Posted by AlisterCat (5575 posts) -

The Ace Attorney series is my favourite portable series, one that I have played every day for the past 6 years before I go to sleep. I had never 'played' a visual novel before, and the quirky characters, pixel graphics and murder mysteries really drew me in. It has a niche audience outside of Japan and I would like to see more people enjoy these games so I decided to write a series exploring the various games, with as few spoilers as possible in the hopes that you, Giant Bomb reader, will give these games a shot.

This entry will serve as an introduction and overview, before I start tackling each game individually. If you enjoy this show your interest so that I know whether to continue it or if I'm just wasting my time. Hopefully this will introduce some people to the visual novel genre and get you to try it out.

What?

Phoenix Wright is an Ace Attorney. A nervous, rookie lawyer just getting started in the legal world. The games combines several genres; mainly visual novel, adventure and puzzle, split in to two phases. Phase one is the investigation, which takes the form of a visual novel/adventure game where you pixel hunt backgrounds for evidence and talk to witnesses. The second phase takes place in the courtroom, where you do battle against the prosecution to prove your client innocent. This takes the form of 'logic puzzles' where you have to point out contradictions, disprove testimony and bluff. Phoenix bluffing that he knows what's going on is, like, 90% of the game.

The appeal of the game is in the writing. The characters are interesting, charming and quite often funny. You have Maya, your enthusiastic, naive sidekick spirit channeller (uh... I'll get in to that later), Detective Gumshoe the dumb but loveable homicide detective and Edgeworth, the ruthless, scheming prosecutor who'll do anything to get a guilty verdict. There are many more characters in each case that I could talk about but a large part of the fun is meeting the crazy characters. The game is split in to 4 - 5 cases per game and each is written as a murder mystery where Phoenix not only proves his client innocent, but manages to catch the killer... every time. In court.

Now for a quick series run down. Videogames! 7, actually. The Phoenix Wright trilogy, Apollo Justice, two spin off Investigation games and the new Dual Destinies. This does not include the Professor Layton X Phoenix Wright game released in the west this year. Starting life on the GBA in Japan (as well as Japan exclusive PC ports), the entire trilogy came to the west on the Nintendo DS as enhanced editions, DS ports to Wiiware and the most recent 'HD' iPad ports. The next 3 games also appeared on the DS, and each added touch screen controls and other DS features my favourite being blowing in to the microphone to dust for prints! The series latest entry, Dual Destinies, is the first fully polygonal game and the first in the series on 3DS. Unfortunately Capcom have only released the game digitally on the 3DS eshop due to poor sales of the previous entries. BOOOO! Not only that, but Ace Attorney Investigations 2 has not been officially localised for the west. Luckily fans have released an English translation, which I am happy to say is astounding.

Interested? With so many options, you can play the games in several places. However...

Ports

Do not buy the iPad port of the game. It is awful. Really. Rather than opting to upscale the pixel art it looks like they hired someone from deviantart to redraw everything. Their font choice is terrible. Most importantly the framerate is bad. Is framerate important in a visual novel with limited animation? I think so, yes. Your eyes are glued to the text as it is written out on the screen but with a lower framerate it comes out very jerky and isn't pleasing at all. I'm more than willing to admit this is a nit pick, but it's important to me. Look for yourself as the first case is free.

A comparison of the judge in each version.

Most of the games are playable on the DS, and I think are the best versions. The Wiiware ports were actually OK but with the Wii internet service shut down DS is the best option. BisonHero has pointed out that the service to buy games on Wii has not shut down. The most recent game is only on the 3DS eShop and if you're willing to wait the first 3 games in their 'HD' form are coming to 3DS sometime. Just... don't get it on iPad.

Problems

As I mentioned, these are some of my favourite games, but it has significant problems and criticisms. The games are linear. You don't make choices except those that end in game over and there's almost always only one right answer. Viewed as a visual novel that you're reading I don't see this as a problem, but the idea of arguing your own case in court seems like it should be a lot more open and received a lot of negativity in reviews but I don't think it's a problem.

What is a problem, however, is the game often uses questionable logic and a suspect version of the law. During the localisation they felt the need to change the location from Japan to America. Since the game was meant to be Japanese it is heavy influenced by Japan's legal system. This article by the escapist looks in to how the Japanese legal system affected the game, and goes some way to explaining why the 'law' in game is frustrating, queer and unjust. Here is a small quote but you should give the article a read.

"The cases of Phoenix Wright always end up being more complex than they first appear, and the same could be said of the games themselves. Beneath the outrageous courtroom battles and zany characters lies a sly critique of Japanese justice. So the next time that you're frustrated by certain defeat or feel like the deck is stacked against you, take heart! This is just another day in the life of a Japanese defense attorney."

The localisation introduces pop culture references and traits that a western audience understand, but this only appears in the translation and creates a dissonance between the graphics, themes and setting and what characters are saying This comic perfectly illustrates the problem.

Comic by awkward zombie.

So, give me your feedback. Has this encouraged you to check out the games? Would you like to see more? Part 2 continues with a look at the first Phoenix Wright game for DS!

#1 Posted by BisonHero (6538 posts) -

Worth noting: The Wii's internet service was only partially shut down. The parts that shut down (due to some association with GameSpy servers) are anything related to online multiplayer or social features (weather channel, Mii-sharing channel, polling channel, the very limited messaging system on the Wii). The Wii Shop Channel, however, is unrelated to those servers, is hosted directly by Nintendo, and is still up. Nintendo wants people to keep buying things.

So you are very much able to go on the Wii Shop Channel (or boot up your Wii U, access the weird embedded Wii mode, and access the Wii Shop Channel that way), and buy the Wii versions of the original Ace Attorney series. And yeah, they're pretty straight ports. It's how I played them, since I was pretty late to the party on the Ace Attorney series, and the prices of the Wii versions severely undercut the DS versions.

#2 Edited by I_Stay_Puft (3407 posts) -

I'm currently on the third game on ds and its taken me about 6 years to get to this point. They're great zany games and the characters are quite charming. I agree with how fucked up the legal system's logic is in the game and how whipped the judge sometimes can get by everyone except for phoenix. If people enjoy the games I'd also recommend renting / importing Takashi Miike's film adaptation I thought it was pretty great.

#3 Posted by AlisterCat (5575 posts) -

@bisonhero: Thanks for the info! Did you use the gestures to object?

#4 Edited by RioStarwind (547 posts) -

Well you don't really need to sell me on the Ace Attorney series since I've been a fan since the DS ports. I even imported a few of the games just to get them a few weeks earlier. This blog seems like a good primer for anyone that might not know about Phoenix Wright.

Online
#5 Posted by BisonHero (6538 posts) -

@alistercat: Haha, a couple times when I first got the first game, but that's about it. It was kinda great that the Wii remote speaker would exclaim "Objection!" or "Hold it!", though. I feel like the questionable audio quality of those voice samples was a perfect match for the questionable quality of the speaker in the Wii remote.

Did you ever use the mic on the DS/3DS to object? In my time with Apollo Justice and Ace Attorney Investigations, I never did. Haven't played Dual Destinies yet, but I'm probably not going to change that practice.

#6 Posted by pekoe212 (449 posts) -

That Escapist article was really interesting. I always thought the crazy (to me) aspects of PW's legal system were just in service of making sure all sorts of injustices and plot twists and turns could happen with impunity. Had no idea Japan actually didn't have jury trials since 1942. I don't know where the 99% conviction rate statistic came from, but if true it's...horrifying, really. Never gonna look at the PW games in quite the same light-hearted way now.

#7 Edited by I_Stay_Puft (3407 posts) -

@bisonhero said:

@alistercat: Haha, a couple times when I first got the first game, but that's about it. It was kinda great that the Wii remote speaker would exclaim "Objection!" or "Hold it!", though. I feel like the questionable audio quality of those voice samples was a perfect match for the questionable quality of the speaker in the Wii remote.

Did you ever use the mic on the DS/3DS to object? In my time with Apollo Justice and Ace Attorney Investigations, I never did. Haven't played Dual Destinies yet, but I'm probably not going to change that practice.

I did briefly when I first got the game because not to many games were taking advantage of it. After awhile you just look crazy yelling "objection" on a bus full of people that you stop.

#8 Edited by ThunderSlash (1731 posts) -

I believe that they've (that is, the people localizing these games) have been trying to distance the Ace Attorney universe from the real world since the end of the trilogy. The setting's been purposely kept vague since then. I do find the games' commentary on the Japanese legal system interesting however, especially considering what happens at the end of Apollo Justice. I'm also interested in how the localization team will get around the obvious early-Modernized Japan setting that is gonna be in the next game... if it actually gets localized.

Also, that comparison pic doesn't look too bad for the HD version. But when you actually play it on an iPad... yikes.

#9 Edited by SethPhotopoulos (5266 posts) -

Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth worth a shot? I played 1, 2, and the new one. I think I got part way through 3 but lost the game.

#10 Posted by ThunderSlash (1731 posts) -

Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth worth a shot? I played 1, 2, and the new one. I think I got part way through 3 but lost the game.

They are all pretty good. I liked the 3rd one the most and Apollo the least. The Miles Edgeworth ones have a different feeling to them, but they contain some of my favorite cases in the series.

#11 Posted by AlisterCat (5575 posts) -

@bisonhero said:

@alistercat: Haha, a couple times when I first got the first game, but that's about it. It was kinda great that the Wii remote speaker would exclaim "Objection!" or "Hold it!", though. I feel like the questionable audio quality of those voice samples was a perfect match for the questionable quality of the speaker in the Wii remote.

Did you ever use the mic on the DS/3DS to object? In my time with Apollo Justice and Ace Attorney Investigations, I never did. Haven't played Dual Destinies yet, but I'm probably not going to change that practice.

No, I didn't. Well, I tried it once but I didn't speak loud enough. I'm glad it's in there, but I just don't want to shout. I don't know if you can do it in Dual Destinies.

#12 Posted by Chop (1998 posts) -

I'm always so torn about the series. I love the court sections but the investigations are incredibly boring and tedious to me =/

#13 Posted by hunterob (94 posts) -

The way they've been localizing it, seems impossible that they're gonna bring over that upcoming Meiji period sequel. The only thing in the series that I haven't finished in the series is the DLC case for 3DS and Investigations 2 since I'd have to emulate it to play it. I love em but man I played them all within the span of 2 months and by the time I got to investigations I was getting pretty burnt out.

#14 Edited by AlisterCat (5575 posts) -

@sethphotopoulos said:

Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth worth a shot? I played 1, 2, and the new one. I think I got part way through 3 but lost the game.

Investigations 1, I didn't like it at all. The second is fantastic. They're different games though. Apollo Justice is the best in the series, I think.

#15 Edited by BisonHero (6538 posts) -

@pekoe212 said:

That Escapist article was really interesting. I always thought the crazy (to me) aspects of PW's legal system were just in service of making sure all sorts of injustices and plot twists and turns could happen with impunity. Had no idea Japan actually didn't have jury trials since 1942. I don't know where the 99% conviction rate statistic came from, but if true it's...horrifying, really. Never gonna look at the PW games in quite the same light-hearted way now.

To be fair, the high conviction rate in Japan is a weird thing. In the Ace Attorney games, you have caricatures of prosecutors who insist that they find the defendant guilty once it goes to court, to the point of tampering with evidence. I gather that in real life Japan, what that high conviction rate means is that something rarely goes to criminal trial unless the prosecutors are like, absolutely positive they have such an overwhelming case that there's no way they could lose. Though certainly it sounds like Japan's system may have more than its fair share of miscarriages of justice.

Their legal system is also very focused on getting confessions from people, which can often lead to cops detaining people for days and repeatedly interrogating them until they confess. I asked a lawyer friend about it, apparently Japan has a law where the police can detain someone without access to their lawyer for up to 23 days if they deem it necessary. So a lot of people end up being coerced into giving false confessions for crimes they didn't commit. Instead of the theatrical confession on the witness stand you get in Ace Attorney games, in real life it's more like the police force a confession out of somebody in an interrogation room, and then the trial is relatively brief because they can just go "Hey judge, the guy confessed, case closed." Check out this poor fellow:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iwao_Hakamada

There was really circumstantial evidence that he killed some people, but since it looks bad on the cops if they don't get their man (or a man), the guy got a guilty verdict, and was assigned to death row. Then no subsequent ministers of justice really had the heart to ever give the go-ahead for his execution because they knew the whole case and trial was super fishy, but none of them had the balls to completely pardon him either, so instead dude was on death row for almost 50 years. Which in Japan means almost constant solitary confinement. DNA evidence eventually proved he wasn't guilty of the crime and should be released, but the guy has been in solitary for so long that he thinks he is God. It's super sad.

So the whole confession thing means that average schmoes crack under the pressure of cops abusing/harassing them for days or weeks to confess, whereas hardened dudes in organized crime are experienced enough to know that if they just shut their fucking mouth and don't give the cops a confession, they may never have to go to court, and if it does go to trial, the judge may not give them a guilty verdict since there's no confession.

#16 Posted by BisonHero (6538 posts) -

@alistercat said:

@sethphotopoulos said:

Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth worth a shot? I played 1, 2, and the new one. I think I got part way through 3 but lost the game.

Investigations 1, I didn't like it at all. The second is fantastic. They're different games though. Apollo Justice is the best in the series, I think.

Oh man, it's so great to hear someone not just write off Apollo Justice. I think mechanically it was fine, and I liked that at that point they finally started having a narrative arc to the game where all the cases tie together in some way (though Ace Attorney 3 had the beginnings of that). Turning Phoenix into this useless bum was kinda weird, but they do some stuff with it. I wasn't crazy about the "reading people's tells" thing because you have to scrub through so much dialogue, and it plays in like super slo-mo, so if you're not sure which statement to closely examine with your magic bracelet, that got kinda frustrating. OK, I take back the part about it being mechanically fine.

Invesigations 1 I actually really liked the characters and writing, but yeah, the crime scene reconstruction gadget was weird. Still, I liked its story arc a little more than the one in Apollo Justice, actually. Though I thought it was dumb that you basically never get the backstory on how some prosecutor did Lang real rotten and that's why he doesn't trust them; he basically never gets explained, and just irrationally hates prosecutors. Also, it's been said a million times before when I watch movies or TV shows that try to do it, but INTERPOL doesn't have field agents; the organization is a bunch of desk jobs that helps share criminal records between the police forces of different countries to help track criminals that move from country to country. INTERPOL itself has no jurisdiction, especially not in whatever damn country they please.

#17 Posted by mrfluke (5163 posts) -

@sethphotopoulos said:

Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth worth a shot? I played 1, 2, and the new one. I think I got part way through 3 but lost the game.

Investigations 1, I didn't like it at all. The second is fantastic. They're different games though. Apollo Justice is the best in the series, I think.

wow thats the first time i heard someone said that

no disrespect, just its literally the 1st time ive heard someone say that, people usually tout the 1st phoenix wright or the 3rd phoenix wright as the best. (id probably say the 3rd game for me is the best, the battles phoenix had with godot were great)

#18 Edited by BisonHero (6538 posts) -

@mrfluke said:

@alistercat said:

@sethphotopoulos said:

Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth worth a shot? I played 1, 2, and the new one. I think I got part way through 3 but lost the game.

Investigations 1, I didn't like it at all. The second is fantastic. They're different games though. Apollo Justice is the best in the series, I think.

wow thats the first time i heard someone said that

no disrespect, just its literally the 1st time ive heard someone say that, people usually tout the 1st phoenix wright or the 3rd phoenix wright as the best. (id probably say the 3rd game for me is the best, the battles phoenix had with godot were great)

I'll admit Godot was a vast improvement over the terribly unfunny schtick of Franziska, in that Godot was basically Edgeworth-but-with-mysterious-past. The 2nd game is by FAR the worst, with some of the most nonsensical "present some piece of evidence that is only tangentially related to the point you're trying to make" moments. And Franziska. She's so annoying. I was so glad she got shot and the last case had a prosecutor who was actually a good character. The only time I liked her was in the flashback in Investigations 1, where she's basically impotent and powerless because she's 14, and she just has a little riding crop, and it's hilarious. Actually, in Investigations 1 overall, she's far less grating, perhaps just because she's mostly aiding you, and because she's leaving the scene half the time to go log some evidence for you, she has less opportunities to just stand just whipping literally every foolishly foolish character because ARGH THOSE ARE LITERALLY HER ONLY TWO JOKES.

Of the original trilogy, I think the 1st game is still the best. Easily the best music, and I think the final case (the Edgeworth and von Karma case) is one of the best in the whole series. The bonus case from the 1st game is pretty good too, since Ema Skye is like a million times less irritating than Maya. Too bad she never returned as a sidekick and became a much weirder NPC instead.

As much as I like the original trilogy, I honestly kinda never liked Maya. Ema, Trucy, Kay, I found all of them far less irritating than Maya, even though they are nearly all the same character. So that kinda drags down the whole original trilogy for me, whereas I think they made huge improvements on that front in every game past that. I'm glad they wrote her out. Haven't played Dual Destinies yet.

#19 Posted by lun49gameon (142 posts) -

I gotta play these games but Im stuck with too many games on PC, xbox 360, and vita. I played the first ace attorney game on iphone and fell in love with the story. If I buy a nintendo 3ds it would be to play these games and mario, pokemon.

#20 Posted by Vessel28 (114 posts) -

Interesting read even though I knew pretty much everything posted. I'm actually in the middle of the second game now as I'm hoping to get back into the series, but I haven't played at all in the last few weeks. It might be because I'm at the start of the circus case and feel like I didn't enjoy doing this case before despite remembering very little about it (played and completed 1 and 2 before but it was a fairly long time ago).

#21 Posted by nevalis (78 posts) -

This series will always be remembered as both amazing and frustrating. Just about all of the main criticisms were already mentioned, but one instance of "really?" was the tail-end of the 5th case in the first Ace Attorney. You have to point out a key piece of evidence and if you do it in the expected manner that you've done ALL GAME LONG, you lose the case. Instead, you have to lie, which is the first and only time you do in the original trilogy. It neither ruined the story, nor deterred me from the rest of the games, but it pissed me off at the time.

#22 Posted by Chop (1998 posts) -

@mrfluke said:

@alistercat said:

@sethphotopoulos said:

Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth worth a shot? I played 1, 2, and the new one. I think I got part way through 3 but lost the game.

Investigations 1, I didn't like it at all. The second is fantastic. They're different games though. Apollo Justice is the best in the series, I think.

wow thats the first time i heard someone said that

no disrespect, just its literally the 1st time ive heard someone say that, people usually tout the 1st phoenix wright or the 3rd phoenix wright as the best. (id probably say the 3rd game for me is the best, the battles phoenix had with godot were great)

I'd also say Apollo is my favorite in the series. My reasoning is pretty simple though; I played them all in the span of about two months, so the shake up that came with Apollo really helped me out.

#23 Posted by Vessel28 (114 posts) -

@nevalis said:

This series will always be remembered as both amazing and frustrating. Just about all of the main criticisms were already mentioned, but one instance of "really?" was the tail-end of the 5th case in the first Ace Attorney. You have to point out a key piece of evidence and if you do it in the expected manner that you've done ALL GAME LONG, you lose the case. Instead, you have to lie, which is the first and only time you do in the original trilogy. It neither ruined the story, nor deterred me from the rest of the games, but it pissed me off at the time.

Yep, and it's even worse if you didn't save and suspend up that point. You have to go through the whole chapter again and can't skip the text if it's your first time playing the case. It happened to me earlier this year unfortunately.

#24 Edited by BisonHero (6538 posts) -

@vessel28 said:

Interesting read even though I knew pretty much everything posted. I'm actually in the middle of the second game now as I'm hoping to get back into the series, but I haven't played at all in the last few weeks. It might be because I'm at the start of the circus case and feel like I didn't enjoy doing this case before despite remembering very little about it (played and completed 1 and 2 before but it was a fairly long time ago).

The circus case is just about the worst case in the whole series for "hey we want you to present the randomest shit that barely makes any sense". It was before the series got more flexible and sometimes allowed 2 pieces of evidence to indicate the same point (I read through some FAQs and I think Apollo Justice and onward do this to some extent). Add on the fact that AA2 allows you to present evidence or people as your objection, and it becomes really unclear whether you're supposed to present a person you think actually did some particular action, or just present some object associated with that person. I found Ace Attorney 2 incredibly frustrating in this regard.

The one funny thing I remember about the circus case is that it was one of the only cases where at the end of the first day, I didn't really have a hunch regarding who committed the murder. I was sitting there thinking "Maybe...it was the daughter of the ringleader, who killed her dad for some yet unexplained reason?" The game actually had me going for a while, but then it was like "OH WAIT, day 2, here's a whole other character we didn't feel like introducing on the first day".

Also that case in Maya's village goes on forever. And they literally acknowledge that Maya has no personal motive to kill the guy, but they figure some spirit possessed Maya. "A ghost did it, let's convict the person who was possessed by the ghost" is incredibly fucking stupid, even by Ace Attorney standards.

God, did I ever not like that second game.

#25 Edited by AlisterCat (5575 posts) -

@mrfluke said:

@alistercat said:

@sethphotopoulos said:

Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth worth a shot? I played 1, 2, and the new one. I think I got part way through 3 but lost the game.

Investigations 1, I didn't like it at all. The second is fantastic. They're different games though. Apollo Justice is the best in the series, I think.

wow thats the first time i heard someone said that

no disrespect, just its literally the 1st time ive heard someone say that, people usually tout the 1st phoenix wright or the 3rd phoenix wright as the best. (id probably say the 3rd game for me is the best, the battles phoenix had with godot were great)

I will get to Apollo eventually, but the first game is pretty rough around the edges. The third is my favourite game, but I think Apollo is the best. It's stand alone, while the third trades on the other 2 games in the trilogy and wraps up 3 games worth of story.

Godot is my favourite character, in case you couldn't tell.

God, did I ever not like that second game.

The popular opinion is that the second game isn't very good, or at least the worst of the series.

#26 Posted by AlisterCat (5575 posts) -

@vessel28 said:

Interesting read even though I knew pretty much everything posted. I'm actually in the middle of the second game now as I'm hoping to get back into the series, but I haven't played at all in the last few weeks. It might be because I'm at the start of the circus case and feel like I didn't enjoy doing this case before despite remembering very little about it (played and completed 1 and 2 before but it was a fairly long time ago).

Yeah, it seems like I'm attracting existing fans rather than people who haven't played. I wanted to introduce these games to new people. Looks like I failed.

#27 Posted by Generic_username (612 posts) -

I feel like I should say that I actually enjoyed the second game a whole lot, but I'm aware of its many flaws. The case in Maya's hometown is a little too long, but I enjoyed the ridiculous soap-opera-esque twist. I mean, that's kind of what the series is great at doing, right? The circus case is really bad until the very end, where they actually touch on an emotional moment. And the final case is complete bullshit evidence-wise, but the actual plot of it was enjoyable, though I was kind of unsatisfied with the ending of it. A lawyer's job isn't to get your client the verdict they deserve, it's to get them the best verdict you can. Everyone deserves a fair trial, and having a lawyer who is actively working against you is pretty terrible, even for a murderer.

I still think it's a better game than people say it is, though. I personally liked Apollo the least. Not to say that I think it's bad, I just think it's got a really weird vibe to it, and the part near the end where you go between watching scenes from the past and present, but you somehow bring items obtained in the present to the scenes from the past was not only frustrating plot-hole-wise, but mechanically, too.

Dual Destinies is great, though. My third favorite after one and three. One was my favorite just because it was so new, and that Von Karma case is soooooooo sooooooo good. Three was next because... well, everyone has already said why three was great.

#28 Posted by wchigo (551 posts) -

Before I read this thread thoroughly, I just want to say that Phoenix Wright was probably one of the top reasons that I bought my NDS Lite. It took me a while before I found a copy of the game in my local EBGames (re: GameStop) but after I did I instantly fell in love with the characters and especially the music! Since then I pre-ordered every game once that was actually possible and have played every main line game in the series to completion. The only one I haven't finished is the spin-off based on Edgeworth, but I might go back to it. In fact, I'm having the urge to go back and replay all the games now...

#29 Posted by SethPhotopoulos (5266 posts) -

What are your thoughts on Capcom's Harvey Birdman? Does that count as like an otherworld spin-off type thing that you could cover?