Gyakuten Kenji 2 marks the sixth official entry in Capcom's lawyer visual novel adventure series, and is the follow-up sequel to the title known as "Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth" overseas. As we continue to delve further into the ever-expanding mythos of the red-coated prosecutor, so too do we continue to explore the musical evolution of the series. While the first Gyakuten Kenji deviated from gameplay conventions the Saiban series were known for, in retrospect, those changes didn't make for a wholly different game; investigation phases were very much prevalent, and despite the general absence of a courtroom setting, "Confrontations" were essentially cross examinations in all but name. This comfortable formula also carried over to the musical structure of the game, which in turn, remains constant in Kenji 2.
Returning once more for compositional duties is Noriyuki Iwadare (Gyakuten Saiban 3, Gyakuten Kenji) who brings together the largest collection of new original songs a single Ace Attorney title has seen yet. At 49 tracks spanning two discs, the Kenji sequel runs the gamut of series staples, including the Turnabout chapter intros, Investigations, Tricks and Logic, Victory/Solution, and Save Jingles. The entire suite of battle-like themes are back, including the aforementioned Confrontations, as well as Confess the Truth, Objection!, and Pursuit. New to Kenji 2 is "Logic Chess", a high-speed, high-stakes variation of the Confrontation gameplay formula, which also gets its own set of musical themes.
Stylistically is where Kenji 2 sees the biggest change. Trading in its predecessor's heavy jazz sensibilities for an equally strong rock flavor, tracks once punctuated by the original's signature piano are now replaced with the wails and grinds of electric guitars. With several songs influentially closer to a Lunar or Grandia fight theme, we're clearly in Iwadare's wheelhouse here; it's a safe bet you've never heard songs as instrumentally energetic as "Confrontation ~ Presto 2011" or "Pursuit ~ Wanting to Find the Truth" in an Ace Attorney before. Another prominently featured instrument is the organ, both of the pipe and jazz variety. Heavily utilized in the theme for one of the central antagonists in "Hakari Mikagami ~ Goddess of Law" and later in "Prosecutorial Investigation Committee ~ Rigorous Justice", its presence lends gravitas to the more dramatic sections of the score. Particularly surprising is its inclusion in the new "Confess the Truth 2011", swapping the theme's usually quickened harpsichord-laden tempo for a deliberate, more carefully weighed orchestral feel.
If there's one area where Iwadare has always excelled at, it's character themes. Kenji 2 is bursting at the seams with them, and they provide texture to a remarkably varied cast. Aside from the aforementioned "Goddess of Law", we see another potential rival for Edgeworth in "Yumihiko Ichiyanagi", whose loopy melody and stuffy tonality indicate a prosecutor who may be more than just a tad full of himself. His haughty, refined demeanor carries over to a secondary theme in "Ichiryuu's Farewell", and not since Luke Atmey has there been a saucier, more delectable tango. On the other side of the fence we have "Shimon Aizawa", a young lad whose harder-edged rock stance may account for his inexplicable ties with a few other key no-nonsense characters in the plot. In what is sure to be an intriguing turn in the story arc, we have a theme retrofitted for Miles' late father Gregory in "Shin Mitsurugi ~ A Defense Attorney's Knowledge". Edgeworth Senior possesses a proud, determined stature, along with the sort of progressive melody that's sure to become a future Gyakuten highlight. But what is undoubtedly the biggest and brightest musical moment in Kenji 2 is "Tateyuki Shigaraki", a defense attorney who serves as a pivotal conduit between the two Edgeworths. It's a criminally fun piece, blessed with a crisp, upbeat blues/jazz syncopation that you can't help but tap your toe to.
Just like the first game, there are several instances where Akemi Kimura's "Great Revival" from Gyakuten Saiban 2, the theme long since designated for Miles Edgeworth, makes an appearance. It's inspiring how Iwadare manages to create such keen new variations, deftly weaving its melodic strains into pieces like "Logic ~ Truth of the Crime Scene", "Confrontation ~ Moderate/Allegro 2011", and "Reproducing the Scene ~ The Gentleman Thief's Secret Weapon 2011". The theme manages to hit an all-time high with "Reiji Mitsurugi ~ Objection! 2011", the most rollicking rendition of both the "Great Revival" and an "Objection!" the series has seen yet. Other returning themes include "Reminiscence ~ The Girl's Lost Memories", a serene but alarming shift in mood from Kay Faraday's original bouncy "The Great Truth Burglar", while "Reminiscence ~ The Fall of the House of Lang" reins back Shi-Long's "Speak Up, Pup!" to a mournful, harmonica-driven ballad.
Thematic recurrences also play a significant part in Kenji 2. The fictitious nation of Zheng Fa, which was merely hinted at in the first Kenji, looks to play a more front and center role this time around. It earns its own theme in the stoic "Zheng Fa ~ Land of the Phoenix", and sees a darker, bleaker reprisal on piano in "Reminiscence ~ SS-5 Incident". Cheerfulness is the order of the day with the aptly titled "Issei Tenkai ~ Sweet Happiness", carried over from "The Inherited Turnabout", and adapted later on in "Tsukasa Oyashiki ~ Sweet Dance". The sinister opening of "The Grand Turnabout" is further fleshed out in "The Great Monster Borumosu", and even gets a chiptune makeover in "Ringtone ~ Hakari Mikagami". The latter half of "The Inherited Turnabout" uses hints of Shigaraki's theme, while "The Forgotten Turnabout" borrows from the opening bars of "Prosecutorial Investigation Committee ~ Rigorous Justice". It's these steady throwbacks that really strengthen the memorable music palette.
The album closes on a high note with the wonderful new end-of-case victory theme. Having been let down by the tepid, uninspired offerings from the last two games, "Solution! ~ Calm Moment" rights previous wrongs with a joyfully warm, lighthearted tone and feel-good melody; like Lunar's "Let's Take A Walk" and "Magic City Vane", it's an immeasurably catchy piece that exemplifies Iwadare at his carefree best. Likewise, "Prosecutor's Murmur ~ Each One's Path" serves as the game's denouement, and is a harmonious marriage of old-school chiptune and modern synths. The deep, robust bass line makes this piece especially resonating.
Gyakuten Kenji 2 Original Soundtrack comes as an easy recommendation for Ace Attorney and Iwadare fans alike. Between the multitude of character themes, diverse scenario pieces, fluent thematic tie-ins, and pulse-pounding battle themes, the album can almost be categorized as an extremely well-rounded RPG score. My only complaint is the sound engineering; like the first Kenji, I'm not a fan of the programming's low bass / high treble fidelity, but this is a minor quibble leveled against an otherwise terrific score. Iwadare is now three for three, and, in my eyes, continues to be the best thing to have happened to this music series.