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Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

There’s a corpse slumped in the corner. Blood everywhere. Judging by the wounds, he was shot through the gut. The weird thing is, the guards didn’t notice anyone enter the room. The door was supposedly locked the entire time. Nor are there any other exits or places to hide. It couldn’t have been suicide; there’s a gun on the floor nearby, but it hasn’t been used. Only his prints were on it, too. There’s no residue on the victim’s clothes, which means he wasn’t killed by short-range fire. No bullet holes in the wall, let alone any signs of a struggle. No one even heard the gunshot. There’s no way this murder could have happened here. Yet here this man lies, left to rot for all the world to see. It doesn’t make any sense at all. That means only one thing:

Somebody’s lying.

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It’s up to Miles Edgeworth to figure out whom. As the district prosecutor, it’s his duty to bring criminals to justice. Ace Attorney Investigations focuses on his struggles as he deals with a series of insanely convoluted cases. What starts as a homicide in his office ends with the pursuit of an international smuggling ring, corrupted authority, and the appearance of a legendary thief. The story is well-written; ties all of Edgeworth’s adventures together while providing a decent amount of plot twists and insight into his character. You’ll get to see him deal with everything being accused of murder to one of his earliest professional cases. The story plays with the importance and meaning of truth; Edgeworth values it above all else, but characters (especially newcomer Kay Faraday) do a better job of presenting its moral ambiguity. But if you’re a series veteran just looking for another Ace Attorney fix, there are tons of cameos and references to the previous games. Despite focusing on a supporting character, the game remains true canon throughout.

How Edgeworth approaches it, however, is completely different. Unlike Phoenix Wright and the other defense attorneys in the series, he builds cases against suspects. He spends little time in the traditional courtroom setting; the majority of the game involves him scouring crime scenes, collecting evidence, and following leads. It’ll usually start with him stuck in a room and making observations. By using a small targeting reticule and the stylus, you can pinpoint things for him to look at. Most of these are pretty basic stuff; Edgeworth will keep track of the murder weapons, positions of the bodies, nearby objects, layouts of the rooms, and anything else he might think is important. Many of the evidence items can be looked over in 3D, which can offer more clues. If you come across something particularly significant, he’ll store the information in his Logic Menu. By tapping related clues together on this new screen, Edgeworth will make the connection and make the deductions necessary to progressing the case. By the time you’ve figured out everything, all of the logically-based loose ends will have been tied up.

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Getting that far isn’t easy, though. Making the wrong connections and assumptions causes Edgeworth’s deductive reasoning (represented by a small energy bar) to falter. Screw up enough, and he’ll be off the case. You’ll have to uncover every last shred of evidence before you get anywhere. Literally. You can’t move on to the next stage of the investigation (or even out of most of the rooms) until you’ve seen and gathered everything you need. It’s kind of limiting compared to the freedom given in the last couple of Ace Attorney games, but it cuts down on unnecessary exploration and allows you to focus on the task at hand. Sometimes just the clues aren’t enough; you’ll have to ask other NPCs for information. In true Sherlock Holmes style, Edgeworth even recruits his own assistant for each case; Detective Gumshoe is the obvious choice, but the inclusion of suspects and the return of a certain fan favorite keep things interesting. They might be there to make the prosecutor look good, but they’re just as relevant to the story as he is.

Kay Faraday is easily the most important of them. Despite being a new character (and arriving near the halfway point of the game), she serves as the connection between the various cases. Her biggest contribution is a device that can reproduce a crime scene using holograms. By having her input whatever clues you’ve gathered so far, she’ll be able to present you with an image of it. That allows you a different perspective of the events and analyze any inconsistencies your theories might have. It’s a brilliant way to approach the investigative gameplay; some gamers who struggle with keeping track of all the text-based facts might have an easier time with a visual representation of them. The problem is that it’s underutilized; since Kay isn’t always your assistant, you’ll only need to use this feature a few times. It’s a shame that so little of the game was devoted to such an interesting concept.

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Instead, it focuses on the what made the previous Ace Attorney games so awesome: the arguments. There are a wide variety of characters to interview at the crime scene, and they’ve all got their own takes on what happened. The thing is, most of them are either lying or completely wrong. You’ll have to listen to the person’s testimony, sorting through any information and comparing it to what you already know. If you come across something that doesn’t fit with what you’ve got, you can press the witness for more information or present evidence to prove them wrong. You’ll get penalized for arguing the wrong stuff, which means you’ve got to be careful in how you go about the confrontations. Your opponents offer all kinds of seemingly rational explanations, which can lead to some pretty epic plot twists and revelations. It’s a double-edged sword, though; since everyone just loves arguing down to every last logical detail, the cases can run kind of long and wear down your patience. Especially when you know the answer but have to wait until you can find the statement and evidence to prove it. Since you can only fast-forward through discussions you’ve already heard, it’ll take hours to cover everything.

Besides, reading is only half the fun. Like its predecessors, one of the most entertaining aspects of the game is the character art that goes along with the text. As you argue back and forth, you’ll be able to see people’s reactions to your statements. They can range from anything from a sneer to a complete hysterical breakdown. The animations are lively and frequently over-the-top, making even the blandest banter interesting. Not to mention the awesome soundtrack (the “Cornered” theme never gets old) that makes many of the scenes even more dramatic. One of the best moments has a character not only mocking Edgeworth for his immaculate grammar and fashion sense, but doubled over and wheezing in laughter at the same time. Such insanity highlights Edgeworth’s cool and collected demeanor; just try naming any gaming character that could debate his or her way out of a murder accusation. With their hands ties behind their back, no less. It’s a shame that the investigative segments didn’t get the same kind of treatment. You’ll wander the crime scene from a third-person perspective, which reduces the usually expressive characters to a bunch of sprites. The graphics are hardly the worst you’ll find on the DS, but they’re only decent at best.

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That doesn’t make Ace Attorney Investigations a bad game, however. Nowhere near it. It has the clever writing and style that made the previous games so amazing. It allows you to see the series from a different perspective, offering new insight into a character that gamers only thought they knew. Fans will be treated to a slew of newcomers and cameos alike. Collecting evidence, making logical deductions, following leads, and debating offer a similar, but more analytical approach to the typical Ace Attorney gameplay. It’s just a shame that the assistant mechanics weren’t more fully utilized; the image-based investigation is a wonderful idea for those who get bogged down by the written details. Considering how lengthy and wordy some of the cases are, getting through everything is a slow process. It pays off, though; Phoenix Wright might be gone, but Miles Edgeworth more than makes up for it.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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