Written by Iris the Keyblade Master
If you’re looking for a video game that’s not too difficult to play (at least not in the way that video games usually are), has an engrossing story, and phenomenal character development, you can’t find much better than the original Ace Attorney trilogy. Originally released in America for the Nintendo DS, all three games can now be purchased as a collection from the Nintendo eStore for the 3DS.
As the title implies, the main character’s a defense attorney, named Phoenix Wright. He’s driven by a need to defend innocent people, even and especially when nobody else believes in their innocence.
Each game gets broken down into a number of episodes. The first episode is always a brief one-day trial that acts as the tutorial. The others switch back and forth between Investigation modes and Trial modes. Phoenix will learn about a person who’s been accused of murder and all of the circumstantial evidence stacked against said person. Then you spend the first day gathering clues, questioning other characters, etc. Once you’ve found everything that you can possibly find, the game moves on to the second day: the actual trial. You must badger every witness that comes to the stand and use the clues to point out contradictions in their testimony.
But Phoenix will never have enough evidence to determine the real murderer, so that leads to another day of investigating. Then it’s time for the second and final day of the trial!
The characters are what make these games so much fun. Phoenix and his plucky assistant, Maya Fey, play off well with one another as you lead them to different areas to search for evidence. They’ve always got to deal with Detective Gumshoe, who isn’t the smartest man on the police force, but means well. The same could be said for the judge, who’s willing to swallow the weakest excuses from lying witnesses. Each of the suspects has a quirk that can range from amusing to annoying. Phoenix’ exasperated reactions to the antics of the rest of the cast are always funny.
And finally, there are the prosecutors. They bring so much joy for all of the grief they heap on poor Phoenix. The first game introduces Miles Edgeworth, Phoenix’s former best friend who turned into his biggest rival. I couldn’t stand his ego at first. He’s the first opponent to really get under the player’s skin with the way he just casually dismantles every argument you present. However, his character development throughout each game turned out to be so good that he ended up becoming one of my favorite fictional characters ever.
The second game presents Franziska von Karma, a female prosecuting prodigy who starts whipping anyone and everyone who gets in her way. I’m not talking figuratively here. She actually uses a bullwhip on everyone. That includes Phoenix and the judge. Somehow she gets away with it every single time.
Last but not least, the third game’s prosecutor, Godot, has a fearless attitude, a great backstory with ties to Phoenix’ past, and likes throwing his coffee mug at Phoenix when he gets annoyed. Yeah, this game can get wacky.
I loved solving each of the cases. Sometimes the developers really give your brain a workout as you try to find the lie in a witness’ testimony. In the first game, you get five chances to make a mistake, and once you use them up, it’s game over. The sequels replaced this system with a health bar. It will decrease depending on how many mistakes you make and the gravity of those mistakes. It’s a toss-up regarding which one I prefer.
Although the games tend to be silly, they do have serious moments- after all; the objective is to catch a murderer. Each game’s final case is an emotional rollercoaster for Phoenix and his friends, and those last murderers are particularly ruthless. I won’t say any more to avoid some very good spoilers. I’ll just say that “Turnabout Goodbyes,” “Farewell, My Turnabout” and “Bridge to the Turnabout” are my favorite cases in the whole series. The music theme that plays when Phoenix uncovers the killer in “Farewell, My Turnabout” gives me chills.
Finally, the series has some excellent female characters: heroes, villains, and everything in-between. Besides Franziska von Karma and Maya Fey, there’s her older sister, Mia Fey, a defense attorney who mentored Phoenix and gives him advice on his cases. They have an adorable little cousin named Pearl who tags along with Phoenix and Maya, and never falls into the “annoying child sidekick” trap. Wendy Oldbag, Adrian Andrews, Dahlia Hawthorne, and Iris are all memorable suspects for different reasons. Unfortunately, I can’t go into more detail because I’d have to spoil so much of the story.
Good stories and puzzles, well-written characters, a fun, catchy soundtrack, and constant courtroom shenanigans- what’s not to love? The evidence clearly indicates that you should give Ace Attorney a try as soon as possible!