"Will you fight crime as a prosecutor, or help people as a defense attorney?"
"Turnabout Prosecutor 2"
"Turnabout Prosecutor 2"
One tradition I have is that I play at least one game in the Gyakuten (“Turnabout”) series every year. The quirky detective adventure game series (released in the west as the “Ace Attorney” series) was actually the reason for me to purchase my Nintendo DS and I have not regretted it a bit. And to be honest, the Gyakuten series offer me something few other media can give me. Characterization in novels have never been able to get me as much as visual media and I think some readers might have noticed it already, but I read detective novels mostly as an intellectual challenge. I’ll re-visit this topic in the future, but detective games for me have mostly been very story-heavy, leaving little space for interesting gameplay. The Gyakuten series is one very rare example that managed to combine my love for puzzle-plot detective stories with interesting gameplay and fantastic characters. Murder cases that involve magicians flying away after they committed a murder, the actor of The Evil Magistrate in a children’s show being skewered by the hero of the show, murders seemingly committed by people possessed by spirits and flying angels, it’s really all classic stuff! Add some amazing music and you have one very happy fanboy.
While all games in this series are split up in several criminal cases, like a short story collection, one staple of this series has always been that series creator, scenario writer and director Takumi Shuu managed to link those stories together with one clear storyline in a very satisfying way. While solving several cases, you slowly learn more about the characters and small events, which always culminate in a Grand Finale. Gyakuten Saiban (“Turnabout Trial”) (GS) introduced us to Naruhodou Ryuuichi (“Phoenix Wright”), a rookie attorney and to the question of what makes a good defense attorney. GS2 showed us a fundamental gap in Naruhodou’s beliefs, while GS3 gave us the past and present of Naruhodou and one of the most rewarding storylines I ever encountered in fiction. GS4 then gave us the fall of Naruhodou as a defense attorney, a new protagonist in rookie attorney Odoroki Housuke (“Apollo Justice”) and the limitations of the judicial system.
Gyakuten Kenji (GK) (“Turnabout Prosecutor”), a spin-off not created by Takumi, made recurring antagonist prosecutor Mitsurugi Reiji (“Miles Edgeworth”) the protagonist, focusing on his fight against an international smuggling ring. As the protagonist is a prosecutor and not a defense attorney, the game moved from its court-based story setting (as that’s where the defense attorney defends his client), to a crime-scene-setting, as the prosecutor, together with the police, looks for the culprit to prosecute. While I liked the game, one problem I had was that the overall storyline wasn’t as involving as the previous storylines. Previous storylines had been quite personal and thus much more rewarding, while a fight against a smuggling ring is more like ‘part of the job’ (yes, there was something personal about it, but not as big as in previous games).
I plan to write something about gameplay mechanics in video games in the near future, so I won’t go into the gameplay mechanics in this post at all. It'll suffice to say that the game is built around contradictions between evidence and testimonies. As for the stories, they are once again full of contradictions to find. The second case, Gokuchuu no Gyakuten (“Turnabout in Prison”) is a wonderful Queen-ish story, with a prison-setting (yes, a man is murdered in prison!) and a grand search for the murder weapon. The third case is a great piece of story-telling, as it features two parallel storylines, one in the present, one in 17 years ago. You switch between the two and slowly unravel the (connected) truth in both cases. The final cases should be played back-to-back, as it all builds up to a grand finale. I don’t want to spoil too much, but memorable scenes in this game include a man seemingly killed by a…. gigantic Gojira-esque monster, a girl being attacked by a man who can apparently walk in the air and a murder during a dessert-baking contest.
While I usually go deeper in the stories in these reviews, it’s harder for me to do so for two reasons. As the overall storyline in these games is essential, I don’t want to spoil too much. And secondly, for some reason, it seems etiquette doesn’t allow me to spoil as much about video games plots in reviews than for books. Or other media. Don’t ask me why.
I do like this big storylines in short story collection format though. Like Christie’s The Big Four. But actually executed well. For me, it combines the best of both worlds and even offers something more. The interconnections between the cases in the Gyakuten cases, be it actually connections between characters and the like, or just thematic connections, really made the series stand out from the rest and offer a detective story with characters I actually care for.
But by now, I really won’t mind if Takumi Shuu would come back as scenario writer/director of the series to continue with the Gyakuten Saiban series.
Original Japanese title(s): 『逆転裁判』、『逆転検事２』
Oh, awesome orchestral music: 岩垂徳行 - 御剣怜侍 ～異議あり！２０１１ (Iwadare Noriyuki - Mitsurugi Reiji ~Objection! 2011)