The fifth entry in the Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban) series of GBA and NDS games has the player take on the role of Miles Edgeworth (Reiji Mitsurugi), the public prosecutor with an ice-cold exterior and a boyish heart.
Ace Attorney has always been one of the sole reasons why my DS Lite is not yet lost forever in the jungle death trap that is my storeroom. But having played through Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, which I shall refer to as Gyakuten Kenji because its Japanese title is so much shorter and more sensible, I am starting to question the future of this franchise. This is indeed foreshadowing.
Miles returns from America (or whatever other country the English translation has him going to) and enters his office to be faced with a burglar and a dead body. Through his investigations, a larger conspiracy unfolds and what not. Along the way, he is aided by “trusty” sidekick Detective Dick Gumshoe (Keisuke Itonokogiri), fellow prosecutor Franziska von Karma (Mei Karuma), and Kay Faraday (Mikumo Ichijō), a young girl who claims to be a legendary thief but dresses more like a kunoichi. And of course, some old-time supporting characters also make their re-appearances because the developers are too lazy to come up with new ones.
Similar to previous games, each of the five cases in the game is a piece of the overall puzzle. However, the writing and plot logic are of a noticeably shoddier quality than the previous games and as a whole the overarching story is nowhere close being suspenseful and does a pretty poor job of uniting the five cases.
There is also no true “turnabout” moment in the game, character motivations are mostly left unexplained and Miles’ involvement in the story is rather superficial.
One would imagine that there ought to be a huge difference in gameplay now that you are the prosecutor instead of the defence attorney, but one would be wrong. The same basic gameplay structure applies: go to the scene of the crime, talk to people, gather evidence and jam said pieces of evidence into the face of every breathing soul you come across in hopes of eliciting a reaction — things that real-life lawyers and prosecutors don’t do.
When it comes to unique gameplay mechanism, Justice for All has its supernatural “Psyche-Lock” system and Apollo Justice has a “Perceive” system that lets you look for tells when the witness is lying. In Gyakuten Kenji, we have a new mechanism called… “Logic”. It’s ground-breaking, really.
Occasionally during your investigations, you receive little snippets of information which you can combine to reach a deduction and progress in the game. This sounds great on paper but unfortunately suffers from a really shitty implementation. You rarely get these pieces of information (usually three at a time max) so the correct way of combining them is often so blindingly obvious that a retarded hamster limping across the DS touch screen could get it right. Gee, “this knife is covered with blood” and “the dead guy has a goddamn knife-shaped hole in his chest”… I wonder what that means?
This would have worked much better if the system were implemented on top of the existing evidence screen, i.e. letting the player figure out how pieces of evidences are related to one another. Unfortunately, it isn’t and as a result it feels redundant and tacked on.
Fortunately, the Logic system is so bad that most of the time the developers forget to do anything with it.
Beyond the new half-baked gameplay mechanism, there are also some minor changes to the investigation process. Instead of navigating to different screens to talk to different characters and examine different locations like in the previous four games, you are pretty much restricted to one single location at a time. Everything you need to examine and every person you need to talk to in order to proceed to the next story event is stuck in this tiny box.
Also, you can now control a little sprite persona and walk around the scene of the crime to examine objects, but this adds absolutely nothing to the old method of directly tapping on the part of the room you wish to examine. It is in fact, simply more tedious. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Taking the “Trial” out of “Turnabout Trial”
Jarringly, there is not a single courtroom battle in the whole game. Instead, every cross examination takes place at the scene of the crime, either as part of the investigation process or during the final confrontation with the criminal. The lack of a clear separation between the investigation and courtroom portions is important for the story which takes place over just a few days, but it also takes away a familiar part of the franchise: the courtroom antics with the silly old judge. This can either be a good or bad thing.
In terms of gameplay, the cross examination process still works just like the previous games so I guess the change is really not a big deal. Still, if a lawyer conducting field forensics wasn’t weird enough, now we have a prosecutor confronting and trying criminals on the spot like some kind of legal vigilante.
An Ace Attorney game is only as good as its story. All the gimmicky investigation techniques are nothing on their own without an adequately intelligent piece of deductive narration laced with the franchise’s trademark brand of exaggerated humour. Minor complaints aside, the latest addition to the franchise does not deliver on that one single thing that gives life to its predecessors. The story is poor and the thinking process is rife with bad logic and lazy writing.
The pros and the cons in brief.
- You get to see Franziska back in her teens.
- Miles’ character does not fit the protagonist role well.
- Gameplay has been significantly dumbed down and is very guided and unchallenging compared to previous titles.
- The new investigation mechanics are tedious and/or boring.
- The background conspiracy story is weak and unsatisfying.
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is a game I can recommend only to existing fans of the series, and only for 13-year-old Franziska who is oh-so-adorable even when she swings her whip.
P.S. Apollo Justice is still the best Gyakuten in my book.