The weirdest thing about Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is that very little of the game relates to being an attorney; instead, it’s all about the investigations. In previous installments, we were already assigned to a case before investigating crime scenes, so we were looking for clues to use in court. Ace Attorney Investigations turns it into mere detective work.
In AAI, players assume the role of Miles Edgeworth – prosecuting attorney and rival of the series’ usual protagonist, Phoenix Wright – to do all the things that Phoenix did in the other games, except not as fun. Aside from Phoenix being a more interesting character, the coolest thing about Miles Edgeworth in the previous games was his sort of enigmatic aura. Unfortunately, no man is ever as interesting as his mystery.
Those who have experience playing the Ace Attorney games will find AAI to be familiar. Just like the older games, we examine the mystery of a murder that happened under strange circumstances. There are ‘investigation phases’, wherein the players examine scenes related to the crime and search for clues that can help indict someone for the murder.
Instead of just picking up clues and interrogating witnesses, AAI allows us to piece together points of “Logic” – observations about the state of the scenes, which can be combined to reveal new facts. For example, in the beginning of the game, we have two points of Logic: “The murder occurred in my office”, and “A key is needed to enter”. By combining these points of logic, we gather that there’s no way the murder took place in the office by accident; the killer must have been looking for something that he believed to be in the office.
I enjoyed this concept, as it was a fun way to progress the investigations. The only problem is that it’s incredibly easy to combine the right points of logic with guesswork. At some point, you won’t be able to finish the investigation phase until you combine certain points together, but there’s usually only two or three, so it’s never difficult to just piece them together at random.
The progression of Ace Attorney Investigations is similar to the previous games. There are the aforementioned investigation phases, and there are also “trial” phases, where we listen to witnesses’ testimonies in court and point out falsities using evidence.
Well, the trial phases exist in AAI, but they don’t take place in court. They take the form of listening to other detectives’ and investigators’ theories on what happened and disproving the theories, or listening to a witness’s account of what happened and showing the inconsistencies, much like the previous games.
The main difference in the game’s progression is that it doesn’t feel as segregated. Normally, there’s a long investigation phase followed by an equally long trial phase. AAI still keeps them separate in a way, but you switch between the gameplay modes a lot more frequently.
Personally, this wasn’t enjoyable, mainly because we wind up playing investigation phases more often than trial phases. The investigation phases have never been as much fun as the trial phases, in my opinion, so it seems peculiar to make a game that emphasizes the more boring aspect, as opposed to the unique aspect that makes the Ace Attorney series stand out from other similar games.
Since Ace Attorney Investigations takes place out of court, the narrative takes on a slightly different shape. Instead of all the cases foreshadowing an epic final case, there is a complete ongoing story from start to finish, as Miles Edgeworth finds himself in the middle of several cases that deal with an international smuggling ring. Accompanying him in his investigations are friends – both new and old – all of whom want to bring the smugglers to justice.
This sounds cool, but there’s something underwhelming about it all. Take for example, the dialog. Countless conversations consist of detective Dick Gumshoe – the series’ trusty-yet-inept detective – saying something that isn’t very bright, and everyone making fun of him.
I wonder how many times we’re supposed to enjoy that gag, performed the same way every time? What made Gumshoe more entertaining with Phoenix Wright at the protagonist’s seat is that he kept his comments to himself. Inner monologue allowed Wright to say funnier things, and we didn’t have to feel like we were kicking someone while they’re down.
The game also goes to painstaking lengths to feature cameos. Not all the cameos are bad, but some of them seem so absurdly contrived that I can’t help but wonder why they were there in the first place. For example, there’s a point in the final case of the game where Edgeworth is investigating a room for clues. After we’ve found all the clues we can find, the police bring in a trained dog to look for clues.
Somehow, the dog finds a clue in the fireplace of the room that we didn’t find – but we should have been able to. It was a large object that we could have easily been found in the fireplace had we used our eyes. Why have that scene, other than to have us think, “Hey! That’s Missile, the crime dog from the first game!”? Does bending over backwards for fan-service really reap such benefits that we should do it at the risk of making our protagonist look too inept to find an obvious object?
Overall, the main problem with the narrative is that there’s simply no mystery. There’s an awful lot of drama, which the series’ fans – sans myself – seem to enjoy. But, the mystery aspect is simply lacking. It’s usually extremely easy to figure out who the murderer is in each case, and sometimes, the killers themselves don’t even go to great lengths to hide it.
So, instead of the cases being about determining the murderer, they’re more about tediously showing the killer all of the proof that they did it. It reminds me of a chess game where the winner is obviously determined several moves before the checkmate (as they usually are), making the remainder of the game nothing more than the formal process of going through the motions.
Ultimately, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth just feels pointless. Think about it: all of the investigations we conduct in this game lead up to an arrest, followed by a trial. In the previous Ace Attorney games, we assume the role of an attorney just after the arrest was made.
In other words, these types of investigations all must have taken place preceding the investigations that Phoenix Wright conducts to prepare for the trials – you know, the ones where Phoenix finds all the defendants innocent. It made me wonder, “Is some attorney just going to find all these killers that I arrested innocent in a court of law?” Which investigation is the real exercise in futility: the one leading up to the arrest, or the one following the arrest? I think I know the answer.
The third person presentation of the game is nice. On the other hand, this is probably the most mundane narrative of any game in the series.
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The gameplay is about what you'd expect from the Ace Attorney games, just wrapped in a less-interesting package.
Popular composer Noriyuki Iwadare spearheads this soundtrack with many interesting tunes.
There's technically no reason to play the cases again after completing them, but it's usually fun to replay them later to pick up on the subtleties.
Ace Attorney Investigations is a mystery novel with no suspense. It's indicative of an identity crisis, wherein the series started out as a murder mystery, but now caters to fans who had more fun with the inane drama. The creators of the Ace Attorney series need to sit down, figure out what they want out of the series, and do it.