I’ve finally seen Apollo Justice through to the bitter end

Ace4CovercompI’m a big fan of the Phoenix Wright games, as regular readers will have gathered from my glowing reviews of games one, two and three in the series. But Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney – the fourth game – almost defeated me.

I was keen to complete Apollo Justice ahead of the release of Ace Attorney 5 in the autumn, but there was a point about halfway through where it felt more like a slog than anything vaguely enjoyable. I seriously considered just jacking it in and looking up the ending on Wikipedia.

The game doesn’t start terribly well. It’s set seven years after the last game, and Phoenix Wright has now become a drunken gambler after being fired from his job for allegedly forging evidence. As far as openings go, it certainly has shock value: the superstar lawyer you’ve been playing for the previous 70+ hours has now turned into… well, frankly, he’s an absolute dick. It’s a bit like going to visit your favourite uncle only to find that he now spends his days drinking Special Brew on a park bench and can barely remember who you are. Oh, and he now has a daughter, for some reason.

Phoenix... what happened?
Phoenix… what happened?

Instead, you step into the shoes of the young Apollo Justice, a rookie lawyer who frankly isn’t a patch on the Phoenix of old. Whereas Phoenix would occasionally be nervous in the face of overwhelming odds but always fought through with a steely will in the name of justice, Apollo just hasn’t a clue what he’s doing. It’s a humiliating comedown to step into the shoes of an amateur after being a pro for so long. It’s telling that the high point of the game is getting the chance to ‘be’ Phoenix again right at the end – it made me realise just how much I’d missed him for the rest of the game.

But boy, that high point is a long time coming. After 20+ hours of gameplay, the mysteries of the past are finally revealed and Phoenix is absolved, but in the meantime you have to slog through easily the worst cases of the series so far. In one, a tiny, apparently blind boy who speaks no English and has no motive is on trial for shooting a man with a .45 Magnum that it’s claimed most adults wouldn’t be able to use. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, it’s because it really doesn’t make any sense. Throughout, the writing is flat and sometimes idiotic, the characters are dull, and the prosecutor you face off against isn’t a patch on the previous ones in the series.

There’s a slight return to form in the final case, which eventually ties together all the plot lines that have painstakingly been laid down over the rest of the game, but it’s still not a patch on the previous games. Here’s hoping that Ace Attorney 5 marks a return to form.

[As penned in disappointment by Lucius Merriweather.]