System: Nintendo DS
Release date: February 16, 2010
The fifth game in the Ace Attorney series puts players in the shoes of tea-sipping prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth. As well as the change in character, Investigations mixes up the gameplay, putting the focus on investigating crime scenes rather than the usual courtroom antics. Sure, it blurs the line between detectives and lawyers, but when taking the law into your own hands is this enjoyable, it doesn’t really matter. Investigations is proof that the Ace Attorney series still has plenty of life left in it.
What starts out as a relatively straightforward murder case turns into a series of interconnected killings. Edgeworth is thrust into a massive investigation involving a smuggling ring, a legendary thief and the fragile state of two formerly united countries. Joining him on his investigation are classic characters like the loyal Detective Gumshoe and the whip-happy Franziska von Karma, as well as a few new faces. Kay Faraday is a girl claiming to be the Great Thief, Yatagarasu, who uses her unique thief skills to serve as Edgeworth’s quirky sidekick, much like Maya Fey or Trucy Wright. Rival investigator, Shi-Long Lang is a bit of a jerk, but he’s one of the most entertaining characters in the series, due to his tendency to randomly spout proverbs. There’s plenty of cameo appearances by old characters as well, but as enjoyable as it is to see Sal Manella, Ema Skye and even Missile the police dog again, there are plenty of characters that have definitely worn out their welcome by now (here’s looking at you, Larry Butz).
Rather than viewing locations from a first person perspective as in previous games, Edgeworth is given the freedom to wander around and check things in a third person view. It doesn’t change a whole lot but it makes the locations seem deeper than just a static background. As well as the new viewpoint, Investigations gives Edgeworth a few new tricks to use when examining crime scenes. Firstly there’s the Logic system, where Edgeworth stores various pieces of information in his head and can then link them together to reach logical conclusions. It’s neat, but there isn’t a whole lot to it. More interesting is the “Little Thief,” a gadget that Kay uses recreate crime scenes before the crime actually takes place. This adds another layer to the investigation, but unfortunately it’s only used about three times in the whole game. It’s also a shame that there are no sections that require you to use the DS’s touch screen like in the first Phoenix Wright game or Apollo Justice.
The claim that the courtroom parts of the Ace Attorney games with their cross-examination sections have been removed for this title isn’t entirely true. While Edgeworth never sets foot in a courtroom (except to interrogate the Judge), Investigations has numerous segments where Edgeworth has to question a witness or argue with a rival investigator by pressing them and presenting evidence. These are the weaker parts of the game as they have a tendency to boil down to trial and error, but it’s still satisfying to watch your target break down under pressure. They also flow a lot better than the other Ace Attorney game’s courtroom sections and complement the investigation segments rather than act as jarring departures from searching for clues.
All of the character artwork has been redone and because of the new third person view, everyone now has their own sprite. The character sprites are very expressive, and manage to capture all the mannerisms and over-the-top gestures of Edgeworth and co. It’s a bit annoying that characters look exactly the same whether they face left or right because it results in weird situations where things like Gumshoe’s bandage change position. Minor nitpicks aside, Investigation’s graphics look very nice overall. A lot of the sound effects and music have been recycled from previous games in the series, but the standout tracks are the new ones. Piano is featured heavily in the soundtrack, which gives the pieces a jazzy feel, suiting Edgeworth’s personality as the classier counterpart to Phoenix Wright. The music increases the tension during investigations and also provides a number of catchy and fitting character themes.
The writing is as sharp as ever. Asides from a few grammatical mistakes here and there, the translation team did a fantastic job of adapting the original Japanese game for English speaking audiences. Though the script definitely has its sombre moments, it still retains the wit and goofy charm gamers have come to expect from the Ace Attorney series. And just like previous titles in the series, the game is filled with pop-culture references, with allusions to everything from Cluedo to Super Mario Sunshine. There’s even an “in Soviet Russia…” joke thrown in at one point.
Investigations is a good starting point for those new to the Ace Attorney series. The difficulty level has been scaled back and it doesn’t necessarily require an extensive knowledge of the previous games’ plots. Fans of the series will get the references to things like the Tender Lender Loan Company and the Blue Badger, but the majority of Edgeworth’s backstory and the game mechanics are explained in-game, though not in so much detail that it will annoy anyone who heard enough about it the first time around.
The game is fairly lengthy and it manages to keep your attention for the whole time, but it doesn’t really warrant more than one playthrough. Though it does change the Ace Attorney formula a bit, it doesn’t fix the fact that the games are extremely linear.
As linear and short-lived as it is, it’s still hard not to recommend Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. It’s still won’t appeal to those who didn’t enjoy Phoenix Wright or Apollo Justice’s courtroom expeditions but if you like your DS games filled with interesting characters, a good sense of humour and cravats, Ace Attorney Investigations is an incredibly enjoyable title and possibly the series’ best game to date.
Overall score: 8.0 / 10