Phoenix Wright is back!
In a previous article, I discussed my reactions to the Ace Attorney V: Dual Destinies demo for the 3DS that was available for a free download on Nintendo’s E-Shop. As of twenty minutes ago, I am proud to say I have properly beaten the game — so now, it’s time for a proper review, spoiler-free!
The first thing I noticed was that Ace Attorney V was a lot easier than its predecessors, and I’m not quite sure why they decided to do that. Tw0 huge examples stand out in my mind: our protagonist directly stating the contradictions that the player was supposed to figure out and giving players way too many chances to fail without consequence.
The first example was my biggest complaint — the game telling us the answer, rather than letting us figure it out. Without giving too many details, there’s an occasion where the player is shown a photograph of a specific scene and has to figure out what part of that area contradicts the witness’s statement. But just as the photograph is shown on screen, Phoenix thinks to himself, “Ah! What’s that on the floor?”
In previous Ace Attorney games, I would have spent at least five minutes studying that photo, tapping on various locations and getting them wrong. It’d be a little annoying, but the frustration would pay off when I finally had that “aha!” moment. In one way, it improves the character’s credibility — Phoenix, a seasoned veteran lawyer, should be able to spot something amiss like that pretty easily. On the other hand, though, it REALLY takes away from the players’ satisfaction.
The second point I mentioned doesn’t really ruin the game for me, but it does significantly decrease the element of risk — and that was, again, another big part of how satisfied players would be when they guessed right!
In the game, Phoenix has the chance to utilize Athena’s ability to read emotions; the actual game mechanic’s explanation isn’t too important, but basically, if you choose the wrong part, you don’t get penalized. You just have to try again. I’ll admit that when players were frustrated in the previous series, they would relentlessly try every option available to them until one stuck; this was discouraged only a little bit by limiting how many times they could try. But by allowing some of the game mechanics to be tried repeatedly without consequence, it actually encourages the players to just click everything and guess right off the bat! And that just sort of seems counter-productive in the enjoyment factor, at least in my opinion.
Another thing that bothered me up until the fifth case was that I didn’t quite get the nostalgic feeling of the original Ace Attorney series until Case 5. This could also be a side effect of being too easy since my blood didn’t really get pumping until that very last case. Sure, there was a twist here and there, but my reactions were just an “oh”, not a “WHAT” for the longest time. And being a deeply-dedicated Ace Attorney fan, I was really bugged by this.
Yes, the characters were crazy and the deaths were tragic — there were even hints of the supernatural and conspiracies! But it didn’t quite hit home until case 5. I didn’t really feel anything until then, when things turned dire and ideas were spun on their head and there were absolute danger and panic and oh, god, what is going on?!
But perhaps that’s just me; perhaps the zany characters this time were absolutely fine, and it’s only me who’s grown jaded to the insanity of the Phoenix Wright world. I wouldn’t be surprised at that.
Anyway, what else to think about? The music of the game was excellent, although thinking back I feel like they could’ve used a few more tracks. The 3D sprites gave a lot more range of expression and movement to all of the characters and even breathed new life into some characters-from-the-original-2D-games-whose-identities-I-won’t-spoil. The animated cutscenes were short but sweet — but oh! That was another thing that made me frown. At some point, there was a really pivotal scene that I thought would definitely get animated…but instead, we just had a black screen with text overlayed and sound effects. Kind of disappointing, if you ask me.
I loved the return of the Perceive and Psyche Lock game mechanics, as well as the introduction to Athena’s analytical psychology mechanic. They really made the game more interesting! The only thing I wish we had more of was checking out and rotating the evidence on the bottom screen, which we were able to do only a few times. I missed being able to have that sort of virtual hands-on experience.
As for the characters, I won’t waste my breath on the supporting ones. Let’s just focus on Phoenix, Athena, Apollo, and the new Prosecutor Blackquill.
Phoenix: Although still a bit silly in his own way, Phoenix really has grown up and primarily dominated the game as the mentor / Mia Fey figure. Towards the end of the game during a particular hopeless despair spiral, he psyched himself up without anyone’s help — this is a big thing since normally it was Maya, Pearl, or Mia’s ghost or Edgeworth or SOMEONE who did it for him. Sometimes characters in any medium just don’t seem to change despite the years that have passed, but Phoenix has been through a lot — and it shows! He’s a lot more mature now, not just in law but as a person overall. I’ll always have a soft spot for awkward, panicky Phoenix, but I am more than willing to embrace the changes he’s gone through.
Apollo: Oh, Apollo! I wanted to strangle you towards the end of Case 5, but you turned out okay in the end. Apollo is a character who was burdened by a lot of baggage this game, and for good reason (he is good friends with one of the victims). Although I wouldn’t say he’s grown more mature since his original debut (and this is partially due to not “knowing” the character as long as I have Phoenix), he definitely continues to build upon the personality that’s already been established for him. Plus, you really get a more intimate look at his softer, squishier side; I liked what they did with his character in this game.
Athena: Athena was a little punch of sunshine, and I really liked how they didn’t make her “Maya 3.0”. Emotionally, she’s stronger than Maya ever was — flashing a big grin and a peace sign despite finding herself in a ton of trouble, for example, where I imagine Maya would have maybe given a weak smile at best. This doesn’t mean she’s better than Maya at all, just that she’s different — pleasantly so, and helpful in different ways, too. And, of course, there are also those moments where Athena genuinely has an emotional breakdown — and I really like how they portrayed it in this game. She doesn’t cry. She hugs herself and her eyes get wide and blank, and she trembles and REALLY just psychologically unhinges…it’s frightening, in a way. She stands out as an individual, not one to get swept up and forgotten amongst the multitude of perky female assistants.
Simon Blackquil: Meh. Just…meh. By the end of case five, my opinion of Blackquill improved a bit…but I was kind of bored by his “ooh look at me I’m a scary samurai” schtick really fast. I didn’t find him intimidating like I did von Karma, or clever like Edgeworth, or even particularly likable like Klavier (he’ll always get points for flirting with Ema Skye). And no foolish fool who foolishly fools himself into thinking he’s a foolish warrior of fools could hold a candle to Franziska! He was just this guy in handcuffs who kept threatening to kill people and using reverse psychology BS on the already-feeble-minded Judge. Meh.
All in all, it was a solid game and I am SO excited for the DLC case that should be coming out soon! It’s the case that bridges the gap between Apollo Justice’s game and Dual Destinies, so I’m very excited.
For those of you wondering (all zero of you) my favorite AA games in order are: Justice For All, Ace Attorney, Trials and Tribulations, and then Perfect Prosecutor/Investigations, Apollo Justice (best part of the game was Phoenix), and Dual Destinies all tie for fourth place.
And I still really desperately want Perfect Prosecutor/Investigations 2 to be ported to America, pal!