Video Game Challenge Progress Report (Redux Edition Part 3): Apollo Justice – Ace Attorney

A little dogged determination and persistence can go a long way in being creative about how you make time for the hobbies and passions you love. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney has been a challenge I set out to complete since picking this game back in May. Now that it’s nearly the end of August and it took me longer than I expected to finish this game, let’s find out if I finally conquered this game once and for all.


Rather than beat around the bush and save my status with the game towards the end of this post, I’ll begin by saying Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is officially finished and also completes my time with these older games that came out during the Nintendo DS period of handhelds. The initial negative reviews I’ve read about the game from other players before I finally got around to playing Apollo Justice is largely, in my opinion, misleading and overly exaggerated. Apollo Justice still feels like a Phoenix Wright game, even without our favorite original ace attorney at the helm of this installment, and a worthy addition to the Ace Attorney series overall.

At the time of its North American release back in 2008, I remember reading somewhere how Apollo Justice was supposed to be its final game for the series. There were no new plans to make any additional Phoenix Wright games from the Japanese developers, or so everyone thought. I think I understand why some fans of the series were a little put off by Apollo Justice. Apollo isn’t Phoenix and if this was to be the defense attorney’s last hurrah for the video game series, one would ultimately want Phoenix Wright to go out with an epic bang. Instead, the introduction of Apollo Justice seems to take the story in a direction where Phoenix’s time as an attorney is over and he’s passing the attorney badge to a worthy successor, namely Apollo himself.

Playing through the game and getting to know Apollo along with new characters Trucy Wright, Phoenix’s “daughter” and an aspiring young magician, and Klavier Gavin, a prosecuting attorney by day and a rock god in the band the Gavinners by night, felt very easy to slip into. Many of the characters are likable with their own intriguing backstories and unexpected character twists or connections to keep a player invested enough to keep playing every single case to uncover more truths and revelations. As much as I do love Phoenix Wright and it’s a bit strange to see him take the backseat through much of Apollo Justice, with the exception of the final case in the game Turnabout Succession, Phoenix’s absence isn’t felt so heavily. Apollo is a strong enough character to carry his first solo game all by himself and establish his own place within the Ace Attorney world without living too much in the shadow of his legendary mentor.

Much of the gameplay in Apollo Justice remains largely the same, if you’ve been playing all of the Ace Attorney games up until this point, with one exception. The game introduces a new power or ability that is uniquely Apollo’s. Just like Phoenix has his magatama in previous games to sense when a witness is keeping certain truths locked away in spiritual chests, psyche-locks, you have to open with the right evidence or information you’ve gained through your investigations, Apollo can perceive when someone is withholding information from the court by looking for subtle nervous ticks with a bracelet he has owned since he was a kid. These ticks tend to happen during a line of testimony that proves one part of their story doesn’t quite add up with the rest of it. These subtle body shifts can be anything from a vein contracting on someone’s hand to an almost imperceptible eyebrow raise. While this perceive power is a nice way of switching up the familiar and usual gameplay of the Ace Attorney series, I did find this new ability a bit of a nuisance.

Scrolling around every inch of the touch screen with the stylus as you look through a small circle to find a slight change in body movement isn’t exactly easy. There were plenty of times I missed the tiny movement, especially when I felt I just checked that spot and found nothing. It certainly does take time to find it and isn’t always a quick “Gotcha!” as Apollo likes to yell out when he finds the line of testimony a witness is trying to conceal the real truth.

Among the cases I enjoyed playing the most are Turnabout Serenade and Turnabout Succession. This doesn’t come as a real surprise to me when these two cases are linked to the biggest twist and reveal to the larger story at hand. Although this game is already quite old, I won’t spoil much for those who may finally be interested in playing the Ace Attorney series. I will say it’s interesting to learn much about Trucy’s real family, a significant connection Trucy and Apollo have to each other, and what case brought about the fall of Phoenix Wright and how he got stripped of his attorney’s badge because of it. There are many layers to the overarching story being told in Apollo Justice and the player doesn’t make the full connection until the final case. Turnabout Succession is the only case you get to play as Phoenix Wright again, but only to unravel key clues in the past to help Apollo win his current case in the present.

Each Ace Attorney game, at least from what I can remember, always has a big bad, an arch nemesis to take down in the final case. To date, Dahlia Hawthorne is by far my favorite villain to hate from the series, especially during her final showdown in Trials and Tribulations. When it came to Apollo Justice’s big bad in the form of his former mentor and fellow defending attorney, Kristoph Gavin, I found him a bit disappointing. By the end of the first case Turnabout Trump, Kristoph is tried and convicted of the murder of Shadi Smith. Not much of a motive is revealed as to why Kristoph murdered Shadi Smith until all the pieces come together from the previous cases in Turnabout Succession. When Kristoph admits to his crimes and guilt in court, his motivation for doing them is extremely petty and downright stupid. It’s because of this offense and insult Kristoph believed was done to him in the past makes him the huge contributing factor to Phoenix Wright’s ruined career as an illustrious defense attorney. It’s my biggest issue with the story and a huge letdown when Kristoph’s motivations were uncovered. Kristoph Gavin as the game’s larger villain was forgettable and uninspiring at best.

No one will ever truly take Phoenix Wright’s place as the iconic hero of the Ace Attorney series, but Apollo Justice is a welcome part of this defenders of justice family. With Dual Destinies and the upcoming Spirit of Justice featuring Phoenix Wright prominently back in the courtroom in both games, it just goes to show how much fans love the series and there’s always room for more Phoenix Wright to go around. You can bet there’s no objections on my end.

Check out what new game I’ll be playing in September next week, though the hint may already be hidden in this progress report.

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