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My Love/Hate Relationship with Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Let me get this out of the way upfront: I really like Apollo Justice. Really, I do. I think it’s a satisfactory game, and the people who malign it simply because it doesn’t have Phoenix Wright as the lead character are off base. The updated graphics are nice and the new gameplay features are interesting to partake in the few occasions they show up. It has the trademark Ace Attorney moments of being cornered in ridiculously impossible situations, but then somehow turning the tables around in your favor. For anyone looking for an intense, courtroom drama-style game, Apollo Justice is perfectly fine. But my problem with Apollo Justice goes beyond gameplay or visuals.
Folks who’ve played the original trilogy of Phoenix Wright games will no doubt remember Mia, Maya, Pearl, Edgeworth, and a whole bunch more members of its charming cast. These people were vital to the main story of the first 3 Phoenix Wright games, and throughout the course of those games, they were given deep characterization and establishment. However, in Apollo Justice, these characters that were essential in giving the Phoenix Wright games some emotional resonance are conspicuously absent. Now, this would have been fine if Apollo Justice had a brand spankin’ new set of characters and created a fresh plot line. But the fact that Phoenix himself and his backstory are incorporated so heavily into the Apollo’s cases had me wondering where the hell Maya and the rest of the crew went. To have Phoenix play such a huge role in Apollo Justice, but have no mention or follow up to the most essential characters in previous games seemed neglectful, and almost irresponsible. Capcom must have realized that players would be curious to know what happened to these individuals that you’ve been invested into for the past 3 games.
Mia, Maya, Pearl, and the Kurain channeling technique were really the main reasons why I believe Phoenix Wright was simply more than some defense attorney game. Sure, the courtroom shenanigans and seeing all the kooky characters are all fun, but the true essence of Phoenix Wright is the emotional attachment you have with the characters. Capcom manages to build up the history and personalities of these figures, and through that process, they manage to really grow you.
The last case of the final game in the Phoenix Wright trilogy ends flawlessly. It ties up loose ends, gives you considerable insight into a lot of characters, and generally has you feeling good about the state of the world. I would have been fine never seeing Phoenix Wright again. If Apollo Justice was the start of a new story of a brand new defense attorney, and there was no mention of Phoenix Wright, I would have been content. But Phoenix is integrated into the story so dramatically that it’s impossible to not feel disappointed about not knowing the fates of all those meaningful characters.
Saying all that, I am ridiculously excited for Ace Attorney 5. Seeing Capcom go back to Phoenix as the lead attorney has me really curious to see in which direction they’re going to take the story. But I can’t say I’m all that enthusiastic about the upcoming Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney. That game is a complete side story and has nothing to do with the overall Phoenix Wright universe. After playing through every single Ace Attorney game (including Ace Attorney Investigations starring Edgeworth) I’ve realized that I’m not actually yearning for another Phoenix Wright game, but I’m actually yearning for another Phoenix Wright story.