The following review may unveil spoilers of past games, and is not recommended to read unless you have played the previous games in the series.
The Ace Attorney series of games (known as Gyakuten Saiban [Turnabout Trials] in Japan) has been one of the best selling series to hit the GBA/DS. Even though it uses low tech graphics and was extremely low budget in its first incarnations as “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney,” the series has turned into one of Capcom’s most profitable franchises with minimal development cost. It is without question that we owe this series of games a huge thanks for successfully reviving the once dead “adventure” genre of games. The real question with this newest spin off is whether it lives up to the hype and quality of previous Gyakuten games.
Followers of this series will be instantly familiar with the interface of this game, using the classic stylus input for navigating the text/evidence. This is also where the first major change to the interface can be seen, as there is the new logic button that Edgeworth can use to piece together different pieces of information that Edgeworth thinks of along the way. Cross examinations are performed the same way as they are in previous games, but this time you are not in court and are interviewing witnesses directly.
This is also where the first issues of the game can be seen. Even though the interface is essentially the same, the interface can feel slow and laggy at times, and not nearly as polished or responsive as previous games. At times I was left wondering if this game engine was built completely from scratch and was made to closely mimic previous games as closely as possible, while failing to do so. That is the only explanation I can come up with, although it may be sloppy programming (such as the Phoenix Wright 3: Trials and Tribulations, where several times when music starts playing, there would be awkward pauses before resuming of animations and camera pans, which did not exist in the Japanese text version of the game).
The famous camera panning between the person on the left and the person on the right appears slower, and this lowers the excitement levels of the classic Phoenix vs Prosecutor formula. I can’t say that the upgraded graphics play a part in this, as Apollo Justice does not suffer from this issue.
Overall, the presentation of the game is sloppy and unpolished, not at all characteristic of the previous games.
The kids at newgrounds making Phoenix Wrong flashes will, without a doubt, be having a field day with all of the new sprites. All of the sprites in this game appear in profile, and are highly detailed and upgraded. Even Miles Edgeworth doesn’t appear “off” such as he did in PW3 when he replaced Phoenix Wright during the final case of the game. As well, all of the older sprites such as Von Karma (both of them) have received upgrades from GBA quality to DS quality. It’s too bad such attention to detail wasn’t done to Payne’s sprite in Apollo Justice, but who cares about him anyway.
Overall, the graphics are pretty damn good, and fans’ of past game won’t be disappointed.
The music of this series has always been highly important for enhancing the story, and the places you visit. This is where the game really starts to fail at life Shinji. No care was taken to upgrade or rearrange past tracks that were used in previous games. I find this curious because it was done pretty well in Apollo Justice. The new composer for this series was not a good fit at all. Theme’s such as “Kay’s theme” will begin to annoy the hell out of you because they are played every time the character comes on screen from out of nowhere, even though it has already been established that the character is around. Memories of watching many Disney movies with the #2 attached come to mind during these moments.
This is really bothersome during the final case of the game, where Von Karma is often running off to investigate on her own, only to later return and have her damn theme play. It WAS a great piece of music, and provided for a nice impact in PW3 when she appears for the final case in the game out of nowhere, but the song is overused and will quickly get on your nerves. This song also hasn’t been upgraded or rearranged at all, adding to the sloppiness of the sound track.
The sound effects are what they are, but the few people that shout “Objection!” did not receive a bit-rate upgrade in their audio tracks. This is really odd since almost everyone (except for poor Phoenix) in Apollo Justice featured a much cleaner sound recording then that of Miles Edgeworth. Voice actor choices such at Yew seem really off, while the actor for the final boss seemed damn near dead on. I know it’s just a few sound clips, but they play an important role in this series. It would have also been nice if important (and no doubt recurring) characters such as von Karma and Kay had received sound clips for “Hold it!”, I think even voicing the traditionally silent Gumshoe with an Objection or two would have been a fantastic add… even add “pal” to the sound clip to stop of the awesomeness!
Overall, the music is fail with the exception of Edgeworth’s “Turnabout” theme, which I think is comparably worthy to the other important Turnabout theme’s in the series. The sound bites of characters show a complete lack of consistency and preparation on Capcom’s part.
Here is where we get into a mixed batch of like and dislike. I like all of the features, such as the logic system, and using it to counter argue against witnesses. This system could easily be used in courtroom scenes, if they ever decide to have Edgeworth in a courtroom. However, the first and final cases of the game appear to be the ones that received the most thought. While the natural flow of logic can come out of the first two cases, the middle cases are sometimes incoherent and hard to follow. This shows a totally uncharacteristic style that does not match up with past games.
The 3rd case, being without a doubt the longest of all of the cases, seems to drag on and on at the very end for no apparent reason, and you will quickly get several game over’s trying different combinations of logic + presenting evidence. While this may happen once in awhile during previous games, it seems to be exceedingly more frustrating in this game.
You will quickly notice that you are not presented with “Captain Obvious” moments were you will receive huge penalties when the answer is obvious (because it NEVER is), and the ONE moment you are presented with a stiffer penalty, it may still not be completely obvious which piece of the possible few pieces of evidence that could prove the contradiction might be, adding to the frustration you’ve built up slowly while playing the game.
The default navigation system of using the stylus for moving Edgeworth around has been done poorly. I think having the moments were you can move around on the touch screen and being able to directly point at where you want to go would have been far more intuitive (such as in The World Ends With You), but because of Capcom’s choice to still have the main action on the top screen, you’ll find yourself using the input pad more often. I ended up playing most of the game using the classic GBA controls and ignoring the stylus entirely because of this.
Overall: The gameplay ends up frustrating and is not as polished as past games. I think a “version 2” of this game would be wise just work these things out, but hopefully another game in this series will warrant the interface upgrades I have talked about.
This is another part, and without a doubt the most important part of this series, where sometimes it shines and other times it sh-.
The first case gets you very interested in what may be going on in the larger picture of this game, but as the game progresses you start to wonder why plot flow seems so rough. The setting of the 2nd case just blows. I can’t explain why it blows, but it just seems the entire murder on a plane thing, and the choice of characters to introduce wasn’t well thought up. There is not a single memorable character in the 2nd case until the plane lands and von Karma is reintroduced.
In the 3rd case Kay is introduced, and while she seems like an interesting character, I would hope that her larger role as the series progresses shows her maturing. Having a little girl at your side isn’t much different than the other games in the series, and I honestly thought that von Karama or Gumshoe would be filling the assistant’s shoes more than they actually did at this point. I can only hope a new character comes along to fill this role, and JUST ONCE it’d be nice to see a romantic interest take shape.
The unnecessary appearances of Ema Sky and Wendy Oldbag for one short scene simply do not make sense, even though Oldbag’s appearance in the final case was hilarious, but disturbing (giving unnecessary flash backs to the poorly made H-game “Phoenix Drive”).
The forth case was okay, although I found it odd that the Judge appears to know nothing about being a lawyer, since I’d imagine most Judges were lawyers once. Maybe it’s not the same in Japan as it is stateside?
The 5th case really had the spark and polish of past games in the series. Hopefully Capcom will get their act together for any possible sequel and have a flowing story that is much like this case. I think the entire game was based on this case alone, which is why it shows the most polish of all of the cases (that may seem obvious since it is the climax, but I mean it from a development standpoint).
Overall, the story and characters are lacking and plot flow is not as smooth as it could be. While past games have been relativity smooth with a few hitches, Miles Edgeworth has many hitches with very little smoothness.
I have always felt that the reply value of this series was very high, much like rewatching your favorite TV show on DVD. However, unlike past games in the series, I don’t see myself replying this one anytime soon, if ever again. The game simply lacks new, memorable characters.
Perhaps the entire “rivalry” aspect is the one thing that has really been lost. Phoenix always felt a rivalry against the Prosecutor, but there is no one directly opposite Edgeworth most of the game, with the exception of Shi-Long Lang, the only real memorable new character (sorry, I just do not feel that Kay is all that memorable).
|Presentation: 6 of 10||Not up to par with sloppy, buggy interface, and odd, intermittent laggyness.|
|Graphics: 9 of 10||The best part of the entire game, but they cannot undo what is broken about this game.|
|Sound: 5 of 10||Low bit-rate voices and terrible music accompaniment produce the worst music and sound this series has ever seen.|
|Gameplay: 5 of 10||Crappy stylus controls will leave you using the classic GBA controls most of the time.|
|Story: 7 of 10||The only real saving grace is the final case, other than that the characters and settings are pretty boring and unbelievable.|
|Lasting Appeal: 2 of 10||Damn near none. I normally wouldn’t score this series low on reply value, but this game doesn’t have enough memorable moments to warrant me replying it just to enjoy it again, since there is so little to enjoy to begin with.|
|Overall: 34 of 60 pts (56%)||This game is pretty full of fail. Have to rate it an full blown F. This coming from me, as a fan of the previous games and especially of Miles Edgeworth as a character, is difficult for me to tell you this.|