Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

The take off popularity of the Ace Attorney series has caught a lot of people off guard both in Japan and abroad. The series of interactive legal dramas has been a landmark success for Capcom, and Phoenix Wright, it’s star, has enjoyed a cult following among players around the world. Players were further caught off guard when in this latest game, Wright is replaced by his plucky new protégé– Apollo Justice.

Building a Hero

By the time Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations closed, Phoenix Wright had a considerable back story. He had a large community of associates and friends. This is all brought to a swirling finale in his last game. Apollo Justice entered this title without any of that baggage. Like his predecessor, Apollo has to build up these relationships and experiences over time. This first game seems to go out of its way to establish a mythology around Apollo. Phoenix had his own particular “powers,” given to him by circumstance. His community of associates were largely inherited from his mentor– Mia Fey. This is replicated for Apollo. He is given powers and associates thanks in large part to his mentor– Phoenix Wright.

This type of contrivance can be unsettling in establishing a series. If this were film or television, it might not be so openly accepted. In fact, even comic book fans might scoff at the sudden appearance of a new character who simply steps into the shoes of another hero. However, as this is a newer form of media– newer even than the graphic novel, it is a forgivable ploy. It facilitated a smoother transition between characters, letting the audience feel as if like the first protagonist and his friends, this new character was meant to be. Establishing a mythology for Apollo is an important step toward making him as viable a character as his predecessor. Having a played out shakedown of this character would’ve taken a long time. The series would have lost audience and direction in that search.

Phoenix Wright – Ace Pianist (Spoilers)

This game’s plot and back story are both predicated on end of Phoenix Wright’s career in law. Throughout the game, the dialogue references a fateful case in which Wright’s misconduct (or perceived misconduct) led to his being disbarred and put into a shameful retirement. By the time the events of this game take place, seven years have passed and Phoenix has moved on with his life. Apollo, and by proxy the player, is not so over it as the fallen hero.

This sets of Phoenix in an unusual archetype. He is a tragic hero, as his hubris (Phoenix is known for his flashy courtroom style and his reliance on luck) lead almost directly to his downfall. But his fall was not the work of fate. He was set up by another character. This facilitates his “return to paradise.” Phoenix orchestrates a situation in which he is both fully redeemed and given the chance at taking his life back. Wright’s vindication would not have been possible if his fall from grace had been his own doing.

A Changing Genre

As previously said, the interactive novel is a newer form of media. This is our fourth review of such a work. This game keeps tight to the same design as its predecessors in this series, and adds the twist of greater functionality thanks to the Nintendo DS. This is something seen frequently in other interactive novels we’ve reviewed, like Hotel Dusk: Room 215 or Trace Memory, where use of the handheld’s unique inputs added to the game. This highlights the appeal of the interactive novel. Unlike static literature, which follows one set pattern, this type of media pulls you into the action. In some, the action will unfold differently depending on your inputs. In others, like this one, it will only turn out one way, but uncovering the story and the details is an active process rather than a passive one. You must investigate, learn, and understand the events in order to push the narrative forward, rather than having this done within the mind of the author, using the character as a proxy.

Thus far the best use of this type of game appears to be mystery stories and procedural crime dramas. These are genre works, and would not have a lot of credence in the literary world as novels. The Ace Attorney series in particular is often silly, and peppered with adolescent humor. However since the interactive novel itself is a fledgling format, genre fiction is the best gateway to get people and artists interested. As with the graphic novel, the true dawn of meaningful sequential art did not take place until decades after the format was born.

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