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March 13, 2017

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (Part 1)


Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Part 1 Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

(Hm... not my best title card... I had no idea what else to do.)

I don't usually start a review on a Monday, but this is a special case. And no, it's not to avoid having two reviews posted on two days at the end of March.

We continue this look at the Ace Attorney series with the fourth game, Apollo Justice, released for the Nintendo DS. Yeah, I know, I’m skipping over two games, but I do not own them and at the moment, I’m broke. So I have no plans to buy them, much less review them. I know the third game is pretty good, but if you’re waiting for me to discuss it, if you’re waiting for Godot, you’ll be waiting for a long time.

Buuuuut.... Here's a picture of him regardless.
Hey, at least we know he exists, unlike the OG Godot.

Apollo Justice brings us about ten years after the first game (seven years after the third game). Phoenix Wright had become a legend, two years after he started defending clients in court (the cases in Justice For All and Trials and Tribulations certainly helped). One can’t take down a legend such as Manfred Von Karma and avoid becoming a legend themselves. Since the original trilogy, a series of doubtful practices in the justice system became commonplace from shadier attorneys on both sides, leading to the public’s confidence in the justice system reaching an all-time low. This is what we now call “The Dark Age of the Law”. Take note that we’re in 2026 by then. Attorneys and prosecutors constantly circumventing the system only leads to trouble. Evidence forging has become a common tactic.

It is in a gloomy time that we meet our new protagonist for this game: Apollo Justice, a young but promising defense attorney, with hair even more notable than Phoenix Wright’s. Hell, his name is more notable than Phoenix’s. Oh, but our previous protagonist is still around, don’t worry. He will be tied in some way to three of the cases in this game.

Of course, a form of disillusionment against the system is nothing new, in fact I’d say this is exactly what many of us are feeling nowadays. There are many things I could say about this game’s backstory that are scarily close to the mood around the world in this day and age, mostly towards politics. However, this isn’t a political blog, so I will try not to talk about it much. I mean, the justice system is affected by politics (even though it shouldn't be), but I won’t make any mention of the current political scene. Why would I? This game takes place in 2026, after all. Okay, enough blabbering, this is Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.

Images for this review were taken from this Let's Play.
Go check it out!
We start the first story of this game, called… Turnabout Trump… Aw, for fuck’s sake!

Proof. I'm not making that up.
No, seriously though, it’s really called that – look it up. However, it’s called such because it refers to poker and strategies – the expression “having a trump card”. This is just poor timing for me, I guess. No kiddie gloves, either: Remember how the first case of the previous game showed the killer in broad daylight? Here, nope. The flashback pins the blame quite clearly on the defendant, but what’s the truth? Figure it out yourself! Have I mentioned that the once-proud attorney Phoenix Wright is not only reduced to a piano player in a restaurant, but he’s also the defendant in Apollo’s first case?

We meet a very stressed Apollo Justice in the defendant’s lobby, being told encouraging words by his mentor, Kristoph Gavin. Apollo is also quite the Phoenix Wright fanboy, wanting to follow in his footsteps. We learn from Kristoph that he and Phoenix actually know each other, and dined together on the day of the murder. Oh, and for some reason, it is Phoenix who asked Apollo to defend him. This puzzle is already complex.

Maybe it's... Winston who did it!
Nah... he's too pathetic for that.
The previous review was of the first Ace Attorney game. We’re currently three games later: What has changed? For starters, you are now able to present character portraits, the same way you can present evidence in court. That would have been useful back then. You are now able to view details from evidence, and the Nintendo DS touch screen allows you to examine in greater detail some objects that are evidence - by zooming in or out, spinning the item around horizontally or vertically... The touch screen will be used for various other reasons, mostly for detective procedures used in the case. Have they ameliorated the system of the original game? Are we gonna get lost through a chain of places to visit, with no clue of what to look for? I don’t know, the first case never has investigation parts. Oh, and also, thanks to the microphone, you can press the Y button to yell your “Hold It!”s and your “Objection!”s. Train those Chords of Steel!

Yeah, sure, and I only drink root beer.
We’re now in court, and Apollo faces prosecutor Winston Payne, who, oh dear, has NOT aged well. I almost feel sorry for the guy. Everybody else stays young-looking, he’s already got grey hair going white. We’re told the facts: Phoenix played piano for seven years now at the Borscht Bowl Club, a Russian-style eatery. Of course, you can try to make me believe it’s grape juice he’s been drinking since, and not wine; that’s cute, nice try, folks at the localization department. Very cute. Everybody knows that grape juice always comes in wine bottles, right? I mean, wine in a game rated T? That's too hardcore, gotta say it's grape juice.

The victim, Shadi Smith, was found dead of a blow to the head at the crime scene, a poker game. See what I meant when I was discussing poker? Ace to King, blue backs, this sort of stuff. Here comes Phoenix’s first testimony. Since this is could be someone’s first Ace Attorney game (as it was for me), we can get a refresher on how cross-examination works, then we move on. Apollo’s first presentation of evidence is unfortunately against his case, as it’s the grape juice bottle – I can’t say that with a straight face – with Phoenix’s fingerprints, positioned like he was holding the bottle upside down.

"Of course! Mr. Wright can't lose! I idolize him way too
much to accept that as a possibility!"
Oh, but surprise! We reveal a witness! Aw, it’s a cute shy Russian girl hiding behind her plates. Her name is Olga O RLY. Er… I meant, Orly. She claims to have witnessed the crime: Wright, who has never lost a poker game in seven years, losing now against the stranger he seemed to know, jumping to strangle the victim; that would be fine and good, if the guy hadn’t died of a blow to the forehead! The picture of the victim allows us to pierce a second hole in the testimony; Phoenix wasn’t strangling the guy, but taking a locket from around the guy's neck. And, checking the poker table, it appears our ex-attorney was actually winning this game.

As we learn, the game came down to two full houses, with Kings, Tens, and Aces. Ah, only in fiction are the decisive hands always so high! You’ll rarely, if ever, hear about a fiction hero going “My opponent lost from having a single pair of threes, I won by having a single pair of fives!” Olga claims that the victim, Shadi Smith, pulled a fifth ace into the game, but the photo of the poker table shows no such thing. As for the hands, once inspected, they do reveal one blue card among the red cards in the players’ hands – but it’s a king, third of a trio, weirdly enough. From there, Apollo claims that Olga was the one helping the actual cheater – and that she might have more relevance to the case than she lets on! Ah, yes, this is the first case, obviously the true killer must be the first witness, like all the way back with Sahwit.

Just a friendly reminder that this is what Phoenix Wright
looks like nowadays. In this one game, anyway.

In the following break. Phoenix explains that he has had such a long winning streak, not because he cheats, but because he is able to read people’s twitches, habits and motions, and deduce from there what they’re up to. This, and he has a natural talent for bluffing. In the following trial section, Olga reveals her true form: She’s not a Borscht waitress, she's a card dealer. It makes her look like a Team Skull girl who found a part-time job at a casino. She was in cahoots with Shadi Smith, trying to frame Phoenix as a cheater.

OH R- Nah, I don't need to make the reference to that
meme, the game already did it.

That power looks like it came right
out of the field of magic... which isn't
all that far from the truth.
Her following testimony reveals the new gimmick in this game: Apollo has a near-magical talent for detecting very precise movements, like twitches. And he uses them to point out when Olga touches her neck, which is where she was hurt by the bottle in a scuffle. She had fainted afterwards, thus she didn’t see the actual murder. Phoenix takes the stand to explain, there was actually a fourth person on the scene – someone who thought the cards in the hands were blue. And for some reason, Kristoph mentioned blue cards earlier… And he did dine with Phoenix earlier that night…

Phoenix testifies finding the victim’s balding head hatless, even if he had never seen him hatless before. And in Phoenix’s call to Kristoph Gavin to request a defense attorney, Kristoph accidentally mentioned the bald head.

Sheesh, for a first case trial, this is certainly longer than I thought it would be! In the next courtroom break, Apollo meets a teenage girl in a magician’s outfit, who hands him a card with a red back. And a message about having a “trump card”… As for the card, it’s an ace with a blood stain on it. The girl leaves, but he recognizes her as the girl on the picture in the locket worn by Phoenix. Hm…

That's a legitimate question:
How do you know that, Gavin?
Okay, time to end this quick. Now Kristoph is on the stand. He testifies, and it’s explained that there had to be some reason to take the fifth ace and replace it by a King. The reason? The bloody ace. Seeing this piece of evidence, Kristoph loses his temper, calling it a fraud. Forged! Forged, I say! Loses his temper? Oh no, vulgarity is appropriate, he loses his shit! Kristoph’s reaction does not lie; the only way he could know that this one is a fraud, is if he saw, knew or owned the real deal! Now granted, Phoenix doesn’t use the ace as if it was proof, but raises interesting theories from it.

We cut to a 3D look at the crime scene, which allows us to move things around. That's used here… and never again. We get more 3D set-ups for crime scenes, but none where we can move stuff around. Yeah, that would have been a welcome addition, but nope. One case, then forgotten forever. Anyway, we use this to solve more of the puzzle, by pointing that the victim was facing opposite of the table (since that’s how a blood drop would fall on an ace), that the killer used a secret exit out of that room… I know I’m going fast here. All you need to know is that the theories coming from the bloody ace completely destroy Kristoph’s testimony. It feels as though there’s a critical piece of evidence missing. Something that prevents the case from being solved – that is, the ace taken from the killer! How do you want the player to solve those cases without this evidence?

It literally takes Phoenix messing with the judiciary process to get anywhere with this. He practically directs the entire case, bringing new decisive evidence when needed! Hey, whose name is it on the freaking box cover: Yours, or Apollo’s? Cut that out, Phoenix! You're not the hero today!

Not pictured: Olga Orly's plates that mysteriously raised
off the ground by the sheer force of the anger displayed
by Kristoph Gavin.
It's always when you need a YouTube-to-Gif site that they
all suddenly decide not to work.

Still, can’t argue with results; the line of logic points to Kristoph being the sole culprit. We’ve yet to learn the motive, but yes, Kristoph did it. And the guy’s freakout is impressive. The earth shakes! He raises stuff off the ground! Good thing Edgeworth wasn’t there! Gavin lets out something about revenge, from Wright, for events apparently related to how the ex-defense attorney lost his badge. Folks, I believe we have a story arc for this game!

Also, why did he suddenly adopt (no pun intended)
the role of tutor/parent/father for that young girl?
Taken into custody, Kristoph Gavin confesses the crime. How odd that his downfall was caused by a forged piece of evidence. Phoenix Wright is declared not guilty. We still have many mysteries, though; who was this Shadi Smith, the mysterious “traveler”? Why did Gavin kill him? Why did he have the locket that Phoenix wanted? Why was Gavin speaking of revenge? Why does Apollo have that weird sense? Why? Why?

Whyyyyyyyyy?

There is one certainty, though: This was inordinately long to solve, all because it missed exactly the required evidence. That’s actually a genius nod to the second overarching plot of this game. There is a reason why I mentioned the Dark Age of the Law and the dirty tricks in court. This first case is only the first of a series of Gordian knots regarding this. To compensate, Phoenix actually has a plan. But it might not be enough.

Since Gavin Law Offices will close down, Apollo will go work for Phoenix at the Law Off-oh right, he’s not doing just law anymore. Apparently it’s now called the Wright Anything Agency. Yeah, since Phoenix was disbarred for using forged evidence, like that bloody ace, in court, the Law Office is gone. See, he did it again. The irony being, he did it because it was the only way to get the true culprit arrested this time.


I have the impression that we’re anything but done with this story. Join me in Part 2, where I will (hopefully) be more concise and drop more unnecessary details than I did here. See you in Apollo Justice’s second case!