The Proof is in the Puddin’
Even though I loved the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, a ravenous appetite for more legal litigation – combined with difficulties in obtaining the second and third installments in the trilogy – forced my hand and caused me to take an unscheduled detour to the fourth canonical game, and a new character in the series, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. While I nonetheless quite enjoyed my time with Apollo, Trucy, and the gang, some developments of the plot, taking place a full seven years after the last Phoenix Wright title, left me wondering what had happened in the intervening years? I was left with a knowledge gap – one I was all too eager to fill. So when the opportunity presented itself to pick up, by a stroke of luck, not one but both of the missing games for my collection, I didn’t need much convincing. And so I ended up with Justice For All and Trials and Tribulations – the first of which I’ve now officially made my way through.
It’s easy to get hooked by the Phoenix Wright games – first and foremost, they sport a quirky, funny, and generally enjoyable cast of characters, who are a joy to see interact with one another in and out of the courtroom. Justice For All brings back some of the best characters that the first game in the series had to offer. Apart from Phoenix, well-known faces such as Will Powers, Wendy Oldbag, and Lotta Heart all make returns during the game’s final case. Maya Fey reunites with Phoenix and brings along younger cousin Pearl as an addition to the clan. After much enigmatic foreshadowing, even Miles Edgeworth himself steps back into the courtroom to face off against Phoenix once more. And of course bumbling upholders of law and justice, Detective Gumshoe and Judge “Udgey” are present as well. The cast is rounded out by some outstanding new additions, most notably starlet prosecutor Franziska von Karma, the whip-wielding daughter of Manfred von Karma, who’s got a personal axe to grind with Phoenix and who will be his main adversary throughout most of the adventure.
The legal battles Phoenix must wage seem like the game’s weakest point to me. That’s not to say they’re lackluster or without merit – quite the opposite, really. Cases 2 and 4 (“Reunion, and Turnabout” and “Farewell, My Turnabout”) easily contend with the top cases of other entries in the series. I thought that “Reunion” was a devilishly difficult case to crack, and it had me guessing for quite a long time to figure out its details, and “Farewell” will probably always be a standout case for the uniqueness of Phoenix finally questioning his ethics by defending a client who he knows is guilty. There’s also the added pressure of, at first, bringing the trial to a speedy conclusion, and Phoenix and Miles working together later to artificially prolong the impending verdict, all to save kidnapped Maya’s life. Throw in a cross-examination of a witness over a two-way radio receiver and lots of other twists and turns, and this race against the clock is easily one of the most memorable in Phoenix Wright history. Sadly, though, the remaining cases never grabbed my attention or made me feel hungry for more.
I think Justice For All can certainly be considered a worthy follow-up to Ace Attorney, though not as immediately fulfilling as the premier title was. I’ll always fondly look back at walking the backlot of Global Studios in the first installment’s “Turnabout Samurai”, I’ve got less flowery memories of visiting the Berry Big Circus in this game’s “Turnabout Big Top”; overall, it just didn’t feel as warmly welcoming and charming as some of the locales I’ve gotten accustomed to. Prosecutor von Karma oftentimes made me laugh out loud when she’d silence even the judge with a well-placed crack of her whip, and I smirkingly enjoyed when Oldbag would don her space helmet and shoot her ray gun in curmudgeonly grumpiness. However, I disliked that even the American translation strayed into what I like to call “Japanese transistantialism”, which caused the ending scene to be unintelligible with so much Anime-style nonsensical philosophical babbling. Bleh.
I think I’ll take a bit of a break on the Phoenix Wright front, giving a few other DS games a chance before wrapping up the trilogy…