Sunday, 20 February 2011

Ace Attorney Investigations - Finale fails to light my fire

I can't shake a feeling of disappointment. I'm not exactly sure what I would have done differently or how I would have liked it to play out... but that wasn't quite it. Perhaps it's because upon finishing it felt more like the middle of the story than the end. That may be the effect of lacking the courtroom and the finality of the Judge's gavel. Could be the jumbled timeline of events or a lack of memorable characters. Or maybe, with the imminent release of Ace Attorney Investigations 2, it really was the middle of the story. The Logic system was a big fail. In the final showdown with the killer, you get handed new pieces of logic to connect in the middle of the affair. What? No, this is when we should be going full throttle in confrontation. This happened all throughout every case actually; Rather than being a cool skill for Edgeworth to have, it felt more like a convenient deus ex machina to lump in last minute revelations they'd been hiding.

Overall the game had its moments. If you're a fan of Ace Attorney, it's definitely worth playing. Just be aware that the atmosphere is very different. In tone, it's more similar to Apollo Justice than the Phoenix Wright trilogy.


"Turnabout Ablaze" spoilers and score after the jump.

This case was hard. Tougher to crack than 1-5 "Rise from the Ashes", there were some real logic gaps. I particularly got confused between which statue to present when considering they got switched and the nonsense names they gave the countries involved were difficult to remember.

Characters

Dick Gumshoe
Didn't really get to do much other than run around like a headless chicken and play with Kay. He was still lovable and got his now traditional Big Damn Hero moment pushing in the Steel Samurai's cart but otherwise he was a bit of a fifth wheel.

Kay Faraday
Ably taking up Maya's role as official Butt Monkey what with being accused of murder and almost getting shot by Shih-na. I'll talk a little bit more about her later.

Franziska von Karma
Well, everyone else has been accused during the course of the game so it was only inevitable that Franzy would fall under suspicion too. "Bridge to the Turnabout" aside this was probably her best ever guest appearance but I will admit... "The Great Revival" theme is one of my least favorites in the entire series.

Shi-Long Lang
He's cool, but not as awesome as Godot. More on him later.

Shih-na
I knew there was something suspicious about her...

Manny Coachen
Got his comeuppance. Was indeed a bad, bad man.

Tyrell Badd
Felt underused even though he did get a big hero moment and revelatory monologue about the true identity of the Yatagarasu.

Colias Palaeno
His kindly nature is played straight, but there was nothing else particularly memorable about this guy really.

Quercus Alba
It seems like the writers were trying to recall three great villains of the past with this guy and really failed to create a whole persona behind it. The obvious comparison is with Damon Gant but Alba is not even half as menacing or awesome. As a final boss, he's certainly not up to the standards of any of the previous four games.

Ka-Shi Nou
Eww... he kinda gets shafted really. You don't even get an autopsy review on him or anything. He's just bludgeoned to death and then after that everyone kinda forgets about him. I wonder if he bought a plan for the robbery from Ron and Dessie?

Larry Butz
Being an artist didn't last long... We didn't get to see much of him in this case but it was all classic Butz! I wouldn't have it any other way. Well, maybe I'd have liked to see him find his niche as a painter, but then I'd also have quite liked to see Phoenix keep his attorney's badge and hook up with Iris...

Wendy Oldbag
Good God, she's back again. She must be based on someone related to Shu Takumi or something. She's no less exasperating than at any other point, and it's never in an endearing way like it is with Larry. I sure hope no kids saw her with the headpiece of her costume off or that would be nightmare fuel for years to come...

Missile
Gumshoe's pooch shows up and eats a Samurai Dog. That's about it. Much like Ema's appearance in The Kidnapped Turnabout, there was no point to his appearance whatsoever.
Lotta Hart
A cameo by the intrepid journalist, and she provides yet another odd photograph for the evidence bag. It led to the awesome shot of Lang and Shih-na pointing at Edgeworth together to exclaim that "Humans can't fly!" for which I'll always be grateful, but it won't top Larry's painting in 3-5 Bridge to the Turnabout (Edgeworth: "ARE" Franziska: "YOU" Judge: "HIGH!?!?!") The Jammin' Ninja also showed up in this case... I wonder who's in the suit these days? Is the Nickel Samurai still on TV? These are questions I need the answers to!

For two characters that appeared on the cover of the game, Kay and Lang sure didn't get their moneys worth. Or is it the other way round? In any case, they didn't get much time to make an impact at all. In game time, the cases seem to only last a couple of hours at most as opposed to the 2-3 days Wright and Apollo's cases took and the environments in AAI were very limited. If the plan was always to integrate both more fully into Ace Attorney Investigations 2, that was a terrible plan because I'm not particularly invested in either and the game, effectively the first in its series should be able to stand on its own.

The gameplay didn't flow in Ace Attorney Investigations. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something felt missing. While the series has always been linear, there has been more scope to move around and talk to different people. Here there were no hidden gems to be had. I already made my complaint about the Logic system. The Deduction system was equally flawed in that you could only deduce when the game decided you could, making it super obvious. Then we move onto the greatest lost opportunity, the Little Thief. What I really hope for from the next game is the ability to use Little Thief anytime I like rather than only when forced. It could actually recreate crime scenes or it could just be an avenue for cramming in more trademark whimsical humor.

I wasn't so into the plot of this game. A smuggling ring? Who cares. The jumbled timeline really didn't help. I couldn't remember who was doing what and Alba, for the head of the operation was nowhere near manipulative and cruel enough. As long as the final interrogation took with all his ass-pulls, it still seemed to end rather abruptly. The ending was a little dissatisfying and Lang's role in bringing it about was nebulous and somewhat contrived. The music in the game was also not up to the high standards set in previous installments. Notably it lacked a memorable "Pursuit" theme and I've already mentioned my distaste of The Great Revival. I did like Kay and Detective Badd's themes though. 

I expect that the next game will follow up on Shih-na - her true identity was never revealed and that seems a rather long string untied. Lang's family honor has not been totally restored either, with the fraudulent evidence left unexplained. Kay's story is resolved, but she barely featured in this game, all told. Her hint at the end of the game was about forming a new Yatagarasu with two others her own age. Well, Maya and Ema are close to her age. Hmmm... I kinda hope there'll be at least a glimpse of Phoenix in the next game, I love that guy. Edgeworth makes a good hero, but he's almost too cool and collected. We need a little more passion in the mix.

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