An Open-and-Shut Case
Friends have come, and friends have gone, but the Ace Attorney series keeps on keepin’ on. For some, it’s an ongoing saga that feels like family wrapped inside a mystery. For others, these adventures are merely a passing curiosity. Capcom brings its latest installment of the franchise to DS with one of its supporting characters now taking the lead. Will this be the game to draw in a crowd, or is it just another decent showing for the fans?
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is probably best considered a spin-off of the franchise in terms of story, but it’s actually the most full-featured game in the series. Most of the franchise staples are accounted for, and the collection of characters is as quirky and comical as ever. However, third-person gameplay, along with Logic and Deduction mechanics, makes Ace Attorney Investigations feel more like an actual game than an interactive novel. The developers have extrapolated the best parts of the series, added some classic gumshoeing to the mix, and then combined the components into one tight, meaty package Phoenix Wright fans and adventure buffs alike should truly appreciate.
If you’ve been with the series for a while, don’t fret – this isn’t an action game. Ace Attorney Investigations simply gives you more to do and demands more of your participation and wits. It is, however, still all about finding evidence and using it at the right time to turn an argument in your favor.
The adventure gets underway when a crime is committed within the protagonist’s own office upon his return home from travel overseas. You’ll move Edgeworth from a third-person perspective when investigating – stopping to examine elements of crime scenes, talking to witnesses, etc. All of the characters and environments during this phase are 2D, though certain objects are polygonal during close-up examination. The graphics aren’t going to “wow” you, but the visuals work well in terms of allowing the player to pick out specific areas for scrutiny.
Generally speaking, once you’ve completed your investigation, the game moves into its other main phase: argument. Miles will go toe-to-toe with one of the principals of the crime scene, and it’s then you’ll have to use the evidence you’ve collected to contradict their statements. Though the series has oft been accused of being more esoteric than logical when it comes to cracking a case, Ace Attorney Investigations cleverly buries its clues, forcing players to take pause and carefully consider their options before presenting evidence.
Like past games in the series, you can opt to control almost everything in the game with either the touch screen or buttons. There are occasions, however, when the stylus is absolutely necessary, such as when closely examining a piece of evidence from your organizer. The interface hasn’t changed much over the years, but it still looks and feels slick. The gameplay mechanics all function well, and controlling Miles in the third-person works just fine.
Logic and Deduce are probably the two most important new features in Ace Attorney Investigations, and they’re additions that make perfect sense for the series. When nosing around a crime scene or sifting through evidence, significant issues will pop up in Miles’ head and be kept for later consideration. Matching Logic bits that correctly relate to one another will steer Miles toward his goal. Like evidence, the signs aren’t always obvious, so you’ll want to take your time and weigh your options before attempting to piece things together.
Deduce works in a similar fashion; however, you’ll be pointing out specific elements of a piece of evidence in order to form conclusions. Miles has a logic meter (a sort of health bar) located on the top screen, and any time your deductions, logical inferences, or evidence used to contradict testimony are incorrect, you’ll lose a chunk of that health. Chances are most folks will never see the bar run out completely, but it’s still a great, little device that will prevent players from simply spamming answers until they stumble upon the right one. You’re going to have to use your noggin in this game, and you’ll be rewarded greatly for doing so.
In terms of gameplay, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is likely the high point for the series. Some things, however, could still use improvement. Grammar and punctuation aren’t usually major considerations in a video game, but when so much of the experience relies on written text, technical flaws tend to stand out. I often found myself having to re-read various lines because the punctuation used confused the meaning; other times the dialogue came across as if English was the character’s second language. Additionally, there is still no option to skip past text you’ve already read, something fans of the series have long complained about. In spite of these criticisms, the story and dialogue are incredibly entertaining, as are the cast of characters that populate the adventure.
Visually, Ace Attorney Investigations plays it safe, but many scenes still manage to jump right off the screen. For the most part, the graphics are meant to be functional, and to that end, they play their respective role well. Segues between character interactions, investigation, and cutscenes are seamless and masterfully choreographed, though the color palette is beginning to show its age. My one main complaint with the visuals, though, is that certain effects, such as light strobes used for dramatic cadence, are a bit overplayed.
The sound effects and music are comprised of familiar staples of the series, which haven’t yet worn out their welcome. A few new themes add color to the adventure, but the audio in Ace Attorney Investigations is mostly what fans have come to expect. Themes ramp up in intensity when you’re closing in on an important turn of events, and the obligatory voice blurbs – “Objection,” “Hold it,” etc. – are used more sparingly this time around.
In many ways, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth feels more like a retro experience than a step forward for the franchise. It incorporates a few mechanics that, though new to the series, are classics of the adventure genre. Interestingly enough, it’s just the shot in the arm Ace Attorney needs to make it feel fresh again. Players are given more to do, and an organized approach to story and gameplay mean you won’t be left floundering around trying to figure out what to do next. The level of challenge is balanced, and though you’ll have to suspend disbelief when it comes to the game’s characters and situations, cases still rely almost completely on logic. Best of all, this is one meaty package that will give fans a good bang for their buck. If you’re looking for a great “who done it” on the go, Capcom’s got the latest, greatest thing for you right here.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
From a strictly technical standpoint, the visual aren’t terribly impressive. However, animations are executed wonderfully to convey tons of emotion, and the overall presentation is very polished. 4.4 Control
Controls are simple, but they work well and feel satisfying. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The developers have fine-tuned their use of theatrics quite well over the years, though the instrumentation sounds a bit dated. 4.0
This is a nice, long adventure, one that feels more engaging than past games in the series. Replay, as always with the Ace Attorney games, is quite limited.
4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.