Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS) Review

Ever since Capcom decided to take a risk and bring over the very first GBA Gyakuten Saiban game to the DS in the US as 'Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney', the series has gone from strength to strength as Westerners quickly became as enamoured with the series as the Japanese had done previously. In Japan there was so much hype surrounding Apollo Justice, the first ever made-to-fit DS edition, that Capcom saw it quickly became the strongest selling entry to date. But is the game worthy of all the attention and should Europeans be chomping at the bit to get their hands on the new Ace Attorney?

Considering the storyline of the Ace Attorney games and how they all interlink is imperative to the enjoyment of each game some will initially be confused by how Apollo Justice steps up as the rookie attorney on the scene, with the first defendant actually being a much older Phoenix Wright, sans attorney badge, having lost his license seven years prior. Just what is going on and why has nothing been explained properly? But it is not too long before everything begins to fall into place as bits and pieces are revealed and the roles of familiar characters come more into play. The pacing of the story for this latest outing is by far one of the strongest so far, battling with Trials & Tribulations for sheer brilliance. Each and every time you think you have the game sussed, the script throws in another twist and surprise to keep gamers on their toes, increasing the enjoyment factor considerably. The writers should most definitely be applauded for their impressive work...

In terms of the graphical prowess of the game, however, sadly things have not progressed as much as many believed it might do given how this is the first entry specifically created on DS. Okay, a lot of the surrounding locales and characters are subtly more detailed and colours are richer than before, but on the whole just glancing at this you could definitely be forgiven for thinking there is no real difference between the first three GBA remakes and this, save for the odd cut-scene here and there. The soundtrack, on the other hand, differs greatly to begin with, a change that which will not actually best please veteran fans, yet as the game continues more recognisable tunes start to filter in and the new ones really do have a tendency to be growers, so no need to worry. A bit of a drawback is how Capcom has not seen fit to add extra voice-work for now, with only the usual snippets of 'Take That!' and 'Objection' remaining in place (both of which can be shouted into the microphone as with previous games, rather than simply tapping an on-screen prompt). Perhaps that is something that will eventually be rectified, but clearly has not been addressed just yet...Thankfully it does not detract from the experience too much, but after playing Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, the lack of speech leaves the game feeling a bit dated in comparison.

The actual game itself plays just like it did before, except there is the new, quite unwelcome, addition of something called 'Perceive', a feature that will be explained later. The basic idea behind the Ace Attorney series is to investigate and then interrogate. Taking on the role of Apollo Justice, players are actually guided by none other than Phoenix Wright and his adopted daughter Trucy as they attempt to unravel various crimes and uncover the real culprit behind the dastardly deeds. As players work through each case on offer, they must absorb all the information they can find, searching around various locations (accessed via a menu screen, not by actually having the character move around), using the touch-screen to look at numerous aspects of the surroundings and piece together enough evidence to be able to confidently walk into the court-room the next day and suitably defend the accused.

Once in the court of law and proceedings have commenced, it becomes a case of analysing everything that witnesses say, scrutinising the evidence in the Court Record and ultimately attempting to find flaws in the testimonies given and turn around the verdict to obtain a 'Not Guilty' for your client. As each witness takes the stand to deliver their vital testimony, Apollo Justice will (via the obvious input of the player) press every statement for more information and eventually raise an objection, providing substantial evidence in order to ensure the claim is completely justified (or else your 'power gauge' is reduced for false accusations and wasting the judge's precious time...). So concentration is the key and skipping through conversations quickly is certainly not advised. In many cases the answer will be right in front of you, but unless enough attention has been paid to the goings-on, then the solution could easily slip right past...

The key to the game's charm is the wealth of likeable characters, witty repartee between people, the stacks of humour throughout and the completely outlandish reactions from witnesses on the whole. Of course it would all be for nothing if the system was too clunky, which is why the simple touch-screen controls help to make playing a breeze. Everything is a simple tap of the stylus away, be it choosing a piece of evidence, exploring an area for useful clues, selecting conversation threads or merely hitting 'next' to continue a conversation thread. Now, though, mock-ups of crime scenes can be manipulated to prove points, finger-prints can be uncovered by tapping dust onto the screen and blowing into the microphone to clear the excess and letters inside envelopes can be viewed by gently scratching the screen to use the in-game analysis technology. The team has tried to make use of the DS aspects more than ever, adding far more variety to the proceedings.

Sadly there is another inclusion that does not work too well. Whilst Phoenix Wright was able to use the special Magatama stone to break down people's Psyche Locks (special locks that prevent people from expressing the whole truth when quizzed for whatever personal reasons they have, each of which can be broken using evidence to force them into a corner), Apollo has the ability to 'Perceive' aspects of witnesses that give away when they are lying. Using his special bracelet he can slow down time whilst the player zooms in on the witness and checks out their whole body as they say a particular phrase. The first reason for it not working too well is because it is far too random in that you can use the Perceive technique on their whole testimony, which causes unnecessary frustration and sometimes boredom, and secondly you need to slowly move the tiny zoomed-in window around as quickly as possible because if they finish what they are saying completely before the sign is spotted, you simply have to start the process again. Telltale signs of lying include people moving their eyes when saying a certain phrase, armpits starting to sweat or nervous twitches, so they are normally really small and very easy to miss. The idea in principle is a clever one, but in practice it proves to be quite a slow, cumbersome process that will hopefully be refined in future games featuring Apollo as it will likely return seeing as it is a key feature of Apollo's back-story.

As players work their way through the four cases on offer, the various strands of the storyline that may have seemed quite unrelated earlier on in the game start to all weave together so perfectly that by the time the credits begin to roll there is such a sense of satisfaction, both for long-term fans and even those coming to the series for the first time. The length of each case is such that there is no worry about feeling short-changed either, with sufficient content to keep the majority happy, with just enough thirst to keep them wanting more from the already announced Gyakuten Saiban 5 and Gyakuten Kenji games. In the absence of Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright: Trials & Tribulations in Europe, this should definitely be strongly considered by fans of the previous Ace Attorney outings...

Gameplay

The old aspects of court-room drama and in-depth investigation are back, along with various new aspects, some of which add to the experience, with the exception of the awkward 'Perceive' function.

Graphics

The graphics are as pleasant as before, but have certainly not advanced since the GBA upgrades for DS, other than the odd little cut-scene included. Still great to look at, but more was expected.

Sound

Whilst it may come as a shock that a lot of the music is different, old favourites make a welcome return, and the new tracks really grow on you in just a short time and become quite addictive.

Value

Although there are only four cases on offer this time, rather than the expected five, the length of each one is sufficiently long enough to ensure there is more than enough value for money within.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Taking a considerably different direction from the previous Ace Attorney games was always going to be a huge risk for the team at Capcom, especially bringing in a new protagonist. However, the sharp writing skills shine through once more, with a script full of intrigue, humour and mystery. Throw in the tried-and-tested gameplay mechanic gamers have grown to love over the years, as well as the odd little tweak here and there and Apollo Justice proves to be a resounding success on all fronts.

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10.05.2008

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Developer

Capcom

Publisher

Capcom

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Good review. A little hard on the graphics really. The sprite animation has certainly improved since the GBA conversions, and the sprite detail is also better.

Case 4 spoiler

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

True, but it's by no means the leap I was expecting anyway...a couple of extra animations and some slightly more vibrant colours are not quite what I expected at all.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

jesusraz said:
True, but it's by no means the leap I was expecting anyway...a couple of extra animations and some slightly more vibrant colours are not quite what I expected at all.

From what I've seen by looking at pixels, the GBA/DS pixel count isn't really that different. Also there is only so much pixel animation they can do. I'm no expert on how much can be stuck onto a DS cart, but I found they were much better than the GBA animations. I can honestly say I havn't seen much on DS that's better than Apollo in terms of sprites and animation.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Perhaps my expectations are just too high then, but to me it looked like they'd simply spruced up the old sprites rather than recreating the characters from scratch...Don't get me wrong, though, as I love the artistic style and the animations are bloody hilarious, adding so much to the game. I'm talking purely from the stance that the DS ports and this purpose-built DS game at first glance do not look too different. Sure, analyse the two together closely and the differences will become apparent, but without checking, I didn't even notice anything had changed at first!

Anyway, hopefully this will do better than AA: PW and AA PW: JfA did in the UK...

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I hope so, otherwise there\'s no hope for a T&T release in UK. NoE has taken it off their site, bad news.

EDIT: Now I feel bad for not being able to help, since I was impatient and imported, as I\'m sure many others did Smilie

( Edited 10.05.2008 23:32 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Capcom still has it down on its release list, along with Harvey Birdman for Wii, so it'll likely come in Q4 2008...hopefully at a budget price!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

SuperLink said:
NoE has taken it off their site, bad news.

Smilie Einspruch...!? Smilie

3DS Friend Code: 4425-1453-7061

I'm gutted you don't get the snazzy artwork for each case when you complete it. Then again I've only completed the first case so I may be missing something.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Version2.0 said:
I'm gutted you don't get the snazzy artwork for each case when you complete it. Then again I've only completed the first case so I may be missing something.

Oh yeah, I was gutted about that too. And yeah there aren't any at all, sorry. Smilie

Definitely a big WHYYYYYYYY!? from my part.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

SuperLink said:
Version2.0 said:
I'm gutted you don't get the snazzy artwork for each case when you complete it. Then again I've only completed the first case so I may be missing something.

Oh yeah, I was gutted about that too. And yeah there aren't any at all, sorry. Smilie

Definitely a big WHYYYYYYYY!? from my part.

Hahah, same. I swear I must have stared at the screen for a good 20 seconds thinking "Where is it? Where's the cool artwork? Where's my beautiful reward for finishing the case? Smilie " Traumatic times indeed.

3DS Friend Code: 4425-1453-7061
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I woulda liked a nice pic of Ema punching Klavier in the face. That'd have been awesome.

They prolly wouldn't have done that anyway, but you know what I mean.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

There are quite a lot of things Capcom should have included but didn't, such as unlockable artwork or even the soundtrack...Seems an opportunity missed, to be honest.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Did the reviewer miss the fact that you can \'pause\' the perceiving process, to glance around the witness body without having to hurry before the paragraph in question runs out?

( Edited 16.05.2008 21:26 by Aeris130 )

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I think the answer would be 'yes'. But that still does not make the process any more fun, to be honest and wouldn't have bumped up the final score. Thanks for pointing that out, though.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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