Five years. Five long years that Phoenix Wright hadn’t be in court for the hilarious trials of the Ace Attorney series. True, his best friend and rival Miles Edgeworth did come to our DS, but only once out of two, the second game sadly having never been localized. In this particular context, Ace Attorney 5 coming at us is rather crucial and we shouldn’t leave this gesture by Capcom unanswered.
First of all, this game is BEAUTIFUL. It looks as good as no game on 3DS ever and puts Nintendo’s games for its own system to shame. The characters are so well detailed and animated that it reminded me of Fire Emblem cut-scenes. All this including the legendary talent of the devs to offer us eccentric characters with extreme personalities, weird but extremely fun behavior. In short, AA5 is the best-looking I’ve seen on 3DS by leagues.
Adding to its fantastic humor, the game is no less relevant in judiciary themes, as it has always been in the series. All scenarios (i.e. the cases at hand) revolves around something called «the dark age of Justice». A period plagued with fabricated evidence, false accusations and a growing defiance towards the judiciary system. Even though the chapters are different from each other, for most part they keep being linked to this topic, highlighted by a mysterious bombing inside the court. This particular narrative gives a great significance to the game in a whole. Like in a good TV thriller, the player feels deeply involved in the story.
Storytelling has been thought with great care. The second case might seem a bit weak in this department, you will be stuck at on your 3DS for everything else. A example of the effort made by Capcom on this : the beginning of the game is very different from the demo to ensure maximum pleasure of discovery. The scenario has some awesome twists, music is as classy as ever and the very end is near perfect.
The gameplay doesn’t vary much from the past episodes, you still have to show the right evidence at the right time to win trials, and discuss with witnesses in investigation parts. The big thing in AA5 is Athena’s capacity to analyze the emotions of people : those sequences are fairly numerous and offer diverse approach. It’s really a great add to series, much more interesting than the «Logic» in Ace Attorney Investigations. In theory, it’s about finding emotions that contradicts the current statement, but in practice it’s far richer. Past features like psy-locks and Apollo’s ring of truth are present too, but don’t occur very often. Investigation has lost any interest as you can investigate only 2 locations per case, and the game indicates everything.
As for characters, AA5 makes a balance between the three main protagonists, each of them having his own trial to win. I really appreciate this willingness to get rid of the «sidekick» role and allowing less important characters take the spotlight, even if it means less Phoenix (and believe me, you never have enough Phoenix). Your opponent, Simon Blackquill, is a truly great character that will instantly wipe out Klavier, who I thought didn’t really fit to the job. Talking about this, Klavier and many other make a comeback, but it’s always very short and they doesn’t make much sense in the story. But yeah, it’s always nice to see them.
The only thing I’m disappointed of is the level of difficulty. Like I said, investigation has been reduced to a check-list, so you no longer have to search for this little thingy in the flower pot but it does save time). The green life bar doesn’t have any more importance, because when you lose you get back exactly where you were with a full one. It really damages the thrill of the game during trials. Not only this, but as in Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney, the hints given here and there are far too direct and it skips the reasoning. Worse, when you do lose, the game has like a special help window for you to get closer to the solution (but you’re free to use it or not). I understand that nowadays publishers want to avoid that players feel frustrated, but it does hurt the challenge. Of course there still are many parts that will melt your brain, but it’s just not as great as before.
Despite this, Ace Attorney 5 is a super great game, long (more than 30 hours) and hooking. You English-speaker won’t have any problem with language (us French sometimes do), but some may need to get over their fear of digital games. Indeed, AA5 will be available only on the 3DS e-shop. It is more than worth it, and will surely determine the future of Ace Attorney in the West.