Product Type: Nintendo Nintendo DS games
Newest Review: ... they are in some of the previous games. Trucy's innocence is quite outstanding too. She's adorable, cheerful and cute. She's also got a... more
Standing up for justice is not that easy
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney (DS)
Member Name: Hydromancer
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney (DS)
Date: 15/09/08, updated on 15/09/08 (65 review reads)
Advantages: variety added through forensics, improved visual presentation, good sound effect, improved gameplay
Disadvantages: trial and error gameplay, new characters lack charm of old, requires patience
For the most part, though, despite the changed mascot the new Ace Attorney iteration is not very different at all from the Phoenix Wright games. The game is divided into two big sections: one in which you'll investigate the crime scene, question witnesses, and search for clues related to your case. This takes the form of fairly typical point-and-click gameplay, and is the lesser of the two parts of the game. Progression is very linear and oftentimes you'll be stuck simply because you didn't examine some specific item or you forgot to present something to a random person. It can get pretty frustrating at times, even to the point that you may give up and take the "Go everywhere and present everything to everybody" approach -- it works, but it's certainly not what the developers intended. It's a problem, but it's a problem that has plagued past Ace Attorney games, so if you're a fan of the series this won't pose much of a problem to you.
The second and far more enjoyable part of Apollo Justice is the court scenes. It is here that you'll use the information that you gathered during your investigation and put it to use defending your client (who, by the way, almost always appears to be guilty). The set-up is simple, but quite addicting and really satisfying. The prosecution will call witnesses and present evidence that proves your client guilty. But if there's a rule to live by, it's this: the witness on the stand is always lying. They may not even know it -- that is, they may think they're telling the truth -- but there's always a flaw, and it's up to you to find it. So, the witness testifies, and the testimony is broken up into short statements. You can press each statement for more information, but to really prove a contradiction, you're going to have to present evidence that contradicts a witness' testimony. From there it's all downhill for the liar on the stand, and you're a step closer to your not guilty verdict.
The courtroom scenes are a blast, but what's really compelling about Apollo Justice and what'll keep you playing -- or rather, what should keep you playing -- is the plot. Each case is well-written and well-conceived, and the ending often comes as a shocker even to those who are pretty good at figuring things out. The writing is, as always, excellent -- it's quite humorous and there are several lines that will likely make you laugh out loud. The last case, in particular, is pretty awesome and does a good job of tying in the first and third cases as well (the game, sadly, has only four cases) -- the second case, to be honest, sucks pretty bad and has little purpose in the game other than to introduce you to the investigation process.
The character development, on the other hand, is not as good as we've seen in past Ace Attorney games. Whereas the Phoenix Wright games had characters like Maya, Mia, Edgeworth, Gumshoe, and Phoenix himself who were all distinct and lovable characters, there aren't many similar entities in Apollo Justice. Trucy, Apollo's assistant, is well-developed as is Phoenix himself (he makes an appearance sans badge, and part of the game is figuring out exactly what happened to him). Apollo, however, despite the fact that he's the game's main character, is strangely distant, hollow, and one-dimensional. It's not until the very end of the game that he even becomes somewhat likeable -- I, for one, am hoping that Phoenix gets has badge back and becomes a lawyer again, because he's far more compelling than Apollo.
The biggest thing going for Apollo Justice is likely the number of new game play innovations that have been added. In past games there wasn't a whole lot you could do on the investigative end aside from talking, presenting, and examining -- the same goes for the court scenes. In Apollo Justice, however, you can fingerprint, cast footprints, watch videos for clues, and even use this pretty neat thing called the Mason system that allows you to travel back and forth through time in an attempt to gather clues (it's neat to present some item you found in the present day to someone in the past to get information that you could otherwise not have obtained). In the courtroom, as well, there's an addition, in the form of the Perceive action. Everybody on the stand lies, but there's not always concrete proof (one of the themes of the game, by the way), and so Apollo can observe nervous gestures made by the witness to pinpoint a lie. It's actually pretty outlandish, although at times it's kind of cool. The big problem with all this, however, is that these implementations seem tacked on and are not fleshed out at all. For example, fingerprinting and footprint-casting occurs only in the second case, and makes no appearance anywhere else in the game. Likewise, the Perceive icon comes up only once in a while, so when it does you know that you're going to have to perceive rather than present evidence. It would have been neat if these features had carried over, but instead they act kind of divisively ("Oh yeah, this is the fingerprinting case") and steal some of the thunder from the really dramatic ending.
The Ace Attorney series has finally received a graphical update, as Apollo Justice is the first game in the franchise to be made specifically for the DS (all the past games have been GBA ports). However, it's really not very noticeable -- the visuals are changed a bit, sure, but it's nothing incredibly noticeable. There aren't even any significant cutscenes aside from some very interestingly-done ones that essentially are black-and-white drawings in a slow procession. While it's not technically all that impressive, the artistic design is absolutely incredible, and to me, that's what really counts. The music is, as any connoisseur of Phoenix Wright might expect, excellent, and combines new character themes with some of the best music from past games. It does a great job of setting the mood and the Ace Attorney games are among the few in which the music honestly does improve the game.
Apollo Justice is a fairly long game, despite the fact that there are only four cases. If you've been playing the Ace Attorney games all along, you'll no doubt know what you're doing at this point and you'll spend less time aimlessly wandering around searching for clues and you'll make it through the game a few hours quicker. Also, the game is fairly difficult, but those who've been playing for a long time are at a clear advantage. There are some situations that are pretty mind-bending and challenge you to think outside the box, but at the same time there are far too many instances when you're not-so-subtlety told exactly what to do. This take a lot of fun of figuring things out for yourself, and I'd say it's fairly clear that this game may have been designed for those looking to hop on the Phoenix Wright bandwagon.
While it's a must-play for Phoenix Wright fans, it saddens me to say that Apollo Justice is probably the weakest entry in the Ace Attorney series to date. The characters lack some of the charm that made the first games so great and the neat game play implementations lose some of their effectiveness because they're used stingily throughout the game. And despite a relatively new set of characters and a toned-down difficulty level, Apollo Justice isn't a good place to start playing Ace Attorney, just because it doesn't showcase the best that the series has to offer. Don't get me wrong: it's a fun game, but it's also a bit of a letdown because it could have been so much better.
(also on gamefaqs)
Summary: A must-play only for long-time fans of the franchise