The early 2010s was a weird time for Capcom, releasing what is arguably some of the company’s worst-performing titles. In 2010, we saw the release of Lost Planet 2 and Dark Void, two games that performed considerably lower than expected. It’s intriguing, then, that during this dark era of Capcom’s history, we saw the release of what is considered a cult classic among DS and Capcom fans with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. I didn’t get a chance to play it back when it was released in the West in early 2011 due to this title being relatively difficult to find on store shelves, but with the recent port to modern hardware, I was finally able to see what Ghost Trick is all about.
Developed by Capcom under the helm of Phoenix Wright creator Shu Takumi, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a puzzle game where players can use their ghostly powers to possess and manipulate objects in order to save lives and find the truth behind their own death. With this port to Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, players can experience enhanced visuals and additional unlockables.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Comes Back for a Second Chance
Despite lacking the duel screens of its original platform, Ghost Trick felt right at home on the Nintendo Switch. Provided in this version is a slew of much-needed enhancements, including 60 FPS and HD visuals. With these additions, the expressive and incredibly vibrant colors of Ghost Trick pop on modern hardware. Originally, Ghost Trick was mostly a 2D game with the exception of character models and certain items. Characters in the original release were pixelated — partly due to the Nintendo DS’ 256×192 screen resolution. This port trades this pixelated look for a smoother, cell-shaded style. This fits the rest of the game quite well, as the cartoon-like backgrounds are packed with tons of objects and detail.
The compromise Capcom devised to increase the resolution of Ghost Trick is to add a border on the left and right side of the screen, though I never found myself wishing for more screen space. It looks fantastic and the 60 FPS, while likely unneeded, makes for a polished port. The only downside to the enhanced visuals is that the animation of character models still shows its age — these are from 2010, remember. In addition to the animation, when characters are moving, you might notice the model’s colors looking a little shaky, which is probably a remnant of the more pixelated look of said characters back in the original release. Nevertheless, the visuals are vastly superior to the original.
Additional enhancements include a new, rearranged soundtrack. The original score from Ghost Trick remains, and you can actually go into the audio options and opt to play the old music. I’m sure it was difficult for players to enjoy the music from the DS’ tiny speakers. Being able to fully appreciate the music from the original game on better speakers is sure to be a treat to fans, and as a newcomer to this title, I found it to be an enjoyable and exciting soundtrack.
Ghost Trick‘s Complex Narrative and Clever Puzzles
But of course, the game includes more than just great visuals and audio. The gameplay and story are the highlights here, and I was pleased to discover why this game has a base of loyal followers. The opening of Ghost Trick is jarring and throws you right into the thick of it, beginning with main character Sissel’s death. Sissel becomes a ghost and has special powers that allow him to interact with objects within a certain range. Your main goal is to find the truth behind your death before dawn, but the story has many twists and turns that complicate your goal.
Indeed, this narrative infused with mystery is what kept me engaged the entire time. I was glued to the screen as I poured through large amounts of dialogue (this is to be expected coming from the Phoenix Wright creator). With so many twists, Ghost Trick knows how to keep players guessing. As much as I’d love to dive into greater detail with the story, it’s better just to see for yourself. In fact, with so many characters and plot threads woven into the narrative, it’s a wonder how Shu Takumi and his team managed to keep the narrative consistent throughout. I had so many questions throughout my playthrough, yet Shu Takumi’s strong writing managed to resolve the narrative in an encompassing fashion.
The story is accompanied by an eclectic cast of characters, though eclectic might just be an understatement. The bizarre character writing from Phoenix Wright is evident in Ghost Trick as well with these larger-than-life characters that are absolutely outrageous. You can’t help but love the rookie detective Lynne and her reckless approach to problems, or her hyperactive and affable Pomeranian Missile. The cast is definitely one of the most memorable ones I’ve come across in a while as their personality develops throughout the course of the narrative.
Characters aside, gameplay included the use of your ghostly abilities which are, essentially, a way to move from one narrative thread to the next, though you’d be naive to think Ghost Trick is just some visual novel. In fact, the depth and creativity of the gameplay mechanics continued to surprise me. When interacting with objects, you’ll have to take into account the timing of events and other circumstances in order to complete the level. You can also jump to other locations via telephone lines, and what you do in one location might impact what’s happening in another area of the game. When you throw all these elements together, it’s easy to see how Ghost Trick‘s puzzles are deceptively clever.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective | FinalThoughts
This port of Ghost Trick also includes additional features such as in-game achievements, an art and music gallery, and “sliding ghost puzzles” which were featured in the now-delisted smartphone release of Ghost Trick. These added features are fun to look at for a few minutes, but I’m not sure if this is an enticing enough offering for returning players. Although it was my first time playing through this title, it’s difficult for me to say there are enough new features for players who have already played it on the DS. With trial and error as a central theme, Ghost Trick could have benefited from additional features that either fast-forwarded the gameplay or made it easier to comb through dialogue. From what I could tell, this was a common complaint among players back in the day, and the opportunity to mend this issue would have been through this port.
At the end of the Capcom Showcase 2023, you could see the passion and love Shu Takumi had for this game, and it made me even more inspired to try this title out. I’m glad I did because while there are a few issues holding it back from being incredible, it’s still one of Capcom’s best titles. Its enthralling narrative and deep puzzle mechanics kept me captivated, so I sure hope others decide to give Ghost Trick a chance as I did.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the developer over the course of 14 hours of gameplay – all screenshots were taken during the process of review.