Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney


Computer Platform:
Produced by:
Price Range: $21-30
Learning curve time: 1-30 min.
Age level: Teens
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

     Reviewed By: Phil Rownd (boyward)

Overall Rating: ★★★★½
Rating: 4 of 5 (good)
Gameplay: 4 of 5 (good)
Violence: 3 of 5 (mild)
Adult Content: 4 of 5 (barely present)

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.  Illustration copyrighted.

“Here comes Justice!” Apollo Justice, that is– the rash and youthful new defense attorney star of ’s “Ace Attorney” mystery series. This is the fourth Ace Attorney game released here in North America. It’s a reboot for the series since the previous three games were ported over from the Gameboy Advance. This brand new DS game has been built from the ground up with a new cast of characters, improved animations, a new soundtrack, and (finally!) new DS touch controls throughout the 4 brand new cases of crime scene investigation and courtroom examination. Even better news for gamers is the news that the “spirit mediums” from previous Ace Attorney games have been removed, and the “suggestive themes” are held to a minimum, making Apollo Justice the most Christian-friendly game in the series and a great choice for teenage gamers looking for a good mystery.

Seven years have passed since Phoenix Wright practiced law and went into the talent agency business with his daughter, Trucy. Phoenix was a great character, but after three games and 14 cases his shtick was starting to wear thin. Now it’s Apollo’s turn to gather evidence and poke holes in courtroom testimonies. Phoenix is there to guide young Apollo through his first four cases, and a few other favorite characters from the original series make cameo appearances, but this is pretty much a new beginning for the series, so this is a great place for newcomers to start.

I continue to marvel at the quality of the writing in these games. Not only are there pages upon pages of interesting dialogue, but the writers have crafted an intricate mystery that twists and turns right up to the last minute of the game. Seemingly insignificant details from Apollo’s first case will shed new light on the final one as well. It’s impressive to see this level of foresight on the part of the writers.

Also returning from the fifth case in the original “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney” is the use of the DS touch screen to do forensics tests, including fingerprinting, making molds of footprints, and blood and poison residue testing.

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New to the series is the Mason System, which allows you to explore four incidents from Phoenix Wright’s past and four in the present. Gathering all this evidence will give you the understanding you’ll need to solve the final case. I don’t know if we’ll see the Mason System again in this series, but the idea of going back and forth from the past and present over seven years of evidence was exciting to me.

I do hope the next Ace Attorney game is more forgiving as far as what it deems “acceptable” evidence. For example, at one point in the game you have a picture frame that held a stamp, an envelope with said stamp affixed, as well as the stamp itself. In a real court of law, any of those three pieces of evidence would be acceptable and you’d be able to explain the logic behind your thinking, but in the game you are penalized if you present anything other than the evidence the designers were thinking of. This nitpickiness is the only reason I scored the gameplay a “4″ instead of a perfect “5″. This flaw detracts from the otherwise enjoyable flow of logic that runs throughout the game.

Here’s what you can expect from Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney in terms of content:

The first three cases show cinematic flashbacks of their murders as well as 3D forensic recreations of the crimes. During these scenes there is no question about what is happening, but the gory details are left to the imagination. A small amount of blood splatters on the screen during the first murder. We later see a large bruise on the victim’s forehead but no more blood. A hostage is taken at knife-point. A family of gangsters make veiled threats. We see a still graphic of strangulation in progress. Apollo discovers the bloodied body of a gunshot victim and examines the body for clues. The violent effects of atroquinine poison are described in the courtroom. We see the body of a hospitalized man lying dead on his bed.

Almost non-existent. Five quick uses of “omigod” and one use of the word “da–”.

Good news: The spirit mediums who were such an integral part of the Phoenix Wright games are absent here. Phoenix’s enchanted “Magatama” item returns, so he can still see the locks on people’s hearts and break through to their secrets. Apollo himself has a certain enchanted item that gives him the ability to “perceive” tension in people and read their body language. A stage magician speaks of his magic show as if it were real. (Don’t worry– it’s not.)

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A creepy “doctor” briefly flirts with Trucy. The second case introduces us to a panty snatcher, and these missing panties become a running joke for the rest of the game. Apollo gets embarrassed about it, especially when he is told, “You must have a nose for finding girls’ panties.” Fortunately, that’s the worst of it.

It seems that characters can commit crimes like perjury (lying on the stand), obstruction of justice, and forgery as long as those characters are friendly and nice. In real life people go to jail for crimes like this, so young players unfamiliar with the law might get the wrong idea from this game. Other negative elements include cheating at a poker game. Characters conspire to destroy a man’s reputation. One youthful character is disrespectful to his parents. A child is abandoned by a parent, and her guardian disappears for days at a time. A couple of cases involve smuggling and forgery.

Apollo values truth even above loyalty. See, his clients and friends ask him to cover their crimes with lies, but Apollo has the integrity to speak the truth even when it hurts. Some of the bad guys have a change of heart and sincerely commit themselves to crime-free living, and they are shown succeeding in that effort. Parents show unconditional love for their children, even though the kids don’t always appreciate it.

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The “Teen” rating seems appropriate for the Ace Attorney series. These are murder mysteries, after all, and Apollo Justice’s premiere has him recreating violent crimes in the courtroom. Even so, the violence is nowhere near the level of graphic TV shows like CSI or Law & Order. Apollo Justice would be an acceptable choice for families who enjoy teen-friendly mysteries like Monk, Columbo, or Murder She Wrote. Aspiring sleuths will love it.

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Year of Release — 2008

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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