Saturday, February 26, 2011


"Will you fight crime as a prosecutor, or help people as a defense attorney?"
"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).

Aaaaaaand that’s why I really loved Gyakuten Kenji 2. The newest game in the series was released early February and something I had been looking forward to for quite some time now. This time, the overall story line was great. As you can guess from the introducing quote, protagonist Mitsurugi is posed with the question how he wants to proceed. As a prosecutor. Or like his father, like a defense attorney. For people who have played the games until now (especially GS), this must surely be an interesting theme! New characters are actually memorable this time (compared to the first game), with a quirky defense attorney Shigaraki and the "first" rate prosecutor Ichiyanagi ("...'first'?!") as my favourites.

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)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Origami here from the forums =)

    I noticed how the review here puts the game in a much more positive light about game compared to your post on the forums. Did the game need time to sink in after you finished it?

    Nevertheless, this article made me even more enthusiastic to play it. Nice read!



  3. Hmm, rereading my posts there do make it seem like I'm a bit negative about the game, which I really am not. On the whole, GK2 is an improvement on GK.

    I do stand by my two problems though. For some reason or another, Mitsurugi/Edgeworth has found a gigantic cast of secondary characters to assist hem over the course of his two games, which somehow doesn't really fit with his character. Naruhodou/Phoenix, yes, it fits him to have his friends support him, but no such much with Mitsurugi/Edgeworth. The previous game had the same problem, making it very 'Mitsurugi and his amazing friends'.

    The second problem is quite personal, I guess, but I had problems sizing up 'how epic the game wanted to be'. The alternation between 'big' cases and 'small' cases (scale, not length) is a bit uneven, and even within a case, it feels like you sometimes have to deal with minor things after a big event. It's hard to size up how the story will unfold and how excited I'm supposed to be. With the main series, the game is clearly divided in investigation and court segments, so it's much more clear when you're going to enter the final phase of a case.

    Of course, some people might like this more than the predictable storytelling in the main series.

    But have you played Trials & Tribulations by now? :P

  4. Okay, thanks for elaborating on that.

    No I haven´t yet played T&T. I think I figured out why though.....I am waiting to get a 3DS so the playing screen is somewhat bigger. =P

    But I am still glad I postponed my play for so long. Soon I have saved up three(!!!) Ace Attorney games that I have yet to play. =P

  5. You should definitely also check out Ghost Trick. It's not a detective (despite the English subtitle "Ghost Detective"), but it's a wonderfully well-written/directed game by Takumi Shuu.

  6. ^
    Yeah, I am definitely getting that!
    I have a soft spot for fresh creative artsy games. Like The World Ends With You, I expect Ghost Trick to be an unique awesome experience.

    Did you play Shadow of Memories? It's another great original title that involves a murder mystery(if not just mystery). It seems a port has recently been released for the PSP.

    I should also get Hotel Dusk 2. Then my visual novel collection for the DS is close to complete. ^^

  7. I picked up Shadow of Memories (PSP) last year when I was in Japan (which for some reason included an English text option and English voice over work), but I'm still somewhere around chapter four. But as it's written by the same person as Time Hollow, I'll definitely continue with it. I don't think I'll discuss it here though; up to this point it's more just a mystery than a murder mystery (well... it's a murder mystery, seeing you die like every hour, but you know what I mean).

    You have 999 already? It's very well received and I want it too, but I really, really should finish my other visual novels first. Or at least finish my other Chunsoft visual novels first.

    But as said in the post, you can expect more game-posts this month :) (Just no PC games, so no Sherlock Holmes. My PC can't run anything =_=)

  8. My 999 is on its way. Ordered it from Playasia. If you´re back in Holland you can get it from Nedgame, they have it back in stock. =) Though there is a slight chance for product damage since they randomly unseal copies. >_> Owh and Playasia is much cheaper.

    If you ever want to try another visual novel by the same guy that did 999 then check out Ever17. It starts out really slow but supposedly the twists near the end are some of the most epic, according to people of the forums that is.

    Well...I still hope you get a chance someday to play Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper. It had an awesome deduction system and you get to roam in a beautifully recreated Victorian London, which is always a big plus ^^.

    There is a new SH game coming out though for next-gen consoles. It looks pretty amazing.

    And finish Shadow of Memories. There are definitely still some surprises along the way. You have a couple of different endings and you need to get them all to figure out the complete plot and have all your questions answered. But I really loved the time travel gameplay mechanic in it. Speaking of time travel in games there is this new RPG Radiatia Historia that incorporates time travel. Looking forward to that....but maybe that's too offtopic. ^^