treading on similar waters.

Receiving “Deadly” powers to change fate

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective’s premise is quite straightforward. Sessel, dressed up like an Elite Beat Agent knock-off finds himself kneeling in a shady alleyway next to a red-haired woman named Lynne. She’s also in a sticky situation, as a hitman plans to murder her after meeting with Sessel.

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective Sissel

However, the reason why Sissel can even see this entire situation is because he’s now a dead spirit. Unfortunately, he also has the early 2000s trope of amnesia, with no recollection of his past life. If that wasn’t weird enough, he has powers called ‘ghost tricks,’ allowing him to manipulate objects, communicate with other dead souls, travel between phone lines and reverse time four minutes before someone’s death.

As a result of these newly discovered powers, Sissel decides to help Lynne against the hitman and find out the truth about his death — the only obstacle being that he has until sunrise to solve this mystery before he disappears from the world completely.

During my preview of the game, what I found most interesting is that the core story doesn’t revolve around Sissel’s irreversible fate; rather, it’s a journey about self-discovery (in the literal sense), acceptance and influencing the lives of those around you. As the player, you go along with Sissel on his self-journey and start to cast doubt on details you discover. You also start to empathize with Sissel’s own emotions and his resolve to reach the truth, no matter the outcome.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective blender

Another surprising theme I found in Ghost Trick as the plot developed was the significance of companionship and how those friendships can impact your future, even after death.

For example, there are recurring people who you befriend that play a role in helping with Sissel’s journey to rediscover himself. These include Lynne and Missile, the Pomeranian dog introduced in the second chapter. These individuals are bursting with charm and have widely different personalities, ranging from a disco-dancing detective with weird mannerisms to a crazy scientist with various death traps in his workplace. What I love is that these are just facades, a front to achieve their own goals.

After the end of the story, I grew a strong attachment to all the characters and it genuinely made me emotional seeing how my actions changed their fates for good.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective dog

Without diving into any spoilers, Ghost Trick is a prime example of a story that can only be told in the video game medium. It’s filled with quirky characters and does a great job of intertwining gameplay elements with the plot to balance lighthearted humour with tense moments.

Changing fate one object at a time

As previously mentioned, Sissel has the power to manipulate objects in order to change the past. Along with travelling around the area (unlike the Ace Attorney games where you point and click), this means that your puzzles revolve around the usability of your ghost trick powers.

How puzzles typically play out is that Sissel travels back four minutes before someone’s death, where your task is then to influence objects around you that will either stop the murder or at least delay it to buy more time. If you react too slowly to the situation or are unable to prevent that person’s death, the game ends. Thankfully, game-overs aren’t that punishing as you immediately restart to the closest point where you diverted fate.

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective

I found these puzzles quite clever, as you often have to think outside the box for certain situations. For example, there are some objects that you think are unimportant to the puzzle but as you progress further in a situation, an opportunity to influence fate will result from changing the position of that one item.

Because the game establishes unique ways to solve puzzles, I never found any of the challenges unfair. Ghost Trick also encourages trial and error without any repercussions. Despite that maybe sounding overly repetitive, it doesn’t feel that way because compared to the Ace Attorney games, you have the option to let dialogue play out as you work in the background to solve a specific situation.

As a result, I found myself engrossed with the game for hours (I even ended up playing six hours in one sitting) just because I wanted to get further in both the plot and solve another puzzle.

An underground gem revived

Overall, Ghost Trick captivated me in so many ways, from its entertaining storytelling to its addicting gameplay. Not only was the experience short and sweet (I clocked in at around 11 hours), I was left with an emotional, but satisfying feeling at the end.

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective grateful

I’m grateful that Capcom decided to resurrect this game for a new audience because it genuinely is one of the best games from Shu Takumi.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is available on PlayStation 4 (played for review), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.

Image credit: Capcom