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March 27, 2017

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (Part 5)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Part 1 Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5


Get ready for some measure of time-travel. Somehow.
Part 4 ended with the infamous trial that led to Phoenix Wright’s disbarment, after he presented forged evidence given to him by Trucy Wright. Who gave it to her in the first place? Why did someone order this forgery to ruin his reputation? How exactly did Phoenix record all of the elements of both the past and present, to get the full story into this computer? But, most of all… isn’t it an enormous conflict of interest? The case picked by Phoenix for Apollo to crack in court ends up involving the older attorney’s previous case, which should be a big no-no. And yet, here we are.

Allow me to also point out that, after the investigation in the MASON system and the last trial section have taken place, you will be told to decide whether Vera is guilty or not. The case you’ve defended through Apollo Justice, and now you’ll be part of its jury. How’s that for a conflict of interest? Oh wait, there’s more. But I’ll explain that later.

Phoenix Wright recorded every moment with a camera hidden behind the smiley face on his tuque. And much of his mission during the third case of the game was him speaking to the actors of the two cases. There will be a lot of going back and forth between the past (seven years prior) and the present.

Well, duh. Whenever you play as Phoenix, expect to
unlock some Psyche-Locks. Well, except in the first game...
Now, I did not cover that before, because the first game doesn’t have them, and Apollo has a different gimmick. Phoenix Wright owns a Magatama; when someone is clearly hiding secrets, Phoenix will be seeing chains and locks (called Psyche-Locks) around the person. Each lock is one piece of the deep secret that person keeps locked away. Anywhere from 1 to 5 locks can appear. It’s possible to break these locks, however, by presenting evidence and portraits of characters linked to that secret. Break the locks, and the person will tell you their secret.

The MASON system makes the 4 locations of the past available from the start. Each one has its secrets. Most actors you’ll talk to will have their Magatama section. You’ll eventually unlock scenes from the present, and at some point evidence gathered in either time period could be used in the other, leading to some… bizarre leaps of logic.

(Menu opens) Do I have a choice?
A) Nope
B) Nada
C) Niet
D) You wish you had a choice!
E) Don't be heartless, just take her in already!

In the past, we can talk to Valant Gramarye, to an agent of the Justice Court, to Trucy, and to Drew Misham. We see what happened after Zak’s disappearance: Trucy didn’t have other living relatives (aside from Valant), and Zak said she could trust Phoenix, so Phoenix takes her in as an adoptive daughter. No way would he let an 8yo kid alone! Zak pulled off his great escape by counting on a body double – Trucy’s Mr. Hat, which she already had at age 8! I am still baffled how she could conceal that adult-sized thing on her small child body. It didn't even make sense when she was 15!

"Trucy told me that she had a wonderful singing voice."
Through the encounters, we learn more about Trucy’s mom, Thalassa Gramarye, Magnifi’s daughter. She was wounded, most likely killed, during a rehearsal between Zak and Valant. After which Magnifi used this to blackmail his two male students into working for him all the time, until his death. Wow. They say Magnifi was a magician of wonders, but using his own daughter’s death as blackmail? It takes a special breed of asshole for that. What happened to Thalassa, nobody knows, but if she’s not dead, then Magnifi hid her somewhere. Then came the fateful night at the hospital, where Magnifi was visited by both Zak and Valant...

Also about the MASON System: when one of its eight sections is completed, it gets a check next to its name, and you don’t need to go again, thus reducing the scope of your search. If a section seems complete but isn't checked, you can be sure you'll be going back to that place soon.

I am sorry Vera, but I am contractually obligated to
break the locks of 75% of the people I meet.
At Drew Studio, we meet Drew Misham, but Phoenix figures out that Vera is the true forger. We learn of a mysterious man who offered her the bottle of nail polish as a good luck charm, which is why she polishes her nails frequently, starting seven years ago, all the way to the present. Speaking of the present, we cut to before the incidents of this game’s first case, as Phoenix is done dining with Kristoph, then meets Shadi Smith – Zak Gramarye in an pseudonym. Before the infamous poker game, Zak tells Phoenix everything he had to tell: He has the real diary page, which was an official transferral of rights from Magnifi to him, and thus these rights are now going to Trucy. Zak is aware of the original Gramarye line’s power of perception – Magnifi had it, Thalassa had it, Trucy has it. Thalassa had another child before marrying Shadi Enigmar, though… meaning there’s another Gramarye with that power out there.

This is either sign of great chuldhood trauma, or
pettiness of the likes that we've never seen before.
(For the record, it's option #2)
We can go see Kristoph in the present, where he lives in a very nice prison suite. It looks more like a reading room in a million-dollar mansion! He had to have a reason to kill Shadi Smith/Zak Gramarye, but tries to dodge the question (claiming, in more polite terms than the ones I’m about to use, that he only did it because he’s an evil motherfucker). Trying to dig with the Magatama reveals black Psyche-Locks, which Phoenix has never seen, and which he would rather not break. Dark, cold, full of despair… We do see Kristoph polishing his nails, and he gives us the bottle… which is exactly like the one used by Vera in the past. And which we can present to her, even though we took possession of it in the future.

I should mention one of the plot holes caused by the MASON system: You can gather evidence from the present… to present to people in the past. In other words, some pieces of  evidence travel back in time, in Phoenix's possession when he isn't supposed to have them.

Well, now he really is dead... but that's not exactly
the kind of news that should make you happy.
The pieces come together: Magnifi Gramarye was actually the one to pull the trigger on himself, between Zak and Valant’s visits to his deathbed. Valant, certain that Zak did it (and to secure the rights to Magnifi's tricks), tampered with the scene to pin the blame on his friend – by changing the level of IV liquid to modify the estimated time of death. Holy shit, is everybody from Troupe Gramarye an asshole hiding under a silk hat and cape? Well, aside from Thalassa and Trucy… Christ, guys. Magnifi, Zak, Valant, you all suck. Fuck you three. Kristoph demanded the forgery from Vera, knowing full well it would ruin Phoenix’s career, then he gave the forgery to kid-Trucy, who gave it to Phoenix.  A picture reveals that Thalassa Gramarye had two bracelets, you know, the bracelets that give Apollo his perception power, and she gave a bracelet to each of her kids. Yep, Apollo is her first child. So he and Trucy are actually siblings. …Quick, tell the shippers! Do NOT encourage incest shippings!

After Valant makes his last revelations in the present, he turns himself in to face the music for tampering with a crime scene. As a last revelation, Valant says that Thalassa may still be somewhere out there… And she is. She’s Lamiroir. So when Apollo and Trucy were talking with her on the third case, they were unknowingly talking to their own mom. And neither caught on. Kinda hard to believe, especially for Trucy, no?

And Kristoph, that magnificent bastard, who carelessly
left that envelope there, to be viewed by anyone who
may or may not have a camera on them.
Kristoph was the mysterious stranger who gave Vera his bottle of nail polish. After all this, we find in Kristoph’s cell the letter in a yellow envelope sent by Drew Misham with the stamp that had the poison on it. Kristoph killed Zak because the guy knew too much, and Drew Misham died from the stamp, the death trap put in place for Vera. Drew didn't even know about the poison. As for the nail polish, it’s also poisoned. You know how Vera bites her nails when stressed? With Atroquinine in there, she was more than likely to get herself non-lethal doses every once in a while, and eventually die from the accumulation. He had set up TWO ways to kill her with poison. And that's why she fainted behind the stand, biting her nails from the stress of being at the stand. Wow, Kristoph Gavin is a monster. Just one of a long line of monsters in the series…

Phew! That covers it.

Anyway, the next trial segment begins, with all the elements to incriminate Kristoph Gavin for the murder of Drew Misham – by poisoned stamp, which is something I bet has never been, and will never again be written in the “weapon of the crime” section of any case file. Phoenix investigated this case to and through, now all Apollo has to do is piece the elements together.

Hey, can anybody have a thought for Klavier? The whole game was a rollercoaster of pain for the guy – his brother goes to jail for murder, his show was ruined, his detective friend turned out to be another murderous asshole, then Kristoph is on trial again. To top it off, unlike most prosecutors in the series, Klavier is a decent guy who deserves none of this crap.

Okay, so Vera could die at any moment now from the poison she ingested when biting her nails. To explain that Vera was actually a victim, we present the bottle of nail polish, we present Kristoph Gavin, and he is brought to the stand.

That is one hand that will haunt my nightmares.

His testimony is solid, but Apollo perceives Kristoph as he mentions Drew Misham’s poisoning and it reveals a skull on Gavin’s hand. It’s probably the most obvious perception test of the entire game. Of course, Kristoph denies the accusation, until he’s shown the stamp… and hears that it was found on the yellow envelope in his confinement room, the one he received from Misham. Found by Phoenix Wright, no less. When Kristoph asks what motive he’d have to kill Drew or Vera Misham, we point to the forged diary page. His reaction confirms that he was the one to introduce the forgery in Phoenix's trial, back then. Why did Kristoph do this? Only to get Phoeenix Wright disbarred, solely because Zak Gramarye chose Phoenix instead of Kristoph as his defense attorney. If there were olympics for pettiness, this guy earns Gold, Silver and Bronze.

Of course! That's why it's a (poorly-made) replica.
Ah, Kristoph Gavin. Got an attorney disbarred for
using a fake in court... gets taken down not once, but
TWICE by fakes in court. Who's the greater
magnificent bastard now, huh?
We prove the link between Misham and Gavin, thanks to a cheap “forgery” made by Phoenix Wright. It’s a copy he made out of a recording of the original. The evidence isn’t accepted, though. Klavier ends up stepping in to admit Kristoph led him into the case seven years earlier, forced to push Phoenix Wright into using the forgery in court. This is the last straw, and Kristoph freaks out... Unfortunately, he still won’t admit to the crime.

For the final trial section of the game, it’s a letdown; it's ridiculously easy. The evidence to present in the trial is pretty obvious, the perception tell is easy... There are still some tricky parts, but it's laughable compared to many preceding trials in this game. They ramp up the difficulty by giving bigger punishments if you present the wrong evidence, but that's about it.

You musy choose...
But choose wisely.
That’s not where it ends: Remember, there were jurors watching. And you’re placed by Phoenix Wright in the ultimate conflict of interest: You are juror #6. You’re shown a panel with two buttons, Not Guilty and Guilty. Phoenix tells you that due to the lack of decisive evidence, it’s impossible to definitely declare someone guilty in this case under the old court system, hence the jurors. You are in the ultimate conflict of interest: You weigh in on Vera Misham’s case, that same case you spent defending as Apollo. Oh, it gets worse: Pick Guilty, the jurors are unable to agree on a verdict and Vera dies from Atroquinine poisoning. Pick Not Guilty, Kristoph freaks out some more, Vera survives and Kristoph is arrested. We come back to see who the sixth juror is, and it’s Lamiroir. Yes, Apollo’s mom, who has regained the memories of her past, is weighing in on a trial where her son is the defense attorney.

After this choice, we get final words, and then the game ends. You may be wondering why this game had a case that lacked decisive evidence, and a Juror system to still get the right person behind bars – even though the Juror system is completely dropped from the franchise afterwards. Well, you see, this game came out in Japan in 2007. At the time, there were talks of reforming the justice system of Japan to include jurors. This game makes a very good case for such an addition, as in real life, there wouldn’t always be decisive evidence to pin the crime on someone, and thus it is quite unfair that a judge gets the final say on a defendant’s fate. Yep, that’s right: This game is basically propaganda for jurors to be included in the Japanese court system. The “Jurist System” never reappears in the Ace Attorney series – not that there would be a need to. The Japanese system was reformed in 2009, and yes, it started including juries in trials. That’s also why Daryan Crescend, in the third case, was so difficult to pin down – we knew he was guilty, but we lacked the decisive evidence, which is why the trial went on and on. Jurors would have cut through the B.S. and declared him guilty.

If you want more Apollo Justice, he comes back as a minor character in the sequel, Dual Destinies, and takes over as main character partway into the sixth game of the series, Spirit of Justice, which you can buy on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. But before that, I must make my case for the game Apollo Justice. It’s a good game, here’s my evidence.

I never get tired of seeing this guy.
A hilarious cast of characters, as you’d expect from Ace Attorney; cases that are even more complex than those of the original game. This is definitely an Ace Attorney game, with all the quality you’d expect from it. However, the new characters add something more: The game often treats itself as an affectionate parody of the franchise. Apollo tries to remain serious despite the silliness around him, and when he yells in court (to object like Phoenix Wright), he gets told off. Troupe Gramarye are a throwback to the original trilogy’s Fey clan, as both are infamous for deep family secrets and a bad tendency for backstabbing. I do think it is a bit sad that Phoenix nearly takes over the game by the end, since I would have liked to have Apollo lead for the whole game, but I can understand their decision. I also really like Ema Skye and Klavier Gavin – the prosecutor, in particular, because he isn’t in court to spite the defense, he is always looking for the truth. And hey, we get to use the Magatama as well, that’s nice.

The higher resolution of Nintendo DS games allowed better sprite art, making the characters look better than ever before in the series. The same can be said for the backgrounds, many of which are simply gorgeous. The DS’s touchscreen allowed the player to do many other things, like using Apollo’s perception ability to detect nervous twitches on a person. Most notably, it allows the player to use Ema Skye’s forensic tools, which are pretty great – whether it’s the scanner that lets us see under Misham’s paintings, or the cement that lets us make a mold out of a shoe print. I actually quite enjoy this.

Oh yes, it’s a good game. But to those who say it’s the best, allow me to say…

All the ones you've committed, and it's more than a few.
The whole game leans towards the fourth case, which is all about the Jurist (JUROR!) System. As a result, Apollo will be struggling to come up with evidence that will let him find the true murderer in the last two cases. It’s solved with Daryan Crescend, but only because Apollo went a different route and called a witness. And it’s impossible to solve the case against Kristoph Gavin, because the Jurors are supposed to come in and make the right decision. Things move at a snail’s pace because the game wants to prove its point. The outlandish situation of Case 3 is what makes it so despised by Ace Attorney fans. What’s worse, despite being the point of the game, and despite real life following afterwards and implementing it in Japanese courts, juror systems never come back in the franchise.

The number of conflicts of interest in this game would make any real-life attorney groan. It's even worse than in the first game!

Yeah, um... how do we get that bottle of nail polish?
In Kristoph's cell... in the present. While this
presentation of evidence happens in the past.
There are very interesting concepts in the story, and while it manages to patch up most questions, it does end up causing multiple plot holes. Again, in case 3, everybody seems under the impression that Machi Tobaye possesses superhuman strength, as they think he’d be able to shoot a weapon that’s been said to have such knockback that it can also wound its shooter, just as they think the kid would be able to carry a grown man on a raised platform all by himself. I would also point out the mistake in the MASON system that allows evidence from the present to be shown to people met in the past, which is a plot hole difficult to ignore – especially since you have to do just that to move forward in the story!

Also, compared to everything that came before, the final trial section where Kristoph Gavin is defeated for good is very, very simple. Too simple, it’s an anticlimax. Kristoph in Case 1 of this game put up a better fight. There is a lot of text, indeed, but the section is shorter and you're not tasked with presenting a lot of things - nor are the things to present very difficult to figure out.

If you can live with these issues in the game, I’m certain you’ll enjoy Apollo Jutice: Ace Attorney. Well, this covers everything I had to say about this series. I hope you enjoyed reading these… Holy crap, 10 parts. Well then, see you next week for something new!