GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All
CASE: Farewell, My Turnabout
CONSOLES: GBA, DS, Wii, iOS, 3DS
I originally played the Phoenix Wright trilogy when the games were released on the DS nearly a decade ago. Since then, many of the details have escaped my memory, but I remember thinking Justice For All was the weakest of the three games. After a throwaway case, a slightly crap one that relied to heavily on mysticism, and another forgettable one I went into the final case of the game with some trepidation.
Early impressions weren't great. At an awards ceremony, an actor is accused of murdering his rival. It feels like a rehash of the Steel Samurai Case from the first game, featuring the star of sequel series "The Nickel Samurai". Even the characters comment on feeling like this has all happened before.
After that, I met the first two witnesses: none other than Wendy Oldbag and Lotta Hart. The two most irritating bit parts had grown no less tedious for repetition, and playing through the early investigation was a real chore.
Then everything turned around. Maya is kidnapped, and Phoenix is forced to prove a client innocent despite all the evidence seeming to point to his guilt. From there, the case twists and turns spectacularly, with nothing ever being quite as it seems. Finally, when things are looking most bleak for our heroes (but when it felt they couldn't get more interesting for the audience) Miles Edgeworth returns.
From that point on, this is a phenomenal case. Phoenix convinces himself the defendant is innocent by using Maya's magatama, but even this isn't as simple as all that. The case, as it finally unfolds, hinges on an enormous moral quandary: can Phoenix let a guilty murderer off the hook to save the life of the woman he loves?
Along the way are some excellently realised characters, with dark but very human histories. Adrian Andrews is a beautiful example of weakness and strength in one person, with an androgynous name used to great effect. The client, Matt Engarde, evolves from lovable airhead to a great villain. Edgeworth's return isn't mere fanservice, but the satisfying conclusion to his, Wright's, and even the thus-far underdeveloped Franziska Von Karma's, character progression.
What makes this such an amazingly written case is not just the satisfying way the evidence all fits together, nor the consistent sense of tension, but the fact that it is about something. This is about the role of lawyers and the nature of Justice. Over the course of two games, Phoenix has learned not to pursue victory for selfish reasons, or even for the sake of his clients, but for the noble pursuit of the truth.
This is fantastic fiction, addressing the moral concerns of defence attorneys deftly and being a rare videogame with a real, adult message. It isn't quite enough to make Justice For All as great a package as the game before or after, as part of the series as a whole this case is priceless, pivotal and perfect.
Pun of the week: Most of the case takes place in the Gatewater Hotel.
A seemingly overfamiliar setup leads into a case that turns the whole format on its head.