GAME: Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
CASE: Turnabout Succession
CONSOLES: DS, Wii, iOS, 3DS
“The mysteries of the past work their magic on the present.”
This is it. The conclusion to a game filled with mysteries; Phoenix Wright’s shameful exit from the legal profession, Trucy’s real father’s disappearance, the familial tragedies of Troupe Gramarye and the Gavins. This is the case which ties them all together, and does it while also presenting through a crazy new high-concept lens: a jury system by which the player is cast as an active participant, reviewing the events of past and present.
What we have is a murder, of course, though with the added twist that the victim was tied to forging evidence in another murder seven years earlier. This allows two cases to play out separately, tied by a common thread. All the action of two exciting trials with far less filler.
By the time I entered the courtroom for the final showdown, I was gripped. Twist after twist, with that perfect execution which meant everything was painfully obvious in retrospect but caught me completely off guard. I couldn’t put down my 3DS as I raced to the finish, hungrily devouring the story.
Unfortunately, for much of the final act all I could do was consume. My major complaint about the game – Apollo’s role less as the hero as more as a pawn in other characters’ chess games – never went away. However, by this case I had accepted it. Seeing the real actors, Phoenix Wright and Klavier Gavin, help Apollo along the path to victory was satisfying in its own way. Coming off the back of Trials and Tribulations’ empowering finale, it was a shame. As the first instalment in a new trilogy, with two games in which Apollo can grow, it works fine.
Oddly, the game this ultimately reminds me of the most is not Phoenix’s first but his second. Like Justice For All, the three initial cases are weakened because they exist primarily to set up a phenomenal final case. Whereas there the narrative which ran through was concerned with the Fey clan and their tragedies, here it was all about the twin familial tales of the Troupe Gramarye and the Brothers Gavin.
The magical exploits of the Gramaryes were enjoyable enough. The pivotal scene which set events in moment was a woman’s mysterious death at the hands of the two magicians she worked with, neither ever quite sure who was really responsible. Discovering this, I was unsurprised to find that this game released only one year after The Prestige, one of my favourite films.
How the various other characters, Apollo, Trucy and even Lamiroir, all tied into this was more satisfying than I’d have expected. There were more than a few coincidences here, sure, but that’s hardly new for Ace Attorney. What mattered was that the emotional beats landed and the characters were engaging.
Speaking of engaging characters, we come to the most controversial element of this game: the Gavins. Personally, I liked Klavier as a character. He wasn’t the sort of antagonist you love to hate, but after the spite of Franziska and the sheer loathing of Godot, I’m not sure the Apollo team were ready to compete in the big leagues. Instead, we have a very different approach to the prosecutor.
Like Miles Edgeworth, Klavier Gavin is concerned with truth and justice, not winning and losing. He helps Apollo along, be that with subtle clues and goading or eventually by outright teaming up. In this case, we flash back to his smarmier days, but we’ve skipped that part of his development to arrive at an already likeable character. This might not have been good material for storytelling if it weren’t for the fact that three of the game’s four cases exist almost entirely to break this beautiful man’s heart.
The real villain of this trial and ultimately this game is the other Gavin. Kristoph is initially introduced in the Mia Fey role, but it doesn’t take long for that to be completely turned on its head. From that point, the game only pushes further and further. It’s interesting to see the series actually feature a proper slimeball defence attorney, as this is the most common depiction of that profession in other media while here the characters bend over backwards not to live up to that stereotype.
This is a series which has always dealt deftly in themes, and this case is very on the nose about the theme of this game. Klavier and Apollo inherit the mantle of responsibility for the law, Zak and then Trucy inherit the magical tricks of the Gramarye name and both Apollo and Trucy inherit the gift of their mother. This is, appropriately, a game all about the changing nature of things and the passing of torches.
The question is, has it succeeded in succeeding? I don’t believe this game is up there with the series’ highest heights. The writing is quite there, no single one of the murder mysteries was perfectly satisfying and the new perception ability isn’t nearly as satisfying as the classic search for contradictions.
There was a spark there, though, and I’m excited to see those flames fanned. Will Apollo’s journey be as satisfying as Phoenix’s? Will later games return to that incredibly satisfying synergy between interaction and written storytelling? After a phenomenally shaky start, this final case has left me more keen than ever to find out.
Pun of the week: We have the surname Enigmar and an artist called Drew but I'm not willing to even call these puns.
A satisfying conclusion to a game that had more than it's share of ups and downs. Let go of the need to solve everything yourself and allow Phoenix and Klavier to take you on a wild ride.
Note: There will be a break of a week or two before I continue with the next game in the series. I'm off to work on a farm for a couple of weeks, and I don't want to ruin my immersion in rural Japanese mountainside life by playing videogames and writing about them the whole time.