Ace Attorney

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Ace Attorney
File:Ace Attorney Logo.png
The series logo, which uses the words Ace Attorney in large fonts accompanied by the name and silhouette of the protagonist
Genres Adventure, visual novel
Developers Capcom
Publishers Capcom
Creators Shu Takumi
Platforms Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Microsoft Windows, iOS
Platform of origin Game Boy Advance
Year of inception 2001
First release Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
October 12, 2001[1]
Latest release Dai Gyakuten Saiban
July 9, 2015[2]

Ace Attorney, also known as Phoenix Wright and in Japan as Gyakuten Saiban (逆転裁判?, lit. "Turnabout Trial"), is a series of visual novel legal thriller adventure video games, created by Shu Takumi[3] and developed and published by Capcom, in which players assume the role of a defense attorney in a fictional courtroom setting, which is based on the Japanese legal system, to strive to find their clients "not guilty" using investigation, evidence, and cross-examination to prove their case. The series primarily focuses on the protagonist, Phoenix Wright, a passionate lawyer who seeks out the truth and defends his clients to the end, with later games sometimes featuring other protagonists.

The first three games in the series, originally released exclusively in Japan between 2001 and 2004 for the Game Boy Advance, were ported to the Nintendo DS, taking advantage of features such as touchscreen control, and localized into other regions. These games have also been ported to other formats, such as PC, WiiWare, and iOS. Subsequent titles were developed for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS systems. To date, there have been five main games in the series, with a sixth game currently in development, as well as the prequel Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken, two Investigations spin-off games and a cross-over title, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

The series has also been adapted into other media, such as manga, stage plays, musicals, pachinkos, amusement parks and a film adaptation, directed by Takashi Miike and released in 2012. A TV anime series based on the franchise premiered on April 2, 2016.

Titles

The Ace Attorney series launched in Japan with the Game Boy Advance game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in 2001, and has been published in the West since the release of a Nintendo DS port in 2005.[4] The series currently consists of five main series games and four spin-offs, with a sixth main series game planned to be released in 2016.[5][6][7][2][8][9] Additionally, two titles that collect the first three main series games have been released: Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD, which was released for iOS in 2012 in Japan and in 2013 in the West,[10][11] and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, which was released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2014.[12][13]

Main series

Timeline of release years
2001 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
2002 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All
2003
2004 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations
2005
2006
2007 Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
2008
2009 Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth
2010
2011 Ace Attorney Investigations 2
2012 Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
2013 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies
2014
2015 Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken
2016 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice

Spin-offs

Common elements

Gameplay

File:Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney cross-examination.png
A cross-examination in the first game, with the witness on the top screen. The player can move between statements, press the witness for details, and show evidence that contradicts the testimony.

The Ace Attorney games are visual novel adventure games[37] in which the player controls defense attorneys and defends their clients in several different episodes.[38][39][40] The gameplay is split into two types of sections: investigations and courtroom trials.[41][42] During the investigations, the player searches the environments, gathering information and evidence, and talks to characters such as their client, witnesses, and the police.[41] Once enough evidence has been collected, the game moves on to a courtroom trial section.[43][44]

In the courtroom trials, the player aims to get their client declared "not guilty". To do so, they cross-examine witnesses,[41] and aim to find lies and inconsistencies in the testimonies. They are able to go back and forth between the different statements in the testimony, and can press the witness for more details on a statement. When the player finds an inconsistency, they can present a piece of evidence that contradicts the statement.[45][46] The player is penalized if they present incorrect evidence: in the first game, a number of exclamation marks is shown, with one disappearing after each mistake the player makes;[47] in later games, a health bar that represents the judge's patience is used instead.[48][49][50] If all exclamation marks are lost, or the health bar reaches zero, the player loses the game and their client is declared guilty.[47][48][50]

Several games in the series introduces new gameplay mechanics. Justice for All introduces "psyche-locks", which are shown over a witness when the player asks them about a topic they do not want to discuss; using a magatama, the player can start breaking the psyche-locks by showing the witness evidence or character profiles that proves they are hiding something. The number of psyche-locks depends on how deep the secret is; when all locks are broken, the topic becomes available, giving the player access to new information.[51][52] Apollo Justice introduces the "perceive" system, where the player looks for motions or actions made by witnesses that show nervousness, similar to a tell in poker.[53] Dual Destinies introduces the "mood matrix", through which the player can gauge the emotions of a witness, such as tones of anger when mentioning certain topics;[54][55] if the player notices a contradictory emotional response during testimony, they can point out the discrepancy and press the witness for more information.[56] Dual Destinies also introduces "revisualization",[57][58] where the player reviews vital facts and forms links between evidence to reach new conclusions.[57] Spirit of Justice introduces "divination séances", in which players are shown the memories of victims moments before their deaths, and must find contradictions in the victim's five senses to determine what happened.[59]

Setting and characters

The game takes place in an urban city set in 2016 and later; for the Japanese versions, this city is somewhere in Japan, while the North American and European localization places the games in Los Angeles, California.[60] Localization differences will sometimes reflect the differences between these societies, for example the side of a car the driver's wheel is on. Additionally, the names of characters have been adapted for localization; for example, the main character of "Ryūichi Naruhodō", whose family name, "Naruhodō", is a pun on the Japanese phrase for "I see", has been renamed in the Western versions as "Phoenix Wright", referencing the phoenix that rises from its own ashes, and a homophone of the word "right".[60]

Each game has its own individual plot but the characters and their relationships remain intertwined throughout the series.

In the first three games, the main playable character is Phoenix Wright. He is a rookie lawyer fresh out of law school in the first game, taking a position at Fey & Co. Law Offices run by Mia Fey, a defense attorney that helped to acquit Wright of murder several years prior to the events of the first game. When Mia is murdered, Wright takes over the offices with the assistance of Maya Fey, Mia's younger sister, and renames the office "Wright & Co. Law Offices". The women of the Fey family have the ability to channel spirits, which sometimes allows Maya or her much younger cousin Pearl Fey to channel Mia's spirit to help Wright in court. Wright develops a rivalry with prosecuting attorney Miles Edgeworth, his former childhood friend, as they oppose each other in court, and is both helped and hindered in his investigations by police detective Dick Gumshoe. Wright's victories over Edgeworth (along with Wright's victory over prosecutor Manfred von Karma) introduces a third prosecutor to combat Phoenix in court, Franziska von Karma, who sees Edgeworth as a younger brother (despite actually being several years younger than he is). She is determined to succeed where her father and Edgeworth failed by winning against Phoenix in court. In the third game, Phoenix's main rival in court is Godot, a mysterious prosecutor who holds some kind of grudge against him. Also more info related to Phoenix, Mia and other members of the Fey family is unveiled, intertwining with the events from the previous games until the last case, which closes the Phoenix Wright chapters of the Ace Attorney series.

The fourth game shifts seven years after the first three games. Phoenix, having been disbarred for unknowingly using falsified evidence, has become a piano player, adopted a young magician named Trucy, and has transformed the office to the "Wright Talent Agency". When he is accused of murder, he spies the upcoming and talented defense attorney Apollo Justice with his "Chords of Steel" and has him defend him as well as hiring him, forcing the office to be renamed "Wright Anything Agency". While Apollo and Trucy handle cases and face off against a new prosecutor, part-time rock star Klavier Gavin, Phoenix still works with ties to the justice system to implement changes that will help improve the courts, including the introduction of a "Jurist System" that leaves the decision of guilt or innocence to a six-panel jury, while investigating the remaining mysteries involving his last case seven years before. In the fifth game, Phoenix regains his lawyer license and recruits a new rookie attorney, Athena Cykes, who has the ability to detect hidden emotions in witness testimonies. Together, the three combat what has become known as "The Dark Age of the Law" alongside convicted prosecutor Simon Blackquill. The Japan-exclusive side game, Dai Gyakuten Saiban, takes place in the late 19th century and focuses on Phoenix's ancestor, Ryūnosuke Naruhodō, who brings about a new age of justice.

Set between Trials and Tribulations and Apollo Justice, the Investigations series features Miles Edgeworth as the main character. While and after returning from a trip to Europe, Miles is thrown in a series of incidents tied to a mysterious smuggling ring also involved in the creation and distribution of counterfeit money and art pieces, and later gets caught up in a movement intended to remove weak prosecutors from duty. The games also feature returning characters like Gumshoe, Franziska, and rookie detective Ema Skye. Key characters exclusive to these games include Kay Faraday, who claims to be the successor of the legendary thief Yatagarasu, and Shi-Long Lang, an interpol agent who for some reason despises prosecutors. One of the cases is a flashback featuring Miles and Franziska's mentor Manfred Von Karma and depicting Miles' first encounter with Kay and Gumshoe, while another recalls the last case tried by Miles' father, Gregory Edgeworth, before his murder.

Court system

The court system in the Ace Attorney games is strongly influenced from the civil law inquisitorial system of Japan as opposed to adversarial system of common law countries.[61] In Japan, being convicted of a crime once legally accused is almost certain, and many defense attorneys may never win an acquittal throughout their career.[61] The conviction rate in Japan, higher than much of the rest of the world's, has been suggested to be a result of prosecution departments, running with low budgets, selecting only the most likely cases for achieving conviction to bring to the courts, according to Profs. John Mark Ramseyer and Eric Rasmusen.[62]

However, a key difference from real-world Japanese courts is that under the system in the series, all trials have a maximum duration of three days before a verdict must be reached.[63] It is stated that this has not always been the case in the fictional universe, however; in Ace Attorney Investigations 2, 15 years before the events of the first game, the court case for the IS-7 incident is noted to have taken over a year, due to predating the introduction of the 3-day limit.[64]

This situation is presented within the Ace Attorney games in which within each case, there is overwhelming evidence of guilt and the various prosecutors the player encounters are full of confidence concerning the outcome of the trial as evidenced by their arrogant mannerisms.[61] As such, the defense attorneys (Phoenix, Mia, Apollo, and Athena) are initially treated poorly by the prosecutor and judge, and must avoid pursuing a dead-end line of questioning in the cross-examination of witnesses to avoid premature closure of the trial by the inquisitorial judge. As judges are inquisitors under the inquisitorial system, and are able to actively examine the evidence, failure by the defense to show the merit of continuing cross examination would result in the impatient judge dismissing the continuation of the case (and game over). Similarly, the police, represented by characters such as Dick Gumshoe, are shown to be compassionate but incompetent, much to the prosecutors' dismay.[61]

Reception

Japan and Western review scores
As of May 31, 2016.
Game Famitsu Metacritic
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 32/40[1] 81/100[65]
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All 35/40[18] 76/100[66]
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations 35/40[21] 81/100[67]
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney 36/40[25] 78/100[68]
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 34/40[5] 78/100[69]
Ace Attorney Investigations 2 32/40[6] -
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 35/40[7] 79/100[70]
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies 37/40[28] 81/100[71]
Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken 35/40[2] -
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice 34/40[72] -

The Western releases of the games have garnered generally favorable reviews by the gaming press. The series has generally been praised for being a strong adventure game in an otherwise lacking market, having great presentation, music, and dialogue, while at the same time being criticized for being too linear and lacking replayability and evolution among the series' installments.[73][74][75] The representation of the legal system in the games has been noted to be significantly flawed, disregarding the fact that the game's legal system is not directly based on the one used in the United States; GameSpot's review of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney noted 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."[76] Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Justice for All also received negative comments due to the lack of the unique DS features introduced in the first game.[74][75] Issue 22 of (N)Gamer noted that the series on a whole sometimes features "odd leaps in logic" that turns the game into a trial-and-error procedure.

Sales

In Japan, the series has performed well, with the combined Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS sales of the first two games around 400,000 units, and the third game, only considering GBA sales, nearing 250,000 units.[77] The fourth game sold 160,000 copies the day of release in Japan, with a total of 250,000 units moved during the first week of release.[77]

In the United States, the first game became surprisingly successful, forcing Capcom to prepare at least three additional runs of the game to meet the demand.[78][79] Part of this was due to initially low expectations from retailers such as Walmart and Toys "R" Us who passed on the game; Capcom had produced nine to ten runs of three-to-four thousand units before Toys "R" Us requested 15,000 copies.[80]

As of December 2009, it was their 9th best selling series of all time.[81] On October 2010, Capcom stated that the series has sold more than 3.9 million units worldwide and called it one of the company's "strongest intellectual properties."[82] As of December 2013, the series has sold over 5 million units.[83]

Related media and other appearances

The Takarazuka Revue, an all-female theater troupe, has adapted the series into stage musicals: 2009's Ace Attorney: Truth Resurrected, which is based on the last episode of the first game;[84] 2010's Ace Attorney 2: Truth Resurrected Again, whose first act is an original story, while its second act is based on the final episode of the second game;[85] and 2013's Ace Attorney 3: Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth, which is a midquel, set before the events of Truth Resurrected Again.[86] A stage play based on the series, titled Gyakuten no Spotlight, ran in 2013, and was written by Eisaku Saito.[87] A 2012 live-action film adaptation of the first game, titled Ace Attorney, was produced at the film studio Toei and directed by Takashi Miike.[88][89] A 2016 TV anime adaptation of the series, Ace Attorney, is being produced at A-1 Pictures and is directed by Ayumu Watanabe.[4] Kodansha has published several manga based on the series: a short story anthology was published in Bessatsu Young Magazine in 2006; Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth were serialized in Weekly Young Magazine in 2007 and 2009, respectively; and another manga, which is based on the anime, will be published in V Jump in 2016.[90] A novel based on the series, Gyakuten Saiban: Turnabout Idol, is planned to be released in 2016.[91] Ace Attorney drama CDs[92][93] and albums with Ace Attorney music have also been released.[94][95]

Ace Attorney characters have made cross-over appearances in other video games. Some Ace Attorney characters appear in SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters DS.[96] Phoenix and Edgeworth make a cameo appearance in She-Hulk's ending in the fighting game Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds;[97] in the game's update, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Phoenix appears as a playable character.[98][99] Phoenix and Maya are playable characters in Project X Zone 2, while Edgeworth makes a non-playable appearance.[100] Music from the Ace Attorney series will be featured in Taiko Drum Master: Doko Don! Mystery Adventure, with Phoenix Wright making an appearance in the game's story.[101]

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