Apollo Justice is the fourth game in the now famed Ace Attorney series of point-and-click adventure games. The first three titles began life in Japan as GBA games before coming to the West in the form of DS ports. As such, Apollo Justice is the first game in the series designed specifically for the dual-screen handheld. Find out how well that worked out in this review.
Ace Attorney games live and die by their stories, and I’m glad to report that Apollo Justice has retained the wit and charm of its lineage.
This title picks up 7 years past the last Phoenix Wright game, and with a fresh attorney at the helm. You must help the spiky-haired Apollo Justice through his first few trials. Along the way, you’ll team up with Phoenix’s supposed daughter, the ever-so-charming teenage Trucy Wright. She plays the role of the typical Ace Attorney side-kick, previously handled by Maya.
Also in the mix are a rock star prosecutor, a crime family gone good, an international songstress, and many other wacky and loveable characters. Oh yeah, and a magical pair of underpants, can’t forget those.
Apollo Justice plays just as its predecessors. Character animations typically appear on the top screen, while the menu fits on the bottom. Character “movement” and actions are handled by menu navigation of the bottom screen, either through touch control or traditional buttons.
Everything works well enough, but it’s unfortunate that with the leap to DS, Capcom did not opt to advance the level of interaction in any meaningful way.
There are a few gadgets thrown in that are only made possible by the touch screen, but they’re a very minor part of gameplay and only serve as small distractions from the rest of the game. I’ve always felt the Ace Attorney games could work better using the DS’s “book” mode (turning the DS sideways), and it would have been nice to see the company take a risk like this with the series.
Gameplay is once again divided between intense court room duels of logic and more relaxed investigative portions.
During court scenes, Apollo, as guided by you, must delve into the testimony of others to find hidden inconsistencies and reveal lies by presenting conflicting evidence. This can be intense but satisfying when you’re in the groove and the pieces of evidence begin to fit. It can also quickly become frustrating when the game gets picky about what to present and where. I’ve be known to overlook the most obvious moves while searching for evidence I know is relevant, but won’t be needed until several lines of dialogue later.
While many consider the court room sessions the meat of the game, I’ve always preferred the investigations. Speaking with quirky NPCs and rooting around for evidence isn’t challenging, but it is relaxing and enjoyable in its own way.
As I’ve already hinted, Apollo Justice differs in only very minor ways from the other games in the Ace Attorney franchise. If you weren’t a fan of the others, you won’t be a fan of this one either.
Having said that, for Phoenix Wright addicts, it fits right in with the series and deserves all the praise the rest have received. Don’t be scared off by the change in leads, you’ll still find plenty of charm among new characters (and quite a number of returning ones too).
Graphics and Sound
Apollo Justice also looks and sounds just as the Phoenix Wright games did before it. Since those were ported over from GBA, that means you’re still dealing with some pretty basic 2D animation. The occasional use of the DS’s polygonal power is nice, but it’s pretty clear the system is capable of a lot more than what it’s pulling off here.
The occasional voice clips are as amusing as ever, and the character-specific tunes are catchy.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is a great game, it’s just that it’s been done before several times, and recently. Ultimately, I consider it worth playing, just as I do all the games in the series. I just recommend spacing them out as it’s easy to get burn-out from the very same-y gameplay.