Hi, my name is Arabella, and I'm an Ace Attorney addict...

Ace Attorney Investigations 2: Prosecutor's Path has eaten my brains. No, you didn't miss an English-language release of Gyakuten Kenji 2 -- Capcom inexplicably decided not to do one. A fantranslation group put out a patch in Xdelta and BEAT formats a few months ago, and I finally got around to trying it. I'm not giving you any of the files, on the grounds that if you can spell at least 50% of the relevant search terms correctly, it'll come up in about 20 milliseconds on Google. It works flawlessly on an early revision Japanese DS Lite with an R4 flashcard running Wood 1.27.

(Not that I would know anything about any of these questionable third-party products, nosireebob. I don't have any family history of clever media conversion, and I certainly did not just convince someone to buy a DS emulator for her droidphone so she could play the original Ace Attorney games that Capcom inexplicably only released for iOS. And I would never dream of spending several of my more tedious classes in college misusing my Palm IIIc organizer to play a shockingly perfect port of Pac-Man.

I probably shouldn't admit to missing Infocombot, either, or all the time I spent MUDding in a computer lecture class that was not only boring but a complete waste of my time. All liberal arts majors were required to take a class that was essentially Intro To Turning The Computer On And Off, and they refused to give me a bye even though I worked for the university helpdesk at the time. So I carried a flashdrive with the portable version of Remote Desktop to class, brought my home XP desktop up on the lab computer, and reclaimed the telnet window I'd left open with the MUD in it. the MUD was technically for a class, and it was run on spare server capacity leftover from DragonMUD, but Uncle Jopsy's Story Time is a tale for another day.

If they had been smarter they would have excused me from the class, which was what my junior high tech teacher did when she realized I was failing their typing exercises because a Mac Classic is a bear of very little brain, and I was hitting the keys so rapidly I was overflowing the keyboard buffer. But I digress.)

I probably could have gotten through the game in the original Japanese, but it would have taken forever. Let's just say Edgeworth's propensity for sounding like a dryly wiseass dictionary is well-translated. It is, if anything, less pronounced in English than it is in Japanese -- in the original, whenever Mitusrugi loses his temper in court, he does this thing that I can only describe as plummeting through half a dozen levels of linguistic formality, whacking himself squarely in the face with each and every one over the course of the exchange, before finally landing at the part where he growls out sentence fragments while grinding his fist into the prosecution desk.

(Note: If you are at the point in your language learning where you're trying to absorb vocabulary from context.., don't use Gyakuten Saiban games. The whole point of these puzzles is to turn context upside down halfway through the story. I tried it with the first game, once, and gave it up when I realized that, unless I someday have a vacation go very wrong, I am never going to need to know how to spell the word for 'wiretap' in Japanese.)

Visual novel puzzle games steal my soul. They're a little dangerous. The last time I got a new Latyon game, I forgot to sleep until I finished it. AAI2 is not an exception. It took a sincere application of willpower not to walk home from Sullivan with the DS held in front of my face the other day. The translation took a while, but it came out brilliantly. It's slightly less loopy than the official ones, but not by much -- at one point, someone shouts THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING! Debeste's "the Best" puns spew forth almost as readily as Franziska's 'foolishly foolish fool' phrases. I'm pleased with the voice actors they picked, too. Edgeworth and Franziska and Gumshoe had their English HOLD IT! and OBJECTION! stings ripped from AAI, I presume, but the new VAs blend in quite well.

Spoiler-free notes:

Edgeworth gets kicked right in the feels a lot in this game. He takes it remarkably well. It's a shame they decided not to translate this one officially; it goes a long way towards explaining why he's gotten so mellow in his old age -- well, his 30s -- in Dual Destinies. He also has a positively frightening sang froid when the feels-kicking isn't directly happening to him. More than once, Edgeworth ends up in a room full of people going OMG OMG OMG A MURDER WHAT DO WE DOOOOOOOOO?, and just spends his time frowning calmly and introspectively at a large puddle of blood.

You will spend about half of your time going, OH GOD NOT YOU. Several people reappear from cases in previous games, and exactly zero of them have gotten any saner with the passage of time. Some of them have passed their insanity on to others!

There's a new mechanism in this game, Logic Chess, that roughly parallels Phoenix's Magatama and Psych-Locks. The main differences are that instead of presenting evidence you gather elsewhere to break a lie, you have to drag clues out of the current conversation to throw back at your opponent, and that your life bar technically serves as a timer, although the amount of time you start with is so generous you'd almost have to try to run out. Edgeworth also sometimes gets the option to 'wait and see', i.e, give his opponent a very pointed look and say nothing until they blurt something else out.

True to form, the mechanics of the game play accurately reflect the characterization in the visual novel segments. Larry shows up once, because of course he does (not a spoiler -- neither Phoenix nor Edgeworth are lucky enough to go five consecutive murder cases without tripping over their old pal), and you win one round of Logic Chess with him by flat asking "What were you doing here?", then crossing your arms and glaring for four consecutive turns while he babbles.

(More on Logic Chess down in the spoilerrific section.)

The Logic thing still pleases me. I find it a very accurate representation of how I actually figure stuff out. You have a field of semi-random facts, and you start just taking one and seeing if it has anything in common with the others. Get it right, and Edgeworth has an epiphany. Often it's just a couple of things at a time, but I seem to recall that at the end of the last game Edgeworth ends up collecting about a dozen observations together and then in three lightning rounds of fact-collision reduces them all the way down to the one answer he needs to solve the case.

I would also note that it is possible to brute-force both Logic and Logic Chess, which is why I like them a lot better than the Perception system in Apollo Justice. Ace Attorney games are remarkably good at avoiding moon logic puzzles, considering how surreal the setting can get, but it's still possible to get stuck. When you're working with Evidence in the court scenes, with Psych Locks (Phoenix) or with Logic/Logic Chess (Edgeworth), if you really can't figure out what the engine wants to open up the rest of the dialogue tree, you can usually break it with meta-gaming and figuring out where the lie is and what widget it wants you to bring up to disprove it, even if the reasoning isn't clear. (The following dialogue will usually explain it pretty well.) If it's absolutely necessary, you can just sit there and press every statement, present every piece of evidence, or try every conversation option until you hit the trigger, reloading whenever you run out of life bar to lose. You can't do that with Apollo's Perception; his whole schtick is that he can pick out liars even when their stories hang together, which means there's often nothing in the text to tell you which statement he's supposed to break, and the actual trigger is pretty much a game of hunt-the-twitchy-pixel.

(Yeah, I FAQed my way through Apollo Justice. Still took a ridiculously long time. I even do roughly equivalent lie-detector-y things in real life, and I had no idea what the hell the game engine wanted from me.)

Logic Chess is breakable by brute-forcing the conversation tree, although it would take you a boringly long while -- a nice balance between motivating you to figure it out properly and giving you a way to just smash buttons until the plot started up again.

(Spoilery things below.)

The Logic Chess mechanism itself has some interesting character implications for Edgeworth. It's explicitly stated at the start that part of the strategy is watching your opponent for signs of agitation, at which point you need to decide whether you'd get better results from shouting an accusation, or from a very pointed and uncomfortable silence -- in other words, Edgeworth is reading non-verbal signals, mostly body language. And he's good at it. His internal monologue indicates that he's aware of what he's doing and he's aware that it's something he's skilled in.

And yet, back in the very first game, when he's Phoenix's arch-enemy prosecutor, he seems completely unaware that any of his witnesses (read: all of his damn witnesses) are lying their little asses off on the witness stand until Phoenix starts hammering at their stories. It makes him absolutely furious when Phoenix points this out. (It's his character development, in fact -- discovering that his biggest Berserk Button isn't losing to the defense, it's being lied to. His turning point is when he gets so white-hot furious at one of the witnesses for misleading him that when they try to weasel out of Phoenix's incriminating question, Edgeworth orders his witness to answer. Even though he knows the truth is going to demolish his logic. Fuck the case, STOP LYING.) He should have known their story didn't hang together, but he didn't -- because Von Karma had drilled it into him that other people were lesser beings and paying attention to them was a waste of time.

Edgeworth couldn't tell when anyone was lying before because he wasn't paying any attention to them; now that he is, he can. Von Karma is probably spinning in his grave. It's a good thing Edgeworth developed a conscience shortly before he figured this out, or he'd be a million times more dangerous.

Franziska gets kicked in the feels a lot in this game, too. Edgeworth has one of those inevitable "you can't fire me, I quit" moments in the fourth case when he turns in his Prosecutor's Badge in protest, and Franziska outright says she considers it abandonment. Going by some of the dialogue late in the case, she's not aware of the full extent of the horrible things her father did -- she certainly knows Phoenix got him carted off for murder, since she spends most of the second game yelling at him for it, but in this one she expresses a sort of unpleasant surprise to run into yet another thing her father won with forged documentation. She handles it as maturely as you can expect someone who's 19-20 to handle something like that, but she almost loses it when Edgeworth quits. He's not dropping off the face of the Earth, but he is dropping off the face of her Earth, since the Prosecutor's Office is pretty much the only world she's ever lived in.

Edgeworth is not happy about upsetting Franziska, but he's aware that one, he probably can't fix it, and two, it's probably a wee bit more important to keep people from arresting Kay for murder right at that moment. If it were anyone else, there probably would have been hugging. Franziska, for her part, is actually concerned about Kay, which is new; for all that she refers to Edgeworth as her 'little brother' (he's older), she does seem to see him as someone strong enough to be worth fighting against, and pops a sprocket when she thinks that strength won't be in her little world anymore.

There's a spell in the third case where you get to play as Gregory Edgeworth. He dresses like a film noir detective. While he, like his son, starts out extremely polite when speaking, he is much less stiff; I didn't get far enough in the Japanese game to find out what everyone calls him there, but most people have settled on some variation on 'Gregory', rather than calling him 'Edgeworth'. He doesn't seem to mind. Ray refers to him throughout the English fantranslation as Gregory, implying he'd switched from being an over-excited intern to a full partner sometime between IS-7 and Gregory's murder. He also calls Edgeworth "Miles" and escapes without comment, but it's probably difficult to get someone who's known you since you were in grade school to call you "mister", even if you were one of those kids who were nine-going-on-forty.

I actually found myself thinking that it was a shame it was that Edgeworth was hearing Ray tell the story and not seeing it like the player was, because then he might realize how many small gestures he shares with his father. Full credit to the animation team on this one; the Ace Attorney art style tends to be too stylized to pull off a proper 'family resemblance' facially -- Maya and Mia are pretty much the only regulars who have it -- but they did give Gregory variations on a lot of Edgeworth's movements. The first few games gave the impression that the courtly bows came from the Von Karmas and their trappings of aristocracy, but no; Gregory does it too, with the additional touch of holding his fedora in the hand he puts to his chest. His facefault/"Argh..." sprite has him mashing the fedora down over his eyes.

There are a few moments worthy of a good snigger. At one point a French lady offers Edgeworth tea rather boobily; Edgeworth, being the only guy in the room immune to her "charms", thinks she's very polite, if a little odd. I think at this point, the gag has actually flipped from "Edgeworth doesn't human all that well sometimes" to "Edgeworth is completely baffled that no one seems to have noticed he's gay". (Not fanon, incidentally -- the creator has stated outright that Edgeworth isn't interested in women, and the general consensus is that he was probably not kidding when someone asked him to describe Edgeworth's ideal mate, and he answered 'Phoenix!') Franziska hates the sniveling prosecutor brat and it is shamefully satisfying to watch her go after him with her whip every. single. time. he says something stupid. Which is pretty much every time he says something.


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