“Ace Attorney Investigations 2: Prosecutor’s Path” (aka “Gyakuten Kenji 2”) Review

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As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I’m an avid fan of the Ace Attorney series. I’ve played all of them now, including today’s entry, and while I haven’t played the first “Ace Attorney Investigations” in a long while, I remember enjoying it for being able to play as Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth and changing up the gameplay from previous AA games. To date, AAI2 is the only game that hasn’t been officially translated by Capcom, as the development team was separated after its release in Japan. However, thanks to some dedicated fans, an English translation was completed and released as a rom. Does it stand up to the quality of the series? Let’s find out.

Story:

First off, I’ll note here that I’m going to avoid spoilers wherever possible. Like in AAI, the game follows a format of each case (five in all) spanning a short period of time. The basic plot with both games is that Miles Edgeworth, Detective Gumshoe, and the Great Thief Kay Faraday get wrapped up in solving these cases while slowly piecing together their connections to one another. In AAI2, these cases range from attempted assassinations to including blackmail and even kidnappings. For me personally, I found each case to be good in their own right. My favorite was easily Case 3, however, as it added to backstory set up by other games and had a strong emotional impact by the end. It’s also one of the best third cases I’ve played in any AA game, which have ranged from fairly good to mediocre. I also liked the final case, though I had issues with the pacing as it felt drawn out and the focus of it often strayed in different directions. It’s kinda bad when even your characters have to stop and piece together everything that they know up to that point. That said, it brought all the loose ends of the plot together to a satisfying conclusion. The only one other grievance I had was with a character gaining temporary amnesia in Case 4. While it lead to some great moments between them and Edgeworth, I felt it was a kinda cheap way to give Edgeworth the motivation to do something about it.

Plenty of characters return from previous AA titles alongside the new ones in this game. There are tons of cameos from some of my favorite characters the series has produced, and as mentioned earlier, both Gumshoe and Kay return and are given a bit more to do respectively. Many of the new characters were great, and I especially liked Raymond Shields, a defense attorney who has known Miles since his youth. Raymond does unfortunately push Gumshoe out of the partner role several times, but I found he was a fun enough character to not mind it. He kinda reminded me of Larry Butz in his pursuit of women, only far, FAR less annoyingly so. There’s a rival prosecutor, Sebastian Debeste, who I found to be one of my least favorites of the series. He’s portrayed as a bumbling idiot, but they do give him development near the end of the game that slightly redeemed him for me. The “true” rival is Judge Justine Courtney, who assists Sebastian in his investigations. While she was a worthy adversary, I found her hard to like even after some development that she too gets near the end. She’s not necessarily a BAD character, but I just felt irritated with her most of the time. I enjoyed the villains in this game, as each one was just despicable enough to make you feel good for taking them down. However, I found myself liking the one from Case 4 more than the final “true” villain, as their backstory made me feel they had the potential to carry the game on their own merits. That’s not to say the final villain is bad, and the writers did a great job with them and showing their reasoning and motivation. But many of the AA titles have easy-to-predict villains, and I was able to deduce who the “mastermind” was before the characters reached that answer. Ultimately, I found the showdown with them much more entertaining than trying to figure out that they were the culprit.

The third major story element here are themes. There are two very blatant ones in the game: the bond between a parent and child, and choosing the path in life that’s right for you. As you can probably guess from the title, the latter is the dominant theme of the game and mostly centers around Edgeworth trying to decide once and for all if being a prosecutor is right for him. In-game, I felt it was done very well, and some of the ideas brought up with it almost seemed to reflect the “Dark Age of the Law” theme that’s present in “AA5: Duel Destinies” and to a lesser extent “AA4: Apollo Justice.” However, I found it also made Edgeworth come off a bit flip-floppy at times in his decisions. I can chalk a lot of that up to knowing what ultimately happens to him, having played the more recent games ahead of this one, but I also felt this theme could have been done much sooner. I feel if they’d tackled this idea in AAI, it would’ve flowed perfectly as a follow-up to the original trilogy and his struggles presented there. As it stands, while some moments had good emotional punch to them, others didn’t leave the impact on me that they probably should have. The parent/child theme, on the other hand, was utilized great and spanned several characters, showing both the good and bad outcomes of that bond. It was a theme that felt solid enough to possibly carry the game on its own, though I still applaud the use of both themes as they often criss-cross with each other here. Overall, as you can see, the game offers a LOT of plot and character development.

Graphics:

As with AAI, the graphics for AAI2 make the most out of the DS hardware (or emulation). The sprites during the dialogue-heavy scenes are crisp and clear, and the overhead investigation segments have a slightly pixelated style to them. The animations are fluid and, even during the overhead segments, accurately represent the character as they react to different situations. The only time I ran into any issues was during a segment with Gumshoe in Case 2, which caused my emulator to chug along at a slow pace. Aside from that, the game moves at a good pace.

Sound:

Plenty of sound effects and music from previous games make their return here in the best way possible. From the moment you start playing, you know it’s an AA game just from the start menu alone. The theme songs introduced in AAI and even the AA trilogy come back with each returning character, but there are also tons of new themes that I enjoyed as well. Some of these were Ray’s theme, a convict’s theme from Case 2, the theme for a show called “Piece of Cake” from Case 3, and the theme that plays during the game’s final showdown. As this was fan-translated, there are also voice clips done by various fans to inject some personality into the newer characters. I found these easy to spot, as some sounded slightly louder than they should in-game, but they all felt pretty fitting to me.

Gameplay:

Finally, we get to the gameplay, and not a whole lot has changed from AAI (though I don’t consider that a detriment). The gameplay consists of several segments: the investigation, the argument/rebuttal testimonies, and logic chess. The investigation segments involve you directly controlling Edgeworth as he searches crime scenes for clues. During this time, you can collect evidence, speak with characters, confer with your investigation partner (usually Gumshoe or Kay) for hints if you get stuck, and use Edgeworth’s logic to piece together matching information. As with the first game, I had no problems with the controls, even while playing on a keyboard. The only times I ran into trouble were by missing a minor clue, either one that added to my evidence or my logic.

The argument/rebuttal testimonies are a revamped form of the courtroom segments from previous AA games. During these, you question and press witnesses/criminals to reveal contradictions in their testimony. You then have to present evidence to reveal their lie. These segments can go on for a while, depending on if you like to press every statement to see what’s said like I do. I found that early on in the game, there were moments that felt a bit hand-holdy, especially during these segments. Thankfully, the game picks up a bit on the difficulty as it progresses, so this becomes much less frequent.

The logic chess segments are the new feature for this game and act similarly to testimonies. At various points in each case, Edgeworth uses this method to “battle” a witness in order to draw out secrets from them. Each witness has a set number of chess pieces that you’re required to break. To do this, you have to take cues from their reactions and follow a specific line of questioning. You also have a time bar that ticks down as you choose which line to follow, and it can also be knocked down further if you choose the wrong answer. Each case changes up these segments from time to time to give them some freshness, such as by forcing you work against a quickly dropping time bar or giving gentle, patient answers to a worked-up witness. There isn’t a ton of variety and they often feel like another glorified testimony, but I found myself enjoying them more than the testimonies at times. They were engaging and sometimes intense thanks to the time bar, and utilizing Edgeworth’s combined interest in using logic and playing chess was a brilliant idea. While I can say it’s not my absolute feature this series has introduced, I liked it for what it was.

If there’s one major gripe I have upon completing AAI2, it’s that gamers outside of Japan had to miss out on this game for the longest time until this rom came along. So many great elements are present here and it includes major references and plot tie-ins to previous games, especially AAI and the original AA trilogy. While I wish an English cartridge would exist someday for my collection (along with “Duel Destinies”), I have to give major kudos to the fans who took the time to put their all into translating it. From start to finish, I felt like I was playing the game as if it were translated by Capcom themselves. I’m truly grateful to them, because I would’ve otherwise missed out on an amazing game.

I know this has been a long review, but I feel this game deserves the recognition. As an AA game, it’s one of the stronger entries I’ve seen, mostly in terms of character development. Despite minor issues, I found it to be a fun and worthy addition to the series. I would highly recommend anyone who’s a fan of the series or even just AAI give it a shot.

I give “Ace Attorney Investigations 2: Prosecutor’s Path” a solid 9/10.

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