The Ace Attorney/ Gyakuten Saiban series is one of my favorite game/ visual novel series of all time. It is funny, endearing, full of pop culture references, and strong character work. The cases may all be similar in terms of the type of crime, but the strong characters, jazzy music, and weird plots sell me on it. However, not all cases are created equal and today I will start a top 10 Ace Attorney cases list. I will including only cases from the main series (PWAA, PWJFA, PWTT, AJAA, PWDD, PWSOJ)
Key for abbreviations:
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney(PWAA) Cases from game will be headed as 1-X
Phoenix Wright Justice for all (PWJFA) Cases from game will be headed as 2-X
Phoenix Wright Trials and Tribulations (PWTT) Cases from game will be headed as 3-X
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney (AJAA) Cases from game will be headed as 4-X
Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies (PWDD) Cases from game will be headed as 5-X
Phoenix Wright Spirit of Justice (PWSOJ) Cases from game will be headed as 6-X
My criteria will be as follows:
Characters: The quirkier and more interesting the characters are the better the case is.
Plot: Generally, these cases are ridiculous but the more interesting the crime is, the better the plot is.
Music: This is generally only covering the character themes that appear, if they appear. Similar tracks play through an entire game, such as the Objection theme and the cornered theme, but generally if a character appears in only one case they might have an interesting theme to go with their back story.
Narrative connection: There are some cases that are relevant to the overall narrative of an entire game, whether it is developing a character or teaching us something new about some other characters. Generally, this development is for the main cast, but often there are cases that connect even across games. For instance, the Phoenix Wright Trilogy has cases that relate specifically to the Fey clan and their inner turmoils, but they also connect directly to Phoenix, due to his mentor being a Fey and a lawyer. Phoenix’s arc is directly tied to this arc, but not all the cases in each of the three games are directly connected to this arc. How well does this happen and does it add anything interesting?
1-2: Turnabout Sisters
The second case begins with the murder victim being the mentor of our hero, Phoenix Wright. Forget the conflict of interest in the lawyer world and join me as we talk about the introduction of series favorites: Maya Fey, spirit medium, murder suspect (too many times, and law assistant, Detective Dick Gumshoe, and the implacable Miles Edgeworth. This is the first case involving the Fey clan and their past associations with the law profession as well as give us a little background on Mia’s motivations for becoming a lawyer. While this will be fleshed out more throughout the trilogy, this is the first case I would consider connected to the overall story arc of our main protagonist, Phoenix Wright. He is connected through various circumstances to Mia Fey and therefore to the Fey clan and their troubles. While these connections would become more apparent in Justice for all, this case introduces some of the series main staples: investigation segments, followed by courtroom segments. It also introduces beloved characters who would make the experience more fun. My favorite stoic prosecutor is also present and this is something I personally love. However, the overall plot isn’t special and the witnesses are fairly normal for Ace Attorney standards. It gets weirder and more entertaining but this is still one of the better cases.
2-3: Turnabout Big Top
The second of the standalone cases in Justice for all, this is one of the most batshit crazy and endearing cases in the entire second entry. The cast of circus performers are crazy and the clown even quotes the fresh prince of Bell Air. The logic of the case is a bit fuzzy and this begins to become more flagrant as the series goes on. The selling point for this case is how the actual crime unfolded and how all the witnesses and circus performers are all so likable. It is rare to finish a case and not hate anyone, even the person who committed murder. The quirkiness is done well but is not cartoonishly over the top. I know that basically feels like it doesn’t make sense but normally Ace Attorney villains and culprits are basically like cartoon supervillains and are downright evil. This case is far more gray than normal and is what I love about it. The prosecution of the case is less likable to me, as I never really liked Franciska as much as I liked other prosecutors.
The second 3DS Ace Attorney game has a banger of an opening case, which is rare for this series. Often the first case is a tutorial and is easy and far less complex. However, the change of location and variation of how the courtroom works is a welcome addition. I never felt the divination seances were all that fun to play but I cannot ignore how different it all was. I also felt it gave the game an identity. Spirit of Justice has a few misses but also a few amazing cases which is typical for the 3DS entries. These games are not done with the original creator of Ace Attorney but still is fun. The characters aren’t interesting but this case is still arguably the best of the first cases.
Oh boy is this is a fun finale. Dual Destinies was an interesting game and the reveal of who the phantom was, is one of my favorite reveals of the entire series. The connection between the phantom and Blackquill is one of the most interesting subplots in the series. Athena being the one person who is capable of helping identify the phantom is also something I really like. The problems with with the new attorneys who worked under Phoenix are that their development seemed stunted in their introductions. To be fair they did try to develop Athena and it seemed to do alright in my opinion. Honestly, this case was one of the few ones that actually surprised me so it is one of my favorites.
Holy smokes this is a fun ride!! The introduction of one of my favorite characters: Godot and the first and only larceny cases in the entire series. (also a murder because of course). This case is amazing due to the ridiculous characters and the ruthlessness of Godot. Honestly, this case wouldn’t be as good without Godot there to quip and needle Phoenix in very specific ways. Also the fact that he was able to use a not guilty verdict to indict the same defendant for another crime is pretty amazing. It was quite a ride but as is normal for Ace Attorney, Phoenix is able to get not just one not guilty verdict, but two.
1-4: Turnabout Farewells
Edgeworth is in the defendants chair and is being prosecuted by his former mentor, the undefeated prosecutor Manfred Von Karma. This is the case that cemented good ol’ Edgy as one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. His story is told and how he came to be such a ruthless prosecutor but it also is the the turning point for his character. After he is successfully defended and learns the truth about who killed his father all those years ago, Edgeworth is spurred on to a journey of self-discovery. This is a turning point for both him and Phoenix. The results of this case will change them both forever but Phoenix will have to wait a bit longer to get his character development. Von Karma is truly the final boss of this game as he is ridiculously evil and is annoying as hell. It is so satisfying to watch him break down at the end. Never did the cornered theme make me feel so epic as I crushed inconsistancies and won despite his cheating. This is the best case of game 1.
To be continued.