Ace Attorney never should have been a thing, a visual novel where you play as a lawyer defending your client? What a mundane premise! And yet despite that the first game was popular in japan to spawn 2 sequels so Capcom decided to try their luck in the West. Surprisingly the game did way better than they had expected, they had to do multiple printings to meet demands! When they finally realized they had an important franchise in hand they finally decided to revive it and announced a sequel 3 years after the initial release of the third game. Sadly they failed to recapture the magic, Apollo Justice was a disappointment to the fans and its future looked bleak, so what went wrong? Ultimately I think the root of the problem is due to:
1)The Perceive System
Despite being a sequel/reboot Apollo Justice plays similar to the previous games, the gameplay is still divided into an investigation phase where you look for evidence and question people and a courtroom phase where you cross examine witnesses and defend your client. While this is definitely not a bad thing the game does try to mix things up with the characters own gimmick, the Perceive System; How it works is that Apollo Justice can use his bracelets to observe a person’s body language to infer if they’re lying. On paper this sounds like a good idea, it has an actual basis in interrogation and it sounds really fun to make a deduction like Sherlock Holmes simply by observing a persons every twitch; here’s why it didn’t work at all in both a gameplay and a story sense
Here’s how it works during gameplay, during cross-examination you can choose to observe the witness when they’re presenting a statement and while time slows down you have to find the suspicious action that gives them away. The first problem is that you can only observe them through the circumference of the bracelet, meaning you have a small FOV to work with. Secondly the twitch is only presented during certain parts of the statements so you have to rest the FOV on the area that you think is the right one and wait for the right part of the statement to scroll by. Thirdly the statement scrolling is extremely slow, you can’t simply select the part of the statement you think is false, you have to wait for the whole statement to scroll from start to finish for an agonizing long time and if it turns out you were wrong, you have to find another body part and repeat the process over and over again. All of these elements create a slow and a very unrewarding experience, you no longer feel like your destroying a witness by finding contradictions, it feels like you’re playing Where’s Waldo through a toilet roll.
There’s a reason that Phoenix Wright never uses his Magatama to find Psyche Locks during cross-examination, it’s because he’s the only one who can see them. Apollo might be using an actual investigation method but the problem is that likewise he’s the only one who can see these nervous twitches on the witnesses, he doesn’t use any equipment to record evidence of this actions and even if he did what does it prove? Let’s use Athena Cyke as an example, her gimmick is that she uses the Mood Matric to find the emotions behind a witness’s statement and she notices that while a witness testifies that rubble was about to fall on her she felt a tinge of happiness despite being in mortal peril, that is a contradiction.
The problem is that Apollo Justice doesn’t follow the same logic, if he notices that a witness was twiddling his toes while presenting their testimony that isn’t a contradiction, it’s only an observation. This information can’t be presented in court as proof that a witness is lying so it doesn’t make sense for this mechanic to be in the courtroom.
I have to be honest I don’t really remember much about Klavier Gavin but I know I didn’t like him at all, maybe it’s the fact that he looks more like he comes from a Japanese dating sim or the fact that he keeps trying to get into Apollo’s pants...
But then it all made sense when I read this comment:
ShadeOfLight raised a really good point, they were trying to innovate by changing the prosecutor-lawyer relationship here and making Klavier deeper by making him find the truth just like Apollo and not simply a “jerk” like the other prosecutor but that’s exactly why he felt so bland to me. At every heart of a story there has to a source of conflict; Lord of the Rings had a conflict between good versus evil, Dexter was conflicting with his inner demons and in Ace Attorney the conflict comes between the Lawyers and the Prosecutors. It’s easy to dismiss all the prior prosecutors as “jerks” but they were made that way for a reason. You were motivated to fight in court because the prosecutors look down at you, they sneered at you and they beat you down mentally and physically until you turn the case around and wipe that smirk off their faces. You wanted to beat Winston Payne because he was slimy, Edgeworth because he was pompous, Von Karma because she whips you and Godot because he blames you for Mia’s death. All of this motivation is gone when you take that away, the reason the creator didn’t keep using Edgeworth was because after all the character development it didn’t feel good to beat someone who stopped being your rival. It’s like the difference between Gary and Serena in Pokemon; It felt good to beat Gary because he keeps acting like an ass who opposes you wherever you go whereas every time you beat Serena you only feel sorry for her and she feels simply like an inconvenient pebble on your journey to success.
Klavier was boring because he was never truly your rival, he never felt like an opposing force you have to face to make a turnabout case since he was always on your side and that’s why he fails as a prosecutor.
People were ecstatic to know that Phoenix Wright was going to return, they got the game, placed it into their DS and when they turned it on they got-oh…..
So instead of being a master lawyer he became hobo-Phoenix but hey he’s still the same old-oh he falsified evidence and he's no longer the same goofy and adorable character but instead became this arrogant manipulative mastermind… It was no surprise why everyone was so taken back with this version of Phoenix, it was a really out of character for him and it was too fast of a transition for people to handle. Why does he have a daughter, where is Maya Fey, why was he disbarred and why the hell didn’t any of his friends come to help him? The real reason for this change was that Phoenix intentionally stayed underground in order to fix the judicial system and expose the real killer but here was the problem.
It didn’t work, the writing for the game was too subtle to justify all the changes made and many claimed the game had bastardize and ruined this iconic character. I don’t blame them, even I couldn’t accept that Phoenix would go so far as to break the law and falsify evidence in court, it seems to go against everything he stood for. It was obvious that creator Shu Takumi wanted a fresh start but he was forced to include Phoenix Wright and he had trouble fitting him in the story but his inclusion in the game also had an unintentional effect on another character…..
I’m not going to walk around the issue so I’ll just say it, Apollo was a bad protagonist; he was boring, a rip off and he had no interesting characterization. The problem with Phoenix Wright’s inclusion was that his story was extremely dense so a lot of time was focused on him leaving poor Apollo out of the spotlight in his own game. He never had any time to come out as his own character; he had sarcastic quips, silly court faces and the same flaws like original Phoenix did. There was a moment in the game where he pointed out a contradiction but didn’t know what it meant so Trucy had to save his ass and I thought “what a dumbass” but then I realised that Phoenix had moments just like these to0 but I never thought he was an idiot, why? Apollo unfortunately never had time to show any other side of his character like Phoenix did in his games so the side effect was that ultimately Apollo felt like a complete idiot.
The biggest revelation about him in the obligatory last case plot twist was that Apollo and Trucy were half-siblings but so what? The point of a massive info dump like this is to change the way we view the story but none of this changed my perception of Apollo; it didn’t explain why Apollo was the way he is or what his motivations truly were. Apollo and Trucy were never told about this so their dynamic didn’t change at all, even worse this information was quickly forgotten and never brought back up again. The only effect this new information seems to have is to express disgust in people who initial shipped Apollo and Trucy together!
The game Apollo Justice wasn’t terrible; it still had entertaining cases, nostalgia when old characters made a return and there were still times where it made me laugh. Nevertheless it was a huge disappointment to a lot of the fans and left a bad taste in their mouths. The Edgeworth Spinoff was decent but it wasn’t enough and we never got the sequel. The future of the series looked very dire and even I had to ask myself “Did the series finally lose all steam?”
It got better
After a while Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies was released and it was finally a return to the series’ former glory, almost every complaints I had were addressed in this game. Apollo’s gimmick was put aside to the investigation phase and the new Prosecutor Simon Blackquill was a great “jerk” of a rival but the best part was that they made Apollo interesting. We finally learned about his childhood with his best friend and we see him nearly consumed by the dark age of law when he questions the effectiveness of the legal system. It’s ironic that he got the most development in Phoenix’s game but it worked wonderfully because he became one of my favourite characters in the series!
If you lost hope for the series after Apollo Justice I implore you to come back because they did the impossible, they turned the whole series around.
What did you think about the Apollo Justice series? Did you like it more than I did and think I'm completely wrong? Let me know what you think!