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This page is meant to provide an overview of the entire Ace Attorney franchise. Links are provided under most section titles for more detailed information on each aspect of the franchise. More information on the main series can be found in the page Gyakuten Saiban.

The Ace Attorney series logo.

Ace Attorney is a franchise centered around a series of visual novel / adventure hybrid video games developed and published by Capcom. It began as a trilogy of comedic legal thrillers known as Gyakuten Saiban (逆転裁判; lit. "Turnabout Trial") created by Shu Takumi and released for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance handheld game console in Japan between 2001 and 2004. The trilogy was later ported to the Nintendo DS between 2005 and 2007 and released internationally, becoming known as the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy. These games follow the exploits of a passionate rookie defense attorney named Phoenix Wright (Ryūichi Naruhodō in Japan) who fights for his clients in a courtroom setting loosely resembling that of the Japanese legal system, using investigative skills, cross-examinations, and evidence.

Subsequent games have branched off and altered the formula of the original trilogy, as well as starring different protagonists. Among these, two detective games collectively known as Ace Attorney Investigations (逆転検事 Gyakuten Kenji; lit. "Turnabout Prosecutor") place the player in the role of Phoenix Wright's rival, a genius prosecutor named Miles Edgeworth, as he investigates crime scenes using evidence collection, logic, and arguments. A prequel duology set in Meiji-era Japan and Victorian London called The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles stars Ryunosuke Naruhodo, an ancestor of Phoenix Wright, and a version of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes as two of the main characters.

The original trilogy has also been ported to WiiWare, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PCs through both physical copies and the Steam digital distribution platform. The original Gyakuten Saiban formula has continued with Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes as new recruits seven years after Phoenix Wright's original adventures.

Games[]

The mainline Ace Attorney games are hybrids of visual novel and adventure game, which require the player to collect evidence during investigations and present it to the witnesses in trials. The game is presented primarily using either animated two-dimensional manga-like sprites or three-dimensional models shaded to look like sprites, with text dialogue, sound effects, and minimal spoken clips to simulate speech. These games are as follows:

There are some other games in different genres, and major Ace Attorney characters have been featured in other games both within and outside of Capcom.

History[]

Original trilogy[]

See also: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy


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The concept of the series was conceived in 2000, when Shinji Mikami gave Shu Takumi six months to create any game he wanted. Takumi had wanted to develop a mystery game, in which players spotted lies and contradictions in statements given by others. He originally conceived the series as a detective game, in which the player takes the role of a "private eye". The original concept of the story for the first game was that the protagonist would become the suspect in a murder when a body was discovered in his office. After being assigned a useless lawyer, he would go on to defend himself against the charges. Takumi dropped the detective theme, due to his concept having little to do with actual detective work, and realized that a courtroom setting with an attorney as a protagonist would be a better fit for his idea.[1]

Takumi was inspired by Western mystery fiction, most notably Perry Mason, an American work about a fictional defense attorney who operates in much the same fashion as Phoenix Wright.[2] This inspiration would later go on to inspire the naming of the "MASON System" in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Another western inspiration was Columbo. The show's unique structure of showing viewers the murderer at the start, in order to focus on how the detective overcomes the culprit's tricks, rather than who the culprit is, inspired the Ace Attorney tradition of revealing the culprit of the game's first episode.[3] Takumi has also cited A Aiichirou as an inspiration, and has mentioned Soutou no Akuma as an influence in the episode Bridge to the Turnabout.[2]

For the legal setting, Takumi was inspired by the state of the Japanese legal system as it was in the year 2000. At the time in Japan, the defense lawyer occupation was one of the most notoriously difficult occupations in the country, with most attorneys not winning a single case their entire career, and the then-current bench system had a conviction rate of 99%. For this reason, Takumi wanted players to control an "underdog" defense lawyer, who would battle against the odds to prove his clients innocent. Takumi and his team took several trips to observe criminal trials at a courthouse, as research, as well as for team-building. Takumi recalls that while observing the first trial, involving indecent exposure charges, he was particularly struck with how "homely" the atmosphere was. After observing more trials, including a murder trial, he noted the reality of the civil, calm nature of trials, particularly recalling a moment in which the defense and prosecuting attorneys very civilly dealt with a complaint the former had regarding the latter's cross-examination. In the end, he decided to ignore this reality, in favor of creating trials that relied heavily on exciting courtroom drama.[4]

The first Gyakuten Saiban (later localized as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) was conceived and created by a small team led by Shu Takumi. At the time, Takumi did not know whether the game would be released outside of Japan, so he avoided using plot points and language tricks that would be specific to Japanese culture. After finishing the first game, he asked Mikami whether it would be released outside of Japan, to which the latter replied, "Of course not. No way." Thus, Takumi decided to use whatever plot points and tricks he wanted for the next two sequels.[5]

The first Gyakuten Saiban was then remade for the Nintendo DS as Gyakuten Saiban: Yomigaeru Gyakuten (meaning "Turnabout Trial: Turnabout Rebirth") in 2005, which included an English-language mode, making it a popular import title. Later that year, a North American version of the remake was released as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, followed by a European version. The remake also featured an extra case, Rise from the Ashes, which used the microphone and touchscreen features of the Nintendo DS for using forensic tools. Similar remakes for the next two games followed, named Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations in localizations, though these did not feature extra cases.

DS era[]

The fourth title, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, was built for the Nintendo DS from the ground up, and starred a new lawyer, Apollo Justice. Mechanics from Rise from the Ashes made a return in various capacities in this game and in subsequent games. The practice of including an English mode was discontinued, the English localization only appearing in international releases. Because the games were now being localized, Takumi returned to avoiding the use of Japanese-specific plot points in this game, though he felt that the yakuza-themed Kitaki clan would make sense to international audiences.[5]

Capcom then partnered with Daletto (a company co-founded by Capcom to work with online games) to release the first three games as episodic content only in Japan between March and May 2008. After Apollo Justice, Takeshi Yamazaki took over the director's position from Takumi and produced two games starring Phoenix's rival Miles Edgeworth, Gyakuten Kenji and Gyakuten Kenji 2. The first was localized internationally as Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, though only the English language became available. iOS and WiiWare remakes of the original three games soon followed, though in case of the iOS, only the first game made it to North America.

3DS era[]

After Gyakuten Kenji 2, Yamazaki was tasked with directing continuations of the main series, while Takumi returned to the series to work on spinoffs concurrently.

Takumi's first game since Apollo Justice was Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, a crossover with Level-5's Professor Layton series, which was released in 2012 in Japan. Yamazaki-directed Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies was released in 2013, and received North American and European releases some months afterwards. Non-Japanese audiences would wait until 2014 for vs. to be localized.

On December 27, 2013, Capcom announced that the Dual Destinies team, including director Takeshi Yamazaki, was working "full force" on the next Ace Attorney game, and that Shu Takumi was working on a new game that would be announced in 2014, but at the time they did not reveal whether it was related to Ace Attorney or not.[6] On February 13, 2014, Nintendo announced during a Japanese edition of Nintendo Direct that Takumi's game would be a "totally different" new entry in the Ace Attorney series for the Nintendo 3DS.[7] This title, Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken, was eventually released in July 2015, starring an ancestor of Phoenix Wright's called Ryunosuke Naruhodo who lived in Japan during the Meiji period. This was followed by Yamazaki's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice, which was released internationally in 2016. The storyline of Dai Gyakuten Saiban was concluded with Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo in 2017. Neither Dai Gyakuten Saiban game saw a release outside of Japan on the 3DS or for their Android/iOS ports.

Modern remakes[]

Since 2019, the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney HD, and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles have been released or are in the process of being released internationally on multiple platforms, including PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Steam, and Xbox One, though Chronicles is not planned to have an Xbox release. Chronicles includes English translated versions of the Dai Gyakuten Saiban duology, with the individual games being titled The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve.

Setting[]

Most of the games take place in an urban region mostly set in the 2010s and 2020s. For the Japanese versions, it is a town somewhere in Japan, while English versions place the games in Los Angeles, California. Cases tend to be localized within the city, though some take place well outside city limits, such as Kurain Village and Flight I-390. The main characters of Ace Attorney are lawyers who investigate crime scenes and then take their evidence to court. Throughout the stories, these lawyers work under an intricate system of rules in the crime scene as well as the courtroom.

Trials are the driving force of the plots in the Ace Attorney games. The courtroom proceedings in the low-level trials seen in the Ace Attorney world run on the initial trial system, which is based on the Japanese legal system. Essentially, when a person is accused of a crime, they are immediately given a bench trial presided by a judge, a prosecuting attorney from the state, and a defense attorney who must completely prove the accused innocent of the crime, usually by finding contradictions in witness testimonies, within three days, after which the case is consigned to a higher court. Turnabout Succession uses a jury trial instead, the result of a change in the Ace Attorney world's justice system.

Gameplay[]

Main category: Gameplay
This section deals solely with the games listed in the Games section.

Phoenix Wright raises an objection at a witness statement. The "Objection!" speech balloon has become an iconic element of the series.

Some screenshots from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All.

Each game is made up of four or five episodes; the games and episodes have some interconnection, recurring minor characters, and similar crime elements. The episodes typically become longer and escalate in complexity over the course of each game. There are two phases to each case: investigation and trial sessions (the Ace Attorney Investigations games use arguments instead of trials, which are functionally very similar).

Starting with the DS releases of the original trilogy, touchscreens and microphones can be used in addition to, and as an alternative to, the normal button-based controls, allowing the player to shout "Objection!", "Hold it!", "Take that!", or "Gotcha!" at the appropriate times.

Investigations[]

Main article: Investigation

Investigations include the ability to visit several key locations in the case and talk to people involved with it while searching for evidence by examining the scene. While talking to people, players can present evidence and occasionally profiles of others involved with the case.

Investigations can also sometimes include various other game mechanics. For example, one can dust for fingerprints by tapping the screen to apply fingerprint powder, then blowing at the microphone gently to blow the powder away. The player can examine evidence as fully-rendered 3D models from different angles; key details concerning the evidence are often revealed this way.

Trials[]

Main articles: Trial & Argument

Trial sessions are generally made up of testimonies consisting of statements by witnesses. The player generally cross-examines the witness to locate a contradiction by showing a piece of evidence that relates to what the witness has testified. The player may also "press" the witness, asking the witness to clarify a statement. Sometimes pressing and presenting evidence will lead to additional statements added to the testimony. Presenting evidence successfully may also lead to new lines of testimony altogether and it is almost always the only way to proceed in the game.

The ultimate goal in the courtroom is to have a "not guilty" verdict handed down to the defendant. Often, however, the player is only able to delay the case until the next day, giving them more time to investigate the crime. Generally, the player must determine who the true perpetrator of the crime is in order to absolve the defendant of guilt.

Presenting evidence is accompanied by the defense attorney pointing with their finger, as in the game's logo, and shouting, "Objection!" (異議あり!, Igi ari!), accompanied by a speech bubble of the same word, both of which have become iconic representations of the series. If the player presents the wrong evidence, attempts to present at the wrong time, or fails in other parts of in-court questioning, they lose some measure of acceptance by the judge, and if the player is wrong too many times, the case will be terminated with a guilty verdict for the accused, and the player will have to restart from their last save point or the beginning of the court session.

Localization[]

The localization of the games adapts the story to take place in an alternate-universe Los Angeles in which Japanese culture has been allowed to flourish and blend into American culture, instead of being met with fierce historical resistance as in real life.[8] Character names are adapted into English; for instance, "Ryuuichi Naruhodou", whose first name references a dragon and whose last name is a pun on the phrase "I see", is renamed "Phoenix Wright", whose first name references the phoenix and whose last name is a pun on the word "right". Additionally, relatively nonessential references to Japanese culture are replaced by references to Western culture; for example, "Mayoi Ayasato" frequently hungers for ramen, while the English equivalent "Maya Fey" lusts for burgers. However, the existence of Japanese temples and Japanese-themed towns is left intact. Budget and time constraints have caused this system to be implemented somewhat inconsistently, such as Eldoon's Noodles staying intact.

References to the United States in the Japanese versions are changed to various European countries (usually Germany) to account for characters who are meant to have visited a foreign country. In Reunion, and Turnabout, an American car is called a British car in the localization because cars in the United Kingdom and Japan drive on the left side of the road, whereas North American cars drive on the right.

Reception[]

Critical reception[]

Game Metacritic Game Rankings
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 81/100 (53 reviews) 82.42% (64 reviews)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Justice for All
76/100 (51 reviews) 77.59% (55 reviews)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Trials and Tribulations
81/100 (46 reviews) 81.14% (49 reviews)
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney 78/100 (48 reviews) 78.39% (46 reviews)
Ace Attorney Investigations
Miles Edgeworth
77/100 (51 reviews) 78.81% (35 reviews)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Dual Destinies
81/100 (48 reviews) 81.64% (33 reviews)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Spirit of Justice
81/100 (58 reviews) 81.54% (37 reviews)

The Western gaming press has generally given favorable reviews of the games in the series. The games have received praise for their presentation, music and dialog, and for being strong adventure game titles in an otherwise lacking market. Criticisms have included linearity, lack of replay value, and lack of evolution in the general gameplay formula. Reviewers have also noted the unrealistic nature of the courtroom system; GameSpot noted in its review of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney that, during courtroom sessions, one should "suspend your disbelief about the whole procedure, since, although it feels fairly close to reality, many things go on during the proceedings that would probably horrify actual members of the legal system." Issue 22 of (N)Gamer also noted that the games sometimes involve "odd leaps in logic" that can degenerate the experience of presenting evidence into a trial-and-error procedure. Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations were criticized for a lack of the unique DS features introduced in the first game.

Popularity[]

In Japan, the games have enjoyed a reasonable amount of popularity. The combined sales (both GBA and DS) of the first two games totaled around 400,000 units, while the GBA version of the third game, neared 250,000 units. The fourth game sold 160,000 copies on the day of release in Japan, with a total of 250,000 units moved during the first week of release. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth sold 172,000 units in the week of its release and 42,000 the following week. In both cases, the game was the second best selling DS title in Japan, trailing Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.

In the United States, the success of the first game exceeded the low expectations of retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us, forcing Capcom to prepare at least three additional runs of the game to meet the demand. Capcom had produced nine to ten runs of three-to-four thousand units before Toys "R" Us requested 15,000 copies.

Capcom has stated that as of December 2020 the series has sold 8.0 million units worldwide. This success makes Ace Attorney Capcom's 9th best selling game franchise.[9] In addition, as of December 2020 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy became the best selling individual release of the series with 1.0 million units sold, thereby being celebrated as one of Capcom's Platinum Titles.[10]

Music[]

Main category: Music

Capcom has produced several albums for the Ace Attorney series including: original soundtracks for each game, albums consisting of orchestral and jazz arrangements of select tracks, and the soundtrack for the film adaptation. The series has also produced three stage musicals in partnership with the all-female musical theatre troupe, the Takarazuka Revue.

Original soundtracks[]

Subcategory: Soundtracks

The official Ace Attorney original soundtrack albums are almost all released on the Suleputer label that Capcom typically uses, with the exception of the Gyakuten Saiban Movie Original Soundtrack, which is on the VAP label. The composers responsible for the music are Masakazu Sugimori, Akemi Kimura, Noriyuki Iwadare, Toshihiko Horiyama, Yasuko Yamada, Tomohito Nishiura, Yasumasa Kitagawa, Kōji Endō, and Masami Onodera.

Game soundtracks[]

Arrangement albums[]

Common musical themes and titles[]

Many of the same musical themes with matching titles or title prefixes/suffixes are used throughout the series to represent particular cases, locations, plot points, or characters, and appear on each game soundtrack with variations in tempo, key, and arrangement. These variations are sometimes quite wide, leaving little obvious similarities between tracks except the titles.

Some examples include "Cross-examination", "Reminiscing", and "Triumphant Return" themes.

Musicals[]

Main category: Musicals

There are three stage musicals produced by Capcom and the Takarazuka Revue:

The first two musicals have been released on DVD in Japan and all three have received releases of the main numbers on iTunes Japan.

Drama CDs[]

Main category: Drama CDs

There have been a handful of drama CDs released by Capcom. These CDs contain original cases, presented by voice actors in a radio-drama style.

Manga[]

There are two different manga series. The first was published by U.S manga publisher Del Rey Manga, and is an older collection of dōjinshi (fan comics) created by several different manga artists. The first volume was called The Phoenix Wright Files while the second was called The Miles Edgeworth Files. The second series was distributed by Kodansha Comics, written by Kenji Kuroda, and illustrated by Kazuo Maekawa. These stories are structured more in the style of the original games.

Anime[]

Main article: Ace Attorney (anime)

An anime adaptation of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy was announced in 2015's Tokyo Game Show. Produced by A-1 Pictures, the first season, which aired from April to September 2016, covered Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and most of Justice for All, while the second season, which aired from October 2018 to March 2019, covered Trials and Tribulations.

Collaborations[]

For more significant collaboration events, see Category:Attractions
  • In 2017, the Okayama Bar Association released a collaboration poster[11] with both Phoenix Wright and their mascot, Tasuppi, in the interest of encouraging people, particularly youth, with legal troubles to seek out legal counsel.
  • In 2017, as celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Ace Attorney series, the Japanese navigation app NAVITIME added a special downloadable feature as part of its "dress-up" mechanic that incorporated Ace Attorney elements into the app flow, such as the judge's gavel when starting navigation and Phoenix Wright saying Objection! when the user made a wrong turn.[12]

References[]

  1. Hsu, Janet (2014-09-11). "The Early Days of Ace Attorney". Capcom. Archived from the original on 2015-02-08. Retrieved 05/15/18
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ash. Takumi on Columbo (Kono Manga ga Sugoi interview). Court Records Forums. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  3. Shu Takumi Official Nintendo Magazine Interview - Court-Records. Date Retrieved. 05/15/18
  4. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy Localization Blog - Observing Trials - Capcom Unity Janet, Hsu Blog (08/28/14)- Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hsu, Janet (2017-11-18). The Making of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Feat. Shu Takumi. Capcom Unity. Retrieved on 2018-06-04.
  6. Giuseppe Nelva (2013-12-27). Capcom Developers Tease New Games to Be Announced Next Year, New Ace Attorney in the Works. DualSHOCKERS. Retrieved on 2014-03-23.
  7. Brian Ashcraft (2014-02-13). Capcom Is Making a New Ace Attorney. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2014-03-23.
  8. Hsu, Janet (2014-10-31). Ace Attorney Trilogy - Surprising Tidbits You Never Knew! Capcom Unity. Retrieved on 2014-11-02.
  9. http://www.capcom.co.jp/ir/english/finance/salesdata.html
  10. https://www.capcom.co.jp/ir/english/finance/million.html
  11. Okayama Bar Association website (in Japanese), retrieved 5/16/2021.
  12. GAME Watch. January 26, 2017. Retrieved 5/16/2021.
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