As you no doubt have figured out, I’ve gone from saying: “A game about being a lawyer? BORING!” to “OMGS MUST BUY THE NEXT ONE!”
The fourth installment of the Ace Attorney franchise has you stepping into the shoes of a new defense attorney, Apollo Justice, as he investigates crimes, exposes contradictions in witness testimony, and….tries to catch a panty thief?
I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. It seems like I’ve been playing as Phoenix forever, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about playing as a brand new attorney. The introduction of a new main character and new cast is always hit or miss with me, sometimes I end up loving it, other times I end up missing the old cast too much.
In this case, however, I found Apollo Justice to be a refreshing change. Apollo is a bit more energetic than Phoenix (fittingly, the dominant color of his outfit is red, in contrast to Phoenix’s blue). I really like him as a character. He’s loud, he’s snarky, he’s still the butt of the vast majority of the jokes in the game. In fact, I was impressed with the cast in general. Although in general I’d say the characters are a bit less quirky than they have been in previous games (still quirky, but a bit less over the top), I found that to be a refreshing change from the previous titles. Although you do see a couple of familiar faces from past games, the majority of the cast is brand new, including a new prosecutor: Klavier Gavin (Klavier is awesome, btw). Story-wise, this game doesn’t pull any punches, with the first case giving you a real swift kick in the ass that was actually pretty cool. I’m used to this series giving me “Holy shit!” moments during the latter cases, but Apollo Justice does not screw around in this regard. In fact, I’d say this installment is a bit darker than previous games (or at least a bit more serious).
In terms of gameplay, you know the drill by now if you’ve read my previous reviews. You spend time investigating crime scenes, gathering evidence, when you’re finished gathering evidence, you proceed to the trial phase, where you can press witnesses for more information or object to their statements and supply evidence to expose the contradictions in their testimony. The new gameplay element in Apollo Justice is the “Perceive” system. As the name might suggest, Perceiving a character involves observing them and finding their tells (or habits, as the game says) that they unconsciously do when they’re nervous about something. When Apollo enters Perceive mode with the help of his bracelet, time slows and you’re able to focus on the witness while they’re spitting out their testimony. Your goal is to find their habit (for instance, shifty eyes or swallowing) that occurs when they say a particular word or phrase. It sounds difficult, but in practice it’s actually not that hard as you usually only have a couple of lines of testimony to scrutinize, and the game isn’t subtle about indicating when you should be using it. I have to say that in spite of the fact that it was pretty easy (for the most part) I enjoyed it, and it seemed much more realistic than Phoenix flashing his Magatama around (not that I didn’t like the Psyche-Locks) it’s all about observing a witness and then shoving their habit in their face. easy, but satisfying.
More good points: I complained about the soundtrack in the last game, but I really enjoyed the new versions of old tracks. In particular, the new Pursuit/Cornered theme is really upbeat and fits with Apollo’s more energetic personality. The game is also a bit longer, the first case might take you a couple hours depending on how quickly you read. Difficulty wise it is kind of on the easier side, and there were only a couple of times where I got really stuck (once because I missed one small piece of evidence).
As for things I didn’t like. Some characters took a little getting used to, like Trucy, the “assistant” character in AJ, but others I just found plain annoying (Valant the magician) or annoying and a little creepy (the reporter character, everything about him creeps me out, least of which the fact that he practically strangles himself with his tie whenever he’s nervous). I was also disappointed in the Big Bad, and thought that their motivation for doing what they did was…. kind of stupid, all things considered, but I’m probably being less critical than I usually am because this antagonist is pretty much Evil is Sexy for me and it was very distracting. Also, a certain scientific investigator returns from case five of the first game, and TBH I really didn’t like how she went from being very enthusiastic about investigating and science and more science to assaulting you with snacks (although given what’s happened to her in the interim, her crankiness is justified, I would say).
Overall, in spite of the fact that I wasn’t too impressed with the main antagonist from a story point of view, I thought the Perceive system was great, and even though I miss the old cast, I liked following all the fresh faces around. Overall, I would say that it’s definitely different from what you may be used to with the original trilogy, but it’s still a solid entry in the series and I enjoyed it very much.