Sunday, October 30, 2016

Modern Wonders: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice (3DS)



Episode 5: Turnabout Revolution

Scenario: The revolution has been televised. The Defiant Dragons were able to hijack Khura'in's broadcast signal and interrupt an episode of The Plumed Punisher: Warrior of Neo Twilight Realm, their audacious commandeering of the kingdom's television waves providing them a platform from which they could successfully communicate their message to the people: The time has come to topple the Ga'ran regime and repeal the Defense Culpability Act, which has produced countless victims of wrongful convictions. In the brief video clip, Dhurke and his crew claim to have procured the Founder's Orb, which they deem to be "the ultimate weapon," and attempt to use the symbolic act as a means to inspire rebellious fervor within the people.

News of their coup spreads across the globe and reaches the office of the Wright Anything Agency, whose interested parties include Trucy and Apollo. Suddenly, to their great surprise, Dhurke appears before them in need of assistance. He admits that his claim of having obtained the orb is a total bluff, but he is certain that he knows of its current location. It's somehow found its way to Kurain Village, where Archie Buff, a doctor of archaeology, has been studying it at the request of an unnamed benefactor. He reveals that Datz Are'Bal has already stealthily infiltrated the village and contacted Buff, who has agreed to leave the orb to their care. The transaction will require the presence of lawyer, so Dhurke, whose ulterior motive is to spend some quality time with his son, talks Apollo into joining him in his trip to Kurain.


While this is going on, Athena Cykes is on her way to the airport to pick up Phoenix and Maya.

When Dhurke, Apollo and Trucy arrive at the village, they're met by Ema Skye, who leads them into the doctor's study, where she informs them of the tragic news that Buff died the night before; apparently an avalanche of books knocked him off of his library's sliding ladder and sent him plummeting to his death. Their investigation of his study yields no proof of the orb's existence, so they decide to track down Datz to find out if he knows anything about its location. As they scour the village, their search is interrupted by local politician Paul Atishon, who is seeking a seat on the city council; it's his assertion that the orb is not the one they seek but instead the Crystal of Ami Fey, which has been passed down in his family for generations. He wants it back so that he can return it to the unnamed benefactor, whose massive influence will help him rise to the pinnacle of the political world.

They learn that Datz has since been arrested, so they head to the detention center to quiz him on the issue. From his holding cell, Datz reconfirms that the good doctor indeed agreed to hand over the orb provided that they leave him unharmed; he supplies them a legal document that states as much. After requesting that they secure his release by retrieving his lost passport, he provides them a lead in their search for the orb: He points them in the direction of the doctor's son, who he describes as a shut-in.


They return to the doctor's study, where Sarge, Archie Buff's paranoid son, combatively confronts them via remote drone. Using a bit of psychology, they're able to earn Sarge's trust by relating Apollo's tragic past (his father--Jove Justice, a wandering minstrel--died while saving him from an arsonist's blaze) to his. Now empathetic to their cause, Sarge allows them access to the study and divulges that his father hid the orb somewhere in the village, though he's unsure of the exact location. Their only lead is the glowing moss found on the soles of the doctor's boots, which they determine were worn recently. While gathering this information, they find Datz' passport; Trucy decides to allow for the father and son to share some alone time and departs for the detention center with the passport in hand.


Once back in the village, Apollo and Dhurke consult with Pearl Fey, a young spirit medium, who recognizes the moss as belonging to Mount Mitama, which can be seen in the distance. The two journey into the mountain's caves, where misfortune befalls them: First they're shoved into a dark abyss by an unknown assailant (Atishon, they later learn), and then they're forced to navigate a series of labyrinthine caverns using only the flashlight that was unintentionally dropped by their attacker. The violent collapse of the cave floor deposits them in some old ruins, where they find the orb's firmly sealed box; using the doctor's notes, which contain the lyrics to the Song of Devotion, they solve its riddle and procure the Founder's Orb.

Their mission successful, Apollo and Dhurke take a few moments to exchange stories and strengthen their growing bond. Also, they ruminate over the future of Khura'in and Nayhuta, who Dhurke believes is still salvageable. They become so wrapped up in their conversation that they temporarily forget their predicament: They're trapped in the ruins of a cavern whose walls bear no practical exit point. Dhurke surmises that the doctor likely accessed the ruins via an underwater tunnel in their subterranean lake, so it would make sense for them to submerge and swim to safety. Apollo admits that he can't swim, so Dhurke decides that the best course of action is for him to locate an escape route on his own and then come back for Apollo.


Soon after Dhurke departs, the cavern is rocked by tremors; the sudden change in climate causes the water-level to rise, and the terrified Apollo is swiftly carried up toward the cavern's ceiling, his available breathing space decreasing by the second. As he starts to fall into an unconscious state, he recalls a memory of a similar incident from his distant past wherein he and Nayhuta were swept away by a river's rapids and ultimately rescued by the selfless Dhurke. History repeats itself here, and Dhurke returns just in time to save Apollo from drowning; with the assistance of a local fisherman's rope, Apollo and Dhurke are pulled to safety.


They survive the harrowing escape and arrive back at the entrance to Kurain Village, where friends are waiting for them. The celebratory reunion is quickly broken up by Atishon, who has come to reclaim his family's heirloom. Apollo and Dhurke present the doctor's written agreement as proof that the Founder's Orb is legally theirs, but Atishon still contends that it's actually the Crystal of Ami Fey and belongs to him. Furthermore, he hits them with the troubling news that he's retained the legal services of the renowned Phoenix Wright, who makes it known that he'll willing to fight for his client in court should they refuse to hand over the orb. For however resistant he is to the notion, Apollo finds that he has no choice but to capitulate. He agrees to take on Phoenix Wright, his mentor, in a battle to determine the orb's true owner.

Day 1: Post-Trial

And of course Turnabout Revolution does the reverse of what I figured: The action doesn't shift back to Khura'in; rather, Khura'in comes directly to us. More specifically, it's the kingdom's main players who unexpectedly show up at our doorstep.



Dhurke unceremoniously popping up at the Wright Anything Agency, completely out of the blue, was one of the game's biggest shockers so far. I mean, he was suddenly there. No grand entrance. No majestic music. No booming introductory speech. Nothing to suggest that an intimidating rebel leader had just arrived at our office. "There's no way in the world," I thought to myself, "that this isn't a dream sequence or an elaborate hoax." But then it wasn't; to my great surprise, the writers were fully prepared to offer a meaningful followup to a storyline development that felt too blunt to be real. Truly, it was just the pick-me-up I needed after my excitement-level had dropped into the negatives following the rather unexceptional Turnabout Storyteller, which I felt was the weakest episode in quite some time.

I'm glad they chose to take this route, since all of those alternatives I discussed in the previous piece--or indeed any of those I've envisioned since then--are so very boring in comparison.


And that was merely a single moment in what turned out to be a highly eventful investigation sequence. Really, this entire chapter can be best described as an accumulation of fun surprises. I didn't expect that, say, Pearl Fey would show up and play an integral role in guiding us toward the Founder's Orb. Or is it actually the Crystal of Ami Fey? I'm guessing that we're going to discover that they're one in the same, but who really knows with this series?

I couldn't have suspected that I'd be administering therapy to a remote-controlled drone. Normally it would be right around then that we'd declare that a game has fallen off the deep end, yet the reality is that nothing about the previous statement will sound at all crazy to anyone who's a veteran of the Ace Attorney series.


Also, I appreciate the little touches, like how the designers thought to include all of those familiar Kurain artifacts (the statue of Ami Fey, the glued-together urn, the gravy-splattered scroll, and such) as part of the study's decor; it's their way of flashing a knowing wink toward longtime players. I enjoyed seeing the puzzled reactions of the recently introduced characters who are naturally oblivious as to the artifacts' true significance. Certainly they mean much more to us than they do to Apollo and friends, and it hurts not to be able to tell them.

Now, mine has been a long list of erroneous theories, but I did get one correct correct. Pees'lubn Andistan'dhin's attempted theft of the Founder's Orb has been recognized as a false-flag operation orchestrated by Inga, who was hoping to frame the rebels' ambitions as malevolent. Not that there was ever anything worth stealing, mind you. I mean, it's obvious, now, that Inga has been in possession of the orb this entire time and has successfully concealed his machinations by deceitfully manufacturing an atmosphere of mistrust, which has worked to keep the public distracted. He's no doubt Dr. Buff's mysterious benefactor, and he's likely looking to exploit the orb's alleged power for his own personal gain. The strange part is that this makes him the unlikely bedfellow of a certain spiky-haired lawyer, who may not realize who's he's actually working for.


And just when we think we're smoothly sailing toward the chapter's end, the game staggers us with a forceful haymaker: If we hope to gain possession of the orb, we have to go through Phoenix Wright to do it. There was an ominous air to that final scene--a palpable sense of distress shared by both character and player alike. Who could ever have foreseen the day when we'd have to tangle with Phoenix Wright, a lawyer who's virtually undefeated? The mere thought of it is menacing on its own. I'd go as far as to call it downright terrifying! It's like we're about to go into battle with the ultimate final boss.

And I doubt that he's planning on throwing the trial, so how are we ever going to defeat him? I don't know, man; it feels like we're going to need a miracle here (barring one of those lame fight-to-a-draw outcomes that are so commonplace in dream matches).


Whatever the case, this is the most interesting twist in the series' history. I can't wait to see how it's handled! I mean, we're taking on Phoenix Wright in a trial that doesn't have much to do with murder. Talk about voyaging deep into uncharted territory!

How will Nayhuta fit into all of this? Will Inga make an appearance? Who's on whose side, really? Will this monumental clash between Phoenix and Apollo require more than one trial day? Can we actually lose this one? Does anyone care that a guy died? There's so much to consider.


For all I know, we could be headed toward disaster. And I love it!

Day 2: Post-Trial

So the writers chose to go with the Phoenix-is-blackmailed angle again. There was a moment during the investigation sequence's final scene when I stopped to consider this possibility, but I quickly dismissed the notion for selfish reasons. That is, it wasn't the direction I wanted the story to take; it was my thought that a legitimate Phoenix-versus-Apollo match-up would be the most compelling showdown the series has ever produced, its outcome likely to irrevocably alter the characters' relationships and forever reshape the entire Ace Attorney universe. I was aiming a bit too high, I guess.


In the trial's early stages, Phoenix's persistently antagonistic behavior continued to fuel my hope that he was going to engage us in a sincere battle of wits--that his was a motivation to win a trial whose true significance was perhaps lost on us--but then my heart sank as the characters' dialogue suddenly began to frame his actions as desperate and unbecoming. At that point, long before Atishon started issuing him veiled threats, it wasn't difficult to deduce that Phoenix was being forced to represent the young politician against his will.

It was also obvious, before any allusions could be made, that the victim of Atishon's hostage-leveraging scheme was Maya Fey, who just can't seem to avoid getting stuck in this role. Such is the fate of our spirit-medium friend.


But I'm OK with how the story played out. It could have been worse, really. It was originally my fear that the big twist would entail Phoenix having been placed "under a spell," the possibility of which was foreshadowed by Dhurke's assertion that Nayhuta's actions, similarly, were being driven by an unseen force. And then we'd have to use all of the tricks in our arsenal (therapy sessions, channeling, perception, etc.) to somehow snap him out of it. I'm so glad that the writers thought to refrain from such ridiculousness.

To witness Phoenix in action from this new perspective--watch him flail about in the role of shifty adversary--was kind of depressing. I could hardly bear seeing him reduced to the slimy lawyer type he'd always fought to defeat, his preposterous, ever-changing arguments designed to defend an unsavory character (the now fully named Paul Atishon-Wimperson) whose lies he'd ordinarily be dismantling piece by piece. As this was going on, all I could think about was how potentially damaging this portrayal could be to the character. Thankfully, the blackmail revelation allowed him to save face. If not for that twist, his character might have been rendered unsalvageable.


So it turns out that Dr. Buff had stolen the Kurain artifacts. I'd figured that their collection had no relevance to the story--that their depiction was merely referential--so I was surprised when they became a topic of debate. The court's recognition of their presence helped bring to light the shady side of the doctor's researching efforts. Ol' Buff, we learned, was the village's resident kleptomaniac, though with a benevolent streak (he was always sure to return stolen items after studying them!). That's been a consistent theme in Ace Attorney: People are never who they appear to be on the surface. It's either that a character is lying about his or her occupation or working overtime to conceal a dark past.

So it's basically the Internet.


And what kind of enthusiast am I, anyway? For all of the references I caught during my investigation of the study, how in the world did I miss the yashichi icon on the computer's desktop (as seen very clearly in the doctor's notes) Think about it, man: I've been putting in extra effort to uncover that symbol in Capcom games for what--thirty years now? Yet there it was right in front of my face and I couldn't see it. Oh, Capcom--we've known each other too long for something like that to happen. I apologize to you, old friend. I promise I won't miss it the next time!

But believe me: I really have been paying attention all these years. That's why it wasn't a shock to me that our little civil case somehow became a murder trial halfway through. It was an inevitability. I mean, there was no way in hell that a late-episode Ace Attorney court battle--particularly one whose contested item, the Founder's Orb, was the foundation upon which the game's overarching narrative was built--would remain a simple matter of legal ownership. It is, after all, the natural law of Phoenix Wright's world that the story shall not advance until blood has been spilled.


So are the Founder's Orb and the Crystal of Ami Fey one in the same? Does the latter actually exist? Or is it a figment of Atishon's imagination--a mental construction designed to fool an unwitting judge into thinking that a relic of such immense import could belong to a lowly politician like him? The game wasn't clear about this. For now, I'll assume that there is a genuine "Crystal of Ami Fey," but it's a completely different item. Maybe Pearl or Maya will confirm as much later on.

Though, we did figure out the identity of Dr. Buff's true killer. It was of course Atishon, who I'd pegged as likely candidate from the moment he showed up (I'm not sure why I didn't go into detail about murder theories in my post-investigation round-up). His plan was to void the two parties' legal agreement, whereby the doctor would hand over the orb to the Dragons provided that they brought him no harm, by framing Datz for his murder. So he sneaked his way up to the study's second floor and from there dropped Datz' luggage onto Buff's head, killing him; and after rearranging the crime scene, he concocted a convincing alibi--a carefully fashioned tale that placed him near the tree outside, where he watched on as an innocent observer. It almost worked; he would have gotten away with his crime if only he'd realized that he'd left his fingerprints on the handles of the unconscious Sarge's wheelchair, which he had to push out of the way.


I wasn't sure how the trial would play out, but I knew for certain that we'd be cross-examining Sarge's drone at some point. There was no way the writers were going to miss that opportunity. I mean, they've already had us interrogate a parrot and a transceiver, so it seemed obvious that we'd eventually have to grill this, their natural evolution.

The trial's biggest shocker was the revelation that Sarge, the drone's operator, was a young girl. My mental rendering of the tough-talking Sarge was that of a 20-something man with questionable hygiene (basically Sal Manella if he dressed like Gomer Pyle), but that image was promptly blown to pieces when "he" turned out to be the wheelchair-bound, pajama-wearing Miss Armie Buff, the doctor's 12-year-old daughter. I've learned to always expect the unexpected with Ace Attorney games, yet I didn't see this one coming at all. Chalk it up to the writers doing a good job of using stereotypical language to bait me into making an assumption while otherwise keeping my attention focused everywhere else.


In considering Armie's plight, I'm again reminded that even though the tone of these games is lighthearted and often silly, such qualities are merely surface-deep. The truth is that a great many of the characters we meet are tragic figures who will forever struggle to overcome their past traumas. This is where we connect with them. We spend so much time with the Maya Feys and the Trucy Wrights that they become a part of our worlds; they remain in our thoughts long after we've switched off our DS systems, their troubles coming to occupy our minds' spaces as though they were as real as our own. We're with them when they're at their most vulnerable. We watch them stumble. We witness every step of their personal growth. Even years later, when we've forgotten what their trials were about or how they were even related to one another, memories of their personal journeys stick with us. This, I think, is the reason why the Ace Attorney games so deeply resonate with everyone who plays them.


The most pressing matter is that Atishon's benefactor (Inga, I maintain) is still holding Maya hostage. So Phoenix and the gang are headed back to Khura'in, though I'm not sure what their visit will entail. My guess is that Apollo will be defending Dhurke after he's been arrested and charged with sedition, grand theft, and the murder of Queen Amara. It's likely that Maya will be allowed to temporarily escape detention when one of the parties calls upon her to channel the Holy Mother, whose name and face are now known. Nahyuta will finally see the light and abandon his post, after which he'll rejoin the Dragons and fill the group's "effeminate douche" quota. And somewhere along the way, we'll discover the true power of the Founder's Orb (perhaps the Holy Mother will demonstrate it for us?).


Edgeworth's mugshot continues to show up under the "Profile" tab, but he's yet to make a physical appearance. Might this be where he finally shows up and saves the day? Or maybe, in another big twist, he'll be our prosecutor for this trial? Hell--is he even in this game?

He has to be. If he's not present, there's no way we can complete the grand Ace Attorney reunion that needs to take place after we emerge victorious! I tell you, man: You throw Miles in there and we've got all of the ingredients necessary for an epic closing scene and one of the series' trademarked goosebumps-inducing group photos. Oh, he'll be there all right. Trust me.


I wasn't expecting there to be this many episodes. There have never been more than five, which means that we're venturing into uncharted territory here. We've spent a month building up to this crescendo, and now it's time to see if the writers can play us out on a high note. It's my opinion that they failed to do so with Dual Destinies, whose Phantom storyline fizzled out at the end and left me feeling flat. I'm hoping that they can deliver something more substantial this time. I expect nothing less than a big return for my investment.

So here's to you, Spirit of Justice. May you have what it takes to close strong.

Day 2: Post-Investigation

Well, I feel stupid. There's no sixth episode. Turnabout Revolution, it turns out, is simply a colossal-sized closer. "But how could you make such a silly mistake?" you ask. Simple: I failed to observe the save-slot's data before exiting out to the title screen. I mean, what--you actually expect me to look at the games I'm playing? And what will you demand next--that I actually identify the characters by their correct names? Where will the entitlement end?

Anyway--let's just pretend that all of that post-trial closing text was alluding to this next chapter.


And once again, Spirit of Justice's world is bluntly thrown into chaos as the game wallops us with another unexpected haymaker: Inga, the Minister of Justice, was murdered in Amara's Tomb during the Maya-orb exchange. A major character is erased just like that, which isn't an unprecedented happening in this game though it remains nonetheless shocking. The alleged murderer is Dhurke, who was found standing over Inga's corpse with a bloody knife in his hand. Joining him death were most of the game-ending scenarios I'd been envisioning in my head. Poof.

But some of my predictions are indeed holding up. Phoenix's chat with Queen Ga'ran (full name Ga'ran Sigatar Khura'in), who one of the royal guards described as spiritually powerful to the point of being omnipotent, has confirmed my long-maintained theory that Inga was seeking the orb for his own benefit rather than for the good of their union. She'd surmised that Inga's plan was to harness its spiritual power and use his newfound potency to usurp her rule--to inherit her throne and reign as the kingdom's lone monarch. This also explains why he needed to kill Queen Amara, who was revealed to be Ga'ran's sister, or at least create the illusion of her death. Furthermore, it tells us why he schemed to exile Dhurke, who at the time was Amara's husband and the kingdom's second-in-command.


Ga'ran also confirmed that Pees'lubn Andistan'dhin was one of Inga's agents; it was his job to steal the orb and take the blame for its theft--create cover for the real thief, Inga, who would then deliver the orb to Dr. Buff for study. Hard-rock Jesus was no doubt promised a pardon for his crime.

Still, Ga'ran was forthcoming only to a point. She grew more and more reticent as the fog of suspicion surrounding her began to thicken. It's clear, now, that she's far from a respectable party I originally pegged her to be, her actions nefarious in intent. So we're left with some questions: Since she, too, was seeking the orb, was she likewise planning to assassinate Inga, as she was aware of his machinations? How deep was her involvement in the arson fire that supposedly took Amara's life? Is hers nothing more than a lust for more power?


But the big news is that Amara is still alive. Dhurke is her husband, and Nayhuta is her son. This information was ascertained by examining a photo that we found in Inga's secret safe. Rayfa's reaction to her photo makes sense, then; she, too, must have noticed the anachronistic law book and deduced that her parents had been lying to her about Amara's death. From our perspective, the photo further implicates Inga in her disappearance.

So what was the royals' game? Why go to the trouble of staging Amara's death and holding her under house arrest for all of that time? Could it really have been for the sole purpose of coercing Nayhuta? There has to be more to it than that.


And what about Nayhuta? It's clear that he's not really "under a spell," bound by the force of someone else's will. Athena and Apollo's insights suggest as much; they can sense his confused emotions--his emotional trauma--and his willing subversion of his true feelings. Is it that Ga'ran has threatened to kill his mother if he doesn't continue to serve the throne? It sounds like the logical conclusion, but I can't be certain. His character is written to be so inflexible that it's difficult to tell what they're trying to convey. I mean, have him drop a hint or show any sign that he's experiencing inner conflict, will you?


Also, Nayhuta has exhibited an ability to falsely trigger Apollo's power of perception, which further fortifies his impenetrable shell. This concerns me because, as I've expressed, I very much want the game to avoid waiting right until the end to hit me with one of those cheaply scripted insta-redemptions. At the least, it makes for an interesting twist that we won't be able to utilize the bracelet's power in the upcoming trial. Not that the perception mechanic has been highlighted much, anyway. We've only seen it twice, I think. So this is a case where their removing it from our arsenal is strictly a storytelling device--their means of artificially exacerbating the sense that the odds are stacked against us like never before.


And it's working. I mean, of course we're going to emerge victorious, but still--I can't help but feel a bit nervous about the challenges we're about to endure. Without any relevant evidence, I have no idea what it is we're meant to prove or how the script is going to save us. Wright and crew's situation is perilous, and their sense of helplessness is palpable; their discomfort is my own.

I'm certain that the story will end with Amara and Dhurke being reinstalled as Khura'in's royal family, but it doesn't look as though they'll be living happily ever after, as I originally hoped. Dhurke's sudden revelation that he's terminally ill has conjured only images of dark clouds. So that's a bummer. And it sounds as though the game is waiting to heap even more misfortune upon us: According to Dhurke, we're going to uncover a "big secret" sometime over the course of the trial, and we're probably not going to like it (he could have just flat out told us what it is, but then he wouldn't be an Ace Attorney character). Might he be alluding to the fact that Inga was behind the arson attack?


Maybe it has something to do with Lamiroir, he and Trucy's real mother? Is it that the ringtone version of her song Landscape Painter in Sound, heard in the second episode, was foreshadowing her return? And if so, would she be arriving with bad news? That would be the likely scenario. I mean, tragedy does seem to follow her around.

And of course the murder of Apollo's father had to be connected to this somehow. After all--there's no such thing as an isolated incident in the Ace Attorney universe. According to Dhurke, who had firsthand knowledge of the event, Jove was killed in the same arsonist attack that supposedly took the life of Amara. His picture has remained in our inventory for the entirety of Episode 5, so it's a safe prediction that we'll finally find use for it during the trial. I'm guessing that we'll be supplying it to Maya, who will channel Jove for the purpose of shedding light on what happened at Amara's private residence that night. This will be awkward for Apollo, surely. Otherwise, she may be asked to channel Inga, who likely will be reluctant to cooperate; though, even if cross-examination him proves frustrating, it'll all be worth it just to see that cigar-chewing psycho garbed in Maya's acolyte robe.


Sadly, this would mean that poor Maya might not get another chance to be, you know, herself. It'd be a shame if she didn't get the chance to play a bigger role in a game that was purported to be all about her long-awaited return.

As an aside: I appreciate how Phoenix and Edgeworth indirectly acknowledged Dick Gumshoe when gauging evidence related to Inga's death. Apparently the ol' hound still feeds Phoenix information, and it's been inferred that his leaking secrets might have a potential negative impact on his paycheck. That right there is as close as you get to actual acknowledgement in the Ace Attorney universe. It's not that I want Capcom to continuously recycle his character, but I do wonder about what he's been up to since Ace Attorney Investigations.


So as things stand, there are no obvious suspects in Inga's death. I'm fine with that, really. The best Ace Attorney mysteries are those where you feel as though you're largely in the dark as you head to trial. Spare me the unwanted inference, I say; let the truth spring organically.

Nayna, Rayfa's personal servent, is the only unaccounted-for party, but she seems to be too minor a character--too much of an afterthought--to be cast in the role of Inga's murderer. Oh, I have no doubt that she was in Amara's tomb at the time (they'll likely find her frozen to death in its refrigerated coffin), but I don't see her motive. Maybe she found out that he was planning to kill Rayfa? That can't be true; he wouldn't keep her letters in his safe if he didn't care for her. That leaves Ga'ran, who at the time was channeling a "world leader" in the temple; Ahbli's snapshot is proof of such. Though, I can see a swerve wherein it was Nayna who was channeling the world leader--a woman who resembled Ga'ran--while Ga'ran, herself, was off murdering Inga in the tomb--likely just before Dhurke arrived.


And what about the blood trail that leads from Maya's chair to the coffin? Did she channel one of the dead rebels, any of whom would be apt to carry out Inga's murder? If so, how did she tie herself back up? What does the Holy Mother have to do with any of this? And why is my brain going numb?

There are so many moving parts and not enough theories to go around. I find myself at the mercy of the game's insane logic.


For now, it's best that I just board the train and let it take me where it may.

Day 3: Post-Trial

Well, that was quite the mind-bending journey. There's so much information to digest, and I don't even know how to begin giving structure to my thoughts.

There was a measure of predictability to how this final chapter played out, sure, yet nothing about how its separate events unfolded can be described in linear terms. For me to have accurately guessed at how the game was planning to arrive at point B from point A would have required that I was currently suffering from the strain of psychosis usually exhibited by your average neighborhood madman. Quite simply, meanings changed. Relationships that were thought to be solidly defined now had to be reassessed in light of stunning new revelations. Imparted messages that were at best unsettling could now be reinterpreted to have earth-shattering implications. And lived experiences now had to be run through the game's revisionist-history filter in order to explain how all of this was possible.


I can sum up my thoughts by saying that Turnabout Revolution reinforced the notion that even the most predictably structured plot can be amazingly compelling if the writers are able to succeed in creating an emotional connection between the player and the characters. I was fully invested in its story from moment one--when the surprisingly affable Dhurke, who was thought to be lurking a world away, shockingly burst into our office and promptly changed the rules of our world--and remained so until the final verdict was handed down. In the end, mine was a grand victory that brought about the joyous reconciliation between a diversely affected cast of characters, yet ultimately I'll remember Turnabout Revolution more for its sense of tragedy--how behind its veil of newfound hope lay the heartbreaking reality that the reunions I desired to see were now forever impossible. Poor Dhurke, man.

So how did things get so messed up? Well, let's start with Queen Ga'ran, whose personality changed drastically. We learned that she started out as a prosecutor. Most famously, she served as prosecutor for the case wherein Dhurke was tried for the assassination of Queen Amara. From there, hers was a Palpatine-like ascendance within the system, from prosecutor to Minister of Justice to eventually the kingdom's monarch. Twenty-three years later, fearing that her misdeeds would soon be brought to light, she had no choice but to once again take up the mantle. And like any final boss, in another truly shocking moment, she wasted little time in revealing to us her true form; beneath all of that flowing regalia lay a figure I'd describe to be more akin to your average comic-book super-villain. Right about then it became obvious that Ga'ran, who was originally portrayed as fair and sensible, was nothing more than your typical conniving despot.


Hers was a regime built on a collection of cleverly concealed lies, all of which could be traced back to the arsonist attack that supposedly took the life of Amara, her sister. Envious of her spiritually inclined sibling's high status, Ga'ran (and not Inga, as I suspected) set fire to Amara's private residence with the hope that her sister would perish and the title of queen would be transfer over to her, the next relative in line. However, Amara somehow survived the attack, which forced Ga'ran to improvise: She told Amara that Dhurke, her husband, was behind the assassination attempt and conned her into abdicating her throne by constantly feeding her lies about he would return to finish the job if ever word got out that she was still alive. In order to remain safely hidden, Amara agreed to assume the role of Nayna, the royals' humble servant.

The story goes that Dhurke eventually rescued Amara, and the two escaped to the mountains, where they lived peacefully for a few years. During that time, she birthed two children--Nahyuta and Rayfa. Ultimately, their union ended when Amara was recaptured by Ga'ran's royal guard (though it's implied that she actually fled due to the fear that her sister's words bore truth--that Dhurke had designs on killing her).


Ga'ran being able to rewrite Khura'in's laws on the spot did indeed make for the most desperate of scenarios. Nearly any action could result in sudden death. I don't recall there ever being a trial whose atmosphere had grown so dire that I was overcome by a sense of hesitancy whenever I was about to advance past any line of text in which the protagonist lobbed an inflammatory comment toward an already-agitated prosecutor. "How the hell are the writers going to script their way out of this?" I'd stop and wonder.

Oh, they found a way, but insofar they reached new levels of contrivance. There was many of time when our prolonging the trial required that Ga'ran voluntarily drop her defenses or inexplicably allow for the trial to continue on when she already had victory in the bag. That's an Ace Attorney villain for you, I guess--always willing to open the door to his or her own incrimination. Sometimes you've just gotta submit to your suspension your belief.

Nahyuta was her first victim. She could sense that he was filled with reservation, so she was quick to push him aside and reduce him to the role of quietly subservient lackey. That had been the perceivable theme of his character from the start; there was always the feeling that he was acting against his will--that he was trapped under someone's thumb though he'd exhibit no signs of his emotional bondage. That he was so limited by these parameters is the reason why they were unable to flesh out his character and instead had to spend so much time defining him through the memories of Dhurke, Apollo and Datz. They kind of boxed themselves in with Nahyuta, whose lack of true character development at times dragged down the story.


"So how was Inga's murder carried out?" you ask. Well, it's difficult to explain. The gears were actually set in motion two days prior, when Dhurke infiltrated Amara's Tomb with the intention of rescuing Maya. While the two conversed, Inga crept into view and shot him three times but hastily fled when Dhurke seemingly absorbed the damage and entered into rage mode. In reality, Dhurke's was a last gasp, as his wounds would prove fatal; before he died, though, he requested that Maya channel his soon-departed spirit so he could buy himself some extra time. She obliged, and Dhurke used the time afforded to him by this temporary extension to fly to America and reunite with his estranged son, Apollo, who became an ally in his mission to stop Inga from retrieving the orb. After Maya escaped, Inga returned and placed Dhurke's corpse in the tomb's sarcophagus.

Sometime in between, Ga'ran learned about Inga's plot to usurp the throne and use the orb's power to gain the spiritual authority necessary to become king (to complete the task, he'd need to impel Maya to channel the Holy Mother). She also knew that he was to meet with Dhurke for an exchange on May 18th. So she executed another clever plan: On the day in question, likely during the morning hours, she sneaked into the tomb, opened the sarcophagus, and stole Dhurke's clothes (the game offered no explanation for how she knew his body was in there). Later on--at about 2:00 p.m., an hour before the exchange--she returned to the tomb disguised as Dhurke and stabbed Inga in the back, effectively killing him. She did so with the knowledge that Inga suffered from prospopagnosia, a cognitive disorder that prevents the afflicted party from recognizing familiar faces, and that any Divination Seance projected from his viewpoint would reproduce a figure without a clear visage.


When the deed was done, Ga'ran passed the baton to her co-conspirator, Amara, who before then, as usual, was carrying out a Rite of Channeling in place of her spiritually deficient sister (if "Ga'ran" was busy channeling at the time of Inga's murder, no one would have any reason to suspect her involvement). Amara waited in the tomb for a full hour until Dhurke arrived, at which point she rushed at him with a Magatama of Parting and drove his spirit out of Maya's body. She then carried Maya, who had fallen unconscious from exhaustion, over to a wooden chair and tied her up. In following, she, similarly, robbed Dhurke's sarcophagus-held corpse of its clothing (returning them, I guess, after fleeing from the High Court during the trial), smeared Inga's blood all over her shirt, grabbed the bloody murder weapon, assumed a menacing stance over the deceased Inga, and channeled Dhurke's spirit. So when members of Ga'ran's royal guard charged in seconds after, at the meeting's agreed-upon cutoff time, they of course determined that it was Dhurke who killed Inga!

Did you get all that? Well, good, 'cause I ain't ever typing up anything like it again. For certain, I don't have enough energy left in the tank to explain how all of these complicated machinations were unraveled in court. It took nothing less than six hours' worth of sanity-depleting seance examinations, conjecture-laden counter-arguments, and taxing cross-examinations to cut through the near-endless series of false confessions, coerced testimony, and cleverly concealed lies.

Yet much of what happened was telegraphed. I saw the "Nayna is actually Queen Amara!" twist coming the moment I viewed Nayna from the front. As I've mentioned before, I have a penchant for immediately comparing the mugs of newly appearing characters to any those photographical or biographical likenesses that are currently present in the court record. There were too many similarities for me to ignore the possibility. Now, they might have been able to throw me off the trail had they given her a more-constrictive headdress to hide her lavender-covered hair and cover up the dot on her forehead.


The episode's biggest shocker, which I never saw coming, was the "big secret" that Dhurke had been keeping from Apollo. The truth, which I brushed over in that convoluted plot synopsis, was that the Dhurke we'd come to know so well was in reality the channeled spirit of a dead man. Apollo's realization of such was one the series' most tragic moments, and I was right there with him in desperately hoping that it somehow wasn't true. Furthermore, I was sad because his non-participation destroyed any chance of physical reconciliation between he and Amara, which I thought for sure was in the cards. Instead there was nothing. In fact, I don't think she acknowledged his existence at all in following--not even in one of those interspersed staff-roll scenes. I guess we were to assume that her silence on the matter was her way of passively acknowledging his innocence.

Apollo not being allowed to use the bracelet was a clear foreshadowing of that final cross-examination of Nahyuta, who was able to remain resistant right until the tipping point, when the truth was laid bare and he finally grew the nerve to stand up to Ga'ran. It was his belief that he had no choice but to follow her orders. Were he to resist, Ga'ran would surely have disclosed that his sister, Rayfa, was actually Dhurke's daughter and by that measure susceptible to the Defense Culpability Act's excommunicative guilt-by-association clause. He was doing it all for his sister, whose future was on the line.


So we were able to successfully redeem both Nahyuta and the tormented Rayfa, who we guided along the path of enlightenment, but I don't think that either's character development was handled too amazingly. They were written to be so persistently belligerent and bloodthirsty that their respective turns seemed hastily manufactured, as if both had been recipients of on-the-spot personality transplants. I've read that Capcom's localization team took liberties with Nahyuta and Rayfa's dialogue and wrecked its sense of nuance, which apparently had the effect of masking what was originally their slowly developing evolution. The way it was translated, their psychological armor was utterly impenetrable until suddenly it wasn't.

These changes served to diminish the impact of their salvation. For example: Nahyuta revealing his Defiant Dragons tattoo and reciting the group's mantra was merely a cool moment when it should have been received as the thunderously stamped exclamation point to a powerful transformation; it would have meant so much more had the scripting dictated that we were witnessing the emotional metamorphosis of a man whose soul has been so haunted by feelings of confliction that, until now, his only release was to subtly allude to his suffering whenever he could find someone to listen.

There were a few other missed opportunities, I felt. We were able to see Jove Justice's final moments via Rayfa's Divination Seance, yes, but I was hoping that there would be an additional sequence wherein Maya channeled his spirit; it would have made for a touching scene, I thought, had Apollo been allowed to share a moment with the father he never knew. That at least would have given Maya something to do. Because let's face it: Her big return was absolutely wasted. Her only role, it seemed, was to pop up every now and then, make some goofy comments, and then promptly vanish. Hell--she spent more time being other people (mainly Dhurke). It has to be that they're planning to do more with her in the next entry, right?


Also, I'm so disappointed that the game's cast didn't come together for that adventure-ending group photo I was expecting. And here I was thinking that it was supposed to be a series tradition or something. Oh well; I guess I'll have to save those goosebumps for some other game. But hey--at least we finally got some follow-up to that final scene from Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. It seems as though Lamiroir is finally ready to inform her children, Apollo and Trucy, that they're siblings! This has to be the focus of the next game, you'd think. 

I look forward to seeing how it goes down.

Final Thoughts

So what if it were my opinion that Spirit of Justice succeeded in imbuing its world with a sense of scope that dwarfs any of the considerably vast mental constructions I've formed of previous entries? Would that attribute, alone, help it to earn the rank of a top-tier Ace Attorney game? Honestly, I don't feel comfortable making that judgment at this point in time. That is, I've made it a habit to refrain from reviewing games immediately after finishing them because my perception of them is likely to change over time. It might be that a game seems amazing to me when I'm playing it, but then I wind up forgetting about it a week later because none of its themes resonate with me. Or maybe it's that I don't particularly like a game at first, but then I eventually warm up to it (Metroid, for example).


I need some time to fully absorb a game's message--to gauge how I feel about it. It's best that I let it marinate in my head for a couple of months, if not for a few years, before determining how it's held up. So it'll be for Spirit of Justice, whose final judgment will have to wait.

For now, I'll say that it's definitely the deepest entry in terms of its overarching narrative. Here I was sharing in the travails of Phoenix Wright and his band of defense attorneys, who found themselves smack dab in the middle of a revolution that desperately sought to reform a corrupt legal system and repeal a hideous culpability law from which tyrannical legislators gained the authority to sanction the murders of an untold number of innocents. I could empathize with the rebels' plight--perceive the sense of hopelessness that loomed over their struggle. It was their continued optimism that worked to diminish its oppressive hold and allow me to envision a future in which their efforts were successful. Theirs was a long, arduous journey to realize a dream, and I couldn't help but pull for them. Their story was compelling, distressing and ultimately cathartic. They'd changed the world, and I was lucky enough to be an active supporter.


I'm certain that I'll remember Spirit of Justice mostly for its mind-blowing twists, like when we, as Apollo Justice, had to take on Phoenix in court, which was a surreal happening even though it didn't play out like I was hoping. There may have been enough mind-blowing scenarios to make me forget how badly the game was lacking for depth of setting. We were basically bouncing back and forth between two static locations, both of which quickly became all-too-familiar. Hell--two of its episodes never escaped the courtroom! For sure, Turnabout Storyteller might have fared better had the designers been enthused enough to expand its scope a bit--add in an investigation sequence, even if abbreviated--and craft some interesting environments.

The game's formulas deviate little from the Ace Attorney orthodoxy, though I'll give the developers credit for at least trying to innovate within their narrow confines. The newly introduced Divination Seance, while derivative of mechanics we've used in the past, is surprisingly deep and challenging, though I often grew frustrated with how bedeviling examinations would grow were the game and I currently riding on separate logic trains; the designers must have sensed that the seances' increased complexity would cause some players to become immediately bewildered, because they were quick to begin offering me hints when I guessed incorrectly. But it's a worthy addition, so hopefully they'll iron out the kinks and come back with something more realized. Still, I maintain that they're going to need to reinvent the series in other ways if they wish for it to remain viable in the future (apparently Spirit of Justice underperformed, which Capcom should take as a serious warning).

Otherwise, Spirit of Justice is solidly put together, and it offers a whole lot of content for its budget price. In the end, it supplied me more than a month's-worth of enjoyment. I can't complain about that. Though, I do have a few quibbles with its presentation. As it was in Dual Destinies, the menuing is laggy as hell. There are times when it'll take full two seconds before the game decides to respond to your input, which can lead to instances where you'll continuously overshoot a targeted object because you're mistaking the late response for a non-reaction. Additionally, the game absolutely chugs during those three-dimensional item-examinations, which makes testing for fingerprints an exercise in aggravation. This is a sure sign that Capcom's design ambitions are starting to outweigh the 3DS' actual capabilities, and it's probably time for the company to move on to more-powerful hardware. I think it's logical to expect that the series' next entry will show up on the Nintendo Switch and possibly smartphones.


Also, it's about time Capcom USA hired someone with editing experience. You know--someone who has enough patience to proofread the text and maybe teach the localization team how to correctly use commas. The frequent punctuation errors don't necessarily detract from the experience, but they do suggest a certain degree carelessness on the writing team's part.

And that about wraps it up. Another Ace Attorney game is in the books. So ends what I think has been a pretty successful experiment. I had a lot of fun analyzing the game's story and sharing my crazy theories with you, dear reader, which is something I've been wanting to do for a long, long time. There is of course a special DLC episode, which I plan to download in the immediate future, but I haven't yet decided whether or not I'm going to be covering it here. Honestly, I've grown tired of writing about the game, and I'm anxious to get started on other projects, so the chances are pretty slim (though, this may change if I suddenly find the motivation).

[bangs gavel]

That's enough! I see no reason to further prolong this "Modern Wonders" piece. My opinions have been stated clearly. There is absolutely no room for their misinterpretation.

Of being another fine entry in the Ace Attorney series, I find Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice...


G-U-I-L-T-Y

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