By Ishaan . February 28, 2010 . 6:30pm
It certainly took long enough, but a year after its Japanese release, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is finally out. Was the long, painful wait for the return of the original cast worth it? Since the series is known for being extremely story-driven, the extent to which you’ve invested yourself in these characters and their world, and your expectations of the game will be what decides how much you get out of it.
Ace Attorney Investigations game starts out rather slow, and admittedly, is a little lacking in the humour department. Edgeworth stood out in the Ace Attorney games because he was such a contrast to the other lunatics you would often find yourself associating with. Getting to play as him in the final case of Trials & Tribulations was a real treat because he really couldn’t be any more different from Phoenix, and watching him swoop down out of nowhere onto a case that he wasn’t even monitoring from the very beginning and work his wonders was incredible.
In Ace Attorney Investigations, however, you’ll be hearing a lot of his eloquent monologues and they aren’t quite as funny as Nick’s daft-yet-somehow-insightful observations. Gumshoe’s own idiotic brand of humour is getting a little old, too, and you’re so used to his antics by now, they tend not to surprise you anymore. Also, since the game doesn’t take place in the courtroom and your opponents’ theatrics aren’t nearly as outrageous as in the original trilogy, Ace Attorney Investigation’s humour can feel a little dry. To the game’s credit, however, it does have its hilarious moments.
Right off the bat, the first case makes one thing very clear: the logic in Ace Attorney Investigations is far more down-to-earth than that of the previous games. On the one hand, this can feel like a real boon when you’re at a loss for what to do. On the other, as some of our Japanese brethren pointed out, it makes each case feel like less of a "turnabout." But more on this shortly.
Ace Attorney Investigations introduces what is called the Logic system. As you walk around the environments and examine things, Edgeworth "etches the facts into the forefront of his mind" (his words, not mine). These facts are then accessible via a Logic button, which allows you to connect different facts together to form a hypothesis. If you connect the correct facts, a hypothesis is formed. If you connect the wrong facts, Edgeworth’s lifebar goes "ker-bash!", complete with his "Ack!" animation.
Once you conclude your investigation of the current scene, you move onto interrogating the other people involved in the case. This — and, surprisingly, not the investigation aspect — is where the game gives you a taste of its real potential.
Ace Attorney Investigations does some interesting things with the interrogation system. Even though you’re investigating the crime scene, sometimes, it feels like you’re the one being interrogated. Perhaps this is because, in every case, at least one of your dealings is with cutthroat individuals who bear some sort of grudge against you. This is particularly prominent in case two, where Edgeworth is framed for murder, and before you can make any progress whatsoever, you must first clear his name.
Even more interesting, sometimes, the cross-examination can be very different, emotionally, from anything previously seen in Ace Attorney. This is because, sometimes, you actually find yourself caring for the person you’re examining. The thing is, Edgeworth himself is extremely professional. Not cold, not without concern…just very professional. Much more so than you or I (or Nick) would be inclined to be in a similar situation. Watching him cut through testimonies like warm butter can feel quite uncomfortable when you, as the player, want to be more sensitive. At certain points, the irony of the situation is conveyed brilliantly through the music, and it really made me feel Ace Attorney Investigations, as its own series, has a lot of potential to be something the original trilogy couldn’t.
Case two — possibly my favourite — is also where the game really picks up. The series’ trademark humour makes a comeback, and there’s a wide enough variety of crazy characters to serve as a contrast to Edgeworth’s personality. Miles himself stands out much better, too. He’s different from Nick, and you can tell. He’s far more sure of himself, always keeps track of the bigger picture, and doesn’t loose his cool. It doesn’t make you feel like you’re fighting a constant uphill battle up until the point of the "turnabout," which takes away some of the tension, but on the plus side, it also makes you feel more in control of cases.
On the emotional and characterization front, case two adds its own unique twist to the Ace Attorney formula — being paired up with a partner whose methods you don’t agree with. In the past, you had to compete directly with a prosecutor, but for part of case 2, you’re teamed up with Franziska von Karma, whose methods are far more brutal than even Edgeworth’s, and Miles makes it known that he doesn’t approve. It’s an interesting dynamic, and yet another sign of what Ace Attorney Investigations could be, dramatically, were the series to continue.
By case three, admittedly, the game starts to feel really outlandish. Sometimes, you feel like it’s stretching itself out longer than it needs to. Furthermore, cases 2, 3 and 4 delve further and further back into Edgeworth’s past (before the last case brings it all together), and each one is chock full of sometimes unnecessary character cameos. This aspect can feel a little tacked on. Perhaps the reason, as someone in our Amazon Curve pointed out, is that Takumi Shuu, the regular series director, wasn’t involved with the game.
Before we wrap up, something I want to touch upon briefly is Kay. I’d like to point out that, personally, I feel Kay is the perfect partner to Edgeworth. I’m not going to get into how or why, for fear of spoilers…she just "clicks" on multiple levels. She’s got her emotional moments, but she’s also so perfectly the opposite of Miles, you can’t help but think, "Hell yes. He finally got his own assistant."
The one thing the game does really well is demonstrate how being in the shoes of a prosecutor is very different. While Nick and his pals often got up to all kinds of tomfoolery, Edgeworth’s life and line of work are far more serious. The constant barrage of crimes; competing investigative organizations; the egos of cops working the same case as you; the fact that the game questions the true meaning of “law.” The prosecutor’s office is nothing like "Wright and Co."
Ace Attorney Investigations is a different game from the original trilogy. Not vastly different, but there are enough morsels of fantastic narrative decisions and depth that really got me thinking. It has potential to do more — to be a bit of a more mature take on the franchise, because it draws out emotions and reactions that Ace Attorney never did. And really, isn’t that what we love about story-driven media? That it makes you think.
Food for thought:
1. The small sprites don’t do as good a job of conveying the personality of the characters as the larger portraits. The "chibi" style is a little jarring, considering that Ace Attorney Investigations is a bit of a more serious game and that the characters look kind of ridiculous when chibi’d down.
2. Watching a merciless Edgeworth and Franziska interrogate the judge is one of the all-time highlights of the series.
3. Edgeworth carries a spare cravat with him, which he promptly produces when Kay decides to blow her nose on his.
4. Case five, hands down, has the best cameos, and the best jokes.
5. AAI has the best "Announce the Truth" theme of the entire series, and it’s part of the reason it feels like a more serious game. It suits Miles and his legacy so perfectly.