Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Fourth Time Around,
But Still Awesome!

Before the DS, anybody would have called you insane to hear you talking about a video game in which you play a lawyer. But thanks to Nintendo’s nifty little portable, such conversation is perfectly acceptable. The immense popularity of the first three North American-released Phoenix Wright games has thankfully given way to the release of a fourth. Same old? Not exactly.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney screenshot

Because much to the delight of Ace Attorneys around the country, Apollo Justice is the first of the series that’s made from the ground up for the Nintendo DS. And because of that, Apollo Justice offers a really awesome, exciting Ace Attorney experience that ranks up there with the original game.

Upon first powering up the game, fans will likely notice the absence of our favorite spiky-haired defense attorney. Phoenix is out of the picture, and his mysterious disappearance is fully explained as you progress through the title. There’s plenty of backstory to unravel here, but as always your biggest concern (playing of Apollo) is proving each of your clients innocent. The evidence is stacked (well, maybe not at first…) against you, the prosecution has the unfair advantage of being able to blurt out random crap without being penalized, and the judge acts as if he’s being bribed. But the truth will find a way out, though you’re certainly going to need to facilitate it.

How? Via the time-tested (and as a result, mildly recycled) gameplay mechanic of Ace Attorney. The game, as has been the case (pun not intended) with past iterations of the franchise, is divided up into two sections. First, you’ll travel around with your assistant (who possesses an interesting connection to Phoenix himself, I might add) questioning witnesses, collecting clues, and attempting to piece together the crime. You’ll visit logical locales like the crime scene, naturally, as well as other areas that may be able to help you out — for example, the local police precinct. This section of the game is where all the point-and-click action resides: simply double-tap an item, building, environmental feature, or anything that seems out of the ordinary, and it’ll be investigated.

Once you’ve gathered up all your clues, the next (and significantly more enjoyable) part of Ace Attorney begins. The prosecution calls witnesses to the stand, and as the defense attorney it’s your job to cross-examine them and find out if they’re lying. And I’ll go ahead and tell you: they’re lying. Always. They may not mean to, or they may be the mastermind behind the crime, but everybody that gets put up on the witness stand testifies falsely to some extent. Using the evidence that you’ve accumulated throughout your investigation, it’s your job to pinpoint the inaccuracies in the witnesses’ testimonies by revealing contradictions between what they say and the evidence in the court record.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney screenshot

It’s a lot of fun, and it can also be quite difficult, which isn’t something that Ace Attorney games have necessarily been known for in the past. The first two games, while fun, were quite easy, and the third experienced a spike in difficulty. That trend is continued with Apollo Justice which, as far as I’m concerned, is a very good thing. That’s not to say, however, that it’s only for the Ace Attorney elite — far from it, Apollo Justice offers a well-done tutorial (though it’ll be excruciatingly boring for the aforementioned veterans of the series) and has a great learning curve that honest-to-goodness makes it quite easy for anybody to pick up and play.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney screenshot

Along with being more difficult (in a good way) than past games in the series, Apollo Justice is also significantly longer. It offers six cases, and while the first one is a joke (it will be beaten easily by anybody who knows what they’re doing — but then again, it clearly caters to those who have never played an Ace Attorney game before), the rest of them offer significant play time. You’ll often have to work through several cycles of investigation and defense in the court before you finally get your client a not guilty verdict.

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney screenshot

Unfortunately, but as expected, there’s a lot in Apollo Justice that’s recycled from past Phoenix Wright games. Because while the first part of the name may have changed, it’s essentially the same game. As a result, the graphics are pretty much identical to those of the past three games — even more disappointing when you consider that this series was born on the GBA. Still, it’s clearly not a game revolving around polygon count, and the music is still awesome despite the fact that significant portions of it are recycled. And naturally, the general gameplay cycle is pretty much the same, despite the fact that the cases in which you’re implementing it are vastly different from ones that you’ve already experienced (and, might I add, they’re really, really awesome).

On the flipside, though, there are a number of smaller changes that Apollo Justice employs to keep things fresh and ensure that those of you who have played the last three Phoenix Wright games aren’t going to pass this one up solely because it’s a “rehash.” For example, you’ve got several new tools to play around with, thanks to a certain someone who’s taken Gumshoe’s place (I won’t say who for fear of spoiling it — think back, though…you can probably figure it out). Apollo also has an ability similar to the Psyche-Lock system of the second and third games, though there is a substantial difference between the two. Essentially, it allows him to figure out who’s lying and exactly what they’re lying about.

All told, while it isn’t the same groundbreaking game that we experienced with the original Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney has a lot to bring to the table. It’s a great place to jump into an awesome series but also doesn’t fail to satisfy diehard fans of the Phoenix Wright series. If you’re into adventure games in general or are searching for a title that departs from today’s mainstream perception of “videogame,” then Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney really is a must-have.

They’re GBA quality and have barely changed since the first game’s release. Still, it doesn’t really hinder the game. 4.1 Control
The game can be controlled entirely with the intuitive touch screen/stylus combination. 4.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Apollo Justice continues a great trend of Ace Attorney games: really awesome, addicting music. It’s a shame there’s no music room. 4.8

Play Value
A long game coupled with the fact that it’s incredibly immersive and addicting; excellent storylines really keep you playing.

4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Take control of rookie lawyer Apollo Justice as he investigates crimes and defends seemingly helpless clients in the courtroom.
  • Lose yourself in dramatic and amusing storylines, and meet colorful characters who may help or hinder you your quest for the truth.
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is the first game in the series specifically designed for the Nintendo DS.

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