Turnabout Throwback: ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’

Scarlett Shiloh ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

When I first thought about replaying the old classic, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, “lawyer simulator” was not necessarily the first thing that appealed to me.

Fortunately, I didn’t let that get in the way; thus, after watching one of my favorite Let’s Players (lucahjin) play through the game, I decided to buy the trilogy while it was on sale in the eStore. I didn’t expect to be completely invested in it, I just expected to play through it to pass the time. Eventually, as I played through, I got more and more attached to the characters and their stories, each of the episodes, and cracking the mysteries of each case and finding out who the real murderer is.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (known in Japan as Gyakuten Saiban) is a visual novel-esque puzzle game released in 2001 for the Nintendo Game Boy, later being released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS and as a trilogy with Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations, remastered for the 3DS in 2014.

Image Credit: Capcom
Image Credit: Capcom

The story follows Phoenix Wright, an up and coming defense attorney, as he goes through four different trials (five in the DS version), defending his clients while finding the real perpetrator of each of the murders. He works alongside his boss, Mia Fey, the latter’s younger sister, Maya, and battles it out with the main rival of the game, Miles Edgeworth. The first game’s popularity made it soon hard to find in stores upon its release, and with good reason. The game’s characters and story really sell the game and give the series the proper name it deserves.

One of the most notable features in the Phoenix Wright series is the characterization. All the characters are well designed, fleshed out, and memorable. While most protagonists in visual novel games are meant to be blank slates for the player to project onto, Phoenix Wright is slightly different in that regard. While his reactions in court and during investigations are akin to what the player might be thinking, and the player has to solve all the mysteries, he still stands as his own character. This gives the player a character who is not only funny, witty and exciting, but also a character people can imagine themselves being in court as, even if they know nothing about being a lawyer!

Image Credit: Capcom
Image Credit: Capcom

Another character I find striking in great character development is Miles Edgeworth, the rival prosecutor. Starting off as a cold and distant attorney who does anything to get a guilty verdict, he goes through a series of changes as the main character comes (back) into his life. He grows into a character players can understand, even if his actions were disagreeable at first. His right-hand man, Detective Dick Gumshoe, is equally of a great character as much as he is a complete polar opposite from Edgeworth. Through his antics and constant payment docks, the player has a character who, while his purpose is comic relief, has great bearing on the characters and the cases.

The stories in the game are phenomenal as well, well constructed to be deconstructed by the player. I think what really makes Phoenix Wright is the amazing story the characters go along with. While each case has a different story, they all tie into, in some way, to the main conflict of the story. These cases seem far apart at first, but the characters who help you along the way contribute something different to deal with the larger problem. The stories of each case are vibrant, bringing new characters to life, new ways of thinking to turn the case around, and new conflicts. While they are all murder cases, they all bring something new to the table – from “American” businessmen, to fallen actors, to defending your rival in court. Each case is vastly different, and yet similar at the same time.

There are many words to be said about Ace Attorney; if I could pick out each witty line to show here, there wouldn’t be much dialogue left! The game is a real treat, and fun to play. Highly recommend!

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