Taking a break from my best games list, I need to write about Ace Attorney: Investigations. The Ace Attorney series of fictional lawyering was one of the best things on the DS. I played and loved the first four games. Even Apollo Justice’s tossing aside the main cast didn’t much lessen my enjoyment. Unfortunately, when Ace Attorney Investigations came out, I was not in a financial situation that allowed me to get the game. Fortunately, I recently saw it on Amazon.com for twenty bucks and I just had to jump on that. Now I’ve beaten the game. Thanks to some fundamental changes, it isn’t quite as good as the rest of the series. Still, it is scratches the same itch as its predecessors and has me rearing for AA5 coming out later this year.
The first big change that isn’t really effective is Miles Edgeworth as the protagonist. I really like Edgeworth, he was the best opponent Phoenix had in the series, and he worked well as an occasional ally after that, but he really doesn’t work as the main character. The series requires the main character to frequently look like a fool. This worked for Phoenix, both when he was a rookie and later due to him always being thrust into cases knowing next to nothing. Apollo was no different from Phoenix. Edgeworth’s haughty demeanor is completely undercut by him not knowing what is going on. The problem is the game was made because he is such a popular character that they had to get him his own game. With a little work I am sure they could have arranged things to make Edgeworth not look like the incompetent goofus that Phoenix always looked like. Instead, we got an Edgeworth that spends most the game being talked down to by everyone short of Gumshoe. Gumshoe is another problem. The one way that the lack of knowledge for Edgeworth was addressed was by making Gumshoe completely incompetent. Not that he wasn’t before, but I think they went a little heavy on him in this game. While Edgeworth does get to show his trademark smugness at the end of cases, it could have used more work.
Then there is the reliance on old characters. With Edgeworth as the main character, I knew we’d be seeing Gumshoe and Franziska quite a bit. I expected some of the usually witnesses to show up, but I did not expect them to be relied on so much. Other than the criminals, most of the witnesses are returning characters. That robs the cases of drama, when there are few options as to who is responsible. It doesn’t help that the last case, the big case, features testimony from both Oldbag, my least favorite AA character, and Larry Butz. I don’t mind seeing old characters again, but in the easy early cases, not in the climax of the story.
The last problem is a fault of the big change to the game; the lack of courtroom scenes. This is Ace Attorney Investigations; this is not about the courtroom it is about them investigating. But they didn’t change how the game is approached. Yes, players get direct control of an Edgeworth sprite to look around, but that is a cosmetic change to how the game advances. It is still split between investigation and cross-examination. Without the courtroom, however, the cross-examinations make no sense. Sure, they call them interviews, but they put pointless restrictions on them like the courtroom stuff in the other AA games. It makes everything seem rushed and weird. They have to invent reasons to cut investigations shot to add some drama where there should be none. The only case where it works is the last one, where your opponent has the authority to stop the investigation.
Still, the writing is mostly good. Only the last two cases are really memorable, but that is not too different from most of the series. The new characters, though too few, are entertaining. Agent Lang is trying to be Edgeworth’s rival, like Edgeworth was for Wright. It isn’t as clear a relationship as that one, but his hostility is the only thing adding any tension to most of the cases. Kay Faraday steps in to Edgeworth’s Maya, with her own goofy trick to help him with his investigations. While the timing of the Yatagarsu stuff doesn’t seem to quite add up, it still gives her reason enough to stick around.
It is still Ace Attorney, and I am always up for more Ace Attorney. I am kind of sad that we’re not likely to ever get the second Investigations game, but I am glad I played this one.