Before I get into the bulk of this review. I did like the originality here. A case that isn't a murder isn't common, and the setup for your case was an interesting idea. You understand that Ace Attorney is more than just a mystery, which is very good. There's nothing distracting in the technical details. All of this is good!
All that said, this case had two major problems, and I'll spend most of my review talking about them.
First was that you had some ideas for an intense case, but they were never developed
. Bringing Daryan back out of prison when he was being blackmailed by Valant Gramarye is clearly trying to shock us. But you never do anything with that setup. Let's contrast with the first case of Apollo Justice, where we learn that Phoenix is disbarred. We don't learn that "Phoenix isn't a lawyer anymore" and find that everything else is fine. We learn, over the course of the trial, that he's fallen to being a lousy piano player, his reputation has been tarnished, he's taken up poker, and then we even contradict him in court. Then he hijacks the trial, as things spin increasingly out of the player's control - Olga isn't actually the killer, now the defendant is the one doing all the thinking for the defense, he's accusing our co-counsel, and there's this clear history between Phoenix and Kristoph that we know nothing about... Then, to top it all off, he's responsible for us presenting forged evidence, leaving us confused and shocked. I could do a similar analysis for almost any other "epic" or "intense" case in the series, with the caveats that most other cases focus on the relationships between the characters.
So, what does your intense case do with those ideas? Not very much. Daryan is out of jail now. Valant is apparently a thief. And... that's it. In order to make these emotional notes hit, you need to show us what the characters are thinking and feeling
in response to these actions and do more with these ideas! Some better pacing would also help, but that's a separate problem.
I also noticed that the case logic was rough. If you haven't already, read this tutorial
! It's long, but I wrote it to deal with situations exactly like this, so I'll be referencing it a lot. I'll organize my thoughts by cross-examination:Cross-Examination 1
: This breaks Rule 5. This cross-examination doesn't advance your case. What does your trial lose if Klavier just gives a slightly longer opening statement and then starts with Daryan's testimony? The only reason that detective testimonies happen in cases are because there's a contradiction, or the prosecution needs to explain something in-depth. To fix this, you either have to cut the cross-examination or give it a reason to be here. Given how short this case is, I recommend giving it a reason to exist!Cross-Examination 2
: This breaks Rule 10 and Rule 7. This contradiction is very easy, which ruins the drama of the moment. We uncover that Daryan, an ex-Interpol agent, is being blackmailed the very first time we catch him in a lie, and an incredibly obvious one at that? It takes away a lot of suspicion of disbelief and emotional involvement. Instead of thinking things through and getting involved, the player simply clicks button. It's not very fun.
The Rule 7 problem is that Daryan has no reason to make this mistake. Why did Daryan make this mistake? We're never given a real answer other than "Valant said so." This contradiction is very contrived, which also takes away suspension of disbelief and the Ace Attorney magic. In AA trials, remember, contradictions are there to be explained and unraveled, not pointed out so we can jump to the next point.Proof that Daryan is Blackmailed:
This breaks Rule 7 and Rule 4. The Rule 7 problem is that I don't follow the logic. How does "The culprit never seemed to notice anyone during his escape" prove that the defendant wasn't the blackmailer? For that matter, how do the police even know about this?
The Rule 4 problem is that Daryan's character is inconsistent. At first, he's very afraid of this blackmailer, is begging for protection, and isn't able to even realize obvious mistakes in the testimony. But as soon as it would be convenient for him to be calm, composed, and intelligent, that's exactly what he is. That inconsistency bothered me!
There's a third problem here, that the player character does all the thinking. Every time a major deduction is made, the player
should make it, not the character. If the player realizes that Daryan was blackmailed, Apollo shouldn't realize why Daryan was blackmailed.Cross-Examination 3:
Repeat the Rule 10 and Rule 7 problems from the previous cross-examination. There's a new Rule 4 problem - previously, you told us that Daryan didn't give the court any evidence, but now you're saying that his testimony is decisive, irrefutable proof? I don't believe it.Cross-Examination 4:
There's a Rule 3 problem here. Forcing the player to press the "right" statements just is not a very good puzzle! You can expect the player not to press on filler statements, but quite often, there are other questions that the player can ask, but you just didn't think of. For example:
However, I didn't waste my money only to let him free again!: How did you get the money?
We entered the clinic through an entrance from the garage.: Why that entrance? Were there any others? What happened to the window?
He knocked Dr. Deractis, and fled when the police came, and so did we.: Did the defendant see you two run out? How did he escape? Did he have an envelope on him?
There's also a Rule 6 problem, an unintended inconsistency. Valant says that he and Daryan lied so they could have alibis, but Daryan never had an alibi, and they lied that they lingered at the crime scene for longer than they actually did... Which makes their alibi look even worse!Explaining the Crime:
First off, Phoenix does most of the explaining here. You're telling the player what happened, rather than making them work for it or figure it out for themselves. I don't talk about that in my rules, but that is still bad practice.
The other issue here is that the story doesn't make much sense. What happened is:Daryan was in prison in Borginia. Valant wanted to get him out of jail, and to do that he needed a million dollars.
You can't just pay money to get somebody off of death row! If they bribed a prison official, then Daryan has escaped prison, and the bailiffs would send him back to Borginia. If they got him out legally, why would Borginia do that? Either way, you need to explain.Valant stole the million dollars from Dr. Deraktis's bank account with plans to repay the money later and hopes that Deraktis wouldn't notice in the meantime.
How could Deraktis possibly not know that he lost a million dollars?! The moment he checks his bank accounts, he'd know something went wrong.
How did he steal the money? A deposit that large would need to be done in person, and clearly, Valant is not Deraktis.He then hired a forger to make millions of dollars. He'd give the first million to Deraktis so he wouldn't notice the missing money and keep the rest for himself.
Why didn't he just forge the original million to get Daryan out of jail? It's much less complicated.The bank carelessly accepts the money. Meanwhile, Deraktis withdraws the fake million.
Banks don't have stacks of dollar bills in each person's account. The million that Deraktis got would be a different, probably not fake, million from the one that Valant deposited.Valant learns about this.
How?He decides that the million needs to be stolen, so Deraktis doesn't try to use it learn it's fake.
If Deraktis would have learned it's fake if he tried to use it, why did the bank accept it?The first part of his plan is to frame Wesley Stickler, planting his cell phone and a page from his break.
Why Stickler, and how did Valant get his stuff?He then threatens to kill Daryan unless he helps him with the theft; Valant bugs Daryan at this time.
But they were friends! Valant went through this incredibly risky plan to free Daryan. Why the blackmail and threats all of a sudden?They then commit the break-in, assault, and burglary. After that, they make up their testimonies to give Valant an alibi and go to the police.
Once again, the lie they told about the time only hurts their alibis.
This probably won't be what you want to hear, but I strongly recommend that you give this series a break. A series is only as strong as its weakest case. So if your first trial isn't very good, your second is okay, and your third one is good, then enough people will be disinterested because of the first and second cases that they won't play the third, even if it's good. For that reason, consider doing a standalone case or two before you make a series. It will help catch some of the errors in your writing, so that when you start on the series, you will have a firmer grasp of what you're doing and thus will need to rewrite the cases less. I'd even recommend doing a less "intense" case, so you can focus on sorting out the mystery problems. Figuring out what points your cross-examinations need to get to (that neither witness is actually a witness) is a good start, but it isn't enough! Develop a consistent truth of what happened and then have the cross-examinations build toward us getting there ourselves, rather than just having confessions and new evidence tell us what happened. Work on feeling "intense" after that. That said, if you want to continue with this series, go ahead, but expect to do a lot of rewriting for the case.
Feel free to respond here or in my tutorial if you have any questions. Or, you can just PM me! Either way, I'd be happy to give you advice for your second attempt at a case. In particular, I think the best thing for you to focus on is the mystery and cross-examination part, and I'm currently in the planning phase for a tutorial on that, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about these kinds of problems.
Oh, and speaking as a moderator - no hotlinking! Host pictures on photobucket or imgur instead of using links directly from Court-Records.