“Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney”

Not Your Average Courtroom Drama


Published: April 3, 2008

Everyone’s favorite lawyer simulator (yes, you heard me correctly) is back with its newest entry. “Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney,” available on the Nintendo DS, is the fourth game in the popular “Ace Attorney” series. Fans of the games might be baffled by the name change from “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney,” but “Apollo Justice” begins a new arc in the timeline, starring a brand new rookie attorney with the title name. Set seven years after the third game, “Trials and Tribulations,” the player must once again don a defense attorney’s badge and set out to investigate, interrogate, cross-examine and passionately thrust out their pointer finger in order to seek the truth and make sure that justice is served.

Not playing as the original blue-suited, spikey-haired lawyer may worry some, but Apollo is a perfectly capable main character who is hard to dislike. His difficulties and trials throughout the game are reminiscent of Phoenix’s start as a lawyer from the first “Ace Attorney” game.

The game brings in, along with Apollo, a brand new set of characters. As would be expected, many fall into the roles left by the previous character. Kristoph Gavin takes the role of Apollo’s mentor, standing by and assisting you in the first case. As Phoenix had Maya, Apollo’s assistant is a young girl named Trucy Wright, the daughter of the previous main character. And then, of course, is the prosecutor: Klavier Gavin, Kristoph’s younger brother. Prosecutor by day and rockstar by night, don’t be surprised when he breaks out into air guitar in the middle of a trial. Ema Skye, who fans may remember from the DS-exclusive fifth case of the first game, fills the role of the police detective. The rest of the cast seen throughout the game are the same kind of crazy, pun-riddled people you’d expect to see in any “Ace Attorney” game.

With the addition of the new cast, you might be wondering what happened to the old one. Phoenix, Edgeworth, Maya, Pearl, Gumshoe, Franziska, among others—where have they gone? What have they been up to in the past seven years? Unfortunately, you won’t find that in the game. There’s barely a vague mention of one or two of them, leaving us perhaps forever in the dark about what’s happened to them. The only two returning characters are the previously mentioned Ema Skye and Phoenix Wright himself.

Don’t get too excited. In fact, one of most objectionable things about this game is Phoenix’s very inclusion. Phoenix is barely a shell of the lawyer we used to know and love. Gone is the hopeful and passionate defense attorney from the old games. Instead, the now ex-attorney is playing piano in pubs and poker in their backrooms, and in fact, he serves as the defendant in the first case. His personality has completely changed to the point where one can’t help but cringe at every sarcastic comment and self-assured remark he makes. It would have been better had they left him out completely and let us focus solely on Apollo.

The gameplay is much like the old games, both in the investigation and court phases. However, unlike the first three, “Apollo Justice” was built specifically for the DS rather than being a port of a Gameboy Advance version. The developers took advantage of this in bringing in some new additions. The Magatama used to unlock a person’s secrets is gone, but a new item replaces this: a bracelet that allows you to study the witness in slow motion during their testimony, so that you can examine for any nervous ticks and call them out on it. You might see a 3-D representation of a crime scene in court as you attempt to figure out how the crime went down. Utilizing the features of the DS, there are a few new toys in investigation too, including footprint molding and fingerprinting.

There are only four cases in “Apollo Justice,” but you can still get a good 10 or 15 hours of gameplay out of it at the least. They’re as brain-puzzling and odd as ever and, as usual, filled with plenty of seemingly pointless things that end up turning a case on its head. The first case is particularly notable: while in the role of the “tutorial” case, it’s much longer than any first case has been before and contains plot twists that you wouldn’t expect to see until much later in the game.

Graphics and music, while still in the same style, have improved in quality. While before, characters might have only made a few simplistic gestures, you’ll now see people doing a variety of complex motions like the aforementioned air-guitaring. The tunes are just as memorable as they were before, even though nothing will likely top the first game’s “Cornered” theme.

“Apollo Justice” has all of the charm and fun as would be expected from an “Ace Attorney” game. Despite the lackluster characterization of Phoenix and the sometimes aggravating investigation sequences (something that’s nothing new to the series), it’s a game that every DS owner ought to have. If you’ve never played an “Ace Attorney” game before, no worries: as mentioned, what with there being a completely new cast, there’s little you’ll be confused about.

And after all, what other game lets you shout “Objection!” while playing it in the middle of a crowded subway car?