Three years. That’s how long English-speaking Ace Attorney fans had to wait for a new game, since Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. Afterall, Capcom made the decision to not translate AAI 2/Gyakuten Kenji. I mean, sure, three years isn’t really as long as what some other fans may have waited, but it sure does feel exceptionally long when there is a game right there, and you can’t play it, because language barriers. The title’s a bit of a mouthful, so I’m just going to call it AA5.
The latest AA game might be a digital only release in the English-speaking world, but I think we’re all just glad that we’ve got a chance to actually play it. Unfortunately for us Singaporean folks, this means a couple more hoops and circles to jump through before we actually get to our game.
AA5 carries on around a year from Ace Attorney 4: Apollo Justice, and we’re greeted with one booming introduction (hahaha). As with all other Ace Attorney games, it throws you right into the midst of a case, though the first case is, as usual, much shorter, and functions in many ways as an introduction. It set the pace up really well, drawing the player right into it from the beginning.
Visual novels have a pretty simple control scheme, not unlike that of a ‘point-and-click’ adventure. Gameplay is largely the same. Iin court, you cross-examine witnesses and either press for information or present evidence to point out the contradictions in their testimony. Meanwhile, out of court activities include poking around for evidence and talking to witnesses to get more information.
One highlight of the main AA series has always been that supernatural edge you get to help you solve crimes. With Phoenix Wright, it was the magatama which showed the user psyche-locks whenever the subject was hiding something from the user, while Apollo Justice had a bracelet that helped him pay attention to the nervous twitches people made when under pressure, or while lying. With the new game and a new protagonist, Athena Cykes brings with her Widget, which is less supernatural and more sci-fi gadget.
Widget lets us analyse the hidden emotions in the witness’ voice, allowing Athena to study them and draw out more information when there is a conflicting emotion (for example, happiness in the face of life-threatening danger). Typically, Widget is used when the witness themselves have hazy memories of the incident in question, and it combines clever science, hyper-sensitive hearing and a good lot of psychology. Because the game is not fixed to a single protagonist (in fact, we get three, with both Phoenix and Apollo playing major roles as well), the player gets to utilise all three tools.
Evidence-gathering is kicked up a notch too, and we finally get to investigate rooms while looking from different angles. All those times where you thought to yourself ‘I swear there’s a thing behind that other thing’ is gone and goodbye. Location examination has been toned down though, and it seems like we can’t just investigate any place that we want to. Plus, the character you’re playing makes it a point to say something along the lines of ‘I think that’s all the information we’ll get from here’ once you’ve picked up everything relevant, which could be either very good, or not very good, depending on your playing preference.
One point of annoyance is how it feels like the team rushed through the technical aspects of it. It glitches on occasion, with text not showing up at certain areas (the past conversation screen is sometimes blank, and once or twice the evidence had no description). It’s never anything crucial or even, in a sense, necessary, thankfully, but it does irritate me a bit. I can’t speak for everyone else, but another few weeks of QC would have been okay on my watch.
Imagery & Setting
The first AA game on the 3DS console doesn’t bring us any particularly charming imagery, but being able to play it in 3D sure is fun though. The sprites and animations are a little bit more dynamic and smoother when they play out, and it’s a really very noticeable change, especially with the energetic Athena and Apollo. In any case, there’s nothing much to boast about in this department, but as it’s a visual novel, I’m not sure what else I can expect, so it’s good enough for me.
Characterisation & Plot
Ace Attorney has always been a point of witty and clever gameplay, with intricate storylines. I mean, we’re looking at a visual novel here, so story is of course a priority. I’ve always found it quite amazing how the translator team Bones managed to do such a fantastic job, bringing all the Japanese jokes and humour to English without compromising on the quality of it. Puns don’t ever really sound cheesy, and there’s always a good laugh here, there, everywhere.
I’ve been particularly interested in how Phoenix Wright would be portrayed, since his personality had a 180 change between AA3 and AA4. Considering his circumstances though, it’s not unexpected, but I’ve always found him an aloof-bitter in AA4. In AA5, with the conclusion of AA4, he’s a tad less aloof, and when speaking to him as either Apollo or Athena, you get that feeling that he’s really becoming a cool and awesome mentor.
Playing as him is a bit of a different story, and the original, easily flustered Phoenix is still there, through and through. I’m a little bit on the fence about this, but in all honesty, I did miss that rather goofy personality. The plot is well-crafted, as always, though I personally thought the ending was a bit of a let-down, as compared to previous games. It wasn’t so huge of a disappointment that I was put off – it’s good; just not as good, you know?
To be honest, Capcom could offer me anything AA right now and I would accept it with serious fervour and loved it even if it was rubbish. Thankfully, AA5 is anything but, and it’s been one brilliant and memorable story. In the midst of game play, any gripes I had about it are quickly forgotten, and my greatest disappointment is probably the fact that I’ve already finished it.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
by Chua Yuxuan
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