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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

After finally beating the Ace Attorney trilogy over a period of 2 months, I find myself overall kind of disappointed. Not to say I didn’t enjoy them , cause I really liked them a lot, but I felt that they peaked with the first entry.

While the first game’s first 2 trials don’t really do anything grand, I can’t deny that they establish the entire series quite well. It’s necessary stuff, but upon replay and reminiscing, the later stuff outshines these cases. It’s not really the case’s fault in that regard. But the third case, being the first full case with Phoenix Wright, Maya Fey (as an assistant, not a murder suspect), Dick Gumshoe, and Miles Edgeworth, really got me into the series. I think of it as the baseline for a good Ace Attorney case. Memorable characters like Will Powers and Oldbag, great music like the Steel Samurai theme, and great investigation moments, like Dee Vasquez’s gang. Case 4 continues this to an even greater extent. I really loved Lotta Hart and von Karma, whose “objection” is still my favorite. My only gripe would be that it felt like we didn’t get to know Edgeworth enough before his attitude turned around. He didn't stay a rival for long enough to form the bond that the antagonist should. Besides that, the case was the best way they could’ve wrapped up the game. But I also never thought that this case would be where the trilogy peaked for me. A few other cases came close, like 1-5, 2-4, and 3-5, but I never felt like they surpassed this case, which it’s not a good sign for a trilogy to peak in game 1.

Speaking of 1-5, I really like how it acted as a sort of epilogue to the first game plus a demo to Apollo Justice, with the DS exclusive mechanics and new characters that appear in the fourth game, like Ema Skye, who is an adequate replacement for Maya. The case even kept up with the new music, which I should say, the first game's soundtrack is by far my favorite. Almost every track is fantastic, whether in court or during investigation. My personal favorite tracks were:

  • Trial, Objection! 2001, Questioning ~ Allegro 2001
  • Pressing Pursuit ~ Cornered
  • Maya Fey ~ Turnabout Sisters Theme 2001
  • Investigation ~ Opening 2001
  • Detention Center ~ Jailers' Elegy
  • Dick Gumshoe ~ Detective Gumshoe, Pal
  • Happy People
  • The Steel Samurai
  • Turnabout Sisters Ballad
  • End
  • Ema Skye ~ Turnabout Sisters Theme 2005
  • Damon Gant ~ Swimming, Anyone?
  • Rise from the Ashes – End

Now the second game, Justice For All, was definitely the low point of the trilogy, though not by a lot. Case 1 was a much better intro case than 1-1, with the exception that the 2nd game in a series shouldn’t need an intro case. It felt like a waste of a case overall. Case 2 picks up, with important places like Kurain and characters like Morgan Fey and Pearl Fey being established. Plus, we got to see Lotta again. Spirit mediums being mixed in with trials also made the possible murders much more interesting, too. The only downside here is the psyche-locks.

Around this point was when Ace Attorney fatigue started to creep in, and the fact that the only new mechanics in the 2nd game are psyche-locks and profiles, which can arguably be considered as just mini trial sections, I wasn’t thrilled. Plus, the health system was changed to an arguably worse one. The only way to refill your health meter is to complete psyche-locks, and match that with the fact that the next case, 2-3, was the first time I had to pull out a guide, and things weren’t going well for this game.

2-3, Turnabout Big Top, is truly as bad as people online say. Some of the solutions the game requires you to figure out are entirely illogical and situational. Like, of course the cape magically fell onto the bust and stayed on as it was lifted back up. Plus, the circus music is really grating on the ears. It is not pleasant to listen for 30 mins at a time.

Luckily 2-4 ends the game on a high note. I’m not as into this case as others are, though. I think Ace Attorney works best when not taking itself too seriously (for a game about murder), which is also why 1-3 is one of my favorites. Will Powers and the Steel Samurai return, along with Lotta and Oldbag, and it feels like a reunion with the characters from the first game. The kidnapping plot and Shelly de Killer felt a bit out of place, but ultimately I liked Phoenix struggling to come up with an answer: save Maya and let Engarde get away, or sacrifice Maya and corner Engarde?

Where this case, and Justice For All fails as a whole, is with Franziska von Karma. She’s only the prosecutor for two cases, and they decide to give the final, big case to Edgeworth. Her moment at the end of the game with Edgeworth doesn't feel earned, just like I felt with Edgeworth and case 1-4 in the first game. And of course, they only bring her back for 3-5, and we never hear from her otherwise. She even has to share a theme with Edgeworth.

Anyways, at least the game still has a good soundtrack, though it’s also at the bottom of the trilogy in that regard. Favorite tracks:

  • Courtroom Lobby ~ Another Overture
  • Trial
  • Phoenix Wright ~ Objection! 2002
  • Questioning ~ Allegro 2002
  • Pressing Pursuit ~ Cross-Examine
  • Maya Fey ~ Turnabout Sisters Theme 2002
  • Investigation ~ Opening 2002
  • Eccentric
  • Shelly de Killer ~ A Murderous Gentleman's Pleasure
  • Pearl Fey ~ Pearly Questioning
  • Investigation ~ Middle Stage 2002
  • Great Revival ~ Miles Edgeworth
  • Investigation ~ Core 2002
  • Recollection ~ Steel Samurai's Ballad
  • Great Revival ~ Franziska von Karma
  • End

Now for Trials and Tribulations. For the first time, the game actually starts off strong, and finally puts Mia as a character to good use, along with setting up Diego Armando/Godot and Dahlia Hawthorne. Another thing only this game does is set up a narrative that lasts the whole game. Cases 1, 4, and 5 all are related to each other, and they would go together very well, if they weren’t separated by cases 2 and 3, which bring this game down to just below the first in quality. Case 1 gives us Phoenix and Mia backstory, along with a bunch of characters we will come to know in 3-4 and 3-5. Plus, Canadian Judge.

But then we immediately get to 3-2, which unfortunately can’t be saved by new guy Godot. My problems with this case are numerous. The entire first half is spent arguing for your clients innocence, only for that to prove them guilty in another crime, and the half way point ruins what could’ve been the first Ace Attorney case without a murder being the main crime. Also, I really don’t like Ron DeLite, and especially Luke Atmey, which I guess is what their characters are going for. I didn’t like Adrian Andrews in 2-4 too much, and the same goes for her here. The other side characters of the case are another story, though. I love the fact that Oldbag is now stuck working with Larry at a security company. In short, I don’t like the main characters of this case, and I wish the side characters were the focus.

3-3 has a similar problem to 3-2: the characters. I didn’t care for Maggey Byrde (forgot she was from 2-1), Jean Armstrong, Furio Tigre, or Glen Elg. In fact, Glen Elg is such a forgettable victim that I had completely forgotten who he was and had to look him up. The fact Furio dressed up and defended as Phoenix without Phoenix finding out is too unlikely for me.

3-4 and 3-5 continue the story that 3-1 introduced us to, and it adds onto the spirit medium and Fey clan backstory we got back in 2-2. Almost every major character gets something to do, whether it’s Phoenix, Maya, Edgeworth, Franziska, Gumshoe, Mia, Larry, Godot, and more. The whole story of Dahlia, Iris, and Valerie Hawthorne is well built up to, and some of the twists involving spirit medium abilities are really good. Phoenix also finally gets told off by Godot for letting Mia die, blaming him for something the game never took seriously, since she can just appear whenever due to Maya and Pearl.

It’s just a good case to send off the trilogy with, and Larry’s drawing at the end of the game just really makes you happy. And of course, my favorite tracks:

  • Courtroom Lobby ~ Neverending Overture
  • Phoenix Wright ~ Objection! 2004
  • Questioning ~ Allegro 2004
  • Pressing Pursuit ~ Caught
  • Pressing Pursuit ~ Caught – Variation
  • Investigation ~ Opening 2004
  • Detention Center ~ Prisoner's Elegy
  • Mask☆deMasque ~ Pleeeeease Listen!
  • Luke Atmey ~ I Just Want Love
  • Larry Butz ~ When Something Smells, It's Usually Me
  • Godot ~ The Fragrance of Black Coffee
  • Beauty Hermitage
  • Victor Kudo ~ A Painful Declaration, and a War Song
  • Furio Tigre ~ Swingin' Tiger
  • Recollection ~ The Scenery Seen from Dusky Bridge
  • Elise Deauxnim ~ Gentle Melody
  • Investigation ~ Middle Stage 2004
  • Dahlia Hawthorne ~ Distant Traces of Beauty
  • Recollection ~ The Bitter Taste of Truth
  • Pressing Pursuit ~ Cornered 2004
  • End

What I’m really excited about now is where to go from here with this series. I could either continue to the 4th game, Apollo Justice, play Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, or the Ace Attorney Chronicles games. I hope these games continue to build off what the trilogy set up, cause as a whole, I felt that Justice For All and Trials and Tribulations both didn’t surpass the first entry, or innovate on the formula for that matter. Gameplay stayed the same across all 3 games, and the stories continued to rise and fall in quality throughout. The series is made up of 11 games in total, so 7 more to go.

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