Version tested: DS
I can't decide which quote to open with. It's one of these three:
"No one gets away with committing murder in my office! No one!"
"It's gonna r0x0rz so many b0x0rz."
"All you have to do is arrest suspicious person after suspicious person. That's how you eliminate crime from the streets."
Things might be different as Edgeworth takes the helm, but this is unmistakably an Ace Attorney game. It bubbles with joy, a simmering pot of gleeful happiness. The ridiculous world of outlandish characters, crazed enthusiasm and peculiar passion continues, despite this latest game being even more heavily focused on the topic of murder.
When we were last with the Ace Attorney series, two years ago, it was to introduce a new lead character, Apollo Justice. After three games starring the adorable defence attorney Phoenix Wright, the fourth game looked as though it would be moving onto new ground.
That didn't happen. In fact, the entire game was about Phoenix, poor Apollo just a conduit for us to hear more tales of the blue-suited wunder-lawyer. So when it became clear the fifth game would star Wright's long-time nemesis, prosecution attorney Miles Edgeworth, it was hard to believe things would really change.
Things have really changed. This is not a game about Phoenix Wright. In fact, he's barely mentioned. This is absolutely about the red-coated anti-hero, telling five stories that through flashbacks span seven years, in the space of three days. And indeed, most significantly, this is not a game about the lunatic court process that formed the bulk of the rest of the series. In fact, you don't even see a courtroom until the fourth of five chapters, and then not as you might think.
Perhaps the most obvious feature change is the shift from first to third-person. To an extent. Miles is represented on the top screen as a small character, moved either with the d-pad or touch-screen, accompanied by whoever might be helping out in that story. This could be the erstwhile Detective Dick Gumshoe, a new daft 17-year-old character, Kay Faraday, or various others who tag alone throughout. So in some respects it's like a traditional point and click - you walk near items to interact with them, walk up to characters to talk to them, and so on.
However, much is extremely familiar. Edgeworth sports an Organiser, in which he stores all items of evidence, and profiles of characters involved in each incident. Despite not being in court, he'll constantly be demanding witness and defence testimonies from those he encounters, which are cross-examined in the form of Rebuttals. Here, much as you would in the previous games' courtrooms, you go through statements pressing for more detail, looking for contradictions, and presenting evidence that demonstrates lies or mistakes.
Edgeworth also marks a departure from the more ludicrous psychic themes. This is about as down-to-Earth as the series has been, its own particular brand of unrealistic magic appearing in the form of some very silly technology that allows holographic presentations of crime scenes to surround the cast.
But beyond that Bones-like nonsense, Edgeworth uses cold hard logic to solve mysteries. In fact, there's a Logic button on the screen. As Edgey finds key evidence or questions they form ideas, which are stored in his Logic memory, and can then be combined with other ideas to create clues! Woo!
Right, mechanics established. Let's focus on the madness.
The formula is very much the same as before. There's a murder, and then it's quickly established that somehow either you, or someone you know, is the number one suspect. In fact, in the space of two days Edgeworth is accused of two murders and kidnapped. The sheer volume of accusations made against this man over the years would start to look suspicious to anyone.
In fact, there's a more elaborate worry woven by this game. As Edgeworth you fight valiantly to prove the innocence of the incorrectly accused at crime scenes (in theme parks, on planes, even your own office), and gather all the evidence needed to demonstrate the guilt of the clearly incredibly suspicious person you knew had done it all along. This is all suggested to be a precursor for the court cases, Edgeworth working alongside the police in that peculiar way the Ace Attorney games decided they do. Which begs the question: was Edgey always this thorough? And if so, has Phoenix all these years been framing the innocent? Heavens.
Two themes recur throughout, each case eventually weaving itself into the larger story. There's the Great Thief, Yatagarasu, legendary for using his stealthy stealing ways to expose corruption in evil corporations. And there's a smuggling ring, which are being investigated by the phenomenally arrogant staff at Interpol. Edgey is caught between the two, getting knocked unconscious more than can be safe for anyone, shouting "EUREKA!" as he Deduces information, and being shouted at in hieroglyphs by the peoples of Borgonia.
The level of lunacy on display hits all-time highs. The second chapter takes place on an aeroplane. An aeroplane so enormous that not only does it have a full-size elevator (adorned with statues at the entrances) that can call on three floors, but a cargo hold that has to be at least 40 feet high. And a large gift shop. And fans of the Blue Badger couldn't be in for a bigger treat.
The volume of cameos comes so thick and fast that I can only imagine the game might as well be in Borgonian for those who haven't played the previous episodes. Of course there's Franziska von Karma and her cruel whip, the completely adorable Ema Skye with some excellent new science to show off, and a troubling amount of the terrifying Wendy Oldbag. Oh, and my favourite minor character of them all, Sal Manella, turns in a very brief appearance with some fantastic new 1337 gibberish.
Things are further made to feel comfortingly similar with Kay Faraday, who's convinced she's the new incarnation of thief Yatagarasu, with her excitable plans for stealing everything she sees. She's essentially Maya to Phoenix, or Trucy to Apollo, and packs the same wallop of delightful enthusiasm and naivety. She also has the idiotic Little Thief system, which projects the explorable holograph crime scenes. Even Edgeworth himself loses a little of the collected cool that made him slightly unlikeable before. He's now more than capable of letting loose a "Nnn… Ngwooooooh!" at just the right moment.
Sadly the same damned idiotic mistake that has held every one of these adorable games back from receiving a higher score is present once again. It's head-bangingly frustrating. But yet again perfectly acceptable solutions, interjections and presentations of evidence are rejected because of poor scripting. Edgeworth has so many ways of losing blocks of green from his "health" bar now - incorrect rebuttal interruptions, wrongly chosen Deduce evidence, and combining Logic in a perfectly reasonable way they didn't think of, all knocks points from the meter.
When your suggestion was valid, it's maddening. And this becomes a real problem if you decide to risk saving with a half-empty meter before stumbling into one of the more terrible puzzles. Normally this is fine as the meter readily refills itself at various intervals. But for some reason in the epically long third chapter this stops happening for the last third. I was left trying to guess at one muddled situation with only three chances, forced to constantly switch the machine off and on again to reload.
Oh, and the animation of Interpol's Shi-Long Lang (from the Republic of Zheng Fa) reaching for his ancient manuscript of investigative technique every time I got it "wrong" has become my least favourite thing in the universe, beating the deaths of kittens and Big Top for the number one spot. Why can't they just playtest these out? Then they could have the 9/10 that lives in my heart.
But you can't stay angry because he's Interpol's Shi-Long Lang from the Republic of Zheng Fa, and responsible for the third of the opening quotes. He hates prosecution lawyers because of how they destroyed his family's reputation! He thinks courts are for idiots! Nothing makes Edgeworth more mad than that. Nothing!
Once again the translation team have done the most incredible job. There's a few typos, and the rather strange repeated mistake of saying, "You're going to have to make due." But otherwise it's a tour-de-force of near-impenetrable puns (it took me a long time and the help of a friend to decipher "Cammy Meele"), awesome one-liners, and incredibly inventive made-up agony noises.
For all that's new, it's still faithfully an Ace Attorney game. I continue to be devastated not to know what's happened to Maya and Pearl. Goodness knows where this fits in the timeline. Apollo Justice was set seven years after the third Wright game, but here Gumshoe is only two years older than he was in the first… Whenever it is, it's been three of our years since we heard from the girls, and you know, I'm getting worried.
It's so gorgeously loveable. Edgeworth was an inspired choice to take the lead role. The cast is ever-changing and hilarious. It made me laugh out loud so many times in Starbucks that the staff now give me odd looks. I've found myself playing it as I walk down the road. It certainly lacks something without the permanency of Nick and Maya's relationship. (And indeed the appearances of Mia. It occurs to me that I've no idea how her name is pronounced. Is it "Mee-ya" or "Mii-ya"? The game's only ever pronounced it "Be-baddy-be-baddy-beep" and that can't be right.) But Kay is a fantastic new inclusion, and it's all so good-hearted your DS glows with warmth.
It's bursting with happiness. And so am I when I play it.
8 / 10