And so we reach the climax. Strangely, there are two very distinct and separate cases here, but the game presents it all as one episode.
Firstly, we have Dhurke, father of Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, adopted father of Apollo Justice and leader of the Khuarinese revolution, showing up at Apollo’s door in Japan, or “America” if you prefer. He’s searching for an ancient artefact, the Founder’s Orb, which can grant spiritual power and authority in the Kingdom of Khurain.
The investigation takes our heroes to Kurain village, through an archaeologist’s lab and Indiana Jones-esque escapade. We meet a slimy politician who contests ownership of the orb, the Doctor’s shut-in child (through the medium of drone) and one Pearl Fey.
The case finally comes to a head with a rare example of a civil case (which inevitably eventually reveals a murder has happened), with the rival lawyer as none other than Phoenix Wright!
A showdown between Apollo and Phoenix is a tantalising prospect, and there is some great back and forth. Of course it is revealed that Phoenix is operating under duress and we eventually reunite our heroes for the next step, rescuing the kidnapped Maya.
This first half of the case was a really nice change of pace and a great exploration of characters. Throughout this loose second trilogy of games, Apollo and Trucy’s parentage and backstory has been a tangled web. Slightly too confused and convoluted to provide drama in the same way as the Fey clan of the original trilogy or even Troupe Grammarye’s many tragedies, Apollo’s family drama does nonetheless add some emotional heft.
Finally we return to Khurain to investigate one last murder. I’ve lamented before the loss of the series’ simple charm. I like murder mysteries debated in court by lawyers in pantsuits. I like characters who are quirky but believable and mysteries with clever twists that can be deciphered logically.
Here, the justice minister has been murdered and a revolution is kicking off because in this fantasy kingdom the law has been twisted to serve a tyrant and the court system is overreliant on a magical spirit summoning technique and the perpetrator was the queen who is also the prosecutor and is dressed like an anime villain.
By this point in the game, I had accepted the series’ trajectory and was able to enjoy the adventure on its own terms. The conclusion to the arching narrative about the twisting of Khurainese justice was satisfying, the way the murder revealed itself was possibly the best of use of Spirit Chanelling in a case so far, and the battle against the very embodiment of this nation’s law was a satisfying final boss.
Then there was the conclusion to prosecutor Sahdmadi’s story. Why was he such a bastard? Well, for literally the third time in the series, the cold and villainous male prosecutor was revealed to be doing it all to protect a woman.
I’ve been meaning to write for a while about the way the Ace Attorney series presents a very good and necessary alternative form of male role model in the videogame space. Phoenix Wright has bravery, masculinity and heroism but it isn’t represented through physical domination or violence. I think he’s a very important character among the Kratoses and Marcus Feenixes of the world.
On the other hand, having come to the end of this series I do think its treatment of women needs a very serious appraisal. There are loads of wonderful and strong female characters, with genuine personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Despite this, someone at Capcom just can’t resist sexualised costumes, boob jokes and falling back on tired old tropes of women needing their men to rescue them.
And there we have it. I’ve finished the Ace Attorney series. I am planning to write a wrap-up review of the overall games and series at some point. I am also aware that there are DLC cases, two Miles Edgeworth games, a crossover with Professor Layton and the Japan-only historical Ace Attorneys.
For the time being, though, I definitely need a break. What I actually have planned is to dive into a few other games which deal with similar themes of investigating crimes and navigating dialogue with witnesses and giving them an equally close look, comparing them with AA and reviewing them in their own right. So look forward to that.
And if you have a problem with that, you know what to shout . . .