This page concerns the way in which the dates of various events in the present-day Ace Attorney series are determined. The Ace Attorney site Court Records uses multiple timelines: one for the original trilogy, and one for each subsequent game. However, ambiguities and potential contradictions cause difficulties in attempting to construct a single unified timeline for the entire series. This can cause problems when attempting to determine the age of one character relative to another.
This information is in its own page separate from the Timeline page. This is because the Timeline page is supposed to be a content page and not a policy page. Moreover, this policy affects the birth years listed in character infoboxes, as well as dates referred to throughout the content in the Ace Attorney Wiki.
On paper, we should be able to date every event unambiguously by comparison to other events, all based on the fact that, in Turnabout Goodbyes, the DL-6 Incident is stated to have occurred on December 28, 2001. Supposedly aiding in this endeavor are the profiles in the court record and organizer, which list the ages of characters. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, characters are not even shown as having birthdays during the course of a game.
This wiki will not attempt to deduce characters' birthdays on a large scale. Because birthdays mostly do not occur during games, it does not make much sense to deduce the birthday range of a major character on the basis of the fact that certain episodes take place at certain dates. Moreover, ages stated in the court record or organizer do not necessarily reflect their "real" ages in the sense of counting whole years since birth. For example, Ema Skye, whose age is listed as 16 in Rise from the Ashes, says in the same episode, "I'll be sixteen years old this year!" Instead, character profiles in the games essentially use ages that the characters will reach by the end of the "year" of the game. One could think of it as a school-year type of arrangement. For example, Miles Edgeworth is either 24 or going on 24 in Turnabout Sisters, but no attempt is made to determine which it is.
The character template provides an optional field for deduced birthdays, but they will not necessarily be maintained.
Direct dating of flashback cases and time skips
Things start to become potentially ambiguous when considering the fact that the first three games cross over the new year. This fact becomes an issue in dating "flashback" cases and time skips. Due to the aforementioned no-birthday principle, this affects characters' years of birth as well (more on that later).
Suppose one is trying to determine the year in which Turnabout Memories takes place. At the beginning of the episode, text appears that says that it takes place "5 Years Ago". "5 Years Ago" from what? The "present-day" episodes of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations take place between 2018 and 2019, so Memories could take place in 2013 or 2014. A natural solution would be to consider Turnabout Beginnings, which takes place "6 Years Ago". Again, one could ask what the reference point is, but since the introduction is shown in the perspective of a hospitalized Phoenix Wright researching the case during the events of Bridge to the Turnabout, one can fairly unambiguously peg Beginnings as taking place six years before February 2019, i.e. in February 2013. Memories takes place a year later, in April 2014.
Things get a bit weirder when trying to determine the year in which Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney takes place. Two months after Bridge (after the end of Trials and Tribulations), Phoenix Wright is caught presenting forged evidence, and his client disappears. Almost seven years later, the client comes back, just in time to write a will before he's considered legally deceased by death in absentia (before the beginning of Apollo Justice). Without that bit of information, the year in which Apollo Justice takes place is again ambiguous. Does it take place in 2025 or 2026? The death in absentia logic is the only thing that unambiguously places Apollo Justice at 2026.
Conflicts with profile ages
So, the dating of certain events is potentially ambiguous, but evidence is provided to make it fairly unambiguous. The problem is, this approach creates some major conflicts with the no-birthday principle, the logic of the ages given in character profiles, by causing some characters to age one year less than they should. Here are a few examples:
- Phoenix Wright is 26 in The Stolen Turnabout (October 11-14, 2018) but is 34 in Turnabout Academy (October 24-26, 2027).
- Miles Edgeworth is 24 in Turnabout Sisters (September 2016) but is 34 in Turnabout for Tomorrow (December 2027).
- Pearl Fey is 8 in Reunion, and Turnabout (June 2017) but is 17 in Turnabout Reclaimed (July 2027).
- Larry Butz is 23 in The First Turnabout (August 2016) but is 34 in Turnabout Time Traveler (September 2028).
- Maya Fey is 17 in Turnabout Sisters (September 5-9, 2016) but is 28 in Turnabout Time Traveler (September 21-23, 2028).
This list may or may not be exhaustive when keeping track of exact dates. Another peculiarity is that the original Japan-only version of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (lacking Rise from the Ashes) takes place entirely in 2016, so when using the no-birthday principle, one year is lost between Phoenix Wright and the flashback cases in Trials and Tribulations, which take place 3-4 years beforehand. However, this could be interpreted as a relatively minor issue due to the inclusion of Rise from the Ashes in subsequent releases. If we look at the conflicts above, it is clear that the largest conflict occurs in ways in which the seven-year time skip is treated. The no-birthday principle used in character profiles conflicts with the death in absentia dating of Apollo Justice. This has caused people to recommend doing away with one in favor of the other.
The following entails the system under which the wiki operates when dating flashback events, time skips and character birth years. There are two goals for this system:
- Unify all of the events in Ace Attorney into a single timeline with a "transitive" way of relating any one event to any other event.
- Example: Terry Fawles is 25 years old in Turnabout Beginnings. Athena Cykes is 18 years old in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies. Turnabout Beginnings takes place 6 years before Trials and Tribulations, which takes place 7 years before Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, which takes place a year before Dual Destinies. Therefore, Terry Fawles is 21 (25 - 18 + 6 + 7 + 1) years older than Athena Cykes. A deduction like this should work every time, without ambiguity, and without losing or gaining years.
- Maintain the relative time gaps between the events in the series whenever they are unambiguously established in the games.
There is a conflict between the no-birthday principle and the direct dating of events in the series. The direct dating is practically unambiguous; the no-birthday principle is less so. Under this modification of the no-birthday principle, each time period is assigned two years instead of one, as follows:
- IS-7 Incident - 2000-2001
- DL-6 Incident - 2001-2002
- SS-5 Incident - 2006-2007
- KG-8 Incident - 2008-2009
- Turnabout Reminiscence - 2011-2012
- Turnabout Beginnings - 2012-2013
- Turnabout Memories - 2013-2014
- SL-9 Incident - 2014-2015
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - 2016-2017
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All - 2017-2018
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations / Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth / Gyakuten Kenji 2 / Turnabout Succession (past) - 2018-2019
- UR-1 Incident - 2019-2020
- Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney - 2025-2026
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies - 2026-2027
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice - 2027-2028
Years of birth are extrapolated from both years, resulting in a two-year range. Phoenix Wright is 21 in Memories, 26 in Trials and Tribulations, 33 in Apollo Justice and 34 in Dual Destinies, all pointing to a birth year range of 1992-1993. Using the Miles Edgeworth example from earlier, the assertion is that he turns 24 sometime in the two-year period of 2016-2017. Note that, in many cases, if we are to deduce the possible birth dates directly from the profiles, then only one of the two birth years is actually possible (e.g. the characters in The Inherited Turnabout). However, as stated before, we're not deducing character birthdays directly from profiles because it interferes with the first goal.
The two-year principle satisfies both aforementioned goals. One can use the above list to generate two-year birth date ranges for any character, and then be able to compare relative ages of different characters. Having two years for every character can look somewhat cumbersome, especially for minor characters who appear in one or two episodes. This can make it unnecessarily difficult to compare the dating of events, which is the whole point of this exercise to begin with.
In content pages, either the two-year range or the latter year should be used (e.g. Phoenix Wright's birth year is displayed as either 1992-1993 or 1993). Using the latter year is mainly to fit with the fact that most of the isolated incidents listed take place in the latter year (e.g. Beginnings in 2013, UR-1 in 2020). Only IS-7 and DL-6 happen unambiguously in the former year.
Using the latter year will cause discrepancies with some characters. For example, as stated before, the characters involved in The Inherited Turnabout have their directly deduced birth years increased by a year under this system. This is an unfortunate consequence of trying to unify every event in the series into a single timeline. Blame the awkward handling of the Apollo Justice time skip, if you wish, or use two-year ranges.