When I first acquired a Nintendo DS, I always meant to play the Phoenix Wright games, sub-titled "Ace Attorney" but never could find a copy. Later on I traded in my DS and games and was done with the system for a while. Cut to later and I picked up another DS (A lite this time) and a copy of Phoenix Wright: Justice For All (Skipping the first game because it wasn't available) and played through a few cases, loved it but stopped so I could play through the first game and get the back story.
If you're looking for action gameplay in a title, then steer clear of this series because it relies on story based gameplay and CSI-Like investigations. Coming from a background of playing games like Shadowgate and an old Perry Mason game on PC, I loved games like this. I played through the first (Which contained an exceptional last case was designed from the bottom up for the Nintendo DS whereas the original cases were done on the Game Boy Advance and touch controls and microphone controls were added later) and then second and third which supposedly wrapped up the Phoenix saga.
IF YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED APOLLO JUSTICE YET AND PLAN TO STOP READING HERE
The first thing you need to know is that the main character may be Apollo Justice but after a while, you've been mislead because this is just a continuation of Phoenix Wright's storyline and then melds the supposed end of his story and the beginning of Apollo Justice's.
Here's where my problem with how they took the direction of the series starts. First off, Phoenix at every opportunity goes out of his way to save Maya Fay and freaks out at the end of Case 4 in the second game when he thinks he's failed to save her. So what's the problem you might ask?
She isn't referenced at all in the game, explained where she went nor given any reason WHY she isn't in the game. When you do a flashback case to before Phoenix loses his badge, she's not present. Whereas the only time she wasn't by his side was in cases where she was kidnapped or back in the Kurain village training (PW Case 1-5) and even then he had a young Ema Skye by him to help. So supposedly Maya just vanished or whatever. Maybe she went back to the village to be the head of the kurain channeling family technique. Whatever I can swallow that. But then Pearl (Maya's little sister-ish person) isn't mentioned, when you actually get the Magtama Phoenix refers to it as his and he just "got it a long time ago".
In fact none of the Fey women are mentioned at all by name. When you inspect anything that you would think make Phoenix say "Hey this was Mia's ____" he instead says, "This was my mentors". It wouldn't bother me so much if they hadn't built up so much fucking emotional investment in the characters over the last three games. It'd be like if in the next Mario game they just ignore Princess Peach and moved on or a Legend of Zelda game not involving Zelda at any point in time (Although Twilight Princess was a step in the right direction).
Point the second that irritates me. The Psyche Locke system is gone, replaced by the Perceive system which is a lot less interesting. Instead of gathering evidence to chip away at people's secrets, you watch someone talk for a MINUTE twitch they have to unravel their lies. It's a lot less interesting and takes away from the game.
Third point is the fact that Apollo as an attorney is never really in any danger like Phoenix was at any point in his career. Someone usually swoops in or Klavier Gavin helps him or they force feed you the answer. You never really feel like you're truly fucked like you were before. Sure Mia bails you out a few times but nothing in Apollo Justice stacks up like a couple of cases from Phoenix's reign.
The fourth thing is the lame Prosecuting attorney. Klavier Gavin isn't a snide attorney with a nice inside persona, he's a nice guy with a nice inside and a heart for justice. If you stack him up side by side with everyone that's been a Prosecutor in the series you have to put him barely above Winston Payne just because he doesn't have the same flavor as Edgeworth or either of the Von Karma's nor does he even approach the best prosecutor in the series, Godot.
The fifth and most damning thing to me is there's really only two cases of any length. The first case (aka the training case) is short and has no investigations, the second and third cases actually have some length, and the fourth case is basically the following:
Investigations in the past that take seconds to do and lots of reading
Very short cross examination of Kristoph Gavin
So you go from 4 full length cases in PW1, 3 in PW2, 3 in PW3 (2 Other courtroom only cases) and then finally 2 full length cases in AJ. I wish Capcom's team had spent more time and more planning on this game. I realize that you couldn't really continue Phoenix's storyline, but you didn't have to really tie it up like that.
I could be nitpicky and say they were lazy with the sprites and made Klavier's facial expressions look just like Franziska's
and made Phoenix look like he had a lazy eye
Or given Apollo perhaps the dumbest facial expression ever
But they did bring back some of the good music from before. There I complimented the game and it barely hurt.
Therein lies the rub. They're only making these games for the hardcore Ace Attorney fans at this point (Me and polly) so we almost HAVE to buy them to guarantee that they'll keep getting made, but I honestly hope that they flesh it out a bit and give us 3 full long cases (And nothing that dragged on like the circus case) per game and some better story writing if they're actually going to push Phoenix to the background like I think they are. If they did this as some kind of experiment to see if a game could sell without Phoenix they didn't really do a good job of it because he's still the focal point and hopefully when they move forward they can focus on Apollo and make him more likable or at least let him stand on his own.