It must have been a hard three or so months for Ace Attorney fans. While the previous title, Trials and Tribulations, was the last Ace Attorney title to star the series' beginning attorney Phoenix Wright, that wasn't going to be the end of it all. Oh no, said Capcom. A short (long) three months later, we'd be blessed with a brand-new Ace Attorney game made specifically for the Nintendo DS with all new characters and scenarios. Now the time has come for the next chapter in the Ace Attorney series, starring Apollo Justice.
The Ace Attorney series has gained a crucial critical mass with both American and Japanese gamers. Naturally, Capcom had to be extremely careful with introducing a new title without Phoenix Wright in it. So, what's the verdict?
Capcom is not guilty of destroying the series. They're guilty as hell when they're on trial for creating one of the best titles in the series and in the entire DS library. Our favorite series has some of the best courtroom dramas to grace the DS along with a fabulously developed cast of characters, exquisite music, fluid and beautiful animations and very few typos. How much more charm can an Ace Attorney fan want?
Ace Attorney Apollo Justice picks up seven years after Trials and Tribulations. Phoenix Wright has lost his attorney's badge and now Apollo Justice, a rookie attorney who has the mysterious power to perceive habits the witnesses exhibit, has to fill Phoenix's shoes and guide himself to victory against the sexy, suave Prosecutor Klavier Gavin, whose brother is Kristoph Gavin, Apollo's mentor. Through four episodes, you'll uncover how all the main characters in the story are connected that will lead to a game that sets up the rest of Apollo's adventures beautifully. It will forever be argued if this is one of the best stories in the entire series. This we can guarantee you. With practically no plot holes, Apollo Justice ushers in a new chapter of Ace Attorney lore with this story.
This time around, the game was built from the ground up specifically for the Nintendo DS, so you can bet your bottom dollar that there are features that use the stylus. In fact, the entire game can be controlled via the DS's stylus. You can navigate evidence and text with the buttons, though. We're not here to spoil anything for you, as every time there is a new feature introduced it's always crucial to a part in the story. So, you're guaranteed to use the stylus in a plethora of ways. However, at the end of the game, you'll wish there were more, which will make you yearn for the next title, which sucks. The uses of the stylus are simple as are the features, albeit fun. Don't worry, everything will be explained in the game. Capcom still could have included more times and more features, but the amount we get in Apollo Justice is fine until the sequel.
The gameplay itself has not changed much from the original three Ace Attorney titles. The game is divided up into two stages: investigation and court. During the investigation, you will play as Apollo in a first-person perspective to gather evidence for your case in which you are usually defending some oddball character. You will, during this phase, use the stylus to examine crime scenes, ask witnesses questions, use the new DS features and move around to different areas. During the court phase, you will have to argue your client's innocence by cross-examining witnesses and suspects. You will need to either uncover their lies by presenting contradicting evidence or press their testimonies in order to catch a slip up and reveal the truth to get your client off the hook.
With new features, why not have new graphics? The first three Ace Attorney titles were originally GameBoy Advance ports from Japan with localized text. Naturally, the graphics got a little jagged and looked just a tad outdated. Now with Apollo Justice, everything is beautifully hand-drawn and looks like something out of a high-end manga or cartoon. While everything is still 2D (most of the time), it's is drawn extremely well and with strenuous detail, but that doesn't stop from the graphics sometimes being jagged. There are a few 3D sequences during court and the graphics are good strictly for the DS. Otherwise, those aren't anything too special. There are two 'cinematics', though, that are almost PS2-like in quality. Animation, finally, has a greater presence in character sprites and is pulled off well at the expense of angry animators and sprite artists. Do you know how many frames that takes!?
Music is essential to the Ace Attorney games and their soundtracks have always been released separately in Japan. Every game (except maybe for Justice for All, some would say) in the series has had stellar music with very few tracks to dampen the experience. The right music is usually used at just the right time in the game to further draw the player into the happenings. Apollo Justice does not miss this mark. With mostly new tracks and some returning ones, the soundtrack is definitely one of the best parts of the entire game and the series itself. Also, we can't forget the series' trademark voice acting. 'OBJECTION!', 'HOLD IT!', 'TAKE THAT!', and the new 'GOTCHA!' are just as loud and over-the-top as ever, so fans and newcomers can take a liking to it. Also, various sound effects through the episodes add to the game's overall charm.
There are four episodes in all and when you finish the game, the only bad part is that you will want more. This Ace Attorney is actually a little bit easier when compared to some of the originals cases. There are not as many typos in this as previous titles, but there are still some -- no more than three or so. Unlike other Ace Attorney games, you will want to go back and replay each case to see how the entire game was set up. We promise, you will discover the first case and the last case truly define this new direction for the series and set up the new characters so well that you'll be amazed every time you play.
Final Verdict - 9/10
This is a welcome addition to the Ace Attorney series. With hilariously well-written dialog, brilliant court cases, DS-specific features, pulse-pounding drama, catchy and moody music, and four cases, you will not want to miss this game. Even if you have never played any of the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney games, you will still be able to enjoy this one to the fullest extent. The only downside is that it might be over too fast for some people and will leave fans wanting more in the end.