Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth Review – The Power of Logic and Deduction!
March 11, 2010 Leave a comment
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth
A point-and-click adventure game for the Nintendo DS
score: ***** outta five
The point-and-click adventure genre has always been rather simplistic and static, as far as games go. I like to think of them as interactive cartoons, much closer to cartoons than games, and as video games became more complex interest in this genre has greatly waned (at least, in the West; Visual novels are fairly different to point-and-click games but follow the same principle, and they’re still rather popular for different reasons (the popularity of manga and hentai, basically)). And this makes sense to me: as games get more complex you find yourself executing all the actions, rather than pointing to dialogue and items and letting things unfold of their own accord. Nonetheless, there are still those of us who fondly recall the days of the great LucasArts adventure.
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is simply the next chapter in one series keeping interactive cartoons alive with great enthusiasm and interesting mechanics. Treat it as such, and you’ll find another entertaining set of tales to experience. But if you’re looking for a gamer’s game, this entry will disappoint you as much as the previous ones (and so will, I imagine, anything in the genre).
The Ace Attorney series, and this game, pits you in a series of murders and other crimes, investigating crime scenes, collecting clues, interrogating suspects and (usually) unravelling the mystery in court in an entirely linear fashion (this isn’t a knock against the games: it’s simply how the games work. A non-linear AA game would be an impressive feat, mind you). This to me is a great way to use the point-and-click genre of games (and probably the best way to use the crime genre of storytelling), as one of the merits of detective fiction is wracking your brain trying to solve the mystery before your protagonist does. The AA series simply puts you right in the role of that protagonist, and if you try to explore false leads you’re met with punishment.
This game, the fifth in the AA series (and technically a spin-off), puts you in control of the game’s namesake through five grisly cases full of death and deceit. But let’s talk about the game itself first, i.e. its mechanics. Miles Edgeworth manages to improve them in a number of ways without ruining the mechanics of its predecessors. As usual you are investigating crime scenes and investigating people, but this time without segments where you battle in court. That makes little difference, however; as in past games, you cross-examine anyone involved with the case at hand, hearing their testimonies (in this case, also “arguments” and “rebuttals”, for all intents and purposes the same thing) pressing statements for more information and presenting collected evidence to contradict them until the truth comes out. They are simply, this time, a part of your investigation. It’s kind of funny how little faith Edgeworth seemingly has in the court that he loves so much, as he’s determined to have the truth come to light before it even gets to the judge! This isn’t wholly illogical, though, as most of the cases have you entwined right in the middle with little choice but to unravel the lies. That, and when you get a game over, the truth apparently “never comes to light” (so much for the power of the court!).
While the “court” portions of the game remain largely unchanged, there are several improvements in the investigation portions. The main issue with these portions in the previous games were the trial-and-error nature of a lot of the processes involved; for example, some evidence, while you might look at it and logically put together the pieces yourself, the game wanted you to look at something else or talk to someone else first, and would not budge unless you did things in the correct order. This really took you out of the game. Another example is using the Magatama, which basically allowed you to interrogate people in investigation portions in earlier games. It would allow you to present it before you had the “right” evidence. Sometimes you would present it thinking you did, but later, frustrated, realise you had to do something else first or have a different piece of evidence.
Miles Edgeworth only allows you to investigate relevant areas, which means you won’t be wandering around empty spaces looking for the right person or piece of evidence. The new addition, the Logic button, also solves the problem of the order of finding evidence. When a piece of important evidence comes to light, its stored in the Logic area, and because of this you can examine everything in mostly any order you want: after collecting Logic, you can press the Logic button to connect two related pieces together to come to a conclusion. This allows you to collect all the relevant information and then piece it together in order, which is much more, dare I say, logical than the way this worked in past games, as it is basically allowing you to sit down and compare all the evidence you have.
There are some other minor additions that enhance this part of the game. You can now at specific scenes present evidence to a suspicious area and thus “Deduce” a contradiction, again, a logical way to go about things. Arguments that this series hasn’t evolved seem a little silly to me: the entire genre itself is static, and too much ‘evolution’ would probably lead to a different genre altogether. But Miles Edgeworth evolves the PW series in the little ways that matter, increasing the level of engagement and logic in a game (or cartoon) all about engagement and logic.
The atmosphere, too, is improved. As usual we get detailed and vibrant art and animation of exaggerated crime scenes and exaggerated characters. The addition of a third-person view with smaller sprites also serves to make the game more lively; no longer are set-pieces flat, dead pictures, instead brimming with animated objects and characters. The music seems to be polarising, as I believe a new composer was on board for this game; personally I think it’s good, and has some great new themes (Detective Badd’s theme is a particularly catchy one that I find stuck in my head). Make sure to listen with earphones, because it makes it hard to appreciate some of the music otherwise (the downside of a handheld’s limited capabilities). A lot of the songs are remixes, however, with varying degrees of success, so often I end up simply humming the original themes.
Familiarity is an important part of this series, though (which is why you should start at the first game if you have any interest in it). Miles Edgeworth takes place after the third game and before the fourth, and along with zany new characters you’ll be greeted by zany old characters (like Edgeworth himself). The Edgeworth and Gumshoe dynamic is hard to beat, and the new character to fill the role of Maya (and this may be slight spoilers), Kay, is a refreshing change. Rather than the regular lovable, useless idiot, Kay is a feisty and energetic character sort of like Ema Skye, except her shtick is stealth and theft rather than SCIENCE (and like Ema, she comes in handy). This again makes an interesting dynamic between her and Edgeworth. Like any modern cartoon, this series banks on you being emotionally vested in the recurring characters (and I have, of course, fallen victim to this).
[The video of the game goes here! It is not up just yet.]
The cases themselves are some of the best of the series, a big improvement over the somewhat disappointing Apollo Justice. Even the ‘filler’ cases all tie-in directly to the omnipresent overarching storyline which comes to a spectacular head in case 5, which is one of my favourite cases in the series. Of course, this always happens with final cases, so I can’t really say how high up I would put it. There is also for the first time, a distinct lack of crazy supernatural hoodoo (though don’t worry, almost implausible and insane situations still arise). I like this, as it minimises the situations that I find illogical and hard to swallow, which always arose when the supernatural mixed with logic and law in the previous games. Even though most things in the series are still implausible, they at least follow the game’s internal logic, but they seem to break those rules sometimes when introducing the supernatural aspect.
Even disregarding that angle, the game seems to be better written with less gaps and jumps in logic, with most holes accounted for. As I said earlier about the minimisation of trial-and-error, the writing seems to account for this too: rarely did I feel like I was just presenting random pieces of evidence hoping to find the contradiction. Only one piece of evidence is ever the correct one, and while in earlier games you might present something that should bring the contradiction to light but isn’t the evidence the game wanted you to present, in this game usually that evidence is the only one that logically makes sense to present. I hope that made sense! This may make the game feel easier, but it is a step in the right direction. The difficulty comes from solving the problem rather than fighting with the game’s rules. Perhaps Edgeworth is just better at thinking things through rather than making lucky guesses like a certain other lawyer!
If I review the next AA game, it’s unlikely it will be anywhere near as long as this. Each game is just another chapter, or episode, rather than an upgrade like games in other genres might present to you. But Miles Edgeworth brought a slew of upgrades that I hope carry over to the next AA games (though I fear they’ll treat them instead as ‘gimmicks’ that are only present in the spin-off games like this one; I hope they’re not stupid enough to do that). Due to this and being one of the better written games otherwise, Miles Edgeworth is one of the best games in this series, and one you should definitely not avoid if you are a fan, spin-off or not. If you are not a fan, all these changes will mean little to you, and you should avoid this. And if you are interested in becoming a fan (keeping in mind, you should enjoy reading; if you don’t you are probably a bit stupid anyways), well, you wouldn’t start watching a cartoon at the fifth episode, would you?
The Rating System:
* crap; in all likelihood, avoid
** meh; not quite worth your time
*** decent; nothing or not much new
**** good; polished, solid, give it a chance
***** great; among the best of its kind