In 2009, the Ace Attorney franchise received its first spinoff title in the form of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. Fans rejoiced at the prospect of an entire game starring the fan favorite Miles Edgeworth, and it consequently fared well both with them and critics. In response to this positive reception, the game’s producer, Motohide Eshiro, revealed that he had contacted Minae Matsukawa. Ms. Matsukawa was notable for having served as the producer for the DS port of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney along with its distant sequel, Apollo Justice. The reason for Mr. Eshiro to have contacted her was straightforward enough; he offered his services in developing a new Ace Attorney game. This project would officially begin in September of 2009, and the developers went to a “training camp” of sorts to talk about the game for an entire day for the purpose of outlining it.
Revealed in an issue of Famitsu with the name Turnabout Prosecutor 2 in September of 2010, this new game promised to see the return of Miles Edgeworth, Dick Gumshoe and Kay Faraday. Screenshots revealed the existence of a new gameplay mechanic with a prominent chess motif. In addition to revealing a few new characters, the article insisted that the game would focus more on Edgeworth himself than on other characters or past events. It went on to state that the creators wished to reveal a more human, conflicted side to him never before seen. It was around this time that the official website for the game launched.
Mr. Eshiro once again served as the producer of this game while Takeshi Yamazaki directed and wrote the scenario, sharing the latter duty with Yuki Nakamura. Ace Attorney Investigations was notable for having a development cycle that lasted much longer than those of its predecessors in the core series. Much of this can be attributed to the new gameplay mechanics necessitating Mr. Eshiro and his team to develop them from scratch. The development of its sequel ended up taking far less time due to already having a solid foundation on which they could create content. They had even gone as far as spending five days and four nights in a place dubbed the Capcom Manor to work on the game. The inspiration for this decidedly unorthodox method of brainstorming was inspired by the filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. The esteemed director would gather writers in a hotel room to conceive scripts for his films. At the manor, they systematically discussed the plot, formulated the new gameplay system, finalized the direction, and created sketches for a majority of the cast.
At the Tokyo Game Show convention of 2010, three new characters were officially revealed and named. A trailer showing gameplay footage of Turnabout Trial 2 revealed that many elements from its predecessor such as mentally connecting the facts of the case and utilizing the Little Thief to recreate the crime scene would make a return for this installment as well. In addition, a playable demo of the first episode, “Turnabout Target” was made available at the event. In November, the official website revealed the game’s box art and its slated release date: February 3, 2011. The day came to pass and the game was released to a positive reception.
It didn’t take long for Western fans to speculate the game’s localization plans. In what was a doubtlessly disappointing move for countless overseas fans, Ace Attorney Investigations only ever saw an English translation. Capcom then proceeded to up the ante from this controversial decision by opting not to localize Turnabout Prosecutor 2 at all. Why they decided to limit the game to its domestic market isn’t certain. Christian Svensson, the Senior Vice-President of Capcom’s USA branch at the time said that the decision was made due to estimated returns being unlikely to cover localization costs. Meanwhile, Mr. Eshiro claimed that it was due to a scheduling issue; the staff who worked on this game had disbanded, moving to different teams after finishing it. Around this time, Capcom had been under fire for many controversial business decisions. The list of grievances include releasing multiple titles with on-disc downloadable content, canceling the highly desired sequel to Mega Man Legends, and proceeding to give up on the long-running series entirely once its creator, Keiji Inafune, left in 2010.
To Capcom’s credit, they had many internal discussions on how to address this issue. Mr. Svensson said there might be potential to release the game as a downloadable digital title, thus reducing manufacturing costs. Talks about whether how they could localize this game continued into the next year. However, in 2012, Capcom announced that the core series was to, at long last, receive a sequel. This proved to be a mixed blessing, for Capcom quickly assured fans that it would be localized, but in doing so, all plans to bring Turnabout Prosecutor 2 to the West were effectively stopped.
Fortunately, all hope was not lost. Users on the Ace Attorney fan site Court-Records banded together to create a fan translation. This was not a task to be undertaken by amateurs, and to separate the wheat from the chaff, people had to submit applications, which in turn required the community’s approval in order for them to be on the team. Alexa Ray Corriea writing for Polygon described this approach as uncommon, for most fan translations allow anyone to contribute. It was similar to the Mother 3 translation led by Clyde “Tomato” Mandelin in that it’s clear the people involved wanted the translation to be as professional of a product as possible. The translation was released in an episodic format. In the autumn of 2013, a beta patch translating the first two episodes was released. Nearing the end of the following winter, work on the third episode was complete. In June of 2014, the game was at last fully translated into English, unofficially dubbed Prosecutor’s Path. There have been many instances throughout history of quality games failing to leave Japan. Was this a game worth of the fans’ immeasurable excitement?
Starting the Game
WARNING: The following review will contain unmarked spoilers for this game and the series thus far.
One month has passed since a smuggling ring in Cohdopia was shut down. A genius prosecutor by the name of Miles Edgeworth investigated a series of murders that allowed him to identify the mastermind: Ambassador Quercus Alba of Allebahst. Following Alba’s arrest and subsequent guilty verdict, the president of Zheng Fa, Di-Jun Huang, has arrived on his plane to give a speech at Gourd Lake Nature Park. In addition to the many lives ended and ruined as a result of the ring’s efforts to keep their activities secret, they brought the prosperous Asian nation of Zheng Fa to its knees when they circulated countless counterfeit bank notes, thus destroying the country’s economy.
President Huang delivers a speech, expressing gratitude to the prosecutor’s office for their efforts in ridding his country of the smuggling ring. However, he claims the battle has not yet been won, though he is confident that justice would prevail in the end. As soon as he makes this proclamation, a gunshot rings out. In the panic, the president’s bodyguards escort him back to the plane. The Chief Prosecutor, who was in the audience at the time, orders Miles Edgeworth to the scene, knowing that if anyone could unravel what just transpired, it was him.
Upon arriving at the park, Edgeworth is greeted by his colleague, Detective Dick Gumshoe, who fills him in on what happened. The president’s speech was interrupted when somebody targeted him with a gun. Realizing the security made it impossible to enter or exit the park without anyone’s knowledge, Edgeworth concludes that the assassination attempt was premeditated. He also learns that the president hired a private security company for his protection rather than officers from Zheng Fa’s government. With these facts in mind, Edgeworth’s investigation begins in earnest.
The gameplay of Prosecutor’s Path is, for the most part, identical to that of Ace Attorney Investigations. It is what Ace Attorney would be if it were an adventure game rather than a visual novel. You control Edgeworth’s movements around the crime scene in search of evidence that allows him to get to the bottom of things. Evidence typically comes in two different forms that are stored in separate screens. Physical evidence is placed in the Organizer, which is this game’s equivalent to the Court Record and all of the functionality it entails. Meanwhile, Edgeworth will also learn facts about the case that are stored on the Logic screen. Upon accessing this screen, you can link two facts together, allowing Edgeworth to take vital steps toward solving the case.
As a rule, introductory episodes tend to have straightforward plots. A murder has been committed and you must get to the bottom of it lest an innocent person be found guilty in the true culprit’s stead. Though Ace Attorney Investigations had a slightly different take by having Edgeworth visit the actual crime scene rather than learning about it in court, the story beats in broad strokes were functionally the same – a villain has committed a heinous crime, and it’s up to the protagonist to unravel it.
Despite being simple compared to the episodes that follow, looking over the introductory episodes showcase a subtle, yet distinct evolution. The first episode of Phoenix Wright was a basic tutorial that could be completed in less than an hour, making it the shortest episode in the series by a significant margin. Justice for All continued this trend, yet its introductory episode was divided into two parts, demonstrating that more care went into its creation. Finally, starting with Trials and Tribulations, introductory episodes began serving a twofold purpose. In addition to teaching newcomers how the game works, these episodes would begin tying into the overall plot, allowing players to get a sense of its scope before the most important information is disclosed. Apollo Justice was particularly noteworthy for featuring an effective red herring regarding the true culprit’s identity in the very first episode – something even the savviest fan would not have seen coming.
How does Prosecutor’s Path fare when it comes to its own introductory episode? It throws a curveball before you’re even formally granted control of the game. Edgeworth isn’t called to investigate a murder, but rather an assassination attempt. Though you do technically go through all of the same motions as you would to solve a murder in this series, it’s still highly unusual to look through the list of profiles and not see a deceased person among them. For reference, the only other episode whose events did not properly begin due to the discovery of a corpse was “The Stolen Turnabout” – the second episode in Trials and Tribulations. Though it may seem like an insignificant fact from the onset, I believe it to be the first indication of what kind of experience you’re in for.
In the core series, Phoenix Wright possessed an item with mystical power known as a magatama. Gifted to him by the Fey family, this valuable item allowed him to tell whenever somebody was hiding something from him. Whenever this happened, physical manifestations of a person’s willingness to keep the truth a secret called Psyche-Locks would appear. His disciple, Apollo Justice, had a similar ability. His superhuman perception allowed him to notice a person’s tell whenever they’re lying, though. Both of these mechanics, though different in functionality, served the same overall purpose – to make the episodes more dynamic. Without them, the games would have stagnated in quality with every cross-examination and investigation phase panning out in the exact same fashion – even if the number of steps to reach the endgame varied. Keeping this in mind, it’s thematically appropriate how in the sequel to Ace Attorney Investigations, Miles Edgeworth receives his own version of the magatama.
As Edgeworth deduces the number of gunshots fired in the attempt on President Huang’s life, an overly enthusiastic woman tries to get his attention. Introducing herself as Nicole Swift, she tells Edgeworth that she has information on the assassination attempt. In spite of her initially exuberant demeanor, she refuses to divulge any of her knowledge unless Edgeworth relinquishes information about himself. This is when an important new mechanic is introduced – one that was featured heavily in promotional materials. Like outwitting an opponent in chess, Edgeworth must draw out the information from Swift.
Fittingly, this mechanic is called Logic Chess. His opponent’s willingness to hide the truth is represented as metaphorical chess pieces. Only once they have been disposed of will they tell him what he needs to know. How it usually works is that Edgeworth will begin with general questions regarding the witness’s secret information. The dialogue will advance until it presents you with a branch. Unlike a vast majority of dialogue trees you may have encountered in other games, electing to say nothing is a valid option. In fact, being blunt and direct may only succeed in agitating Edgeworth’s opponent. On the other hand, he can’t be too passive; if Edgeworth’s opponent isn’t likely to continue talking, they will assume he has nothing more to say.
A meter similar to the one that serves as a penalty system during investigation phases adorns the bottom of the screen. It functions similarly as well; saying the wrong thing or remaining quiet at an inopportune moment will result in the meter decreasing. However, there is one marked difference between this meter and the one that shows up when examining the crime scene – it’s timed. While contemporary efforts would constantly remind you to reload your gun ten hours into the experience, Prosecutor’s Path expects players to be as perceptive and quick-witted as Miles Edgeworth himself, for one needs to adjust to this new mechanic immediately to have any long-term success.
This aspect alone is admirable, but what I particularly enjoy about Logic Chess is how it incorporates a facet that has existed in the series since its inception. Specifically, the series has always had something of a playful attitude despite being obligated to kill off at least one character per episode. This was seen as early as the first game wherein Phoenix Wright requested a bellboy to testify at the stand. Because they hadn’t originally intended for the bellboy to be a witness, Mr. Takumi and his team decided against drawing any new sprites for him as he testified. He therefore takes the stand dressed in his work uniform while balancing a full tea set on a tray. Along the same lines, characters often had amusing animations when caught in a lie during cross-examinations. They were only topped by the grandiose fashions in which they broke down on the stand.
With Logic Chess, Prosecutor’s Path takes these highly exaggerated character animations and actively incorporates them into the gameplay. It is through observing how characters react to Edgeworth’s questioning that you will have the most success getting information out of them. Paying attention to the responses themselves can prove useful as well. If a dialogue option is a baseless accusation or overly reactionary, you can safely bet choosing them will be a waste of time. Drawing information out of a witness may also require facts not yet known to Edgeworth. He will privately admit that he does not have the information to continue on a line of questioning in such instances. You’re typically nearing the end of a Logic Chess session when you’re given three lines of questioning at once.
After your first bout of Logic Chess, Kay Faraday appears. She helped Edgeworth take down the smuggling ring and was in the audience during the president’s speech.
She serves the same role in this game, being what Maya Fey was to Phoenix Wright – an energetic assistant of sorts who manages to be an effective foil to the straight-faced protagonist. From there, it doesn’t take long for Edgeworth to come face-to-face with an eerily familiar individual.
I assure you that I did not obtain this screenshot from a later episode. A person of interest in the first episode of Prosecutor’s Path is none other than Shelly de Killer, the assassin hired by Matt Engarde to kill his rival, Juan Corrida, in “Farewell, My Turnabout”. Unlike Phoenix, Edgeworth has never met him personally before, and the assassin takes advantage of this, passing himself off as an ice cream salesman named John Doe. Even better, he just so happens to be the first person you properly question. As with Ace Attorney Investigations, questioning functions identically to cross-examinations. A witness’s account is split up into multiple smaller statements. Your goal is to find a statement that doesn’t match up with the evidence you’ve collected. Once you’ve spotted the contradiction, you must bring up the statement that contains it and present the piece of evidence capable of falsifying it. It doesn’t matter whether a witness is lying or drawing an incorrect conclusion; all discrepancies are resolved in the same manner. As usual, you can press statements to gain more information, and relevant details will be added to the testimony as appropriate.
In a series that had been hesitant to rely on its previous canon for the sake of not locking any potential newcomers out of the loop, forcing players to question de Killer first is an ingenious move on the writers’ part. As “Farewell, My Turnabout” demonstrated that de Killer was a highly skilled assassin, the obvious conclusion weighing on the returning player’s mind is he attempted to kill the president. This preconceived notion is damaged when de Killer points out that another person was wearing a red coat. This person aimed a laser pointer at the president’s forehead. Because Swift was tape recording the speech, yet did not show up in one of Kay’s photos, she is now the primary suspect.
Before she can fully explain herself, one of the president’s bodyguards, Horace Knightley emerges from the plane. He informs everyone that President Huang was safe, but he also bore bad news. The head bodyguard, Ethan Rooke, had been killed protecting the president. Edgeworth asks him for permission to investigate only for Knightley to tell him that the matter had been handed to the Zheng Fa police force. Suddenly, de Killer, dropping his charade attacks Knightley, holding a knife to his throat. He reveals that somebody had indeed hired him to assassinate the president and issues a peculiar ultimatum – Edgeworth is to investigate the circumstances leading up to Rooke’s death.
As with Ace Attorney Investigations, Prosecutor’s Path distinguishes itself from a typical Ace Attorney installment in that you investigate the crime scene seconds after the murder took place. This involves examining the victim’s corpse. Once you have enough evidence, the story will proceed automatically. At this point, satisfied with the results of Edgeworth’s investigation, de Killer makes a quick escape, leaving his trademark calling card behind.
It is here that Edgeworth at last confronts the would-be victim, President Huang. The president orders Knightley to confiscate all of the evidence Edgeworth has gathered. Undeterred, Edgeworth convinces President Huang to let him get to the bottom of things. As it turns out, the president had a good reason for wanting to take him off the case. After questioning him further, it’s revealed that the assassination attempt was faked. The purpose of this stunt was to gain the sympathy of Zheng Fa’s citizens, as Huang’s favorability had been slipping in the past years.
This by itself would make for a shocking revelation, but amazingly, the episode isn’t done. Even after the deception is revealed, Knightley proclaims that the plan would have been flawless had Rooke not died. He then intends to use his new position as the president’s head bodyguard to concoct more plans such as the staged assassination. Following Edgeworth’s questioning, the true nature of these events are at last brought to light.
Shortly before the episode began, the president’s bodyguards had been accosted by de Killer. The assassin managed to severely injure Knightley’s neck. Rooke managed to subdue de Killer by twisting his arm and shooting it. Though Rooke was made head bodyguard, he refused to go along with the fake assassination attempt, forcing Huang to turn to Knightley instead. Knightley, consumed by jealousy, took advantage of the ensuing turmoil by murdering Rooke.
I particularly like what Knightley’s fatal error turns out to be – his fingerprints are on the murder weapon. After several episodes, the average player is conditioned to accept that the culprit wouldn’t make such an amateurish mistake. Even the hilariously inept Frank Sahwit had the foresight to wear gloves when he committed his crime. Granted, Knightley himself correctly points out that his fingerprints being on his revolver wouldn’t be unusual, but because he swapped the bullets with those of a different gun, they turned up on them as well. Realizing he has no way out, Knightley screams at Edgeworth, vowing that the battle isn’t over. Unfazed, the latter responds that the rest will be settled in court.
In the span of one episode, we learn an assassination attempt was a hoax a bodyguard took advantage of to murder his superior. It’s not even clear when the episode begins that a murder even took place, and there is a treasure trove of red herrings thrown your way – the biggest of which being Shelly de Killer. Had they expanded the material, “Turnabout Target” could have been a perfectly serviceable finale in any other game. This is not a coincidence; the creators of Prosecutor’s Path outright stated that they wanted the introductory episode to have the overall feel of a finale. This is reinforced with the conversation Edgeworth has with the president wherein the latter admits his fault and says he and his associates are welcome to visit his country at any time. In any other game, this kind of dialogue would be followed up with the credits rolling. In Prosecutor’s Path, this is a mere prelude to what is to come.
Delving into the Experience
Horace Knightley promising that things aren’t over when the authorities take him away may seem eerily familiar to Ace Attorney fans. Specifically, his words echo the sentiments of Dahlia Hawthorne – the culprit of the first episode in Trials and Tribulations. When caught, she swore revenge on Mia Fey. Due to Mia’s unfortunate passing at the hands of Redd White, Dahlia never got that opportunity. This forced her to settle for a proxy revenge by attempting to kill Mia’s younger sister in “Bridge to the Turnabout”. The episode directly preceding it deftly built up to the climax by showing the player the true depths of her depravity.
The takeaway is that “Turnabout Memories” was notable for being the first introductory case in the series to have a significant bearing on the overall plot. After hearing Knightley’s parting words, I knew this wasn’t going to be the last I saw of him. I was certain he would show up in a later episode, enacting an elaborate revenge scheme to get back at Edgeworth. Little did I know that I would only end up being half-right.
Two days after the fake assassination attempt, Edgeworth, Kay and Gumshoe arrive at the detention center to meet with Horace Knightley. True to his word, Edgeworth is to prosecute Knightley’s trial the next day. With the decisive evidence he collected, convicting him would just be a formality. Suddenly a guard bursts into the visitor’s room with some urgent news: Horace Knightley had been murdered. Sure enough, when the four of them arrive in one of the prison’s workrooms, they find Knightley’s unmistakably dead body.
For the second episode in a row, the game has thrown a premise at us that flies in the face of the series’ formula before we’re even granted control of Edgeworth. Characters such as Turner Grey from Justice for All or Romein LeTouse from Apollo Justice stood out in that the protagonist could interact with them as though they were normal witnesses in the moments leading up to their untimely demise, but Prosecutor’s Path goes a step further. Never has a cross-examined character, let alone the episode’s culprit, ever been a murder victim. He went through all of the motions of a typical Ace Attorney killer – complete with an over-the-top comedic breakdown – only for Edgeworth to investigate his death in the very next episode.
“The Imprisoned Turnabout” is arguably the most straightforward of any of this game’s episodes. Nonetheless, like “Turnabout Target”, it makes you work for the ending, and you will be relieved when you finally hear the “presto” variation of the questioning theme play. Then again, unlike in Ace Attorney Investigations, the “presto” variation plays even when confronting innocent witnesses, meaning you can no longer use this to gauge your progress. There are many other small touches that successfully signpost just how much the creators have improved since their previous work as well.
One issue plaguing Ace Attorney Investigations was it introduced its rival character, Shi-Long Lang, too late in the game. He first appears in the third episode and doesn’t become relevant again until the fifth. This was likely one of the reasons why much of the game felt directionless. The writers clearly learned from their mistakes because Prosecutor’s Path introduces a majority of its major players within the first two episodes. It even gives you two characters who act as a rival to Edgworth: Sebastian Debeste and Justine Courtney. Sebastian is a prosecutor who, as enforced by his surname, fancies himself a renowned prosecutor despite coming across as a clueless dolt. This overconfidence stems from the excellent grades he received in school than any practical experience as his first testimony demonstrates. Amusingly, it manages to be difficult to crack simply because it’s so overwrought and vague that Edgeworth has no choice but to press his statements for actual substantial information.
Accompanying Sebastian is Justine Courtney. She is a member of the Prosecutorial Investigation Committee and she informs Edgeworth that this case is to be handed to the decidedly less-than-capable Sebastian. The reason he is disallowed to investigate further is because of how he handled the fake assassination plot. The plane was protected by extraterrestrial rights. Had Edgeworth made even the slightest error in judgement, it would’ve caused an international incident. Naturally, this causes quite a lot of friction between the two characters. Courtney disapproves of Edgeworth’s tactics, believing them to have “ends justify the means” connotations. Meanwhile, Edgeworth states that he can’t accept Courtney’s dogmatic adherence to the rules. In a way, this relationship is an antithesis to the one between Edgeworth and Kay. While Edgeworth and Kay are both good people who go about seeking justice in distinct ways, Edgeworth and Courtney have wildly different interpretations about how the law should be applied to the betterment of society.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost. Shortly after discovering Knightley’s body, Raymond Shields appears on the scene. He was to be Knightley’s defense attorney, but the circumstances naturally put an end to that venture. His first exchanges with Edgeworth are enlightening, for it’s stated that the two know each other. Indeed, the player quickly discovers that Raymond is in charge of Edgeworth Law Offices – the firm founded by Miles’s father, Gregory. One of his first acts is to call out Edgeworth for his betrayal to the “von Karma way”, referring to the latter’s ruthless mentor. Even so, Raymond doesn’t hold a lot of malice for Edgeworth and is willing give him a chance to prove that he is a changed man.
Speaking of which, another subtle problem I had with Ace Attorney Investigations was that suspects shifted around too much. Part of the appeal of the Ace Attorney series was that Phoenix and Apollo weren’t just trying to expose the killer, they wanted to exonerate their clients. It added a personal incentive that cemented the courtroom battles as life-or-death affairs. To be fair, this premise didn’t always work in practice. There were many episodes in which it’s obvious the defendant is innocent long before the case ends, yet they’re always found guilty if the protagonist receives too many penalties regardless. In most cases, this was easy to overlook because these scenarios clearly weren’t canonical, but they did stretch the suspension of disbelief a little too far.
Prosecutor’s Path doesn’t have this problem. After Ethan Rooke is found dead, Nicole Swift is the main suspect for the remainder of the episode, and it’s up to Edgeworth to find the real culprit. “The Imprisoned Turnabout” continues this trend in the form of Simon Keyes.
He is an incredibly timid person who happened to be a childhood friend of Knightley’s. Now, Simon finds himself facing murder charges. Raymond has agreed to act as his defense attorney and allows Edgeworth to accompany him, thereby allowing the latter to circumvent the committee’s orders. Suspicion isn’t thrown off of him simply by cracking a few testimonies either; you need to expose the true killer to ensure his freedom. This trend continues throughout the rest of the game, allowing Prosecutor’s Path to simultaneously forge its own identity while capturing what made the core installments so memorable.
Simon Keyes’s character also provides an interesting amount of insight into Knightley’s. Being the first episode’s killer, one would be forgiven for believing there was nothing more to Horace Knightley’s personality than being just that. Only after he becomes a murder victim himself do you learn that wasn’t quite the extent of his character. Even just from Simon’s scant descriptions, it becomes apparent Knightley genuinely considered him a friend. Later on, we even get to see a flashback of the two of them interacting. When speaking with Simon, Knightley acts like a completely different person.
Edgeworth eventually learns that Simon Keyes is employed by the Berry Big Circus. I could imagine a sense of dread welling up inside a person in the face of such a prospect. After all, the Berry Big Circus is associated with “Turnabout Big Top”, which stands to this day as the single most despised episode in the original trilogy. Mercifully, only one character from that episode makes an appearance: Regina Berry. While she did contribute to that episode’s awfulness, she wasn’t as blatantly annoying as her peers. Indeed, without Lawrence Curls or Ben Woodman around, she’s fairly tolerable. This is further helped by the fact that Edgeworth doesn’t have to question her at length.
All in all, “The Imprisoned Turnabout” is an excellent follow-up of an episode that allowed the game to place its best foot forward. In the 2010s, it was usually a bad sign whenever a game pitched this many good ideas within the first third. This is partially because as budgets grew, AAA developers adopted a detrimental habit of placing all of their best ideas within the first hours of gameplay. Because critics couldn’t be counted on to finish these games, they often assumed one that starts off good would remain so. Numerous contemporary examples proved this was far from the case. Thankfully, Prosecutor’s Path is hardly a normal game as the next episode will show.
Once Simon Keyes is acquitted, Raymond asks Edgeworth if whether or not he would be interested in becoming a defense attorney. Edgeworth, Gumshoe, and Kay all find this notion preposterous, though Raymond insists that he is serious. A few days later after pondering this proposition, Raymond and Edgeworth visit the Zodiac Art Gallery. There, Raymond asks Edgeworth if he knows of the IS-7 Incident.
After the success of Phoenix Wright, Shu Takumi was inspired to expand the standalone game into a trilogy. This culminated in the grand finale known as “Bridge to the Turnabout”. It remains one of the most beloved episodes in the series, and a lot of the praise fans give it is deserved. In addition to getting to play as Edgeworth, there were numerous callbacks to previous episodes. The good things that can be said about this episode extend beyond merely providing fanservice. The true appeal of the episode is that the series’ lingering plot threads were resolved in satisfying ways. The only real issue I myself had with the writing is that it largely failed to make its antagonist sympathetic, but otherwise, it was a solid finale.
As most players would know by this point, most of the central characters’ lives were negatively impacted by the DL-6 Incident. This was the case that led to Yanni Yogi being falsely accused of the murder of skilled defense attorney Gregory Edgeworth. Rather than conducting a proper investigation, the amoral defense attorney assigned to his case, Robert Hammond, convinced him to plead insanity. This led to Yanni’s wife committing suicide, and his life was ruined as a result. One of the witnesses in this trial was notably the victim himself. Misty Fey, the head of a family of spirit mediums, channeled his spirit. Because Yanni was found not guilty, this discredited the Fey family, forcing Misty to go into hiding. Most of the truth behind this incident was revealed in “Turnabout Goodbyes”, the fourth episode of Phoenix Wright with “Bridge to the Turnabout” detailing the fate of Misty Fey.
In reality, Gregory Edgeworth was murdered by Manfred von Karma, a legendary prosecutor who, at that point, had gone twenty-five years without tasting defeat. The two faced each other in court on that fateful day, and though Manfred emerged victorious, it came at what he would consider a terrible price. Gregory had done something that resulted in Manfred being penalized for the first time in his career. This otherwise insignificant black mark was unacceptable to the undefeated prosecutor, and once the opportunity presented itself, he murdered Gregory in cold blood.
Though the narrative never really drew attention to it at any point, astute players will notice that one mystery remains – what happened to Gregory’s final client? Was an innocent person wrongly declared guilty? What little we do know about Gregory Edgeworth as a person suggests he wouldn’t attempt to defend a legitimately guilty person. This is what the third episode of Prosecutor’s Path, “The Inherited Turnabout” seeks to answer. To this end, Takeshi Yamazaki and Yuki Nakamura rightly decided that best way to accomplish this is through showing rather than telling. That’s right – after hearing about what a great person Gregory Edgeworth was from various secondhand sources, the narrative flashes back eighteen years so players may experience the events of the IS-7 Incident for themselves.
Playing through these flashback sequences is interesting when you begin thinking in terms of the series’ overall timeline. Cohdopia is still one country, Phoenix and Edgeworth are still friends in school, and every other victim in the series is still alive. In fact, many important characters such as Apollo Justice |and Athena Cykes| haven’t even been born yet.
From the minute you begin playing as him, Gregory Edgeworth contrasts quite a bit different from any of the previous defense attorney protagonists. While Phoenix was easily flustered and Apollo’s overly exuberant demeanor often proved incongruous in a typical courtroom setting, Gregory Edgeworth is nothing but courteous and professional at all times. He is not prone to being on the receiving end of any slapstick antics like his successors and even his own son regularly are. His outfit brings to mind the archetypical private detective often cast as the lead in a classic film noir, which is exactly what his overall personality entails.
The day is December 24, 2000 and Gregory Edgeworth has agreed to meet a potential client at the local detention center. Accompanying him is his apprentice, an 18-year-old young man named Raymond Shields. Gregory’s client arrives, and to Raymond’s surprise, it’s none other than Jeffrey Master, a celebrity pastry chef. Masters had held an extravagant dessert contest days prior. As the entries were being judged, the body of Isaac Dover had been discovered in one of Master’s desserts. Asking point-blank if Masters was innocent, the chef replies that he would never kill anyone. Satisfied, Gregory agrees to take the case, heading off to Master’s mansion where the competition was held, determined to acquit his client.
When I heard that Gregory Edgeworth was a playable character in Prosecutor’s Path, I assumed the IS-7 Incident would concern something of grave importance such as an assassination of a political figure. Never would I suspect the catalyst behind DL-6 was a dessert contest. Given the overall tone of the series, this is highly appropriate. Indeed, centered on such a gimmick, “The Inherited Turnabout” wouldn’t be out of place as the second or third episode of a typical core installment.
Although you don’t play from Gregory’s perspective for the entire episode, I really enjoyed the interactions between him and Raymond. By showing the latter at two different stages in his life, Raymond receives a wealth of characterization many protagonists in other games never receive. Watching this character evolve from an excitable, literally starry-eyed, young man to a seasoned defense attorney in the present is quite something.
Though the plot of “The Inherited Turnabout” resembles that of a typical midgame episode, which doesn’t usually have much bearing on the overarching story, it also shares many similarities with “Turnabout Beginnings”. This is because you’re thrust into an unwinnable situation. The most striking difference is that while “Turnabout Beginnings” at least gave you a small glimmer of hope before Edgeworth’s appearance dashed it, “The Inherited Turnabout” doesn’t even pretend that Gregory has a chance of winning. This apprehension is punctuated when Manfred von Karma makes his appearance.
Despite being a villain, the series handled Manfred’s characterization in an interesting way. Specifically, his three psychical appearances have been in reverse order chronologically. “Turnabout Goodbyes” developed him from the perspective of Phoenix Wright. As his opponent, it showed the insane lengths he was willing to go to in order to maintain his perfect record before the rookie defense attorney handed him a crushing defeat. “Turnabout Reminiscence” developed him from the perspective of Miles Edgeworth before he made his debut in the courtroom. It showed that while there was no hiding his malevolent nature, he wasn’t completely inhuman, almost appearing proud of his understudy. Finally, “The Inherited Turnabout” takes this trend to its logical conclusion by developing him from the perspective of his future murder victim.
In addition to making the questioning phases between Gregory and Manfred extremely unsettling, it shows another side of the latter’s character. In “Turnabout Goodbyes”, Manfred takes full advantage of Edgeworth’s insecurity, manipulating him into falsely confessing to killing his own father in the DL-6 Incident. It turns out this wasn’t the first time Manfred had resorted to such tactics. The second time Gregory meets Master at the detention center the once jovial man is a shell-shocked nervous wreck – his hair having turned white from the ordeal. This is because Manfred von Karma and the detective previously assigned to the case, Rip Lacer, had spent the entire night interrogating him.
Things get even worse when Gregory’s further attempts at investigating the scene prove fruitless. By the end, he is unable to find the true culprit, but he makes a sterling deduction that the killer may have hidden the body of Isaac Dover, thus explaining why Manfred needed to investigate the crime scene for an extended length of time. As one would expect, Manfred refuses to admit anything, and the two of them go to trial. Because the incident occurred before the three-day rule regarding murder trials was put in place, the case drags on for a year. Though Gregory is unable to prove that Manfred had forged an autopsy report, he did have an ace up his sleeve. Prior to Master’s subsequent interrogation sessions, he had the detective in charge of the case, Tyrell Badd, secretly record the proceedings. When he presented the evidence in court, Detective Rip Lacer was immediately fired and the Chief Prosecutor penalized Manfred von Karma for this transgression. Tragically, Master gave up and he was declared guilty of being an accomplice to murder. Gregory went home with his son, hoping to get a re-trial in the future, but fate intervened and the attorney lost his life on that very day.
There is one factor that allows “The Inherited Turnabout” to stand out from every other flashback episode in the series thus far – only half of it takes place in the past. This gives the episode two distinct faces. The Zodiac Art Gallery was once Jeff Master’s mansion. Katherine Hall, Jeff Master’s former show partner, recently purchased the estate and repurposed it. Though Raymond brought Edgeworth to the exhibit just to discuss the incident, it doesn’t take long for things to go awry. Shortly after they arrive, an old man is found on the ground just outside of the entrance to one of the exhibits. Realizing that poisonous gas is emanating from the room, Edgeworth manages to get everyone to safety. The man is Dane Gustavia, whom the player was introduced to in the flashback portions as one of the entrants in the ill-fated dessert contest.
As it turns out, many of the people involved with the IS-7 Incident are present at this exhibit for one reason or another. Simply looking through the list of profiles lends a melancholic feeling, made worse with the knowledge that an innocent person lost eighteen years of his life because of Manfred von Karma. Yet among these profiles, two faces remain haven’t aged a day: Decilia Scones and Isaac Dover. While the former’s unchanging appearance is simply a running joke throughout the episode, the latter looks completely out of place among his peers’ portraits – as though haunting them.
This metaphor becomes even more obvious when his dead body surfaces in the museum’s fountain. As Gregory and Raymond learned during their initial investigation, Isaac Dover was actually a pseudonym used by the famous French sculptor, Pierre Hoquet. Furthermore, by questioning everyone present, Edgeworth learns that Katherine Hall, who greatly admired Hoquet’s work, hid the sculptures he crafted as entries for the dessert contest so the police wouldn’t damage them. In a case of dramatic irony, the killer hid the body in one of these sculptures, meaning she unwittingly prevented anyone from finding it. The sculptures were then placed in the mansion’s freezer where they remained for eighteen years.
Only after Katherine Hall purchased the mansion did she realize the truth. She then took advantage of this knowledge by lacing the sculpture in a chemical compound that would produce a poisonous gas when the killer attempted to burn the evidence. The narrative doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat Katherine’s crime, but it does provide a valuable clue regarding the true culprit of the IS-7 Incident. Surprisingly, when Edgeworth confronts Dane, it doesn’t take a terribly long time for him to confess to his crime. The grand prize being offered was a recipe book called the Angel’s Recipe. In reality, it contained recipes for experimental cures for hypogeusia and ageusia. The three finalists were Decilia Scones, Dane Gustavia, and Isaac Dover. Unbeknownst to Jeff Master himself, Decilia was a spy sent by a pharmaceutical company affiliated his family. Katherine assisted Decilia, believing the book should remain in the Master family’s possession.
Both Dane and Isaac were interested in obtaining the Angel’s Recipe, but they each had a problem. Dane was a pastry chef whose creations were tasty, if lacking in presentation. Meanwhile, Isaac, being a famed sculptor, knew how to craft desserts to make them aesthetically pleasing, yet had problems making food that tasted good. As their sons were friends in school, they knew each other since before the competition, so they decided to collaborate. Dane was to make the sweets while Isaac sculpted them. However, in the final round when Isaac had everything he needed to win, he broke their promise and refused to sculpt Dane’s entry. As it would turn out, the reason that Dane entered the competition in the first place was to obtain a cure for his hypogeusia.
Realizing he had no chance of winning, Dane snuck into Jeffery Master’s room to take a picture of the cure. At that moment, Isaac entered the room, learned of his condition, and threatened to expose it and his attempt at thievery unless he paid an exorbitant amount of money. Dane then grabbed a nearby rock salt lamp and struck Isaac in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Because Dane respected Master, he intended to frame Decilia Scones for the crime after learning that she cheated to get as far as she did. This plan failed when the box containing Isaac’s body was shattered. The police arrested Jeff Master for murder once they learned where the body had been hidden.
Whether it was DL-6, SL-9, or KG-8, the Ace Attorney franchise has had no shortage of these alphanumerically labeled incidents that proved vital to the respective installment’s backstory. Like most of the premises Prosecutor’s Path has thrown at us so far, IS-7 comes across as a dark deconstruction of how these kinds of incidents normally play out. Whereas DL-6, SL-9, and KG-8 all involved the death of an innocent, the victim of the IS-7 Incident was a reprehensible person. Because the death of a good person has been shown to have negatively impacted many characters’ lives, it’s easy to assume a villain’s passing would have the opposite effect. The IS-7 Incident completely trounces this notion.
In fact, considering Dane’s crime would lead to the DL-6 Incident, almost everything that has gone wrong in the series up until this point can be traced back to IS-7. This includes, but is not limited to, discrediting the Fey family, Redd White gaining his influence as an expert blackmailer, the murder of Mia Fey, Morgan Fey’s husband divorcing her, Dahlia becoming a serial killer, Terry Fawles’s suicide, and Diego Armando becoming Godot. Not only that, but though nobody has any way of knowing, Phoenix Wright’s law career is about to come to an end – the start of which was yet another direct result of the DL-6 Incident. |Indeed, Phoenix losing his badge is one of the catalysts that will spark the dark age of the law.| In short, the ramifications of this spur-of-the-moment murder can be felt over a quarter of a century after the fact.
Because Dane confessed his crime, this is where a player would normally expect to see him break down. Unfortunately, as anyone familiar with the Ace Attorney law system can attest, murder has a statute of limitations – the duration being fifteen years. The only reason Phoenix Wright could expose Manfred von Karma as the culprit behind the DL-6 Incident was because the case still had one day left before officials declared it closed. Dane Gustavia, on the other hand, killed Pierre Hoquet eighteen years ago. Fortunately, this only proves to be a slight reprieve for him, as Edgeworth is able to prove that Dane having left the country for an extended period of time along with Jeff Master being tried as an accomplice for murder extended the time limit by four years.
After eighteen long years of evading justice, the IS-7 killer is caught, and Jeff Master is allowed to walk a free man. The victory is slightly bittersweet because now Katherine Hall has been arrested, but much like how she visited him every day for the past eighteen years, Master intends to do the same until she is released.
From a thematic standpoint, “The Inherited Turnabout” is absolutely brilliant. Miles Edgeworth was very much Manfred von Karma’s disciple in his debut episode, “Turnabout Sisters”. After meeting Phoenix Wright in court and realizing a perfect win record wasn’t important, his mentor enacted the final stages of his plan, and he was framed for Robert Hammond’s murder. The best part is that not only did Manfred’s needlessly elaborate revenge backfire while also permanently marring his forty-year winning streak, it allowed Edgeworth to confront his past and break free from his mentor’s influence. Three years later, his former student would go on to solve IS-7, retroactively taking away another one of his victories.
The series has already made you work to catch these culprits, yet seeing Raymond tell Gregory that they finally won the case carries with it an astonishing amount of pathos. Many contemporary efforts with cutting-edge graphics and voice acting had nothing on the kind of emotional moment this episode alone managed to pull off. The narrative jumping back and forth eighteen years along with the myriad twists and turns found in both portions succeed in making the player feel the sheer passage of time. This makes it all the more gratifying to see that Gregory Edgeworth’s efforts were not in vain and his own son helped free his final client.
Ever since the series began, fans noticed that the third episode of any given Ace Attorney installment tends to be the weakest one. This was evident as early as the first game because though “Turnabout Samurai” is a good episode, it had little to do with the overarching plot. The episodes I think fully cemented the jinx in the minds of most fans were “Turnabout Big Top” and “Turnabout Serenade”, which are commonly cited as the series’ lowest points. It is highly ironic, then, that “The Inherited Turnabout” stands as one of the best episodes in the franchise – surpassing quite a few finales in terms of scope, pathos, and ambition. While “Turnabout Target” had all of the elements of a typical finale, “The Inherited Turnabout” could have been its own game. Amazingly, even after all of this, the game still has plenty of energy left.
Discussing the Ending
The fourth episode, “The Forgotten Turnabout” has the dubious honor of immediately following the superb “The Inherited Turnabout”. Though Edgeworth was successful in solving the IS-7 Incident, his actions have drawn the attention of the Prosecutorial Investigation Committee, and he is awaiting an evaluation hearing. As Edgeworth and Gumshoe wait, a nurse named Karin Jenson enters the office. With her is a young woman with amnesia, though a quick search through her belongings reveals that she is Kay Faraday.
She confronted an unknown person before falling into darkness. Among her possessions is a ticket stub to a corporate skyscraper downtown. Shortly after visiting the observation deck in an attempt to jog her memory, a policeman arrives, telling them that a woman’s dead body has been discovered inside.
When Edgeworth, Gumshoe, and Kay arrive at the crime scene, the former is surprised to see that Franziska von Karma is there. She tells him that she fulfilling an assignment with Interpol, tracking down another smuggling ring. Also on the scene are Karin Jenson and her grandmother Bonnie Young, the latter of whom has been assigned as the coroner for this case. They find themselves in the committee’s meeting room. Because a keycard is required to enter, this would appear to be another classic locked-room mystery. Naturally, being an Ace Attorney episode, it’s not going to be that straightforward.
After a brief investigation, Justine Courtney and Sebastian Debeste arrive. Courtney explains that the deceased’s name was Jill Crane. She was a defense attorney and a member of the committee. Sebastian attempts to make sense of the situation, but he overlooks glaringly obvious details as usual and his argument is quickly dismissed. When asked what she is doing here, Courtney equivocates, though insists that it has to do with his hearing.
As the two of them argue, the chairman of the committee appears. He identifies himself as Blaise Debeste, the father of Sebastian. Though he has many strange characteristics, initially appearing easygoing while shedding copious tears at the drop of a hat, you know as soon as he starts speaking that he is not to be trusted. He affects a strangely childish speaking pattern that is instantly off-putting – like some bizarre, deliberate invocation of the Uncanny Valley effect. His first action immediately places him beyond redemption, as he informs everyone that the amnesiac Kay Faraday is the prime suspect. Though Edgeworth protests this, Courtney and Blaise warn him that further resistance would result in him losing his prosecutor’s badge. It is right there and then that Edgeworth places his badge on the counter. In the end, he chose his friend over his career. A conscience-stricken Kay then proceeds to flee the scene.
Edgeworth’s later attempts at investigating the scene prove enlightening. He learns of a smuggling ring’s storage room on a secret floor above the committee’s meeting room. Some of its members have been selling evidence from past cases to the highest bidder in a black market auction. Unfortunately, his investigation is brought to an abrupt end when he and his friends are caught by Courtney and Blaise. They place Edgeworth under arrest for trespassing and helping Kay Faraday evade the police.
Strangely, at the detention center, he is visited by Courtney, who asks him why he keeps fighting against the committee. He responds by saying that through the support of his friends and co-workers, he had changed his ways. Before, he believed his power lent him a sense of self-righteousness. After claiming that she would never understand him as long as she forced her sense of justice on others, she leaves, replying how interesting the conversation was. When he is brought before the committee, he tries his best to help Raymond acquit Kay of her crime, but to no avail. Suddenly, when all hope seems lost, Courtney accuses Blaise of having killed Jill Crane. She then reveals that she entered the meeting room on the night of the murder to obtain the documents on the IS-7 Indecent. To make things more interesting, though Detective Rip Lacer had reported the corpse was missing, this fact never reached Manfred von Karma.
With Blaise Debeste, the writers’ greatest challenge was to not simply make him a second Manfred von Karma. It would have been an easy pitfall to stumble into, as the two characters are similar from a superficial standpoint, being extremely corrupt prosecutors. However, Blaise Debeste and Manfred von Karma abide by two distinct brands of evil. Nothing in the world was more important to Manfred than maintaining his perfect record; how he protected it didn’t matter. Conversely, Blaise Debeste is unfettered to a truly terrifying degree. As long as his selfish goals are fulfilled, he doesn’t care what he has to do. To wit, as you will eventually learn, he doesn’t have a problem purposely losing a case, which is something Manfred would find appalling – albeit not for sympathetic reasons.
Moreover, many of the revelations regarding Blaise manage to cast previous canonical facts in a much darker light. He was the Chief Prosecutor in 2000 when the IS-7 Incident took place. When the body of Pierre Hoquet disappeared from the crime scene, he blackmailed the coroner assigned to the case, Bonnie Young, into forging an autopsy report. When Gregory Edgeworth brought to light the possibility that the autopsy report may have been a fabrication and presented the secret recordings of Jeff Master’s interrogation to the court, Blaise found himself in a difficult situation. He knew that if he did nothing, the people would accuse the prosecutor’s office of corruption, thus ruining his own illicit schemes. Therefore, Blaise penalized Manfred von Karma to cover his tracks.
As these facts are being brought to light, Sebastian, realizing the truth before anyone else, denies it even when it’s right in front of him. He claims that he won numerous awards and graduated at the top of his class to gain his father’s approval. Blaise coldly states that his accomplishments were the result of his own personal connections with and influence over the teachers. He then says if Sebastian failed to notice that, he isn’t worthy of being his son. This causes Sebastian to leave the room in tears. Franziska realizes at this moment that she and Sebastian aren’t so different. She too had a father she looked up to and realized over the years the importance of accepting his crimes and hopes that Sebastian will be able to do the same one day.
Despite Blaise having destroyed the murder weapon, Edgeworth is able to expose him as the culprit. When he has been defeated, Courtney gives Edgeworth Kay’s Promise Notebook. It was a keepsake from her deceased father that used as evidence when Edgeworth investigated a murder at the local courthouse seven years prior. Deciding to overlook the law just this once, she tells him to give it back to its owner. She then announces that she is to preside over the trial of Patricia Roland – the prison warden who was proven guilty of Horace Knightley’s murder.
After all of this, Edgeworth hands the notebook back to Kay. It is here that she finally regains her memories.
The most impressive aspect about Blaise Debeste isn’t the sheer depths of his depravity, but rather the fact that he isn’t the main antagonist. In any other story, a villain with such weight behind their actions almost can’t help but be the main antagonist. Here, there is still one lingering plot thread. When Edgeworth and Kay are alone, they hear a beeping sound originating from the hidden storehouse. Finding a familiar transceiver, Edgeworth picks it up and is shocked to hear the voice of Shelly de Killer.
The assassin then tells Edgeworth that a mastermind has been pulling the strings of the case. Though he can no longer stand in the courtroom, it’s up to Edgeworth and Kay to identify the mastermind, bringing this bizarre case to a close.
Thus, immediately where “The Forgotten Turnabout” ends begins “The Grand Turnabout”. Upon exiting the skyscraper, Edgeworth, Kay, and an intrepid photographer who was a key witness to the case, Lotta Hart, all wonder what to do next. Before they can decide, a terrified young woman runs up to them, screaming for help. The three of them follow her to a nearby Global Studios film lot. There, they discover Shi-Long Lang examining the corpse of Di-Jun Huang. It would appear that Shelly de Killer made good on his promise to his client.
If I had to compare “The Grand Turnabout” to any other episode in the series, it would be “Turnabout Corner”. Though wildly differing in terms of content and overall plot relevance, both episodes are similar in how they throw a lot of plot threads from every conceivable direction while placing the onus on the player to make sense of them. With no chance to rest, Edgeworth already finds himself in the middle of another murder plot. This time, he must find out who killed the president of Zheng Fa.
Even in a series that has seen a fair share of outlandish murder plots, the crime scene presented in “The Grand Turnabout” stands out. Global Studios is in the middle of making a film adaptation of an old television series featuring a kaiju named Moozilla. As the name implies, this monster resembles a giant, bipedal cow, and it was rumored that he would face off against Gourdy. Starring in the lead role is a young boy named John Marsh, whose character is said to have a connection with the monster. Lotta, taking note of the enormous hoof prints in the lot, assumes that Moozilla must have crushed the president to death.
With no other leads to go on, Edgeworth and Kay head to the courthouse where Justine Courtney is presiding over the trial of Patricia Roland. There, they learn the weapon used to kill Knightley has disappeared. From here, Franziska von Karma and Raymond Shields stall for as long as possible until Edgeworth finds what happened to it. This investigation leads them to Blaise Debeste’s house. To their shock, they find Sebastian Debeste tied up in the garage. After some encouraging words, Sebastian resolves to continue being a prosecutor, but wants to be different from his father.
Ever since his first appearance in promotional materials, Sebastian was a particularly popular character. His antics during the episodes leading up to this one were indeed amusing with Edgeworth’s notoriously dimwitted childhood friend, Larry Butz, accusing him of being dense at one point. Even keeping these hilarious scenes in mind, what I enjoy most about his character is how dynamic it ends up being. His crowning achievement is when he bursts into the courtroom and takes over the prosecution of Patricia Roland. The evidence he produces proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Blaise had attempted to dispose of the murder weapon so Patricia would be found not guilty. Sebastian may have provided no shortage of comic relief, but I believe standing up to his reprehensible father was truly his finest moment.
Nearing the end of the trial, Shi-Long Lang interrupts. He has no objection to the trial, but before they leave Sebastian and Raymond to finish it, he mentions that Patricia Roland and Blaise Debeste were responsible for the SS-5 Incident and they can’t escape justice this time. It is here that we finally learn of the reason behind Lang’s hatred of prosecutors. Twelve years ago, President Huang was kidnapped. They were able to recover him after paying the ransom, but he had changed drastically. He stopped trusting the Zheng Fa police force and began opting for private security. Huang had even entrusted his will to Lang’s father, Dai-Long Lang, but after the incident, he left them to their own devices, discrediting the family.
An intrepid reporter named Jack Cameron stumbled upon this kidnapping plot by pure chance. His proved lethal as somebody snuck up behind him and bludgeoned him to death with a brick. The incident took place at an orphanage, and its director was arrested for murder. Cameron’s girlfriend, Jill Crane, took on the case, determined to get to the bottom of things. However, by the time she faced off against Blaise Debeste in court, the evidence had vanished, and her client was declared not guilty.
Once the basic facts of the case have been laid out, they begin to contort. It is eventually revealed that Patricia Roland and Blaise Debeste had conspired to kill the president, hiring the infamous blind assassin, Sirhan Dogen to this end. The person who masterminded this plot was a body double hired by Di-Jun Huang to ensure his safety. Unsatisfied with his position, he wanted to rule the country. What I like about this revelation is that it makes you think the writers are going to take the same approach with Huang as they did with Knightley. It appears that he is set up to receive more development posthumously until Edgeworth begins taking note of the many discrepancies between Lang’s secondhand accounts and what he himself witnessed when he foiled the president’s fake assassination plot. It turns out he never met the real president.
Things get even stranger when Sirhan Dogen himself arrives on the scene. Though questioning him, he learns the assassin has an acolyte. The conspirators behind the SS-5 Incident attempted to dispose of Dogen after he killed the president. He was saved by a young boy at the orphanage. This wasn’t the first time he and the boy had crossed paths. Six years prior, Dogen rescued the boy from death in a frozen car. At that point, Edgeworth realizes he was referring to the IS-7 Incident. He had previously attempted to find Dane Gustavia’s son to testify only for the pastry chef to callously declare that he abandoned him. Using the clues he has been handed throughout the case, he can identify the one responsible for setting the game’s events in motion: Simon Keyes.
Before I can fully voice my opinion on Simon Keyes as a villain, I think it helps to establish a little context. Though there are many great things one could say about the Ace Attorney franchise, it has been admittedly hit-or-miss when it comes to its primary antagonists. A lot of fans claim that Manfred von Karma, Matt Engarde, and Kristoph Gavin are Machiavellian tacticians in how they executed their respective schemes, but I don’t believe that to be true. Had Manfred von Karma kept a low profile, he would have walked a free man. By encouraging Yanni Yogi to kill Robert Hammond and framing Miles Edgeworth for the murder, he drew attention to the DL-6 Incident. This got Phoenix Wright involved, who proceeded to defeat him in court and expose him as the culprit behind DL-6.
Along the same lines, Matt Engarde ended up being his own worst enemy. Phoenix Wright would never have found that miracle had Matt resisted the urge to blackmail Shelly de Killer. It’s easy to make the argument that Kristoph Gavin’s plan was the soundest, for his loss resulted from factors he couldn’t reasonably have seen coming. However, Kristoph seemingly didn’t have a higher motivation to ruin Phoenix’s career than just out of petty spite. His master plan involved killing three people and spending $100,000 to make it happen, and committing evil acts for their own sake can only get a writer so far.
The remaining two antagonists, Godot and Quercus Alba, had their own problems. The writers attempted to make Godot a sympathetic murderer when it didn’t work in practice. His own ego got in the way when he decided not to inform Phoenix of Morgan Fey’s plot, and Misty Fey paid the price. By comparison, Katherine Hall had a much more sympathetic motivation for wanting to kill Dane Gustavia. She even had a believable reason to not tell Edgeworth of her plan and went about it in a way that reduced any collateral damage to a minimum. Finally, Quercus Alba is a strange villain to parse. Though making him and his smuggling ring so ruthless was a great idea, actually confronting him was a tedious, drawn-out process. Whenever Edgeworth presented damning evidence against him, he would fall back on his diplomatic immunity, never wasting an opportunity to wave it in the player’s face. Even given that advantage, it didn’t make any sense for him to be so insufferably smug when his important allies had all been arrested in the span of three days.
Now the big question concerns how Simon Keyes fares against his predecessors. I personally believe such a competition would be blatantly one-sided. Going into Prosecutor’s Path, I heard the villain was a masterful manipulator, and he does not disappoint. He’s practically the Ace Attorney equivalent of Zero from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. He was the one who convinced Horace Knightley to kill Ethan Rooke. Once Knightley was in jail, he manipulated the evidence, making it appear as though he and Sirhan Dogen were corresponding with each other. The assassin was blackmailing the warden, Patricia Roland. When she intercepted the correspondence, she falsely believed Knightley was Dogen’s acolyte. After Knightley was disposed of, Simon encouraged Jill Crane to take revenge on Blaise Debeste before informing the latter of her intentions. This resulted in Blaise receiving a life sentence for his crime. Before any of this occurred, he hired Shelly de Killer to murder the president’s body double. When that plan failed, he did the job himself by crushing him to death with a hot-air balloon.
His motivation is quite solid as well – getting revenge on the four people who ruined his childhood. Simon and Horace are the respective sons of Dane Gustavia and Pierre Hoquet. After learning that Dane was using his son to taste test his pastries, Hoquet forced Horace to tie Simon up in his car on the day of the competition. Because Hoquet was murdered, the two of them were trapped in a freezing car in the dead of winter only to be recused by Sirhan Dogen. When he and Simon met again six years later, the latter saved him by informing him of the conspirators’ intentions. Simon was then constantly interrogated by Roland. This eventually resulted in him running away from the orphanage.
Simon Keyes could claim to be the series’ most successful villain thus far because in the end, he got everything he wanted. The scheme was meticulous, calculated, and clever, yet in an intriguing twist, it did not go off without a hitch. He did not intend to be accused of Knightley’s murder, though he counteracted the setback by employing Edgeworth’s services. Even so, the writers did a fantastic job allowing the antagonist to essentially win without negating any of Edgeworth’s own accomplishments. While it’s easy to argue that Simon’s plan actually had a net positive impact on the world, especially in how it resulted in Blaise Debeste being removed from his lofty position, it inflicted a lot of collateral damage. It was still necessary for Edgeworth to have taken down all of these formidable foes and Simon himself so that innocent people didn’t get accused in their stead.
When the dust settles, Edgeworth is allowed to have his prosecutor’s badge back. Having a piece of evidence added to the Organizer never felt so satisfying. From there, he even considers giving Gumshoe a pay raise. Though his path diverged from that of his father, he promises their destination was always the same: the one and only truth.
Drawing a Conclusion
October of 2011 would mark the series’ ten-year anniversary, and this was a fantastic way to celebrate the milestone. It is a pity that Prosecutor’s Path was not localized in 2011 because it stands not only as one of the best efforts of the 2010s, but one of the greatest adventure games ever made. When a series with such a prominently featured creator switches hands, it’s absolutely necessary for the new team to fully comprehend what makes it so good and why people keep coming back for more. Mr. Eshiro and his team didn’t just know what goes into a quality Ace Attorney installment, they proceeded to weed out or downplay the flaws plaguing the series to the extent where they have no discernable impact on the experience.
Diehard fans lament whenever the original creator is no longer involved with a series, and Ace Attorney is no exception. However, this is a rare instance in which a series managed to change for the better without the original creator’s help. To be clear, I don’t think Mr. Takumi was holding the series back; without him, it wouldn’t have existed in the first place. Still, I believe Prosecutor’s Path marked the earliest instance in which I could tell the writers had a firm grasp on what ideas historically did and didn’t work. As great as he is, we also have to keep in mind that Mr. Takumi’s presence didn’t prevent disasters from happening, as “Turnabout Big Top” and Turnabout Serenade” both occurred on his watch.
It should go without saying by this point that I highly recommend playing Prosecutor’s Path. The only catch is that you should only do so after completing every installment leading up to it. While it’s not impossible to play this game first, quite a lot of its emotional impact will be lost on you if you do. Based off of that description, one could get the impression the game runs entirely on fanservice. Such an assessment does have a ring of truth to it, but I steadfastly believe it uses its canon as a springboard to go in fascinating, new directions rather than wallowing in the series’ past achievements. Prosecutor’s Path could best be described as a work that simultaneously deconstructs and celebrates everything great about the series. Though it may have taken Western fans some time to even have a faint chance of experiencing it, you can be sure their patience paid off.
Final Score: 9/10