How long until the Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright U.S. release? How long until Sam G. has to finish playing through the Professor Layton series to understand why I love it so? How long do I have to convert or at least find an appreciation of that crazy, spiky-haired attorney as Sam G. so insists I will? Are we one step closer to understanding each other in this second installment of our "Layton vs Phoenix" series, and on our way to stop our friendly bickering?
Yes, indeed we are. The awesome Sam G. has solved a murder mystery and the puzzle that was the Diabolical Box. I saved my hamburger loving friend from certain death, and along the way, I defended the innocent even if it meant ruining a perfect record.
Upon entering the lobby for the second time, a smile drew across my face. A friend was sprawled on the couch pondering a strange dream. He was readying himself to take on what would be anything but a normal day. Soon after, an incredibly silly but familiar song started playing - chirpy, and very heroically samurai - and it would be at the center of proving an unlucky cop to be not guilty of murdering another. The song was uncharacteristically set as a certain attorney's ring tone and it brilliantly laid the groundwork in the continuing shenanigans of the courtroom. I had actually missed Mr. Wright, even just a little bit.
After playing Phoenix Wright: Justice for All, I came away with a new appreciation. I may have been somewhat pleased to see the gang again - especially Gumshoe! - but I left the cases of Justice for All with mixed emotions on the man himself. But what of this new found appreciation? The second Ace Attorney game brought game play to a whole new level: a direction that made for an even more enjoyable experience while continuing to place Phoenix into matters of dire consequences and personal importance.
During the investigation portion of the game, many of the characters had secrets barring Phoenix from gathering crucial pieces of evidence and testimony. This new mechanic called the Psyche-Lock, introduced Phoenix to potentially bigger screw ups to end game play outside the courtroom. The Psyche-Lock addition demonstrated that certain characters have more complex motivations for their actions, thereby making the cases more difficult to Phoenix to solve.
Incredibly astute, Pearly. It's this offbeat humour I adore though. Out of no where: this cat appears. Fantastic.
At times, the running back and forth and knowing just when to question someone made me somewhat frustrated - especially in those instances when you just knew the answer behind the secrets but you had to take the extra steps in order to further the game. These unnecessary portions did not happen often, I will say though. But the introduction of this new mechanic also made supporting characters became more involved to the overall arch of a greater narrative, which is a positive.
Cast members' backgrounds and their deeper involvement was what I enjoyed most of this second installment. This is the reason for my love of Layton and its something I am quite pleased to see explored more in depth as the Phoenix series progresses. Truthfully it was not until the third installment that Layton became more focused on character development and I became more emotionally invested.
Here with Phoenix and company, the set up for the future with Maya and Phoenix's relationship in Justice for All is being laid out. The problems of Maya's inheritance of the Kurain Channeling Arts is a theme that I think will come up again when it comes to her missing mother.
It's the same way in that Phoenix's 'rivalry' with Edgeworth becomes even more of a blurred line. Their fiery courtroom battles are no longer merely escalating war of words, with Edgeworth and Phoenix coming to a new understanding of each other. It's a character development that happens for Edgeworth as a result of Phoenix's actions in the first game and something that hits them both personally as the game progresses. It's nice to see a complicated relationship that's very down to earth in its approach - from their previous history as children and moving towards more complex territories as their opposition in professions demands it - and not stuck in a rut of being simply labeled as 'rivals'.
This time around, it's not just everyone else who gets to shine in their aiding of the man, but Phoenix has some personal growth too. To an extent, his morals are questioned and we get to know a little bit more as to his motivations - though truly some of that was left up to you, as the player, to decide. As for my thoughts on Phoenix himself, there's something about him that's so not always likable. He's a bit standoffish in the investigation areas. His tone, while one of reason, also came across a bit condescending in certain instances.
In thinking about the good Professor Layton, he is always stoic in his mannerisms (and gentleman like, let's never forget that!) but I will say (and without direct spoilers), it took that third game in his series for me to really love him beyond that critical, collected nature he is often portrayed as. I'm wondering if I can actually like Phoenix in subsequent games beyond his ridiculous faces and mannerisms in the courtroom when he's met with a whip or flailing for answers.
On the presentation side of things, the set up of the game is quite wonderful. The opening case did a clever recalling of how to play and a brilliant tutorial that incorporated nicely into the first case with characters giving cues in their disbelief that you forgot. But why would you forget? Well, it's all part of the first case too. Phoenix gets amnesia and in typical fashion, the culprit is the same one who is to be found guilty of murder. Jumping from case to case with periods of flashbacks not in a manner of point A to B helped to break up the narrative in a very great way. I recalled what Sam had said when I first started playing, and that was that Phoenix read like a good novel and this is ever present here.
As to the cases themselves, Justice For All does not shy away from the realistic. As ridiculous this game is - and it is beyond ridiculous - the heavy subject of murder is always at the core and sometimes, it does not make resolutions without a tearjerker. In some cases, the characters deal with the aftermath of their respective scandals. Some have to rebuild their lives. Some have to work together.
This is what I admired about this game: for all its ridiculousness and self-aware humour, there are 'real' characters that occupy their roles with a more serious sentiment at times. Many of them are two dimensional and serve their purpose for comedic relief. Others are good at masking their real personalities. Their lives change and they adapt. For example, Gumshoe's always going to be a laughing stock detective, feeling the brunt of the prosecution side, but he's also his own man. His goodhearted nature wills him to do what he thinks best and be assertive when he needs to be. He's endearing and you root for poor, pathetic Gumshoe but he also surprises in his sometimes serious nature.
Many of the characters have their special quirks and they are hilarious. From their continued changed facial expressions when under pressure or their signature styles. Some may never change their fate and be destined to be set in their ways (which is to say, they will continue to act as comedic foils) but others have the ability to grow. These are the ones that I can see carrying future installments. These are the ones that I will care about most and await to see how they change the narrative.
At it's heart, the Phoenix Wright series continues to find that balance between comedy and drama. But somewhere in Justice for All, it's that drama that's gripping Phoenix on an even more personal level and thereby making me feel even more of an investment in its world.
While I may not be completely sold yet on Phoenix Wright; the presentation of the game, the oddball nature of its humour and the hints at the future installments has me intrigued. Some of the unpleasant aspects in the back and forth with the investigation portions are those I can forgive. This game with its strange characters, and clever writing is enough that I look forward to the next game.
You are wearing my stubbornness down if even just a little bit, Phoenix Wright. Your game play and your supporting cast of characters have me hooked. Now let me see if you, as a character, can do same.
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