The Ace Attorney series, starting its U.S. run a few years ago with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, has been popular among Nintendo DS owners, due in no modest part to essentially being an over-the-top "Law and Order." More than anything, it's been an absolute showcase for the translation teams at Capcom, replacing tough-to-translate Japanese humor with excellent English humor, creating some of the best adventure games on the Nintendo DS or, for that matter, anywhere. (Then again, when your biggest recent competition is a gun-toting dog and hyperkinetic rabbit-like creature, you're in pretty good shape.)
However, the series developers now seem a little unsure as to who they want to focus on as a protagonist. After Apollo Justice skipped to a future where Phoenix was a manipulative hobo, we're now going back to the time period after Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations. After a short experience playing as Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth in that game, we now get to be him in Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. The five cases take place just one month after T&T, starting as Miles returns from a foreign-study trip and ends up tied to a set of five murders, all seemingly related to an international smuggling ring. Naturally, he can't go about things in the same hodgepodge way as his rival/friend, but he has the same devotion to finding out the truth, no matter what.
Per the game name, there is no time spent in the courtroom. Edgeworth must collect the evidence and testimonies and then figure out who to arrest, all at the scene of the crime. At its core, the result is the same Phoenix Wright gameplay, but at a faster pace. Other major changes to the mechanics are also in store.
First, characters actually walk around now. In the tradition of SCUMM and Sierra adventures of old, most of Edgeworth's time will be spent walking around scenes, looking at items and communicating with a large number of people at a scene. While you still collect items and present them to the right people, you will also occasionally find oddities that will drop into Edgeworth's Logic menu, where you can pair them together. The Logic menu is usually the key to progressing, so finding other clues is merely a step along the way. Edgeworth will occasionally examine screens in detail, switching back to the classic Phoenix Wright screen format; sometimes, you'll have a "Deduce" option to point out an inconsistency.
The title also throws in a twist in that Edgeworth often ends up with investigating partners. Initially, this means Detective Dick Gumshoe, who hasn't gotten much smarter than before, but in the later cases, he is paired with the second Yatagarasu, a phantom thief named Kay Faraday. Aside from taking the Maya Fey role of this game, Kay has a very handy device in the form of Little Thief, which replaces the Magatama that Phoenix swore by. This device lets Kay code in holographic simulations of crime scenes, and while they're limited to the information she has available, their visualization can reveal new inconsistencies to provide evidence and Logic notes. Fortunately, she's a pretty steadfast ally who's out to steal one thing: truth.
Logic and Little Thief do surprisingly little to change what has long been the most important parts of Ace Attorney gameplay - the hilarious writing, the quirky characters with over-the-top designs, and the easy-to-understand gameplay - which work the same as the courtroom scenes from previous titles but are often more compact, with two or three rounds of questioning each. From names like Cammy Mille for a narcoleptic flight attendant to running gags like Edgeworth never going an entire game without running into his resident crazed fan girl, Wendy Oldbag, all of the series' most important hallmarks remain.
Similarly, the game's presentation has been revised upward. It appears that Capcom has avoided using any resources from the Game Boy Advance games, avoiding the weird issue of GBA sprites mixing with DS sprites that occurred in Apollo Justice. The results might not even be noticed by many players but can help the comic value improve, making Edgeworth's surprisingly regular pained flinches even funnier than before. Sound hasn't been upgraded as much. While the music is a little more detailed, most of the classic sounds remain in the same limited-but-sufficient quality as before. One gets the sense that Capcom feels they can't change some of them without ruining series hallmarks.
The game has a couple of flaws. First of all, the game isn't that long, so the $30 purchase price nets you five episodes, or about 15 hours of gameplay if you don't get stuck too often. This might be hard to stomach for some gamers, though the relatively short amount of filler keeps the title interesting throughout. Secondly, the puns are a little less frequent than before, and while some may view this as an improvement, it can be disappointing to many hardcore fans. Finally, don't expect many classic characters to return. By the third case, the only major characters to return are Edgeworth, Dick Gumshoe, Ema Skye and Franziska von Karma, although a few minor characters also join in on the fun.
Overall, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is a refreshing but subtle twist to the series. It showed up just in time, now that the adventure genre carries some serious competition. While it's hard to say if the prosecutor is superior to rivals such as a mighty pirate or an inventor and his dog, he still carries a legitimately proud and strong series onward. Although this fifth entry is not the series' strongest, it's a solid and worthy purchase for fans of the genre or casual gamers who are looking for an entertaining story.
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