I got all the DS Ace Attorney games at the beginning of the year after years of waffling on getting into the series. I marathoned the first four in short order, and after taking a nice long break after Apollo Justice, I decided to finally play the spin-off from the series, Miles Edgeworth: Investigations. Investigations tends to be not as well received as the other Ace Attorney games, with lots of people disliking the game play and I think it’s a real shame, as I honestly really enjoyed it.
I’ve always been a sucker for mysteries, I love crime shows like Law and Order, and regularly read mystery novels. I even put together those silly ‘mystery puzzles’, where you read a cheesy mystery and try to figure out the solution by looking at the picture a 500-1000 piece puzzle makes when you put it together. Despite the fact that the mystery genre has a long and storied history, mysteries in the gaming genre tends to be...lackluster. A lot of mystery games are very cheaply made, and mostly involve clicking ‘hidden’ images. Good mystery games are hard to find, and honestly, Investigations is a damn decent one. Unlike the mainline Ace Attorney games that focus on the defense side of things, Investigations is about investigating and solving the crimes.
Ace Attorney games are mostly about double-checking testimony and pointing out flaws and contradictions, and poking holes in conflicting testimony until the lying party confesses and the real criminal is sniffed out. They are quite challenging and require paying attention and looking for little inconsistencies that may or may not make a lot of sense at first. Investigations does this as well, but also requires examining the crime scene and searching for clues that may have been overlooked, as well as interpreting the clues in order to figure out not just what happened, but the who and the why as well. It adds another layer of challenge and work to the games, and for the most part is actually a great system for a mystery series, and is a pity more detective games don’t require more work for the player to act intelligently, instead of simply hunting for clues until the level is over. Having all the clues isn’t enough to move onto the next level, and neither is poking holes in witness testimony, it isn’t until you figure out all the work that the story moves forward.
Like the other Ace Attorney games, the story splits between goofy and very serious and stars Phoenix Wright’s arch rival, Miles Edgeworth. Though Phoenix doesn’t appear anywhere in the game, there are several cameos from older, classic Ace Attorney characters as well as two new important main characters: Kay Faraday, a ‘thief’ trying to steal the truth, and Agent Lang, an Interpol Agent trying to break apart a smuggling ring that not only is gravely affecting his own country’s interest, but also threatening his reputation as a law enforcement agent. The story splits into five cases that all fit into one large overarching plot, where Miles is dragged into an international smuggling operation that connects his past to that of both Kay’s and Agent Lang’s. The cases and stories themselves are pretty good, though I think towards the end things get a little convoluted when the motivations of defense attorney Callisto Yew aren’t entirely explained in an entirely logical way. Also, the final case drags on far too long, with too many ‘whelp, the case is over—but wait I have a new game-changing bit of evidence!’ moments that make the final act of the case seem unnecessarily dragged out. They could have nicely chopped out one or two ‘aha’ moments and still have the dramatic tension that the criminal may actually get away this time.
Otherwise, it’s nice to get inside Miles’ head for a change, and see that for all the hard times he gives Phoenix, he really is interested in finding out what’s really happening in these cases, instead of just assuming everyone is guilty. The chemistry between him, Gumshoe and Kay is really great too, as Miles is forced to play the straight man, and manages to hold onto his dignity with both hands, even though the situation often tries to get away from him like often happens to Phoenix. The cameos from the older games is fun without being pandering, and the new characters were very fun and lively, and had a spirit that was kind of missing in Apollo Justice. Apollo Justice was a fine game, but in the interest of being controversial, I honestly liked Investigations a lot more, and it’s a real pity that the second Investigations game will never be localized.