This is the sixth in a series of Ace Attorney reviews and I recommend reading the others before this. This post will contain spoilers for Ace Attorney Investigations 2: Prosecutor’s Path and all the games preceding it. Thanks for reading!
Let’s get something out of the way before we start this, because I think it’s important: I don’t really like Prosecutor’s Path. No, I don’t hate it, because I don’t hate any Ace Attorney game, really; I can derive lots of joy from even the ones I rank the lowest. But Prosecutor’s Path has such a reputation within the fan community as being one of the few games that might even rival Trials and Tribulations as the series’ all-time best game that I think it’s worth mentioning that I strongly disagree with this view.
I’m going to take the opportunity of critiquing the game, then, to examine what I think this disparity is about; why my view on the game opposes the mainstream one, and why I think it is that people feel so passionately about it. One perhaps unfair reading that I have is that some fans may value the game because of its history. Prosecutor’s Path was never released in the West, and so it fell upon the hard work of a group of dedicated fans to translate and patch the game. I would like to give special mention to this translation, because it is genuinely astounding. It never once feels like a fan project; everything is so brilliantly localised as to fit in perfectly with the series’ official releases, including fan-translated terms and names which have slipped seamlessly into the fan lexicon. This may be slightly conspiratorial, however, but a part of me does wonder if there’s some subconscious desire to not see this effort wasted, and thus hold up Prosecutor’s Path as somehow greater than it actually is. It’s a good game, and a great translation, but I hope that with writing this piece I’ll come to understand fan reverence for it, and in reading it that those who love the game also understand my thoughts.
If I’ve been unduly pessimistic, I will at least give the game that its first case, Turnabout Target, is a real banger. Literally. Much like Investigations’ Turnabout Visitor, Target hopes to communicate the unique nature of the Investigations’ series premise by serving us a more direct encounter with the crime scene. As the case starts, in fact, the attempted assassin is still presumed to be hiding among the crowd. That killer is, in fact, Shelly de Killer, the assassin first seen in Farewell, My Turnabout. De Killer’s role in that game is quite unique; he’s the murderer, but as a hired gun he escapes much of the blame, instead acting like an exploitable tool for Phoenix to use to get at the real criminal. De Killer here has also been hired to assassinate the President of Zheng Fa by an as-yet unknown force, but he takes a much more active role in the case this time. I don’t particularly like De Killer in this case, as him being a mysterious, yet peripheral part of Justice for All’s finale let him have much more of an impact on me than him being so out in the open. The more you learn about De Killer, the less impact he has – it’s the same principle as not revealing the monster in a horror film. If De Killer is 1954’s Gojira in Justice for All, with a gripping plot happening as a result of his actions, but him not really being seen, then De Killer in Prosecutor’s Path is the new Godzilla film, with him being in frame every five minutes and also sort of on the side of the good guys. If you catch my drift.
De Killer takes up most of the case’s first half, along with Lotta Hart protégé Nicole Swift, who also introduces the game’s new mechanic; Logic Chess. I don’t want to talk that much about Logic Chess now, but it’s worth saying that it’s pretty well utilised thematically in this first case. The idea is to simulate through gameplay what it’s like to try and change a stubborn person’s mind without evidence. You use it first here with Nicole, who’s a classic case of an obstinate Ace Attorney witness who won’t listen to reason or evidence anyway. You then use it next when you have to convince an elder statesman with a superiority complex who’s already taken away all your evidence. So putting aside the actual mechanics of Logic Chess, it’s certainly deployed appropriately here.
I complained in my critique of Investigations that the game’s cases often lulled too much in the middle, but luckily Target seems to have learned from that lesson. After you’ve confronted De Killer, Horace Knightley shows up to tell you Rooke has been murdered. Later, once you’ve established a set theory as to the case’s events, your entire theory is proven to be wrong by ballistic markings. The writers of this case are constantly throwing your theories into doubt here, and it makes the whole thing go by a lot faster than it might otherwise. Target is a long case, but because things are constantly in a state of flux, its pacing is a lot snappier than most of the cases in the first game.
Another thing that Target seems to understand that the entire first Investigations game didn’t is the importance of giving weight to threats. Throughout the first game, Edgeworth’s investigative rights were constantly in danger of being taken away. Right from the very first case Edgeworth walks the tightrope of not being allowed to investigate. The problem is a sense of diminishing returns; the first time you’re barred from looking around the crime scene it might seem tense, but by the time Quercus Alba has locked you off for the fifth time, it loses any impact it might have, especially since you know that within a few lines of dialogue, one of Edgeworth’s many allies will pop out of the woodwork to come to your aid.
So while I sighed when I heard the President strip you of your investigative rights, I was overjoyed to see that it had some actual in-game consequences. Knightley literally takes all your evidence out of your inventory and you have to win a game of Logic Chess to get any of it back. What’s more, this plot point has some real consequences to your later deduction, as Knightley is shown to have taken this moment to tamper with the evidence. This may all seem small, but when I saw the game take real steps to improve some of my main criticisms from its predecessor, you’ll understand why I was happy.
Sadly, it was only downhill from there. When I first played the game, I pretty much gave up on it half-way through The Imprisoned Turnabout, persuaded to return only by the crippling sense of duty that is being a fan of something. This time around, I again hit an Imprisoned shaped roadblock. Maybe this is because of the game’s punishingly slow default text speed that made me so frustrated I had to download a completed save file for the cases after this, but The Imprisoned Turnabout is a case of horrific pacing, largely boring and underused characters and more contrivances than you can shake a stick at.
While the first game held off on introducing its supporting cast until the third case, a decision with its own problems, Prosecutor’s Path overcorrects and introduces everyone here, in a case that’s already overstuffed. Luckily, without them this case would be almost irredeemable, so it’s nice to at least have some mild amusement. The first to be introduced is Ray Shields, an avuncular defence attorney from Edgeworth’s past. Shields used to work for Edgeworth’s father and remembers Edgeworth’s previous aspirations of being a defence attorney himself. Ray represents a kind of character I think Yamazaki’s team has really nailed; a chilled out comedy character with a serious side when it calls for it. Tyrell Badd and Calisto Yew might be the closest examples in the first game, but there are certainly more in later games the team worked on. Ray is an affable guy and fun to be around; there’s a moment when he asks you a multiple choice question where all the answers turn out to be wrong that particularly stuck with me – the game playing with its own mechanics in order to show off a character’s comedic potential shows some good priorities.
The other two recurring characters introduced here are the double act of Justine Courtney and Sebastian Debeste. While I’m happy with the way these characters end up developing, their initial introduction wears out its welcome to the extent that I would have tried to find a way to either introduce them later or use them less. The problem with these characters in this case, and in The Inherited Turnabout is that their main purpose is to pull the old ‘you can’t investigate here’ trick, albeit without the feeling of any consequence that Target had, as well as to spout the same old catchphrases over and over again.
Justine represents the Prosecutorial Investigation Committee, or P.I.C for short – in essence, the lawyer representation of the higher up police chief who distrusts Edgeworth for breaking the rules (even though he gets results, damn it!) Courtney brings a new twist to stripping investigative rights by also threatening to strip Edgeworth of his badge, although these threats seem so empty throughout the game’s runtime. It’s telling that when Edgeworth does eventually lose his badge, it’s mainly his own decision to do so, rather than the P.I.C’s.
Her other gimmick is to speak for the ‘Goddess of Law’, a really odd turn of phrase that is meant to represent Justine’s unquestioning dedication to the legal system as a higher, unimpeachable power. To me, it just comes off as another overly quirky speech pattern to attempt to give Justine something memorable about her. I think this speaks to a misunderstanding of Ace Attorney character design. Yes, the characters in every game have had strange quirks to them, but this was always accentuated in the background characters, in order to help make them stand out. When you only see a character once, having them have a crazy design and unique way of speaking helps them stick in the mind for the duration of the case. Yamazaki’s team applies this philosophy to every single character in the game, when for main characters like Justine they should be focusing on giving them interesting character arcs, not character quirks.
The ‘Goddess of Law’ stuff is doubly a shame because in every other way she’s a better rival to Edgeworth than Lang was in the first game. Whereas Lang was notable for his hasty conclusions supported by gut instinct, Courtney is formidable because of her more calm, logical reasoning. She seems to think through cases in the same way as Edgeworth, and is able to adapt her case to inconsistencies you point out. Courtney’s overall arc in this game mirrors Edgeworth’s from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney; a realisation that the legal system is imperfect, and that reaching the truth is more important than a slavish devotion to the rule of law. Were this element played up in Imprisoned and Inherited rather than being pushed mainly into the final two cases, I might have liked Courtney more, but when she’s simply spouting off a catchphrase for the better part of the game’s runtime, that catchphrase becomes my main association with her.
Debeste doesn’t fare much better, sadly. Once again, he, too, gets some great stuff to work with in the game’s conclusion, but as of this point he’s pretty much all catchphrase, no substance. The joke of his arrogance is funny to begin with but wears out its welcome far too quickly. What’s more, his clearly flawed arguments grind the flow of the case to a halt; after one cross-examination, Edgeworth even remarks that the whole thing “took way too long.” In an already lengthy case, having to prove the most obvious points to an idiot simply isn’t an appealing prospect.
As for the actual case itself, it’s pretty much one of the most absurd set ups for a case in the series. The original trilogy set each case inside a pretty memorable location, but while each location was obviously designed to work with the mystery in mind, they were also fairly realistic. Sure, the tables in Trés Bien only have dividers between them because it’s needed for the mystery to work that certain witnesses’ vision was obscured, but it’s also something that everyone has seen before. The prison in Imprisoned Turnabout is crazy, with animals let running around the place, including an alligator in the prisoner’s courtyard and an animal show held in the same courtyard which involves an elephant and a tiger. Yes, animal therapy exists and may even exist in some prisons, but the extent to which it’s pushed here makes the entire set up of the case seem contrived, and it’s a problem that Prosecutor’s Path has to deal with in other cases as well. The world of Ace Attorney is full of strange oddities and spirit channelling, but when it came to the mystery setups themselves, Takumi knew to try and keep them on a grounded plane. A good murder mystery should never feel like its world exists entirely to service that mystery, and yet an animal-obsessed prison is exactly that.
The main suspect in this case is Simon Keyes, a friend of the deceased. Unlike all the other suspects in the Investigations series, Simon actually becomes a proper defendant for Edgeworth. I mentioned in my last critique that too often, the game feels like it might as well have just been about Phoenix for how often Edgeworth is defending other people from baseless accusations. Here, at least, the game embraces that fact, with Edgeworth becoming a defence attorney’s assistant and Ray setting up one of the game’s key themes; should Edgeworth stick to being a prosecutor, or become a defence attorney like his old man? The problem with this theme is that it’s undermined almost as soon as it’s raised with Kay noting that ‘it doesn’t matter what Edgeworth’s job is’. Since Justice for All the games have stressed that Edgeworth’s breakthrough was that court was a place for the truth, and that the two sides should work together to find that. As such, his job really doesn’t matter that much. For the player it’s pretty much all the same.
What’s a shame is that with Simon they have a chance to show that there actually is a bit of a difference between defence attorney and prosecutor. A defence attorney is someone with a much closer bond to their client, and so a good way to emphasise that would be to keep checking in on Simon throughout to build up their bond. Of course, they don’t, and while they mention Simon a bunch, without showing him much he fails to have the impact that he should. A later twist reveals Simon to be the game’s true mastermind and villain and so further time spent with him in this case would do double duty of showing the role of a defence attorney and making us bond with a man we’ll later have to find out is a murderer. Instead, we get one or two scenes with him, and are otherwise reminded of his existence by Kay occasionally butting in to remind us to think of him.
Aside from Simon, we also get introduced to Sirhan Dogen, a blind assassin. Both Dogen and De Killer seem to have hopped over from the world of John Wick, such is the extent of their superpowers and little murderous gimmicks like bells and calling cards. I complained earlier about this game’s over-reliance on reducing characters to speech quirks, but Dogen’s introduction helps highlight another problem – repetition. The first scene with Dogen introduces that his dog is a weapon, and then about 10 lines of dialogue later, Edgeworth reminds us that hey, Dogen’s dog is a weapon. Dogen calls into question Sahwit’s reliability as a witness and Edgeworth’s inner monologue chimes in to remind us that Sahwit could well be unreliable. While playing this game without text skip is often annoying, I’d also recommend it to anyone who wants to see how un-economical the game’s writing is with repeating information that should be clear to the player already. It happens here, but it also happens throughout the entirety of the game’s runtime and when you can’t skip it, it becomes extremely noticeable. One thing Takumi’s games are generally good at is keeping up a good pace by not doing this sort of thing, and it stands as a feature of Yamazaki’s team’s games that they aren’t as good at this.
Dogen is marked as the suspect for the majority of this case, but eventually Justine proves him innocent with an updated autopsy report (sound familiar?). It’s a good moment, but the case has already been running along for ages by this point, and so it mostly induced a sigh from me. Imprisoned Turnabout is far too long for its own good, and spends most of its runtime making you chase the most obvious red herring; that the amazing assassin who is allowed to have the weapon he used for successfully murdering hundreds of people let loose around a prison, might be the killer. As we find Dogen not guilty, Ray notes to Edgeworth the defence attorney mantra; that a defence attorney ‘never gives up’, because he has a client on the line. There’s a lot of mantras in the Yamazaki games, but almost all of them are weightless. Was Edgeworth giving up before in the first Investigations? Have we ever seen him give up? Has anything changed? This goes back to an absence of Simon in the case – the game falls foul of a classic storytelling… mantra – ‘show don’t tell’. We’re told a lot that it’s so important we’re working as a defence attorney now but nothing has changed. It’s the same old, same old.
I’ve had enough of thinking about The Imprisoned Turnabout, so let’s move on to The Inherited Turnabout, which is a case I like a lot more. Mainly it stands above Imprisoned not for the strength of its writing, but for its core conceit; switching in time between present day, and the past, where you can play as Gregory Edgeworth. Gregory doesn’t get enough screen time to be fully-formed as a character, but he’s kind of a breath of fresh air anyway, as one of the few non-returning characters to have a pretty subdued design and personality. He’s calm and collected, but without the cocky Von Karma arrogance of Miles. He’s an old-fashioned gentleman in the nicest way, and this enables him to better play the straight man than Miles, who by this point in the series is already spouting strange, over-the-top lines like ‘Welcome to the war that is chess’.
One thing that gets worse from Imprisoned, however, is the premise of the set-up for the mystery itself. I complained about a prison for animals, but I’m now going to walk you through the premise of the setting of Inherited Turnabout, and please, call out when it is you spot the plot contrivances. So, the setting is a contest for the world’s greatest confectionery chef, hosted and judged by someone named Jeff Master, who actually is the agreed upon best chef in the world. We know he’s the best chef in the world, because the ostensible prize for winning is one of his recipes, so clearly they’re regarded as good enough that everyone else accepts that as a fair prize for winning the contest. Jeff, as well as judging the contest, also takes part in the contest. So if he decides he’s the best, he gets what he already had, and if someone else wins they get the recipe of someone who isn’t even the best anymore.
Not only that, but it later turns out that the recipe book prize is secretly the formulas for a variety of drugs, one of which is for a reasonably serious taste disorder, and another concerning the recipe to make lethal poison gas. There are clearly more formulas in that book, but we aren’t informed as to what they are. However, there is the distinct possibility that they are for other serious diseases. Jeff Master, knowing this, decides to withhold the cures from the general public, instead deciding to give them as a prize to whoever can make him the tastiest cake. If Master wins the competition that, let’s not forget, he himself judges, then who knows if the cures will ever be released to the public.
Furthermore, of the four finalists, one isn’t even a proper chef, but somehow managed to reach the finale. Two of the others are cheating by working together, but don’t work together during the contests semi-final and are both notably worse off for it, and yet also somehow don’t get kicked out of the competition. The other contestant is Jeff Master.
Now, whoever thought up this plot is clearly crazy, but I think the truth is less that they ever laid out the information like I’ve just done, and more that all these decisions were made to simply make the mystery work in the right way. When you look at the case in the way I laid out, it’s clear that Jeff Master is an asshole psychopath who is more concerned with sweets than the health of the general public. This was clearly not the writer’s intention, and most people probably won’t notice it. I don’t want to be too harsh on the case because of this, I’d like to note. Although it’s funny how mental the contest is, when you’re playing it, your experience isn’t really affected. But for a murder mystery game to be this contrived is a problem. I’m firmly of the opinion that plot holes don’t matter too much if they’re in service of character or creating interesting situations, but plot contrivances in a genre built around thinking about plots logically are more of a problem.
It’s a shame Master is inadvertently this way, because his subplot is a great little story. For one thing, him being tortured into making a confession is an element of the Japanese legal system that hasn’t been explored by the games up to this point, so it’s interesting to see it crop up here. He also shows the human effect of a poor prosecution and Von Karma’s actions in a surprisingly subtle way.
As for other characters, Larry returns in this case, and it’s nice to see that his art has improved somewhat from Trials and Tribulations; even if he can’t hold down a girlfriend, it seems he can at least hold down a job. Larry has always been a bit of a one-note joke in the games; even since the Takumi games, his main shtick has been moping about his life and chasing after women. As such, he’s not much different here. But, as I mentioned before, he sadly doesn’t stick out as much in a game where everyone is a one-trick pony. One scene had me sighing as Larry is accused by Sebastian and Justine. Larry lusts after Justine, Sebastian talks about ‘the BEST logic’, Justine notes that ‘the Goddess of Law is ready to slam her gavel’ on Larry. I know I might sound like a broken record complaining about this, but so much of the game’s dialogue sounds like a broken record to me. Even Kay, who I loved in the first game, is given so little to do here that the majority of her comments are lame jokes about how she’d love to steal whatever item your cursor has hovered on this time. Kay was a thief in the first game, but her motivation was always about stealing the truth and her dialogue was far more varied than just ‘oh, this thing looks relatively expensive’.
The main thing The Inherited Turnabout strives for, however, is introducing the game’s major theme of ‘family’. We’ve seen this a little bit before in the previous case with Knightley and Simon both being raised without a family, but it’s the most obvious here. Obviously there’s Gregory and Miles, but also Gustavia and Dover both having children. I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about the theme in more depth, but overall I’m slightly cold on it. If Prosecutor’s Path is trying to say anything meaningful with its focus on family, it seems to be that we can’t escape our family, no matter how hard we try.
Edgeworth is not a defence attorney like his father was, but he does inherit his father’s final case and his ambitions to save people. Simon Keyes tries to reject the father who rejected him, but ends up being a mirror image of his father. Kay obviously follows in her father’s footsteps, but also takes a new father figure in the form of Edgeworth (something done with a nice bit of imagery mirroring in The Forgotten Turnabout). The only person who ends up rejecting their father is Sebastian Debeste. Edgeworth makes a lot of speeches about how Sebastian needs to forge his own path, but the game seems slightly unclear as to how to link this to any other part of the game. Should we strive for independence from our family? Probably, because it works for Sebastian and would have worked for Simon. But can we? Yes if we look at Sebastian, no if we look at Simon. Do we need a new father figure to help us? Well, Sebastian sort of got one in Edgeworth and it worked for him. But Simon, while taking Dogen as his new father figure, still ends up unable to escape his genes anyway. And if we’re Edgeworth, then clearly we should try and mirror our father.
This isn’t to say the game never throws up some interesting ideas about family, but it’s not a cohesive theme. It feels more like a motif to throw some plot tangents around rather than anything truly substantial. Ace Attorney has always had some obsession with family ties and family politics, but this game feels the most like it’s trying to use those themes to say something about the idea of family. It’s an admirable effort, I suppose, even if it doesn’t convince me personally.
The Forgotten Turnabout sees Kay lose her memory and become an instantly more interesting character within the scope of this game. It also features Edgeworth giving up his prosecutor’s badge willingly in order to save her. I really like this moment. Although I’ve complained about the game not really showing the consequences for a lot of the threats it makes on Edgeworth, here I think it works. For one thing, the line ‘A mere badge… for the life of my friend. I needn’t even consider it’ really just works for me (even if in a way it works against the game’s favour by reinforcing the meaninglessness of badges and roles within Ace Attorney’s universe). The other line that works from me is from the otherwise slightly-absent Gumshoe, who says ‘But sir, it’s always been you and me. We’ve always been a team.’ Using a relationship the player has followed all the way from the first Ace Attorney game in order to hit home how losing a badge might affect Edgeworth? Good stuff.
The main focus of Forgotten is Edgeworth & Co. (once again including a teleporting Ema Skye), discovering a secret evidence auction in the Grand Tower. The auction serves as a slightly more satisfying variant of the twist in Apollo Justice wherein you discover Misham has been painting Apollo’s cases. Like then, it’s a shock to see that someone has clearly been following you, but the explanation makes more sense than… well, whatever the explanation happened to be for Misham’s thing.
The auction is being run by Blaise Debeste, Sebastian’s father. Blaise is the textbook definition of an abusive father, to the extent that it threatens to teeter into ridiculousness. His behaviour towards Sebsatian, constantly putting him down and revealing that he’s basically paid for him to succeed in school is oftentimes hard to watch, but does at least make his eventual takedown by Sebastian ridiculously satisfying. Franziska also reappears here, although seemingly for no real reason other than to draw the parallel in the player’s mind between Blaise and Manfred – both murderous prosecutor fathers of a child ‘prodigy’.
Forgotten contains some Logic Chess segments of interest, so I’m now going to talk about that mechanic in some more detail. The idea of Logic Chess is to be a conversation simulator, and the main way it achieves that is by asking you to look at animation cues from the impressive sprite work. You have to ask the right questions, then see how the person reacts in order to make a decision about whether to ask another question or to wait and let them keep talking. The problem is that it’s all far too simple. The standard deal in Logic Chess is to wait and see when they do their agitated sprite, and keep pressing at any other time. In multiple choice segments, you simply have to just ask each one until you hit a roadblock, then ask the next one until you get a clue. It’s a mechanic that makes it incredibly difficult to ever get too lost.
So sure, it doesn’t work that well mechanically, but instead its strength actually comes from how it’s used to communicate character through gameplay. Take Larry, for example; Larry is a guy who basically gets himself into trouble, so simply waiting and never talking means he spills all the beans himself for the first half of his Logic Chess, and then you have to get really aggressive with him so that he realises how serious the situation is. Or how about the Logic Chess with Blaise? Edgeworth, imprisoned for aiding a criminal, is talking to someone he knows is a murderer and so you’re constantly taking an aggressive stance against Blaise.
This all leads to the final Logic Chess with Sebastian in The Grand Turnabout – now you’re talking with someone on the verge of a mental breakdown, whose whole life has been revealed to be a lie orchestrated by an abusive father. You have to give Sebastian time to talk to you, while also encouraging him to stand up against the man who hurt him. It’s a really great segment and shows that even if a mechanic doesn’t entirely work in a gameplay sense, it can still have some real power elsewhere.
The rest of The Grand Turnabout is, to be generous, a fascinating mess. It focuses around yet another letter-letter-number incident (the second in this game after Inherited’s IS-7), this time SS-5. SS-5 involves the murder of Zheng-Fa’s President, who has been replaced with a body double working together with both Patricia Roland – the warden of the prison in the second case – and Blaise Debeste. The journalist boyfriend of the victim of The Forgotten Turnabout was also killed at the scene. The murderer of the President was the assassin Sirhan Dogen. Dogen himself was saved by Simon Keyes, son of Dane Gustavia, who he had met previously after Simon was tied down by Horace Knightley. This was all so that Simon’s father wouldn’t win a rigged sweet making contest and get a book full of drug formulas. The President was at the scene to meet his son, John Marsh, now in the custody of Justine Courtney. The main investigator of the case was the father of Shi-Long Lang. I feel sure Penny Nichols’ dad was probably watching the whole thing from the window of the building across the street.
The problem with this set up for me is again a problem of thinking about it too much. When playing the game, the twists come thick and fast and it’s important to note that they’re also really good twists. I’ve mentioned before that Yamazaki can plot a good twist and these are some of his best. The President was a body double the whole time! The mastermind behind the entire game is one person! And it’s genuinely one of the people you’d suspect the least! But while the twists are good, you can really feel the game strain under the weight of making sure every little thing connects. Everyone on-screen (and there are a lot of characters on-screen) has to have some vital part to play, and eventually it becomes exhausting. When Dogen chimes in out of nowhere to reveal that, during SS-5, he’d been saved by the boy that Dogen himself had saved before, I was confused. So, of all the boys in the world, Dogen had just happened to stumble upon the one boy that he would later, completely coincidentally, meet again at the orphanage, who he’d recognise only because he had previously done the most out-of-character thing of saving someone’s life? Moment-to-moment, it all seems fine, but the premise is unsustainable. Having an interconnected story was fun in Trials and Tribulations, but even it didn’t try and connect Dahlia to the events of Recipe for a Turnabout, and it was wise not to.
The final thing to touch on is Simon himself; the man who masterminds the game. I’ll admit it, the idea of a mastermind in a game like this is cool as fuck, and it’s nice to see that the game handles the final confrontation far better than the confrontation with Alba. Alba was about to get away with his crimes because of diplomatic immunity, a vague and nebulous concept. But Simon is someone who claims to have not even committed any crimes. He’s simply a master manipulator; an animal tamer. It’s a premise not unfamiliar to murder mysteries (Agatha Christie’s Curtain plays a similar trick to good effect), and it works well here, as you get to have both the shock of realising that he didn’t commit most of the crimes as well as the satisfaction of getting him for the one that he did.
His motive is also better than Alba’s, who just wanted to line his pockets. Simon is a victim as well; of an abusive father and a gang of murderers. His revenge, although the game never wants to admit it, is almost justified. He couldn’t go to the police because they were controlled by someone who wanted him dead, and his “murder” of Knightley was only because he was misinformed. The game sadly never tries to paint him as anything but a cartoonishly evil villain, but there’s some good subtext there.
I’ve been harsh on Prosecutor’s Path. I really hope I haven’t come across as patronising, because I said that I wanted to understand more about what people see in it, and I do think replaying it has helped with that. For one thing, it’s incredibly ambitious in all of its cases. Its interwoven story is pretty gripping, with each case working both on its own terms and feeding into a central behind the scenes plot. There’s a sense of scope and scale to it that’s unlike anything that’s come before in the series and even if I have problems with how it contorts itself into coming to a satisfying conclusion, I can at least say that it does. Plus, it has some good character arcs, fun ideas for cases, strange and often brilliant murder plots and some themes that have interesting ideas thrown into them.
I hope though, that people can also see where I’m coming from when I say I don’t rate the game as highly as they might. Although I can appreciate its scale, I can’t look past the contrivances it has to make to accomplish its grand vision. While I like some of its characters, I find them poorly written and flanderised for the majority of the game’s incredibly long run-time. And while its thematic ambitions aren’t lost on me, I also think they fall short of the mark. Prosecutor’s Path is, in most ways, an improvement on its predecessor, but it doesn’t convince me as a case for the new team’s grasp over Ace Attorney.
In the next entry, we’ll be finally departing the Nintendo DS, and moving into the third dimension with Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, to see how Takumi handles the idea of an Ace Attorney spin-off. As always, you can support me on patreon or follow me on twitter. Thanks for reading!