Guilty as charged, Mr. Wright.
It’s not the only reason, but part of why I haven’t been reviewing Disney films or some of the more recently released video games as of late is because I’ve been working my way through the Ace Attorney games. Obviously I know what Ace Attorney is, but that series became popular during a time when I wasn’t playing video games all that much, and I was playing handheld stuff even less. And believe you me, Ace Attorney as a series doesn’t even being to cover all the handheld software I have to play catch up on, but given how it’s the predecessor to Danganronpa, it was a bit of a high priority to the point that I couldn’t just put it off anymore. So I put off playing Yakuza 0 to get through these games, hence this post where I write about the experience with a description of each installment, along with their best moments and their most bullshit ones.
And just for the record, I’m only talking about the main games. I have not played any of the spinoffs or that crossover with Professor Layton as of yet, and I don’t think I will for a while, because burning through six of these in three weeks…well what do you think would happen if I did that?
Ace Attorney (2001)
Being the first game in a series that was originally on the Gameboy Advance, I expected a bunch of dated game play mechanics and I got them. I also expected the writing and court cases to get me through the thing, and I got that too. What I failed to research were those tedious investigation scenes and how you can’t go to a certain location without going to another location first, along with the game not really making it clear what you have to investigate or present at a given moment in order to progress the story forward. Funny how the fans never seem to bring that up, even though a lot of the reviews certainly do.
But I digress. Playing through the first Ace Attorney, I understood completely why that recent anime adaptation failed to grab me. Even if the presentation wasn’t lackluster, the fact remains that Ace Attorney doesn’t really have much story. You don’t get to personally know Phoenix in this game and the plot is mostly just a series of powerful moments and character revelations connected through interactive cases and a broad theme of what it means to serve the law played in a really straightforward way (sort of like Detective Conan except not nearly as filler-y, but still not progressive enough in a non-interactive medium). Only the last two cases (this is including the really long bonus one) get to the level of having actual substance beyond case-of-the-week because they involve challenging the personal philosophies of people who have close relations with Phoenix in order to save themselves.
Having said that, it was a fun game. I liked the characters, I liked the cases, and while I’m a bit iffy on the whole “supernatural possession” thing since despite its anime-isms, Ace Attorney’s plot and gameplay is very reliant on logic in order to get through it, it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. I was very eager to play more after finishing it, which is pretty much what I did.
Best Moment: All the moments when the villains realized they lost were pure gold. But my favorite had to be when that pompous douchebag who killed Mia was sentenced to the slammer.
Most Bullshit Moment: The fact that the game allows you to show damning evidence to the main culprit in an enclosed room where no one can hear you if he suddenly attacks is pretty dumb on the player’s part. The fact that you’re required to do this in order to beat the game is just dumb in general.
Justice For All (2002)
I’m not really sure what I expected for the second game, but apart from the Magatama/Psyche-Lock system, I was surprised at how Justice For All was pretty much the same game as the first in terms of gameplay and certain plot points. You know, stuff like Payne being the prosecutor for the first case, Maya getting accused of murder, and Edgeworth being a douche? It wasn’t until later that I realized that these were going to be recurring elements in the series, along with a new sympathetic prosecutor for each game. Well, Von Karma isn’t so much sympathetic as she is hilarious with that whip of hers.
Anyways, Justice For All brought Pearl to the series, which is a bit of a plus. It also showed the problems that inevitably occur when you make a franchise out of a successful game, which is definitely less of a plus. The logic regarding some of the cases were strained, the investigation sections still sucked balls, and there is almost no connection between any of the individual cases. Having said that, the last case was pretty cool in how it makes Phoenix defend someone who’s obviously the culprit. Real lawyers have to do that all the time, and Phoenix has always tried his best to avoid the corruption that generally comes from his profession, so seeing him forced to confront that dark side was a real treat.
So yeah, the game itself was fun overall, but I can see why people consider it to be the worst of the main trilogy.
Best Moment: Remember that moment in the final case where you revealed to that hitman that his client had set him up, causing the main culprit to whine like a little bitch while you decided whether he go free or not? That was so satisfying.
Most Bullshit Moment: I know a lot of people hate that circus case (and it is kinda crap), but I think that convenient amnesia Phoenix suffered in the beginning in order to force a tutorial mode edges that out by a bit.
Trials and Tribulations (2004)
Considered by many to be the best of the original trilogy, as well as the best game in the series overall. Definitely not for its gameplay though, as it was the exact same as Justice for All’s, which meant that the troublesome elements like the shitty investigation scenes that I couldn’t get through without a guide were straining my patience. Having said that, the writing was definitely better here than it was in the last game, even if it still succumbed to that “third case is the weakest” syndrome that all Ace Attorney games seem to have. I don’t hate Maggey like most people seem to, but bringing her back as a prime suspect was definitely not one of the best decisions the series has made. Also, how anyone can mistake Tiger for Phoenix is beyond me, although that’s far from the most bullshit moment of the game.
To make up for that though, we get an overarching storyline regarding Phoenix and his former psychotic college girlfriend that’s actually pretty cool, even if it leans harder on the supernatural aspects of the franchise than I’m comfortable with. I could not stopping laughing at the hilarity that ensued when you temporarily control Edgeworth, and the prosecutor was just funny to me. And yes, like most people, I pretended he was Cyclops and could shoot laser beams out of his eyes. Even got a little sad at the ending and how we had to send a cool character to jail for a pretty justifiable crime IMO. But to be fair, said culprit was asking for it.
Best Moment: Are. You. High?!
Most Bullshit Moment: I find it hilarious how people who consider the last case to be one of the best in the series conveniently forget that a body swinging to the other side of a canyon like a pendulum is physically impossible, especially considering what else they call bullshit on.
Apollo Justice (2007)
Ah yes, the game that brought Apollo to the Ace Attorney universe and turned Phoenix Wright into a douchebag. It was also the only game I couldn’t download on Eshop, so getting it was a bit of a pain, and discovering that I couldn’t skip through the dialogue (because apparently you could only do that if you’ve beaten the game beforehand in all the previous games, but for some reason, the HD trilogy gave you the option at the very start) just made my playing of this frustrating. Which is a shame because writing-wise, Apollo Justice was still classic Phoenix Wright except for a new age. I liked the new protagonists for the most part (the antagonists kinda sucked though), and while the logic got even more strained than normal in this installment, it never approached the level of the swinging pendulum body or the entirety of the circus case.
Not really much else to say about Apollo Justice that you couldn’t say about the other installments though. They brought all the forensic stuff that makes use of the DS’s touch screen back from the bonus case in the first game, but you rarely use them more than twice or so aside from the bracelet, which is just fucking bullshit without the Internet. And when you combine it with Ace Attorney’s tedious investigation sequences (which I swear were more obscure here), I do not blame people for thinking this is the worst of the main entries. Although I think calling the game bad is going too far.
Best Moment: Pretty much anytime Trucy brings out Mr. Hat or says “magic panties” with a straight face.
Most Bullshit Moment: Remember that third case that people hated due to the main suspect being physically incapable of committing the crime? Well that was bullshit too, but not as bullshit as how the game made me sit through same unskippable cutscene like ten times just to prove an unnecessary point.
Dual Destinies (2013)
This one is the first game of the series to come to the 3DS and thank god for the massive improvements to the gameplay brought on by the new system’s technology, along with the changing times in general. Now I can finally get through investigation sequences without using a fucking guide, plus I can speed-read the dialogue again. It can be a bit hand-holdy at times, but not to the point when it wasn’t a better alternative to Ace Attorney’s occasional obtuseness. The introduction of anime cutscenes was cool, I liked the new characters to the Phoenix Wright lore, and the new 3D presentation was pretty sweet to look at whilst still remaining classic Ace Attorney. The cases in this game were also pretty high-quality. Lots of cool twists and turns, plus the improved presentation makes them more of a visual/gameplay delight, even if the emotion thing is kind of gimmicky.
Having said that, Dual Destines was the first mainline Phoenix Wright game in six years, as well as the one to establish a new formula going forward, so a lot of it plays like a mix between a reunion special and a beginner’s game in the same vein as Ocarina of Time when it brought Zelda to the N64. Most of the old characters like Trucy and Edgeworth felt like they were there just to be there, and aside from getting back into the game, Phoenix doesn’t go through anything that challenges his character. I know his journey wrapped up with the original trilogy, hence why the main writer left the series after that, thus Apollo and Athena get a majority of the focus, but I feel like Dual Destines could have at least tried.
At least Gumshoe didn’t come back. Although that makes me wonder where the hell he is.
Best Moment: The discovery that that one shonen-esque dude was actually a girl. That was so hilariously unexpected given how different her personality is when posing as a different gender.
Most Bullshit Moment: I can’t even pick one in regards to that fifth case. It was just stupid the entire way through.
Spirit of Justice (2016)
The latest main installment to the series, as well as the game that upped the stakes in some pretty cool ways now that Dual Destines had re-established the formula. It’s about Phoenix going to a country where lawyers are looked down on and having to risk his life and the wrath of the kingdom in order to expose the true nature of said country’s unfair court system. Meanwhile, Apollo and Athena have to deal with troubles back home that always seem to involve the same prosecutor taking their case. And give them credit, they actually made the returning characters like Trucy Wright and Ema Skye relevant to the main plot this time.
Now I was getting pretty burnt out on Ace Attorney at this point given how I went through six games in the span of three weeks (plus the new Zelda came out in the middle of finishing Trials and Tribulations, which put my schedule in a bit of a panic), so you can bet that I really appreciated the life Spirit of Justice brought to the series, even if besides the Divination Seance, there weren’t any gameplay changes. The way all the cases were connected was cool, and while the story was never more than “above-average franchise film” quality – which is still a lot better than most of these games – the fact that Wright will lose his head if he can’t protect his clients really added a fresh edge to things that Ace Attorney desperately needed. Also, while this game leaned much harder on the supernatural elements than before, I can’t think of anything about the logic that was really bullshit.
Not that there weren’t problems of course. The switching between different attorneys felt kind of arbitrary, and the fourth case where Athena had to stand on her own (for like five minutes) added fuck all to the plot, only existing to give her something to do before she became sidelined for the finale. Also, I had to use a guide for the Divination Seances. I use ’em for all the character-specific gimmicks like the Magatama and the bracelet and all, but matching the right frame to the right testimony paragraph along with the timing and such was pure impossible for a guy on the clock.
Best Moment: This is one game where the best and most bullshit moments come from the same source. In this game’s case, the fucking queen. She really has to be seen to be believed, especially when she goes into evil mode. That’s like Maleficent-levels of iconic right there.
Most Bullshit Moment: How said queen I just praised can make up laws on the fly. As in she can literally write for five seconds in her law book and suddenly a new law is in place. What the fuck, lady?!
- Also, the fact that the evidence presenting only works in a specific order is a load of crap.
- Oldbag and Larry are popular characters in Japan? Really?