Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth Review
Capcom's Ace Attorney series came to the U.S. in 2005, immediately winning over adventure game fans with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Featuring a defense attorney hero, and focusing on courtroom procedures, Phoenix Wright wasn't the most conventional of games; nevertheless, it quickly became one of the most popular titles available on the DS. It also became the start of a successful adventure franchise, the latest of which is Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth.
Investigations follows the casework of prodigy prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth, better known as the nemesis of charismatic defense attorney Phoenix Wright. The story of Investigations is told via flashbacks, moving back and forth through a complex series of cases stretching back ten years. We witness Edgeworth's first performance ever as a prosecutor and observe his relationship with his taskmaster mentor, Manfred von Karma. Fans of the Phoenix Wright series may not think of Miles Edgeworth as a fitting protagonist, since he was originally introduced as a smug, arrogant dandy. However, as the series progressed, he was revealed to have deeply personal reasons both for his attitude and for becoming a prosecutor, and in Investigations, makes a surprisingly sympathetic hero.
The gameplay of Investigations is in many ways similar to previous Ace Attorney titles, but has also been expanded upon to embrace Edgeworth's logic-based modus operandi. You still spend the game alternating between investigating crime scenes and cross-examining suspects, but this time you do it in the field instead of in the courtroom. Maintaining a precedent set by previous games in the series, Edgeworth works each of his investigations with a partner. Throughout the game, this partner changes, varying among bumbling detective Dick Gumshoe, aspiring “Great Thief” Kay Faraday and Manfred von Karma's whip-cracking, prosecutor daughter Franziska. These sidekicks can be accessed at any time via an onscreen portrait and offer you valuable case information and hints. Since this time Edgeworth functions more like a detective than a prosecutor, you'll spend a lot of your time talking to your partners and gathering clues from crime scenes, using the Examine function within your evidence-gathering Organizer to analyze clues up close.
While some bits of evidence go to your Organizer, some are “stored” in Edgeworth's head, where you can match them up using the new Logic function. This mechanic allows you review gathered info in the Logic screen, tap two bits of it and so relate them, thus gaining new insight into the case. The new Deduce function also helps you uncover the truth by allowing you to highlight specific items when in closeup view of a crime scene, and then present evidence that exposes the inconsistency of those items. These two new mechanics are fun and interesting, but by far the coolest new aspect of the game is crime scene recreation. Using partner Kay Faraday's “Little Thief” gadget, you can create a hologram of the crime scene, which you can walk around in and investigate. This lets you test things like murderer/victim placement, bullet trajectory and the validity of object placement. As you gain new info, Little Thief even updates the scene, often with surprising results. The last (and least successful) new feature of Investigations is the movement functionality, which shows Edgeworth as a teeny little character which can be moved around the screen by dragging the stylus over the minimap. Navigating our favorite prosecutor around obstacles with this can be awkward at best, frustrating at worst, and is likely to make you question the wisdom of its implementation.
Despite this, the game is still a ton of fun to play, since you don't have to do too much walking and spend most of your time using logic to catch the guilty and clear the innocent. Since you're out in the field, you can't partake in formal courtroom procedure, but is replaced by a similar verbal exchange called “Testimony” and “Rebuttal”. This consists of listening to a witness's testimony, pressing his or her statements to gain further info or find flaws in them, then present evidence to prove the contradictions within those statements. And don't worry— even though you're not in the courtroom, there's still plenty of opportunity for Edgeworth to shout “Objection!”
The Ace Attorney series has a lot of things going for it, its main strength being its stories. Investigations lives up to the standard of the previous games with a clever and complicated story that's completely absorbing. The series' second strength is its great sense of humor, demonstrated through its many quirky characters and their bizarre interactions. Investigations contains its fair share of oddballs, the standout of which is Edgeworth's new rival, Shi-Long Lang, a belligerent Interpol agent with a supermodel assistant, who looks like a cross between a rock star and a blond Wolverine. The game offers up a lot of fun new characters but you'll see a lot of familiar faces too. Probably the best thing you can say about the characters old or new, is that you get so emotionally involved with them. Capcom does an especially great job of making you hate the scumbags perps Edgeworth is after, making it extremely satisfying when you finally take them down.
Ace Attorney is one of the best game franchises out there (handheld or otherwise), due mainly to each title in the series having extremely high entertainment value. Probably the best thing about the series is that it's unlikely to end soon, since its potential is virtually limitless. Not only has it established a winning cast of characters, and a formula for fun-packed gameplay, its latest title, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth shows that there are still lots of ways both cast and formula can be effectively improved and expanded upon. Hrm...it looks at this point that the only conceivable way the series could improve is if its games came out more often. A two year wait between releases is just, well...criminal.