Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

This is the fourth in a series of reviews on the Ace Attorney series, and I recommend reading the others before this. This post will contain spoilers for Apollo Justice and all the games preceding it. Thanks for reading!

If Ace Attorney is said to have a controversial entry, I think Apollo Justice is that entry. Sure, games like Justice for All and Spirit of Justice (basically, games with ‘Justice’ in the title) have some ongoing arguments around them, but I feel that the debate around Apollo Justice is the most contentious and the most divisive.

In a way, this makes a lot of sense, because it’s supposedly a brand-new start for the franchise. Instead of carrying on from the status quo that Trials and Tribulations left on, the game instead brought the series back with a new protagonist and mostly new cast – old series staples such as Maya and Edgeworth don’t even get as much as a casual mention in this game, something that’s bound to ruffle some feathers. I think, though, that the divide around this game isn’t as much to do with the introduction of Apollo as might initially seem to be the case. Indeed, many of the game’s detractors often complain that the game doesn’t focus enough on Apollo. Instead, I think the reason that this game is divisive is because the weight people put on its faults varies, to the extent that this game becomes somewhat of a litmus test for what people value in Ace Attorney. Although I’ve always fallen on the anti-Apollo Justice side of the argument prior to writing this series, I think it’ll be interesting to see whether, as my opinions on what makes a good Ace Attorney have changed, my opinion of Apollo Justice has changed with them (spoiler: yes, but not completely).

Even most detractors of the game, however, share an appreciation for its first case, Turnabout Trump. In terms of first cases, it certainly makes an impression, mainly through its audacious twists that reveal not only is your client a now disgraced Phoenix Wright, but the murderer is your boss and mentor Kristoph Gavin.

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Let’s start by talking about that mystery, and Gavin himself. Gavin has a great design, because it so easily switches from calm and collected to powerful and threatening on a dime. All of that credit can be given to the game’s new art director; Kazuya Nuri, who was also responsible for the character design of Rise from the Ashes. Nuri’s sprite work (and artwork in the updated HD version) is a sight to behold, and makes for what I consider to be the best looking 2D game in the series, only outdone by Nuri’s move into 3D for the Dai Gyakuten Saiban series. I could critique his partiality for villains with double-breasted suits, but other than that his work is impeccable, perfectly capturing the feeling of an Ace Attorney game, while also just making great looking art.

The mystery itself is also pretty good, especially considering the low standard set by other first cases. The opening cross-examination with red herring Olga Orly is neatly set up to introduce both press and present by having her obviously incorrect statement hidden behind a press-all to continue testimony. Strangely, something returning players might notice here is that you can no longer present character profiles, which I see as only a negative for the game, albeit a minor one. Orly herself isn’t particularly interesting, but it’s neat how they repeat the trick of setting the tone for the series to newcomers by having a waiter bring in their tray into the courtroom, something also done in Turnabout Sisters.

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As the case progresses, you slowly begin to understand that also like Turnabout Sisters, this case isn’t really to do with its protagonist. Instead, Phoenix holds most of the cards (tee hee) here. It’s a lot better done than in Turnabout Sisters, however, as Phoenix’s hand is clear but guiding, rather than forceful. He steps in to point and shout, but never to present evidence himself.  The way a possible fourth person in the room is introduced is clever, and the revelation of Gavin’s involvement is foreshadowed brilliantly to be obvious only in hindsight; his relation to the defendant, his dinner with him on the night of the crime and his (admittedly maybe a bit forced) poetic description of the cards all work together to make it a really well made twist.

From there the case loses some steam, but never enough to diminish the overall experience. I think my main problem comes from pacing. Gavin is both introduced as your mentor and exposed as a murderer within a relatively small span of time for the player, and Apollo’s shift in loyalty happens a bit too quickly. As the player, we’re conditioned to be more sceptical of Gavin than Phoenix, but we must assume Apollo’s relationship with Gavin is at least somewhat strong enough to cause more questioning of allegiance than happens in this case. The final piece of evidence, the bloody ace, also feels a bit cheap, given how telegraphed its use is. It serves a wider purpose within the game’s themes, but here we come to a crucial point; the game’s themes are served by the bloody ace, but its gameplay isn’t. This is fine for an opening case – but it’s worth keeping in mind for later.

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Phoenix is of course introduced here, but we don’t get to see more sides of him until the start of the game’s second case, Turnabout Corner. In Turnabout Trump, Phoenix holds the position of  surprise mastermind, secretly manipulating even the murderer into making sure everything goes his way. He’s extremely cool, but also calm and in charge. In Turnabout Corner, we’re properly introduced to Trucy Wright, his daughter, the scenes of their relationship becoming one of the game’s highlights. It feels simultaneously like banter between equals and like a real father/daughter relationship, a feat of character writing. We’ll get to talking more about Phoenix and Trucy separately at some point, but their relationship together deserves praise. In terms of tackling whether Phoenix “acts like Trilogy Phoenix” as well, I think it’s worth pointing out that at least in this aspect, Apollo Justice’s Phoenix is indeed the one we’ve come to know and love.

If there’s one thing I do want to point out in this case’s opening, it’s the new look for the Wright & Co. Law Offices, which is now the Wright Anything Agency. This might be a nitpick but I’ve never liked how twee the office looks now. There was always something quite grounding about the old corporate look of Phoenix’s offices in the Trilogy, and to have it so wacky and colourful doesn’t feel right to me, as if there’s now no escape at all from the eccentricities of the Ace Attorney world.

The premise of Turnabout Corner is one of the series’ strongest for a ‘filler’ case, with three interlocking cases gradually weaving into one another, often with seemingly no connection to the murder that lies in the middle of them. It starts as a series of odd neighbourhood chores set by Phoenix, which may seem tedious to some people, but it’s something I really like. Ace Attorney can sometimes get caught up in chasing ever grander and wackier settings for its cases, so I appreciate that Corner tries to do something different and create a sense of a real neighbourhood with it’s own local park, friendly noodle stand and uhh… mob family headquarters (fuck, I mean my neighbourhood is full of mobsters).

Like most second cases, Corner’s primary goal is to set the status quo of the game, by introducing characters such as the game’s detective and prosecutor. The role of detective here is played by Rise from the Ashes’ Ema Skye, who dreamed of forensic science when younger but is now consigned to a miserable life as a detective. It’s a cruel joke for Takumi to play on one of his own characters, but a reasonably funny one. If Apollo Justice can be said to have a darker tone than most of the other games in the series, then Ema’s demotion is a great example of that tone, turning a once bubbly young girl into a depressed adult.

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Still, her lust for forensics gives the game team a chance to show off the enhanced capabilities of the Nintendo DS, to an extent not even seen in Rise from the Ashes. What this mainly means is more boring mini-games that contribute little to the logic puzzles that should define the series’ gameplay. Most of them aren’t used enough to become a real bother, but when you’re X-raying the third painting in a row, or drying a mould of a footprint, it’s not hard to see this all as busywork that isn’t actually fun and could easily be done away with. The only DS enhancement that has any real merit is evidence checking, which often allows evidence to hide even more clues. When that doesn’t happen it at least provides some fun dialogue and subtle character development, like the tape holding the battery in on Phoenix’s cell phone, a favourite detail of mine in Turnabout Trump many might miss.

Aside from her forensic abilities, Ema’s most notable feature is her prickly relationship with the game’s prosecutor, Klavier Gavin, which takes up a lot of her dialogue both in and outside of court. It’s a change from the somewhat friendly Gumshoe/Edgeworth dynamic, and one that instead calls to mind Gumshoe’s less-than-perfect working environment with Franziska, albeit a little more grounded than the constant tracking devices and whipping. Klavier mixes things up in other ways by being the first prosecutor in the series to be met first outside of court. Instead of being built up as a huge threat by a detective, he instead appears first to help you get into the crime scene, all nice and friendly.

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Klavier in general is a prosecutor much more eager to help than the ones we’ve seen in the past. He acts more like Edgeworth post-Turnabout Goodbyes, if anything – someone who already values truth in the courtroom more than his win streak. That’s not to say he’s always lovely, and he still poses a threat on numerous occasions, but for the most part it’s a refreshing change from a streak of three prosecutors always out to get the protagonist, and one that mostly works. Klavier isn’t a pushover, but neither is he unreasonably hostile, casting instead a nice balance.

The actual murder case in Turnabout Corner involves you defending Wocky Kitaki, heir to the Kitaki Yakuza clan. Takumi here nails the writing on the family dynamics; there’s an idea of traditional family values conflicting with the new guard, but it’s neatly subverted with Wocky being the one to represent the clan’s traditions, and the parents being forced to make changes in order to help their son. This relationship between Wocky Kitaki and Big Wins Kitaki mirrors, in a way, the relationship between Phoenix and Apollo; a passing of the torch from an older character to a younger one, with that older one also intent on changing the system to make it better for their successor. This isn’t ever spelled out, but it’s still a neat little parallel.

As you get into court, you meet Wesley Stickler, a surprisingly non-perverted panty snatching student, who reuses the fast-talking gimmick from Richard Wellington and Wendy Oldbag, sometimes stretching it beyond the point of diminishing returns. He’s the first real character on which you use Apollo’s unique ability ‘Perceive’, which is the worst character ability the series will ever see.

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I’ve already appeared on a video by Ace Attorney (and recently more important and interesting stuff) YouTuber TheStoryteller, talking about the gameplay ‘gimmicks’ in Ace Attorney, but I understand not wanting to watch all of that to get to my point about Perceive, so I’ll recap it here. I praised the Magatama in my previous critiques because its role is simply to extend the series’ trademark logic puzzles into investigations. You’re still using evidence to prove your case, it’s just that the details and setting are different from in the courtroom. Perceive not only reinstates a status quo where investigations are mostly devoid of gameplay, but removes any logic from the proceedings as well. The central idea of finding someone’s tells, as in a poker game, is clever, but the gameplay is nothing more than a simple spot the difference puzzle across a canvas with a restricted view, and where text moves slowly and un-skippably. There’s no logic to guessing where tells might be, and even if you guess as to where the tell will appear within a statement, you still have to wait like every other chump for the slow text crawl to get to it, meaning there’s really no reward for thinking about the problem logically.

What’s more, the contradiction Perceive is generally trying to expose could just as easily be solved by evidence, making the whole thing feel pointless. Take, for example, a moment near the end of Turnabout Corner, where murderer Alita Tiala asks the court ‘why go to the clinic now?’ As she does this, she fiddles with the ring on her hand – her nervousness at this point shows that there was a reason for her to go to the clinic at this certain point in time. However, we already know this and can prove it the old-fashioned way using the information we got from Eldoon that Wocky’s death was imminent. For another example, take a segment in Turnabout Serenade, where you have to perceive Machi when he says through his interpreter Lamiroir, ‘He says that because the lyrics are in English, he does not understand them.’ Of course, perceiving Machi will reveal he’s nervous about having said that. But a little bit of logical thinking shows that you can also contradict this statement with the Borganian Newspaper, which doesn’t mention the connection the lyrics had to the crime.

Even when the Perceive does have a point, the writing surrounding it is often quite clunky, as if it’s trying to justify its own existence. Take another example from Turnabout Serenade, where a Perceive shows what evidence cannot; that Lamiroir is trying to protect someone. But the game never manages to convince that the nervous tick is the crucial evidence Apollo says it is. The exact text of this Perceive is “It was I who explained that the crime followed the song”, with Lamiroir’s twitch being at the “It was I” part – but this doesn’t necessarily prove that she was protecting someone, because it could just as easily mean that someone else told Machi in Borganian, or that she told him but feels guilty about it, or a myriad other things. So, for the most part, Perceive feels unnecessary, and when it’s needed it feels contrived.

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Anyway, returning to Turnabout Corner, the character who gets the most development here is Trucy, Phoenix’s adopted daughter. Trucy is a pretty enjoyable character in investigations, but in Corner’s courtroom sections she’s often infuriating. You see, Trucy is a much smarter assistant than Maya, a generally welcome change (better than the other way around (for which see young Ema)), but occasionally this tips into the realm of the patronising. Trucy is often not only smarter than Maya, but also Apollo, and the game will use this dynamic to hint at the solution you may have already figured out. For example, she robs you of working out the significance of Stickler standing on the other side of the noodle stand. This is a really clever puzzle, but you’re not allowed to work it out before Trucy. This isn’t, however, a case of character coming before gameplay – there’s no real reason for Trucy to butt in here, other than maybe Takumi underestimating the player’s intelligence. Speaking of Trucy’s intelligence, we also learn that she’s the one who helped Phoenix win all of his poker games, a development that’s something of a shame, considering how clever I thought it was for the bluffing king to be a secret poker ace.

I do like Trucy as a companion character overall, and she definitely doesn’t fall into the trap of being too similar to Maya. If anything, the two characters’ only similarities come in how they sometimes feel a bit underdeveloped, especially with regards to their traumas. Maya in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has lost her sister, but gets over it rather easily, and as I mentioned in my critique of that game, feels like any character development she has is tacked on in the last few scenes. Trucy, who has lost her father, gets more in the way of development as we get to see her deal with it both as a young girl and as a teenager, but she remains pretty jolly throughout. At the end of the game, Phoenix proclaims that ‘I’m the only one who knows how she really feels… on the inside’, but this line feels a little cheap, hinting at a depth to Trucy that the game doesn’t quite ever let us fully see.

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The second half of Turnabout Corner isn’t as clever and interlinked as the first half ,and in that regard loses some points for originality. However, that’s not to say it’s bad either; Takumi’s style here marks a return to a certain moral complexity I pointed out in Justice For All, where situations are never as clear-cut as they appear. The victim of the case is also a criminal, but his situation, too, is fraught with difficult choices – unable to operate without risking Wocky’s life and being killed himself, Meraktis takes the easy route out, but it’s impossible to condemn him completely for that. Moral complexities are further introduced in the game by the fact that Apollo manages to get each of his clients off the hook for murder, but has to accuse them of something else in the process; Wocky steals a gun and intends to kill Meraktis, Machi is a smuggler, and Vera a forger. Alita, the real murderer, is actually more boring than the victim, only really in it for the money. It’s also worth noting that it’s quite easy to figure out she was in the noodle stand from the second day of investigation, and that getting to that point in court is a bit drawn out.

However, in the cases’ final moments, where you and Klavier team up to explain everything that happened in the case, there’s a real giddy rush that comes in Ace Attorney’s best moments; and the final piece of evidence being the panties stuck in the car exhaust, as foreshadowed by Klavier much earlier, is a sublime moment of everything clicking together so perfectly. When that moment of triumphant puzzle solving is followed up by a much more human and personal scene between Wocky and his father, it represents Ace Attorney’s tonal balancing act at its most satisfying.

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Unfortunately, while Turnabout Trump and Turnabout Corner both make for compelling arguments in favour of Apollo Justice’s overall success, the third case, Turnabout Serenade, is much worse.

Serenade returns Ace Attorney to the familiar world of the entertainment industry, this time focusing on the rock music of Klavier’s band ‘The Gavinners’. I think Klavier having such a successful band has never rung true to me (I mean, when does he find the time to relax?), but it’s not enough of a big deal to get hung up on. It does at least make for some nice character moments between Klavier and Apollo, particularly in Apollo’s jealousy at Klavier’s effortless style. The first investigation for this case is alright, with the player being allowed to see the victim’s death, and some amusing interactions with Ema. The first trial day is also reasonably interesting, with some good puzzles and a shocking twist ending.

The problem comes more towards the second day, when the question of the magic trick arises. The idea of a murder that hinges on a magic trick is one that I really like – hell, one of my favourite films is The Prestige, which revolves around this kind of killer magic. It’s annoying, though, that once again Apollo seems to be left in the dark while everyone else sets some kind of game-show challenge for him. I feel like I’ve said this time and time again, but it bears repeating every time; sometimes for character reasons, it’s alright to keep the player from getting the most satisfying gameplay, but I feel that overuse can lead to frustration for some players. There’s little reason for everyone to be two steps ahead of Apollo, and even less for them (read: Trucy) to not reveal the solution when a young boy’s life is on the line.

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There are some more common complaints that I’d also like to address. The first is the apparent plot-hole wherein Machi couldn’t have been the culprit without the gun throwing out his shoulder. The counter-argument to this is a fair one; the police in the game are an incompetent embodiment of a legal system gone awry, and that they’d arrest a culprit so obviously innocent makes sense. What doesn’t is that it’s never bought up in court, even though it’s a fairly obvious contradiction. It also isn’t quite a strong enough indication of the fucked up legal system to be worth its confusing inclusion, and it also serves little point in the overall murder case. Sure, it’s a fun thing to note that Daryan was playing badly because he used that gun, but without it the case would be largely the same.

Another common complaint is the repetition of a few key scenes. Both Romein’s death scene and the music video are played back to the player far too many times. The former is indicative of a bizarre over-reliance on flashbacks throughout the game; when the second phase of the investigation starts, Trucy and Apollo note that Lamiroir fingered Daryan as the suspect, and then a flashback of it is played. We’ve just been told the key information, so there’s really no need for it to be played back to us. The pacing issues it creates aren’t worth the potential clarification of information.

Really, though, my problem with Turnabout Serenade is just that it’s boring. The characters it introduces aren’t that interesting; Machi and Lamiroir lack definable personality traits beyond ‘scared’ and ‘quite nice’. Daryan is also a dull villain – arrogant but nothing more. His relationship to Klavier isn’t exploited as much as it should be, either; as Klavier seems to have figured out Daryan’s role in the murder before the final trial, he’s already come to terms with it off-screen, leaving little room for interesting character moments. Really, the defining moment of this case should be the fact that you can’t prove Daryan’s involvement in the crime with ‘traditional’ evidence (although Machi’s testimony seems traditional to me), thereby exposing the flaw in the system that Phoenix hopes to fix. But the game is far too generous in making sure you get that Daryan was the murderer, and as such there seems to be enough decisive evidence to convict most other Ace Attorney villains. As such, the game neuters the case’s only real exciting twist to the formula. Bits and pieces of Turnabout Serenade, then, are interesting, but taken as a whole the case simply fails to excite, leaving a generally pretty negative impression.

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The game’s final case, Turnabout Succession, promises to wrap up the game’s multiple hanging threads in a satisfying way, but like most good cases it starts small. Again, Apollo gets another uncooperative client in the form of the silent Vera Misham, accused of poisoning her father. The setup for the Misham case is pretty interesting, and two of the twists that result from it are some of the best in the game/series/something. The poisoned stamp is one of those ingenious Ace Attorney murder methods that has stuck with me for a while, and the way it’s figured out in court is also satisfying. The other, which involves Misham’s forgeries having drawings of your cases underneath is another of those moments that’s bound to stick with you. While x-ray analysis is a boring minigame, the way it slowly reveals the drawing of each case makes for a brilliantly tense moment where the gameplay forces you to slow down and make the realisation at the same time as the other characters. It’s a shame, then, that this twist goes absolutely nowhere. For the impact it has, you’d expect some kind of payoff, but it’s never explained satisfactorily.

The case only really starts properly after Vera has collapsed in court, and time skips backwards to the case that started it all (at least this one doesn’t have a numbered codename). It’s certainly weird to be playing as Phoenix again, all kitted out in blue suit and cross-examining Gumshoe, but it’s even stranger how he acts behind the defence bench. The Phoenix we see in this case is much cockier and self-confident than we’ve come to expect. It’s true that his feats in the Trilogy may justify some of this, but this case takes place only a couple of months after Bridge to the Turnabout, so it’s strange seeing him having changed so drastically. His characterization also seems a bit internally inconsistent within the bounds of this case, as, while he starts off saying that he hasn’t felt this nervous about a case in a while, by the time he gets into court, he’s extremely dismissive towards Klavier.

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I’ll take this moment to talk a little more about Phoenix in this game in general, because it’s another topic that proves divisive among fans. Apparently Phoenix being in the game was one of the conditions Capcom insisted on in order to make this game, but this seems irrelevant to analysing how well he’s handled here. I agree that Phoenix in the Magnifi case feels off, but generally I’m in favour of the changes made to him in the present-day cases. Phoenix fits into his role as a mentor character admirably. Without, for the most part, hearing his inner monologue, we see an outwardly more confident and in-control Phoenix than frombefore, but with all the character traits we know him for –he’s snarky and funny, a really nice guy to the people he cares about, and, of course, obsessed with bringing the truth to light. Being dismissed from the bar has perhaps forced a certain maturity into him that’s made him more forward thinking than being inclined to simply rushing into problems headfirst, but seeing as his downfall was a result of his usual courtroom antics of presenting without thinking, this change makes complete sense once you’ve seen his fate.

That moment of presenting the forged evidence is one of the game’s single best scenes; there’s a really sickening sense of having to condemn a character you love so much by presenting the diary page. It’s dramatic irony at its best, and for all of Ace Attorney’s climatic final evidence presents, it’s this one here that has more impact than any takedown of a villain. It’s also, tonally, a great fit for this final case. Turnabout Succession has a uniquely unsettling tone throughout; I think a lot of it comes from something that none other than bailiff extraordinaire Mike Meekins says; ‘sometimes bad things happen to good people.’ Ace Attorney relies on giving you a sense of justice – even though bad things are happening, by the end the bad people will always get what’s coming to them and the good people will prevail. But the lines in Turnabout Succession – and indeed in a lot of Apollo Justice – become blurred, and that sense is often harder to find. Succession starts with you accusing your client of forgery, then goes on to have you fuck over Phoenix, while around you everyone seems to be condemned by the forged diary page that you presented. It destroys Valant’s life and career, it marks Drew and Vera for death, forces Zak into hiding and Trucy to lose her father. There’s this real sense of melancholy and paranoia that runs through this case, which makes it something special among Ace Attorney cases.

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The second investigation takes place in ‘The Mason System’, a series of video recordings taken by Phoenix over the course of seven years that you can flick through at will. It’s a great way to do investigation segments because you’re never wondering where to go next, which is actually a problem some of Apollo Justice’s earlier investigations have. It also makes great use of the returning Psyche Lock feature, which has always thrived on non-linearity.

The final trial segment gets off to a flying start as you’re asked to indicate who you think poisoned Vera and how. The answer is of course our old friend Kristoph Gavin, who’s a suitably imposing final villain for the game. As I mentioned at the start of the review, this is mainly due to his character design, but it gains an extra element when coupled with the jurist system. Kristoph has a very ‘above it all’ demeanour – he’s well-dressed, well-read, mostly calm and collected, and seems to have a bit of a superiority complex –so to have his fate decided not by his precious legal system, but by what he sees as ‘the common people’, adds a nice extra dimension of the overthrowing of power.

Kristoph still doesn’t quite manage to topple Damon Gant as my favourite Ace Attorney villain, however, because he’s lacking in motivation. In my eyes,Phoenix having actually ordered the forgery himself would have been an extremely powerful indication of the state of the legal system, where he knew he had to do something awful in order to make sure justice was served. He does this, in fact, in Turnabout Trump and in the way he bends the rules to get Thalassa on the jury in Turnabout Succession, so it wouldn’t be entirely out of character. Even with Kristoph responsible for the forgery, it would have been interesting to see Kristoph’s justification for it. Kristoph, after all, presumably initially forged the diary note for the same reason Phoenix forged the playing card, but this is never expanded on; we never get to have the discussion about the similarities between the two lawyers, and how Kristoph’s real sin is simply taking it too far. Instead, Kristoph’s sometimes comic villainy (he literally has a skull on his hand) paints over some of the layers of complexity the character could have had; a crying shame for a game that otherwise is skilled at presenting situations without resorting to oversimplification.

Kristoph brings us to Klavier, who I’ve talked about a bit before, but I’d like to say that I think his struggles with having to accuse someone close to him is done a lot better here than in Turnabout Serenade, but still suffers a bit from the final sequence being quite short. Sure, we see Klavier in almost physical pain at having to accuse his brother in the way he does, but again things seem to wrap up too quickly for him, and by the end he’s still able to provide Apollo with the help he needs.

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Oh yeah. Apollo. My leaving Apollo to the last minute isn’t a deliberate dig at him, because I did the same thing for Phoenix in his game. If anything, it shows that like Phoenix in the Trilogy, Apollo is rarely the focus. Most of Phoenix’s development comes in Farewell, My Turnabout, in various places throughout Trials and Tribulations and of course here in Turnabout Succession. And this is fine; Phoenix and Apollo are both characters, sure, but they’re also player characters, so having Apollo act like Spark Brushel and undergo Godot’s character arc would be unnatural. As the game’s producer Matsukawa said; “Players project themselves on the protagonists in the Ace Attorney games, but they are characters on their own too. I think these two [Takumi and Nuri] did a great job at getting that balance.” Keeping that in mind, I like Apollo quite a bit – he shares Phoenix’s snarky self-monologue, but he has his own quirks that help set him apart; his sense of determination, for example, feels more pronounced than it ever did with Phoenix, and he also feels more eager to prove himself than Phoenix did in his debut.

The bigger problem with Apollo comes in how neutered he sometimes feels. This goes back once again to that moment I keep bringing up; Mia presenting the final evidence in Turnabout Sisters. There too, Phoenix is robbed of an opportunity to act, because it’s only the second case. In Turnabout Trump, Apollo, like Phoenix there, is essentially a pawn for someone else who can’t be a lawyer anymore to control. It takes until the end of the whole Trilogy for Phoenix to be able to win a case without any help from his friends – to take the truth into his own hands. So I’m not expecting Apollo to be changing the legal system in his fourth case, but I do think that there’s a sense that Apollo is never in control. I’ve already talked about how in Turnabout Corner Trucy is ahead of you in your thinking, and the same can be said in Turnabout Serenade, when both Trucy and Klavier seem to know what you don’t. In Turnabout Succession, Apollo isn’t even the player avatar for the majority of it, and although Apollo takes down Kristoph, it’s with evidence collected by Phoenix in a trial completely rigged by him for your victory. For a story, this makes sense. Apollo isn’t the focus of this game; the focus is Phoenix trying to create a new legal system for the next generation like Apollo to thrive in. The problem is that Ace Attorney isn’t just a story, it’s a game, and when the game is constantly telling you that you aren’t in charge of what’s going on, it can be a frustrating experience.

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You’ll remember, I hope, that at the start of the review I called Apollo Justice a litmus test. People who play Ace Attorney to solve mysteries and get that rush from presenting evidence to take down a culprit may react poorly to Apollo Justice, because it so often robs the player of that feeling – sometimes for a reason, and sometimes without one. Those who feel like the story and character are more important may find a lot to love in Apollo Justice, because it puts the priority on creating a story with a unique atmosphere and theming, with a strong central cast and a great overarching plot. Personally, I enjoy the games and cases that give me both, and so I feel that Apollo Justice is an inconsistent experience. Moments of it I love more than anything in the Trilogy, especially for the way they give me something that’s intrinsically Ace Attorney while also being unlike anything else in the franchise. But other parts of the game feel like lows for the series, where mysteries with potential and gameplay mechanics with clever ideas are squandered. So, I can’t agree with the idea that Apollo Justice is one of the worst games in the franchise, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also see where its detractors are coming from.

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Next up, we’ll be taking a break from the courtroom to look at the return of Miles Edgeworth as the star of his own series, as well as the birth of a new lead director for the series. As always, thanks for reading!

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