I know I said in my last Gamer Diary that I was going to take a break from the Ace Attorney series for a while after finishing the Phoenix Wright trilogy, but with the Ace Attorney anime now out (and, if I’m being honest here, quite a bit of decision paralysis when looking at my backlog) I decided I might as well finish off the series by playing the last DS game. I’ve mentioned before that is it was quite a happy fluke that I found Apollo Justice.
It’s not always easy for me to find visual novels or certain JRPGs in my local burb. I’ve discovered that the towns north of me have a better selection of weeb-tastic games, but in my locale the only stuff you’re going to find is the usual suspects of AAA shooters and sports games. So imagine my surprise that an impulse trip to Target led me to finding the fourth Ace Attorney game just a couple of weeks after I bought the first one. Based off of the suggestions of TAY’s Ace Attorney fan base, I held off on Apollo Justice until I finished the original trilogy. And I’m glad I did. There’s definitely a chronology to the series, and to do it out of order would have affected the way I understood the plot.
My feelings are very mixed about this game, but not for reasons that most reviewers would have while approaching this game. Then again, Gamer Diaries aren’t reviews, they are my experiences while playing. I’m not judging the games I play, I’m not recommending or not recommending them, I’m simply cataloging my thoughts as I work my way through my backlog. And I have a lot of thoughts about Apollo Justice. On a technical level, the game is much better than the original trilogy: the graphics are much better, the game play is much more advanced, and the ‘Perceive’ feature is actually a pretty cool way to get more testimony, even if some of the cases were harder than others. The forensic stuff made evidence feel more interactive and was some of the stuff I liked most about the otherwise lackluster ‘Rise from the Ashes’ case from the original Phoenix Wright game. But this game made me very sad.
Everything about Apollo Justice is much more subdued and somber than the Phoenix Wright series. The colors might be brighter and richer, but the story is much more grim, the witnesses are less flamboyant and even Apollo and Trucy just don’t feel as charismatic and expressive as Phoenix and Maya did. Klavier Gavin was sexy and charming, but his dynamic with Apollo was just a shadow of the snide back and forth between Phoenix and Miles Edgeworth. The new characters are certainly endearing and they aren’t forgettable or generic, but you can feel the shadow of the previous story line haunting every moment of Apollo Justice, and that’s probably the biggest problem this game has for me. It’s not that these characters can’t live up to the previous ones, it’s that each of their actions make the story feel that much more painful. The story line of Apollo Justice is basically like coming back to Hyrule after Ganondorf took over.
Spoilers ahead folks, so for those who plan on playing the games or continuing the anime unspoiled, bail out now.
The Phoenix Wright trilogy, though the ending bittersweet because of the finale of the tale of the Fey family and Godot, was still hopeful and uplifting: Maya becomes the Master of Kurain Village, Phoenix finally proves he’s an Ace Attorney, Miles and Franziska learn the true meaning of justice. That final picture drawn by Larry shows all the characters smiling and happy, and then Apollo Justice proves that that happiness was unbelievably fleeting. Just a few short months after the final case from Trials and Tribulations, we learn that Phoenix lost it all when he lost his license to practice law. Maya and Pearl are nowhere around, nor any of Nick’s other friends, and Ema Skye, the bland but cheerful girl from ‘Rise from the Ashes’ returns as a surly, unhappy detective who never got her dream to be a forensic scientist. Nick is now a drunk (sure Nintendo, ‘grape juice’. Apparently murder is fine, but alcohol is not, go figure) who dresses like a hobo. He’s quiet, he’s subdued, he’s no longer that goofy straight man bouncing off of Maya and Edgeworth. All those hopes and dreams from the ending of the trilogy were utterly crushed, and that is just heartbreaking to me.
That said, the cases themselves and the story were still quite good. The noodle stand one was pretty fun and close to the levity of the first games, and the final case was really satisfying. Apollo is a cutey, though he’s not as funny or as much of a smartass as Nick was, and the Gavin brothers were pretty compelling characters. Divorced from its trilogy it’s a solid, fun game with likable characters, taken as a whole, it’s a punch to the gut.
I know things get better when Phoenix returns as an Ace Attorney in Dual Destinies, but alas, that is a game I probably will never to get to play. Digital games almost never go down in price, so I’ll never be able to get the game for the same low prices I got my DS games, and I have a difficult time connecting to the Nintendo Shop because I don’t have internet service. And now Capcom has announced the 6th Ace Attorney game won’t be getting a physical release either.
So it appears my time in the courtroom has ended. Miles Edgeworth Investigations is still in my pile, but it’s more of a murder mystery game than a courtroom game, and so I don’t feel the need to dive into it right away. I’ll probably go back to a couple of games that I started earlier this year, but I can definitely see why the Ace Attorney fan base is as big as it is.