Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

It doesn’t make a lot of changes to the core Phoenix Wright formula, and the changes that it does make are of dubious advantage. That said these games have always been as much about personality as design, and Edgeworth delivers on that front.

The Logic system is the main change in the investigatory phase. When it worked, it made sure that I was on the same page as the game. These games often require a bit of a jump in terms of understanding the significance of a piece of evidence, and the Logic system often forced me to understand, or at least begin to understand, what was going on before I could proceed.

On the downside, when I already knew what was going on, the logic system became cumbersome. There were often times when I knew an object in the game was significant, but the game wouldn’t let me gain it as evidence until I’d made a particular connection in the Logic system.

The other change to the investigatory phase is how it’s no longer done in point-and-click style, but instead is controlled directly. The point-and-click abstraction never really bothered me, and the animation of the tiny sprites walking around doesn’t add much. Plus it makes hunting for clues slower and more cumbersome. In fact, most of the times I got stuck in the game were because I couldn’t find the right thing to walk up to. On the other hand, having the characters actually be sprites in the environment means that talking to characters is easier, so they don’t all have to be at different map-locations any more.

The other big difference is that the testimony scenes no longer take place in court. On the one hand, this helps with the pacing, since there are now more frequent trade-offs between investigating and cross-examining. On the other hand, it’s kind of weird to have an Edgeworth game and then not be able to play him in a courtroom trial. I also can’t help but feel something is missing. I liked the structure that the courtroom scenes imposed on the earlier games. Having the prosecutor introduce an unexpected piece of evidence or a surprise witness was part of the joy of the earlier games, and that just doesn’t happen in Edgeworth. The trials were a good way of introducing new information organically. Instead, here, there’s a tendency to have characters walk in at the beginning of an act and just give Edgeworth something and say “Hey, I found this. It might help you.”

Another quirk, in part an effect of taking the game out of the courtroom, is that the testimony phase felt a lot easier than in previous games. It seemed like most times it came down to pressing a phrase to automatically get a new line of testimony, and then present the obviously relevant new piece of evidence. In the Phoenix Wright games, it felt like it was harder to come up with the correct piece of evidence, and there were a lot more side-decisions to be made, about whether Phoenix should press a line of questioning even further, or make an accusation, or the like.

Probably as a result of these changes, the cases feel much smaller and more claustrophobic than in earlier games. They’re all basically locked-room mysteries. There just aren’t a lot of potential suspects to pick from, and they all happen in relatively confined areas.

This small scale means there wasn’t much room for the game to be misleading. I can’t think of a single instance where the game put significant effort into making me think someone was the culprit and then turning around and showing this to be a deception. In every case except, perhaps, the second, everyone who the game’s characters initially regard as suspicious are so obviously innocent. It’s far less interesting than in earlier games where, say, a suspect turns out to have been acting oddly because they were involved in a second crime only tangentially related to the murder.

The last case is a particular mess. So many events happened all in one location over the course of the day before the investigation that I really would have appreciated if the game had actually laid out the timeline of events for me explicitly.

All five cases are serialized, which seems unnecessary. All but one of the cases have essentially the same motive at their root, and some more variety and one-off cases would be nice. At least the serialization doesn’t draw the focus too far off Edgeworth. That they made a big deal about the change of attorney in Apollo Justice, and then it turned out that the story arc was actually mostly still about Phoenix Wright was pretty silly.

There’s a distinct overabundance of plucky young female characters already in the series, so I’m not sure that introducing Kay as Edgeworth’s own plucky young sidekick was at all necessary. It felt particularly odd to introduce her in the same case that Ema Skye appears, and then have Ema do basically nothing in the few minutes she’s there.

The returning characters were otherwise generally put to good use. Gumshoe is pleasant in his usual sad-sack role, but it’s in the pairing of Edgeworth with Franziska von Karma that the game really shines. Their competitive petulance in the flashback case was entertaining, but even more fun was when von Karma names Edgeworth as her assistant in order to allow him to participate in a case, and then rubs in how he’s her underling for the rest of the episode.

There’s also probably a piece to be written about the gender politics and youth-bias on display in the game, but that’s not going to be this piece.

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