Apollo Justice? It's an Injustice!

Here's a first. My first video game review.

I found myself playing this video game, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. I just figured it out while "researching" for this blog post, but apparently it's a sequel to the more popular Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

In this game, I am Apollo Justice (hey, at least I don't have to change my last name.) I'm trying my first case, defending Phoenix Wright (of former ace attorney fame), accused of murder after a poker game. (Hell of a first trial, I know.)

This game is a "text based" adventure game. It's almost like a comic book mixed with a "choose your own adventure" concept. I remember PC games from the late 80s-early 90s that were somewhat similar. Basically, you reading the story, clicking "next," and collecting information. Your job is to look for inconsistencies and then make objections based on the inconsistencies.

I didn't get too far in the game, so if I reveal any "spoilers" here, they're from the first chapter, which is about how far I got before getting totally frustrated.

My first problem with the game is that it absolutely nothing like real courtroom proceedings. I realize the game was developed in Japan, and I'm really curious to know whether this is how a case proceeds in Japan or if the creators just didn't bother with making the game realistic at all.

For example, the trial against my client started by me cross-examining my client. First of all, the defendant usually gets to testify after all of the other evidence is presented, or at least after the prosecution's case. Second of all, as the defense attorney, I wouldn't cross-examine my own client - I'd leave that for the prosecutor.

Then, when you find an inconsistency, you're supposed to object, and argue to the judge that the testimony is inconsistent. What?!? So, for example, in the game I played, my client is accused of killing a man by hitting him over the head with a bottle. My client testifies that he never touched the bottle. Then I'm supposed to yell "OBJECTION!" (and I do mean "yell," the entire screen shakes to show how loud my character is yelling) and argue to the Judge, "Judge, there's an inconsistency here," showing that my client's fingerprints are on the bottle so, obviously, my client isn't telling the truth. That makes no sense! Who's side am I on?

Throughout the game, I kept thinking, "...and then I got disbarred."

And there are other dumb plot things. For instance, the more experienced lawyer who is supposed to be mentoring me through this murder trial turns out to be a witness to the events. While it might not be mandatory, I would assume that would be something your mentor would mention before you start your first murder trial.

Another issue was that the prosecutor sprung a "surprise" witness on me. Now, every jurisdiction has their own discovery rules, some more liberal than others. But, so far as I know, in every case you at least get a witness list before the trial begins, if for no other reason than to allow the judge or jurors to recuse themselves if they know any of the witnesses.

And then (spoiler alert!), that surprise witness, turns out to be using a fake name and identity, and then reveals it by ripping her costume off, Scooby-Doo style. What?!?

So, that was frustrating. But, ok, I'll concede that there are many games out there that aren't realistic in terms of portraying a job or occupation.

I know anyone who has ever waited tables can tell me all of the problems with Diner Dash, and anyone who has ever run a bakery can describe how unrealistic Cake Mania is. (Especially the level in Cake Mania 2 where you open an outer space bakery and serve cakes to aliens - that probably doesn't happen too much.) The same goes, I'm sure for wedding planners and Wedding Dash, hair stylists and Sally's Salon, Zoo Veterinarians and Zoo Hospital, and surgeons have Trauma Center:Under the Knife. And so on and so forth, everyone's got a game.

Which is why I was so excited to try a game that highlighted my chosen profession.

But aside from the plot (which, for all I know, could be an accurate representation of Japanese criminal procedure), I also found that there were problems with game play. For example, after each segment of testimony you have the option of "press" (as in, press the witness for more details) or "present" (that's when you say "OBJECTION!" and present the inconsistent evidence.)

But when I "press" for more information, the answer might deal with one area of the testimony, but not the other. In other words, if the witness says "I sat at my usual seat in the restaurant and ordered my usual meal." I might want to press by asking "What is your usual meal?" (there was some food in the photo that I thought might be inconsistent) or "How long have you been dining there?" But the response was always "My usual seat is nearest the piano."

More frustrating, though, was that, basically, you couldn't make an objection until the game was ready for you to make it. For example, in a few instances I found an inconsistency and immediately made an objection. The judge would say he didn't know what I was talking about, and I would lose points. (Eventually you lose enough points that you "die" and have to start all over again - hearing about the facts of the case from the beginning again, or at least the beginning of the chapter. Very annoying.) Then, if you don't make the objections, you get through the testimony, and the mentor says something like "Why don't you listen to the testimony again? You missed an inconsistency." I didn't miss it, I lost points for finding it too soon.

I found that most online reviews of Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice were good, so perhaps it helps to not have a basis in reality that you must suspend.

I might give it another chapter, just out of curiosity. But, I'm curious, have any other lawyers out there tried this game? Or the original Phoenix Wright game? What did you think?

Overall, it's kind of frustrating to lose at a game that I should really kick ass at. I mean, amateurs, even kids, play this game, and I do this for a living and I get booted out of the courtroom? Of course I have to blame the game.


  1. My husband bought me Phoenix Wright, thinking I would like it because it is about my job, but I was just annoyed and gave up pretty quickly. Like you, I kept saying, "That's not how it works!" and I could not get past that and just enjoy the game.

  2. Did I ever mention that in real life I'm a software developer? If you don't like Apollo Justice, maybe we should make our own video game about lawyers.

    The protagonist would be a young blonde criminal defense lawyer who's just starting out. Of course, it would be called Blonde Justice.

    We'll make it an all-blawgosphere production. Ken Lammers is a multi-media kind of guy, and he looks scary when he's bald. We'll get him into a motion capture suit to play the prosecutor.

    Scott Greenfield can be the model for the seasoned older attorney who mentors Blonde, and therefore the player, through each of the episodes. (When we have more money, we'll replace him with Gerry Spence.)

    It could be a franchise. For the sequels we can add more realistic touches such as pre-trial motions, voir dire, and dealing with the defendant's family.

    I'm also envisioning add-on packs with additional trials ausch as Blonde Justice: Gang Crimes or Blonde Justice: Crimes of Passion. Or how about we get some celebrities as defendants? I can see Blonde Justice: Robert Downey Jr. Edition or Blonde Justice: DMX On Trial.

    We should do lunch on this.

  3. By the way, you shouldn't feel too bad about failing at a lawyer video game. Consider the case of the band Rush trying to play their own song "Tom Sawyer" in the game Rock Band: They failed.

  4. Phoenix Wright was just as bad. The judge kept questioning my witness. It was many years ago, so I don't remember specifics, but like sm, I couldn't get past the dreadful procedure.

  5. I tried playing this game and found it massively frustrating as well. I kept having to go online to gamefaqs.com and finding out what the hell the right "inconsistency" was. I gave up after the first chapter. Meanwhile, my fiance who is a chef and asks me things like what precedent is kicked the game's ass! I felt a little wounded. But then I destroyed him at the game Cooking Mama and felt a little better.