The original Nintendo DS version of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective didn’t reach the levels of success of Capcom’s Ace Attorney series, but it did enjoy a dedicated cult following. When it came out in January 2011, the 3DS was only two months away, so it was easy to overlook this late-gen DS title.
Those who gave Ghost Trick a chance swore by it because it had a compelling narrative, impressive visuals, and unique puzzle-solving gameplay. Capcom seemingly still believed in it and had it ported to iOS devices in 2012, which was a good fit considering it emphasized touch controls.
With remasters and ports being a hot ticket to making returns on old investments, Capcom has finally revived the old poltergeist private eye. How does this new HD remastered conversion hold up without a touch screen? Have there been any changes? Is there new content? Find out in this Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective review!
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Developer: CAPCOM Co., Ltd.
Publisher: CAPCOM Co., Ltd.
Platforms: Windows PC, iOS, Nintendo DS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: June 30, 2023 / January 11, 2011
Price: $29.99 USD
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was a late-gen release for the Nintendo DS. The 3DS was close to release and portable gaming was in a weird place. The landscape had shifted entirely toward mobile devices and there was a lot of speculation if Nintendo could survive.
These conditions were dire for any kind of unusual or creative new games coming out. Capcom’s team that primarily made Ace Attorney games chose the worst time to develop and release the original Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. As expected, it sold poorly and only die-hard fans kept it relevant over the years.
Gamers today are lucky that Capcom has chosen to give this title a revisit and spruce it up with a new game engine. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective has never looked better and in an age where narrative-driven games are openly accepted, everyone can finally see what all the fuss is about.
At its core, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a puzzle-adventure game where the protagonist can go back four minutes in time and possess objects, causing Rube Goldberg-style events. Usually, this is done to prevent or change the fate of a living character or to acquire new information leading to the story’s driving question; “How did I die?”.
The humble narrator and protagonist is Sissel, one cool cat who looks good in red and never backs down from defending a woman in trouble. He finds himself dead with amnesia at the start and his quest to discover how he died and why begins to unfurl.
Secret organizations from foreign nations seemingly are tied to this elaborate plot. People’s lives are at risk and almost everyone is not who they appear or say they are. There are twists upon twists in Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective and even with time travel involved, everything perfectly comes together in an emotional and satisfying conclusion.
At the heart of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective are things like a mysterious meteorite, a loyal pomeranian, and a clumsy but still sexy redhead. Sissel will meet all kinds of endearing characters and get roped into hilarious shenanigans as the story develops. Ingenious seeds are planted early on and small details that you won’t notice the first time turn out to be huge clues.
The rate of information dolled out to the player is digestible and has a lot of emotional resonance. It won’t take long to get hooked by the mystery and a lot of it has to do with the strength of the writing. There is also some subtle and clever symbolism throughout. There are small touches like the significance of the number four being the number of minutes Sissel has to change the fate of any given character.
Gameplay in this HD version of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is the same as it was on Nintendo DS but without a touch screen. The aspect ratio is 4:3 and the left and right side bars now contain the information that used to be designated for the bottom DS screen.
The solutions to all of the puzzles and the order of the events are exactly as they were in the 2011 DS version. These are always a lot of fun to solve, but the first time playing will involve some trial and error. Sissel can interact with a lot of objects and the game does not always make it clear how some of the contraptions will affect events.
Being able to travel back in time four minutes is not just a clever storytelling mechanic, but it also is kind of a crutch for the puzzles to have checkpoints. Some things won’t be clear on how they will play out until they do which can lead to somebody dying and then the sequence will have to be redone.
The puzzles become more complex when a new ability is introduced where players can swap two objects that have similar outlines. This is where some situations can have intentionally misleading puzzles. Thankfully, there is a lot of character banter to help guide gamers toward the solution.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective maxes out on its premise and gameplay to its full potential. It has the perfect length to tell its story and the gameplay lasts long enough before it can overstay its welcome.
The only disappointment is the new content is merely a few sliding puzzles. These are like the kind you’d find in a goodie bag at a children’s birthday party. They are out of place and do not fit the style and tone of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective at all.
This new version of Ghost Trick is realized with Capcom’s RE Engine. It is incredibly optimized, even on a withering Nintendo Switch, this game displays 1080p while docked and runs a perfect 60 frames per second. Load times are snappy and all background art is razor-sharp with minimal pixelation.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective‘s iconic soundtrack has been faithfully remastered and seemingly redone. The old DS version had a very crushed and low-bitrate sound quality that was good enough for a DS speaker, but when hearing it raw on a real sound system, it could sound rough. The sound quality is superbly clear in this new version.
The soundtrack sounds incredibly moody but has a bit of retro playfulness to it. The atmosphere is flawlessly nailed and hits the appropriate emotional beats where needed. It is the kind of soundtrack that feels right to leave playing in the background while cooking or doing chores around the house.
The trial-and-error aspect of the gameplay is not perfect. The story, characters, and music are as close to perfect as can be. It is too bad there was no voice acting incorporated into this port; it would have added a lot of value to the experience and given returning fans more of a reason to revisit it.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a gripping and utterly engrossing story full of twists and stimulating puzzles that will keep gamers drawn in. Veterans will find that the immaculate presentation of this HD version will be worth experiencing if they played it on DS.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Capcom. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4.