In the dead of night, on the edge of town, a woman is being held at gunpoint in a junkyard. Being the gentleman that you are, you would intervene – but there’s one big problem with that, you’re dead. Despite not knowing who you are or who killed you tonight, there’s one thing you do know: you still have the power to save this woman. Using the power of the dead, you can go back in time to four minutes before her death, and manipulate objects in the environment to stop the would-be-assassin. Thus begins one long, fateful night to discover the secrets of your past, why you were killed, and how this red headed detective fits into everything – all before you disappear come sunrise.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is one of the best puzzle/visual novel games out there. This 2010 DS title features an amazing, vivid cartoon art style, an incredibly catchy soundtrack, creative puzzle solving, and a gripping story that has you connecting each of the game’s mysteries right up until the final moments. Despite quite possibly being the top dog of the DS’s already incredible library, you wouldn’t know that because no one bought it. Shame on you.
Thankfully, the game’s director, Shu Takumi, and Capcom have given you the chance to rectify your mistake. An enhanced remaster of Ghost Trick is now available on all major platforms, so go get it. If I can’t shame you into the greatest purchase of your life, and you still need convincing, then read on.
Ghost Trick’s story, humor, and gameplay haven’t aged a day over the course of 13 years, and they’re just as sharp as ever. For a game that deals heavily with death and ghosts, it’s very lighthearted too. Your partner in crime, Lynne, dies several times over the course of the game, and it never stops being funny how casually she approaches her own death. The sheer absurdity of preventing peoples’ deaths by, for example, rolling a doughnut under a couch will occasionally hit you as well.
Gameplay in Ghost Trick can be divided into two categories. The more freeform moments where you can explore by visiting areas through the phone lines, talk to souls you’ve saved if any are around, use your “Tricks” on any objects you can possess, and of course advance the main story. Then you have the more precise puzzle solving sections where you go back to four minutes before someone’s death to change their fate. These can rely on timing and setting up a chain reaction of events. For example, one character dies of a heart attack because he accidentally knocked his medicine bottle away right when he needed it. To save him, you need to use the fan above to blow some paperwork over to the bottle, knock over a display case to create a seesaw, then use a suit of armor to swing the bottle back over to him. These brain teasers are a lot of fun, and can get pretty difficult as you go. No one ever said creating a Rube Goldberg Machine was easy, especially not one designed to save a life.
Thankfully, you have as many tries as you need to get things right. Pressing R (on Switch at least) will allow you to rewind time, either to the start of the four minutes or a checkpoint where Fate changed. Pressing L meanwhile will have you enter the Ghost World, allowing you to move your spirit around with the left stick or touch screen in portable mode. When possessing an object with a Trick, you can exit the Ghost World and press A to perform said trick. Object names and tricks used to be displayed on the top screen, but here you can simply look at a tasteful UI element that appears when you possess an object. It’s an elegant solution, and actually made me forget what the second screen was for.
The art style on the DS was still gorgeous for its time, but obviously that system didn’t have the sheer graphical power or resolutions we do now. In this remaster, all of the art has been redone or at least upscaled to look its best and it is drop dead gorgeous, especially on an OLED screen with the game’s use of dark and bright colors in the same scene. Everything also runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second, even on Switch, making the memorable Panic Dance that much more hypnotizing. I’m not sure if this version uses the 3D models for each character or once again converts each animation into a series of sprites Donkey Kong Country-style, but the fact I can’t tell is a testament to how good the art style is.
Just like the visuals, the music has received a makeover for this version. I loved Ghost Trick’s original soundtrack, using a combination of 8-bit style synths and samples of real instruments to rock out through the DS’s speakers. I was initially skeptical when I heard the whole thing would receive new arrangements, but with both tracks included I could just swap to the old one if the new wasn’t to my tastes. Now, though? I wouldn’t want to play without the arrangements. The Arranged Versions stick as close to the original as possible, simply uncrushing everything and filling out the sound a bit when necessary. Like, there’s a few tracks where a sick bassline was added, and I’m never gonna complain about a sick bassline. It still keeps the beeps and boops (you can pry the beeps and boops from my cold, dead hands), while making the real instruments sound much cleaner.
All of this would make for a decent remaster, but Ghost Trick doesn’t just settle for decent, and it includes a massive amount of concept art, in-game achievements, and a music player where you can toggle between versions on the fly. The only thing missing is the old demo level that was released for download through the Nintendo Channel, which was completely unique. Once you beat the game, you also unlock a new mode called Ghost Puzzle which is… a series of sliding puzzles. Not the best reward, I think we can all agree sliding puzzles are the worst, but beating them unlocks even more art. The rest of the game is just so good that I can forgive this small, optional sin.
If you’re not convinced by now, you may just hate good things. And while you’re reckoning with that reality, I’ll be over here enjoying Ghost Trick and hoping for a sequel, or even that Ace Attorney cameo. If you haven’t played Ghost Trick, you’re missing out.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is one of the best puzzle games out there, and this remaster only improves on perfection. Its sharp and witty writing is accompanied by a gripping murder mystery plot, a beautiful art style, and an ear worm soundtrack. Ghost Trick absolutely deserves more attention than it got back on the DS, and hopefully this resurrection will change its fate.