"Apollo Justice is exactly like the Phoenix Wright games. The formula has been beaten to death at this point; what was fresh and original in the first game is feeling awfully worn-out now. Despite being the first game in the series developed with the DS in mind, and getting a new main character, almost nothing has changed for better or worse. None of the nagging flaws from the previous Ace Attorneys have been addressed, which is very annoying, considering the developers have had three sequels wit..."
Apollo Justice is exactly like the Phoenix Wright games. The formula has been beaten to death at this point; what was fresh and original in the first game is feeling awfully worn-out now. Despite being the first game in the series developed with the DS in mind, and getting a new main character, almost nothing has changed for better or worse. None of the nagging flaws from the previous Ace Attorneys have been addressed, which is very annoying, considering the developers have had three sequels with which to fix them. Still, I don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy Apollo Justice if you’re a big Ace Attorney fan. It’s more of what you love. But it’s a game for fans only.
Apollo Justice puts you in the shoes of defense attorney Phoe--no wait, Apollo Justice. That’s right. He’s a new main character. Sort of. Don’t get too excited; he and his sidekick Trucy are carbon copies of Phoenix and Maya from the first trilogy. The status quo has not changed. Phoenix himself reappears as a wise-old-mentor for Apollo, and the mystery surrounding his retirement is the main story arc this time around.
The formula used in each of the game’s four cases is unchanged from previous games. All trials are murder trials. All of your clients are wrongly accused. The only way to get them off the hook is to find the real killer during their testimony at court and present evidence that proves they did it. All of your clients are guilty until proven innocent and all witnesses are allowed to commit perjury at their will. Holes are found in testimonies by presenting contradicting evidence to the appropriate dialogue box--so if a witness says “Yeah, I saw him buttoning up a green shirt”, and you have a red shirt in your evidence, then WHOOP WHOOP you got him now. This is the extent of the trial gameplay in Apollo Justice.
And I use the term “gameplay” very loosely. Apollo Justice is not truly a game. It’s part of an almost-exclusively-Japanese genre known as “visual novels”. It’s a book with pictures where you get to occasionally pick stuff from menus. The quality of the writing is everything. Make no mistake, there are some clever lines in Apollo Justice. There are a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments. But there are also some big, big flaws in this series that have been around since the first game. The most egregious is that text cannot be sped up, and every piece of dialogue makes a “beepeepepeepepeepepep” sound as it scrolls across the screen. Playing Apollo Justice with the volume on is the most difficult thing in the game.
The whole game is patronizing, too. There are constant flashbacks to events that happened five minutes ago, and any time you’re told important information, the game will remind you of that info ten more times. It treats the player like they’re mentally handicapped. At one point, the game stopped for five minutes to explain what a jury was, and it stopped again later to tell me the purpose of nail polish. Oh, and remember what cards are in a full house in poker? Don’t worry, the game will remind you. Twice. You cannot present evidence that’s “ahead” of where the characters are in the case, so if you figure out anything before the characters do (which happens all the time) you can’t show that evidence to skip forward. You have to march in the idiot parade instead.
There’s exactly one surprising plot twist in the game: the identity of the killer in the first case. Everything else is clumsily foreshadowed, making itself obvious hours in advance. But you still have to go through the motions, talking to all the various characters and listening to their “gimmicks” (e.g. one guy is a nosy reporter who says everything in newspaper headlines.) The game is dead in the water whenever you’re not in the courtroom; unfortunately, 50% of Apollo Justice is composed of these “investigations”, which are just an excuse to make you sift through endless dialogue. Almost all important plot revelations happen during the trials, so what’s the point of these tedious evidence-fetch-quests?
The game has its moments. There are a few times when everything comes together, like when you have a witness caught in a web of lies and the “crucial objection” music kicks in. But this is all old hat now. The opportunity to upgrade the series for DS is wasted; the improvements in graphics and sound are barely noticeable and the gameplay (what little there is) hasn’t improved at all. If you loved the previous games, then your experience with Apollo Justice will be no different. If at any point in Phoenix Wright 1, 2, or 3 your interest was beginning to wane, then pass on it. There’s not much else to say.
Community review by phediuk (March 05, 2008)
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