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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. 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 game set in Meiji-era Japan and Victorian London called Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken (大逆転裁判 -成歩堂龍ノ介の冒險-; lit. "Great Turnabout Trial: The Adventures of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō") was released in Japan in 2015, with Ryūnosuke Naruhodō (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 Microsoft Windows, WiiWare, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam. The original Gyakuten Saiban formula has continued with Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes as new recruits seven years after Phoenix Wright's original adventures.

History[edit | edit source]

Original trilogy[edit | edit source]

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 many 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 Gyakuten Saiban 4. 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 then 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, and made the narrative conceit of Gyakuten Saiban a legal satire. 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 (later localized at Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations).[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[edit | edit source]

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 a game starring Phoenix's rival Miles Edgeworth, Gyakuten Kenji. This 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[edit | edit source]

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (a crossover with the Professor Layton series) and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies were released in 2012 and 2013, respectively, in Japan, with both receiving North American and European releases shortly afterwards (2014 and 2013 for the two games, respectively).

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, but did not mention if it would be a main series title, a third Investigations game, or a new spin-off. It was also revealed 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 is a "totally different" new entry in the Ace Attorney series for the Nintendo 3DS.[7] On April 23, 2014, it was revealed that Takumi's new title was titled Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken and would feature an ancestor of Phoenix Wright's called Ryūnosuke Naruhodō who lived in Japan during the Meiji period.

In the month of September 2015, Capcom announced the next main game of the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice, which was confirmed for a 2016 international release.

Setting[edit | edit source]

Most of the games take place in an urban city mostly set in the 2010s and 2020s; for the Japanese versions, this city is somewhere in Japan, while other 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[edit | edit source]

See also: Trial, Gyakuten Saiban

Trials are the driving force of the plots in the Gyakuten Saiban 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, he or she is 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.

Investigations[edit | edit source]

See also: Investigation

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Main category: Gameplay

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.

The Ace Attorney games are primarily visual novels, though they require the player to collect evidence and to present it to the witnesses in court. The game is presented primarily using animated two-dimensional manga-like sprites, with text dialog, sound effects, and minimal spoken clips to simulate speech.

There are two phases to each case: investigation and trial sessions. Investigation includes 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; the second and third game introduces the "Psyche-Lock," a system through which the defending attorney can break mental barriers to learn the truth from uncooperative witnesses during investigations. Players can present both evidence and, in the second and third games (but not the fourth game), profiles of people involved with the case.

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 fourth game introduces the Perceive system, which is active during some cross-examinations. During testimony, the player can use his bracelet to look closely at body language and actions that trigger when the witnesses states something untruthful (for example, their hands may twitch or they may swallow), and thus force the witnesses to respond truthfully.

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. This gives the player 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 his finger, as in the game's logo, and shouting "Objection!" (異議あり!, Igi ari!), accompanied by a word 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 his/her last save point or the beginning of the court session.

Each game is made up of four or five episodes; the games and episodes have some interconnection, recurring minor characters and similar crime elements.

Nintendo DS gameplay[edit | edit source]

In the DS remakes, the game utilizes the touchscreen and microphone in addition to, and as an alternative to, the normal controls, allowing the player to shout "Objection!", "Hold it!", "Take that!", or "Gotcha!" at the appropriate times. The remake of the first game for the DS includes a brand new fifth case created specifically for the remake, with additional aspects of gameplay that fully used the special features on the DS; for example, one can dust for fingerprints by tapping the screen to apply fingerprinting powder, then blowing at the DS microphone gently to blow the powder away. The player can also use the 3D capabilities of the DS to render the collected evidence; key details concerning the evidence are often revealed this way. The fourth game of the series, which is the first game developed completely for the DS without a prior GBA release, also includes a number of these elements.

Localization[edit | edit source]

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.

Games[edit | edit source]

Reception[edit | edit source]

Critical reception[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

Arrangement albums[edit | edit source]

Common musical themes and titles[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

U.S manga publisher Del Rey Manga is distributing in the United States a manga adaptation of the video game series that is currently being serialized in Japan. The adaptation is written by Kenji Kuroda, illustrated by Kazuo Maekawa and published by Kodansha. Del Rey Manga has also distributed a manga anthology based on the Phoenix Wright trilogy, which was 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.

Anime[edit | edit source]

In 2015, during the announcement of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice at the Tokyo Game Show, it was also revealed that an animated adaptation produced by A-1 Pictures of the first two games (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All) would premiere in Japan in Spring 2016 (later confirmed to April 2, 2016).

Related media[edit | edit source]

Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law[edit | edit source]

In 2008, Capcom published Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, an interactive visual novel game developed by High Voltage Software. Based around the Adult Swim cartoon of the same name, the game puts players in the role of the titular Harvey Birdman, who defends various clients in the courtroom. It was released exclusively in North America, with no Japanese or European releases. The courtroom setting and gameplay resemble the Ace Attorney games.[11]

Wizard Barristers[edit | edit source]

Protagonist Cecil Sudo sporting an attorney's badge on her lapel.

Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil (ウィザード・バリスターズ〜弁魔士セシル, Wizādo Barisutāzu - Benmashi Seshiru) is a 2014 anime legal drama series produced by Arms and directed by Yasuomi Umetsu. The series is set in an Tokyo where normal humans and magic users co-exist, and magic users are represented in law by a subset of defense attorney called "wizard barristers" (benmashi).

Umetsu has stated that he considers his Wizard Barristers project to have a "certain connection" to the Ace Attorney games. He even considered approaching Capcom to give the series an official link to Ace Attorney, noting the possibly of making it a "spiritually accompanying anime" set in "broadly the same dimension", but was apparently "directed away" from doing this by others. Yasuomi considers the final outcome of Wizard Barristers to be "basically Gyakuten Saiban in another dimension, with magic & a talking frog".[12] Many similarities in personality, charcteristics and backstory exist between protagonist Cecil Sudo and Athena Cykes.

Aviary Attorney[edit | edit source]

Aviary Attorney is a 2015 adventure game set in 1848 Paris with anthropomorphic characters. Gameplay is largely identical to the Ace Attorney games, but the game deviates from or satirizes many of the story conventions that the Ace Attorney series relies on, playing with the expectations of veterans of the Capcom predecessor. For example, the player at one point has the opportunity to enter a house without permission to investigate it for clues, but the characters comment on the legality of doing so.

References[edit | edit source]

  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. 05/15/18
  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.
  11. Dobson, Jason (2007-04-06). Capcom Drops First Harvey Birdman Details.Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2020-06-12.
  12. Yasuomi Umetsu Design Works - Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil Art Book, Barcode 9784758013758. 03 June, 2014
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