The fourth Ace Attorney game, and the series’ best-seller, is nearly ten years old, but now joins the previous three in being available on the 3DS. Arriving in eShop-only form, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (AJ:AA) features updated graphics with 3D support, and a few minor extras for series newcomers and veterans alike to enjoy.
There’s one thing in common with all Ace Attorney games — I have not played any of them, that is, until I got a chance to review AJ:AA. The series has always held some intrigue for me, but it’s been far down the list in the backlog. Capcom has a knack for unique IPs though, with games like Viewtiful Joe and Ghost Trick in their arsenal — I’m a huge fan of the latter. I also couldn’t help but think of Hotel Dusk and hoped for some kind of vaguely similar experience with Apollo Justice. In that regard, AJ:AA is certainly less of a visual novel than Hotel Dusk, but, the courtroom examinations are like the key conversations in Hotel Dusk. By that I mean there is a certain amount of failures you can make (five in AJ:AA) before its game over and you must restart at a recent checkpoint.
There’s plenty of dialog in AJ:AA, and much of it comes through examining the scene and evidence, which is one major component of the gameplay. The other major portion of gameplay is to court to defend your client. In something I think that is new in the 3DS version, players can examine evidence by rotating it 360 degrees. Cross-examinations in the court and looking for ‘tells’ from the witnesses, a special ability of Apollo, help the young but hard-working Apollo get the upper hand in the courtroom drama. Case topics are creative to say the least, and the first case actually stars Phoenix Wright, the protagonist from the first three Ace Attorney games, who is charged with murder (seven years after having stopped practicing law himself). The creative case design is expected and welcomed, but they can also lead to some frustrating logic gaps, which is not something all that uncommon for a puzzle or adventure game where you’re having to extrapolate exactly what it was the developers had intended. This exercise is made worse by having to get your timing right, too. Just because you recognize something is amiss, it might not be the right time to throw out the Objection!. If you’re on to something, but the timing is off, you’re still docked a fifth of your meter which can lead to some frustrating setbacks. Still, if you’re into following dialog and visual clues and cues closely, you’re likely to find an enjoyable and pretty unique gaming experience with AJ:AA.
Other changes or additions to this re-release include the complete Japanese version of the game, Gyakuten Saiban 4. Granted, it not be of a great deal of practical use for most players as the game is completely in Japanese, and even makes a separate savegame due to localization changes (including background art), but it’s still a nice touch that Capcom included this. The hardcore fans may have already imported a copy of the Japanese version in the last nine years, but again, a nod to Capcom for the inclusion of it here. There is also now a dedicated save-game button instead of having to press Start first. Also, for quick readers, or those returning to the game and simply not wanting to re-read all the dialog, the ability to Skip All Text can be toggled from the pause menu, allowing you to instantly show all the text instead of waiting for it to appear at the original pace.
I can’t say that my time with Apollo Justice has been a fantastic intro to the series, but I’m glad I did finally jump in. I’ll likely seek out the Phoenix Wright Trilogy sooner than later though, mainly to see if it’s better than Apollo’s outing. This isn’t a bad game to be sure, and while the 3DS re-release doesn’t offer a huge jump from the original, it’s notable for previous owners and those who are eager to check it out — especially at $20.