QJ.NET reviews Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

QJ.NET reviews Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney - Nintendo DS - Capcom - Image 1Gotcha! After waiting for its English release on tenterhooks, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney finally makes its debut in the Western shores, leaving the game open to public scrutiny. Will Apollo Justice prove itself to be a worthy successor to the Ace Attorney title, once held by former star defense attorney Phoenix Wright? Do read about the verdict in the full article.

QJ.NET reviews Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney - Nintendo DS - Capcom - Image 1

After months and months of waiting, Capcom‘s successor to the Ace Attorney series, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, finally hit store shelves a few days ago. There’s no doubt that eager fans who bought the game upon the game’s release will be staying up late solving the mysteries behind the four cases that our rookie protagonist, Apollo Justice, encounters in his debut game.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Capcom - Image 1Truth to tell, many fans of the first three Phoenix Wright games (Gyakuten Saiban in Japan) were a bit wary with the idea of playing an Ace Attorney title with an entirely new cast of characters, shunting aside almost all of the cast who endeared them to the series.

What happened to the sharp-witted Miles Edgeworth? What happened to the Steel Samurai-loving medium Maya Fey? And of course, what happened to our beloved star defense attorney, Phoenix Wright?

Simply put, many fans thought that the latest in the Ace Attorney games won’t pack as much ooomph and will be a bit lackluster compared to Phoenix Wright’s exploits.

This mis probably due to the loss of the well-loved characters who starred in the first three games: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (check out review here), Phoenix Wright: Justice for All (check out our review here), and Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations. See, for some people, the idea of having to warm up to strange, new personas trying to fill in the shoes of their favorite characters may be too much to ask for, after all.

But, to the delight of yours truly, it turns out that some of us might’ve thought wrong. And we’re going to show you why, without delving too much into the cases to avoid spoiling the game for you… well, too much.

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So what has changed?

Aside from an almost complete overhaul of the cast of characters (Apollo Justice as the main character, magician Trucy Wright taking Maya’s role as the weird, young female assistant, and part-time rock band vocalist Klavier Gavin replacing Edgeworth’s role as star prosecutor, among others), several new elements gave the sleuthing series a great, big jump in terms of gameplay even if Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney doesn’t look that much different compared to the other games, at least at first glance.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney also marks the first time the series has taken a more 3D-fied turn – with the exception of the DS port of the first game, where Capcom inserted a newer chapter, Rise of the Ashes – with the liberal use of 3D representations of the crime scenes to solve cases, as well as a few animated 3D cutscenes here and there.

Forget about Ye Olde 2D cutscenes, Ace Attorney just got even more high tech. And speaking of high tech, solving cases is now more… scientific than ever before.

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New sleuthing devices

Remember Ema Skye from the extra chapter in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney? She’s back, taller and moodier after ten years of studying abroad… but that’s not what’s important about the girl with a flair for everything scientific.

We last saw her as a high school student, but she’s now all grown up into Ema Skye, detective and (frustrated) forensics scientist. In her first appearance in the game, players get to dabble with aluminium powder to detect fingerprints, and, later, luminol to detect traces of blood to help them solve cases.

This time around, however, Ema’s not going to solve cases with a mere kiddy chemistry set, because she now has access to better, more scientific tools. Here are some of the new ways Ema will help you out in solving your cases:

  • Fingerprint Powder: who could forget checking for fingerprints, where DS gamers had to make fools of themselves by blowing on the DS units in public? The fun tool is making a comeback, and will once again be playing a vital role in solving a crime.
  • Footprint Analysis: if the crime took place on muddy soil, there’s a chance that those involved in the crime scene will leave footprints. Simply pour plaster all over the footprint, dry it with a blower, and take out the mold. To properly examine the footprint, Apollo must ink the footprint cast and make a print on paper.
  • X-ray Thingamajig: This device has a name so complicated, not even Ema herself remembers it’s exact name. Simply put, this X-ray machine can detect what is written on paper inside envelopes, or even rough sketches underneath paintings. This device is operated by scanning the surface of the object you wish to investigate, and turning the dial to inspect what is hidden underneath the cover, layer by layer, until the hidden message or image is deciphered.

Apollo also gets to tinker with a different type of contraption, a mixing board. The mixing board lets Apollo change the volume of each instrument played in a single music track. While it sounds more like a recreational tool rather than something that can be used to pin down criminals, the mixing board proves to be vital in pinning the crime on an otherwise slippery suspect with a solid alibi.

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Phoenix Wright may have had the spiritual help from his psychic assistants with the use of the Psyche-Locks, but Apollo also has something up his sleeve to help him uncover the truth behind the lies. As it turns out, Apollo has a strange yet useful ability to “perceive” courtroom witnesses’ reactions when they give their testimonies.

Similar to the way Phoenix’ magatama reacts to every lie a person makes, Apollo’s bracelet responds whenever a witness exhibits a nervous quirk – which means that they’re uncertain about what they’re talking about, or that they’re flat-out lying. Unlike Phoenix and his Psyche-Locks, however, Apollo’s Perception ability can only be performed inside the courtroom, not during investigations.

When Apollo’s perception is enabled, he can choose to heighten his senses and focus all his attention towards the witness, even slowing down time to a certain extent that will let him study the witness closely. By doing so, the rookie defense attorney can detect which of their statements trigger their nervous quirk, and lead to the right direction of questioning.

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What hasn’t changed

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney may enjoy a lot of new additions to gameplay, but it’s still a true-blue Ace Attorney game at heart. It’s not surprising to see many elements get retained in the game, but there are some things that should have changed, but for some reason remained the same. Do check out this exchange:

Apollo: Your Honor! What do you think about the witness’s statement?
Judge: Uh… I’m not sure I follow you.
Apollo: It clearly, er, contradicts the… um… I thought…
Judge: …You don’t sound very sure, Mr. Justice. Objection overruled.

Sounds familiar? You bet it is. It’s the exact same exchange between Phoenix Wright and the Judge whenever Phoenix tries to flub his way during cross-examination. For some strange reason, Apollo Justice spouts out the exact same lines Phoenix did when he flounders in presenting evidences.

Also, while Apollo Justice has its own original background music, the game still uses some of the exact same music tracks used in the previous games. It would have been nice to hear remixes of those tracks playing, instead of the same old tunes.

And how about the judge? He still looks like the same old, lovable judge who presided over the cases from the previous games, but don’t be fooled. Even if he didn’t age ten years after the last Phoenix Wright game, he’s no longer the same old absent-minded old man who never fails to make every court session rather interesting, finally developing some amount of intelligence.

Final Verdict

After playing through the final game, it’s safe to say that Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney isn’t the lackluster game fans were scared about, out of fear that the new cast may alienate them from the series.

However, it’s also safe to say that Apollo Justice can easily be the best game among all four games, and it’s not only because of the technological advancements afforded by the DS platform (the first three games were originally released on the Game Boy Advance).

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney - Image 1And why? While the previous games had great, outstanding plot (Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations‘ Dahlia Hawthorne thread, for instance), Apollo Justice’s own story line – the first three cases building up a shocking plot twist in the fourth and final case – can easily best the story lines of the other games. But of course, it’s just personal opinion, so you might as well want to experience it and judge for yourself.

So is Apollo Justice a rightful successor to the Ace Attorney title? Yes he is indeed, no cross-examinations needed.

Enough to merit another game with his name slapped on the title. Apollo Justice: Justice for All, then? Well, won’t complain if that’s the title of the next Ace Attorney title.

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