Ace Attorney vs Danganronpa

By far the two games series I’ve talked about most on my blog are Ace Attorney and Danganronpa. I’ve loved them both pretty much equally ever since I played them, and all of the games in each series holds a special place in my heart for one reason or another.

I recently did a Danganronpa Power Ranking, where I compared all of the Danganronpa trilogy games to one other, and that got me thinking – what would happen if I pitted Ace Attorney and Danganronpa against each other?

This’ll be very similar to my “Which Danganronpa Game Is The Best?” list, with a Power Ranking of various topics out of ten, but with a slight twist – it would be unfair to have 10 Ace Attorney games against the 3 Danganronpa ones (I haven’t played “Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton” or “Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls”, so I’m leaving them out), so I’ve split the Ace Attorney games into three more sub-categories: “Original Trilogy”, “New Trilogy” and “Spinoffs”.

If you’re not sure what that means, here’s a list of the Ace Attorney games in each category (and Danganronpa as well to refresh your memory):

  • ORIGINAL TRILOGYPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Justice for All, Trials & Tribulations
  • NEW TRILOGY Apollo Justice, Dual Destinies, Spirit Of Justice
  • SPINOFFSAce Attorney Investigations 1 & 2, The Great Ace Attorney 1 & 2 (or “Chronicles”)
  • DANGANRONPA Trigger Happy Havoc, Goodbye Despair, V3: Killing Harmony

With all of that out of the way, which iconic videogame series reigns supreme? You can check out some of my related blog posts below, including my original Danganronpa ranking:

Plot

This category is about the overarching plots within the sets of games – not necessarily the story that goes on within the cases itself (there’s a separate category for that)

BEST: SPINOFFS [9]

While Ace Attorney has always been quite strong in its storytelling and overarching plots, I don’t think they’ve done it better than in the two spinoff duologies.

In both cases the first game of the duology gets the ball rolling in a simple yet fairly cohesive way, but then Investigations 2 and Great Ace Attorney 2 provide some of the best narratives I’ve ever played in games.

If it wasn’t for both overarching plots getting off to a bit of a slow start, I would have given the spinoffs a perfect 10 straight off the bat.

SECOND-BEST: DANGANRONPA [8]

I think the Danganronpa trilogy just edges out the Ace Attorney original trilogy only because it takes more narrative risks.

The whole “Hope vs Despair” agenda is handled well across all of the games, and the intrigue is some of the most captivating in any series I’ve played. The writers do get a bit carried away with the mystery at times, though, and I wished it had a more definitive conclusion or answer by the time you finish all three games.

THIRD-BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [8]

While the original trilogy doesn’t have an overarching narrative per se, there are definitely some individual character arcs to look at like Phoenix’s and Edgeworth’s.

There are some really great themes of justice in Phoenix’s arc, but I think it’s Edgeworth’s arc of “what does it really mean to be a prosecutor?” that stands out to me the most. His arc won’t be fully developed until his Investigation spinoffs, but it was an excellent start.

WORST: NEW TRILOGY [6]

I mean … does the new Ace Attorney trilogy even have an overarching narrative or plot?

All of the character arcs, like Apollo’s sense of justice, are things we’ve seen before countless times in the series, and all three games are so unconnected that it actually hurts. While the individual games’ stories are harmless, the fact that they don’t even have a proper plot overall hurts their score considerably.

Cases

For this category I’m looking purely at how the cases were set up, such as how well the writers managed to hook me in to the murder before the investigation even started.

BEST: DANGANRONPA [10]

Part of the reason why Danganronpa stood out to me in the first place was the way it set up its cases – every single time I was blown away by the circumstances of the murder, and I was extremely eager to find the culprit.

It’s not even a competition really – Danganronpa’s complex murders completely blow Ace Attorney out of the water in realism and shock-factor.

SECOND-BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [7]

Ace Attorney doesn’t really shine in its set up and investigations, although the original trilogy did have some cracking case teasers every now and again.

Mia’s murder, Edgeworth’s confrontation on the lake, Maya getting kidnapped … even though Danganronpa was more balls-to-the-wall, Ace Attorney still managed to grab my attention frequently.

THIRD-BEST: SPINOFFS [7]

One of the things about Investigations and Chronicles that underwhelmed me a bit was that the setups to the cases weren’t particularly ground-breaking – the trials definitely were, but I’ll look at those in another category.

The last few cases of Great Ace Attorney 2 are some of the best mystery setups in the Ace Attorney series, though, so that gives it a few bonus points.

WORST: NEW TRILOGY [6]

Is it just me, or does it feel like the newer Ace Attorney mainline games are running out of ideas?

A lot of the cases are just spins on what we’ve seen before, or infuriating filler cases just to reach that 5-case quota. The finale cases tend to pack a bit more of a punch, but they’re just a few cases out of the multitude of other less impactful ones.

Trials

This one is for the payoffs, and a little about the twists and turns of the story as well. Both the Ace Attorney courtroom trials and the Danganronpa class trials are iconic, so this’ll be a tough round.

BEST: SPINOFFS [10]

Just as a quick disclaimer – Investigations doesn’t have any “trials” for me to analyse, so instead I’ll just look at the final confrontations / general case resolutions.

Rarely have I enjoyed the resolutions to mysteries more than in the Ace Attorney spinoff games – while Investigations 1 is fairly standard, Investigations 2 and both Chronicles games have some of my favourite case finales in the entire series. The final cases in both series are up there as some of my most cherished gaming moments ever.

SECOND-BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [9]

Ace Attorney made a name for itself early on for its bombastic trials, and every game in the original trilogy was packed to the brim with plot twists and drama.

All of the finale cases are absolutely mesmeric to watch unfold during the trial stage, and I was on the edge of my seat trying to spot the contradiction every time.

THIRD-BEST: DANGANRONPA [9]

Danganronpa trials are certainly more engaging in terms of gameplay, but there were definitely a few weak trials (mainly in 3rd cases) that provided some unsatisfying answers to the mystery.

That being said, I enjoyed the class trials in Danganronpa immensely, and they’re part of the reason I love this series so much.

“WORST”: NEW TRILOGY [8]

While the new Ace Attorney games don’t have any bad trials that ruined my gaming experience, they’re noticeably lacking compared to the original trilogy and spinoff.

The finale cases are as awesome as always, but I felt that a lot of the other cases seemed to drag on or just be too filler for my liking. Still, it had all the Ace Attorney goodness that I adore.

Characters

BEST: SPINOFFS [9]

Both Investigations and Chronicles keep up the Ace Attorney tradition of wacky characters, but somehow they ended up being more memorable than the original trilogy.

Side / one-time characters are fine (mostly), but it’s the core cast of characters that’ll stick with me forever: Investigations with Edgeworth, Kay and Ray, and Chronicles with the Baker Street gang.

SECOND-BEST: NEW TRILOGY [9]

Why have I rated the new trilogy’s characters over the old trilogy? Well, that’s because all of your favourite characters return – and a host of cool new ones are added on top.

Apollo, Athena, Blackquill, Klavier … they all do a really good job of elevating the core cast of characters, and their interactions with each other are always so great.

THIRD-BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [8]

I’m not not saying that the Ace Attorney cast of characters is bad – they’re some of my favourite characters in gaming history (and Edgeworth may even be waaay up there) – but it’s the supporting cast that lets it down.

More often than not, the side characters in cases are just plain annoying or forgettable. If you have a “least favourite” Ace Attorney character, they would have almost definitely first appeared in one of these games.

WORST: DANGANRONPA [7]

It seems ridiculous to rank Danganronpa – a series known for its memorable characters – at the bottom of the list, but I would argue it’s the least consistent of the lot.

Characters are a mixed bag by design, as most of them are destined to die anyway (and you end up spending more time overall with Ace Attorney characters). Also, call me crazy but I’d take an Edgeworth over a Byakuya any day.

Culprits

BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [9]

People forget just how awesome the cast of villains was in the original trilogy: an evil media tycoon, the king of prosecutors, the Chief of Police … and that was just in the first game alone!

Matt Engarge, Luke Atmey, Godot … my most cherished memories from the Ace Attorney series is taking these awesome villains down, and they’re part of the reason these games are so revered.

SECOND-BEST: DANGANRONPA [8]

Even though some of the culprits in the Danganronpa games are a little unbelievable, the shock reveal is what the series is all about.

Usually not near the start of the game, but the final few cases tended to have some of the most jaw-dropping culprit revelations in any mystery games I’ve played.

THIRD-BEST: SPINOFFS [8]

A lot of the time in the spinoffs it’s about the journey rather than the destination, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few classic culprits.

Calisto Yew, Simon Keyes and Blaise Debeste were all despicable in the Investigations games, and in Chronicles Ashley Graydon, William Shamspeare and Lord Stronghart were all extremely entertaining.

WORST: NEW TRILOGY [7]

It’s the same complaint as usual for the new trilogy – nearly every culprit they do has been done before in some capacity.

The final bosses tended to be quite good, though, and one-off culprits like Roger Retinz and Aristotle Means were lots of fun to take down.

Gameplay

BEST: DANGANRONPA [8]

In all honesty, none of the games on this list have the best gameplay compared to most other single-player games, but Danganronpa is definitely the most engaging.

The moment-to-moment free time and investigations kept me playing, and shooting truth bullets in the trials was just as euphoric as catching a contradiction in Ace Attorney.

SECOND-BEST: SPINOFFS [7]

Both spinoff games enhance the gameplay of the Ace Attorney series, with Investigations improving the investigations (no surprises there) and Chronicles improving the trials.

The jury system in Chronicles is easily my favourite new gameplay addition since the original trilogy, and Sholmes’s deduction segments were also heaps of fun.

THIRD-BEST: NEW TRILOGY [7]

Apollo Justice is pretty much more of the same, but Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice add a key investigation dynamic – the third dimension!

Okay, there aren’t that many major improvements from the original trilogy (and every new gimmick is a bit lacklustre), but it’s still a slight upgrade from the first three games.

WORST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [6]

The original trilogy came out in the early 2000’s, and it shows. Investigation segments are a little boring at times, and the graphics aren’t that great.

I can’t be too harsh on it, though – it redefined a whole generation of visual novels, and the thrill of the court segments has hardly ever been matched in the rest of the series.

Soundtrack

BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [10]

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that Ace Attorney has one of my favourite soundtracks in gaming history.

All of the individual character themes, like Godot’s and Dahlia’s, slap so hard, and the courtroom music like “Objection!” and “Cornered” are a good portion of the reason why those segments are burned into my memory.

JOINT-BEST: DANGANRONPA [10]

I’m sorry to those who wanted me to pick a side, but I genuinely couldn’t choose a winner between the two – Danganronpa is also one of my favourite videogame soundtracks ever.

It has a lovely mix of unsettling ambience tracks and bombastic trial music, and it all melds together to create an experience that both pumps you up and digs under your skin. Along with Ace Attorney, these are two of the best OST’s the world of gaming has ever seen.

THIRD-BEST: SPINOFFS [9]

I was pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack quality of both of the Ace Attorney spinoff series: Investigations continues the same sort of music as the original trilogy, but Chronicles has the most gorgeous orchestral arrangements.

Time will tell if these soundtracks grow on me more – who knows, maybe I’ll consider them to be perfects 10s in a few years time.

“WORST”: NEW TRILOGY [8]

The title of “worst” soundtrack is a little harsh in the new trilogy’s case, as they still have phenomenal OSTs while you command the courtroom.

Some of the tracks, like Apollos Justice’s pursuit theme and the 2013 “Objection!” revamp, are some of my favourites in the entire series, but otherwise the tracks are basically what you’d expect. There’s never a bad track, but there aren’t as many stand-outs.

Ending

I’ll be looking a little at how the individual games in the set finished, as well as how the story as a whole concluded.

BEST: SPINOFFS [10]

It feels like cheating to have both spinoff duologies in the same category, as that means there are two excellent endings to look at – for what it’s worth, I think they’re both perfect.

Investigations 2 somehow managed to wrap up every single plot thread concisely and satisfyingly, and the final trial in Chronicles was easily up there as one of my favourite gaming experiences ever.

SECOND-BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [9]

The final cases in all three original trilogy games were sensational, but the case I’ll always remember the most fondly is Trials and Tribulations’ last case.

“Bridge to the Turnabout” is the best case in all of Ace Attorney, and the final showdown with Godot is probably a top 5 gaming moment of all time. It’s not perfect, but boy was it fun and hard-hitting.

THIRD-BEST: DANGANRONPA [7]

I’m the most mixed on Danganronpa’s endings, as while the first two games had amazing conclusions, V3 shit the bed a little bit.

Killing Harmony had an ending that might go down as one of the most controversial ever, and I’m leaning more towards dislike than like. It’s a shame if that’s how the series has ended, but at least the first two games had cracking finales.

WORST: NEW TRILOGY [6]

The new trilogy doesn’t really have an overarching plot, so it doesn’t really have a definitive ending either.

Dual Destinies had a good ending, Spirit Of Justice was decent (albeit way too long), but Apollo Justice had the worst ending of any mainline Ace Attorney game. All in all, none of the endings truly blew my socks off.

Fun

All of these technical categories are useful in deciding a winner, but now we get onto arguably the most important topic of all – which was most fun for me to play?

BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [9]

I had the time of my life playing the original Ace Attorney trilogy, and all 14 cases (well, maybe not “Turnabout Big Top” …) were fun in their own unique way.

I have countless fond memories of taking down culprits in the courtroom, and my love of the style only grew as the series progressed. I haven’t had many better gaming experiences.

JOINT-BEST: DANGANRONPA [9]

Yep, I’ve refused to pick a side yet again.

While the cases themselves could be a bit temperamental in quality, the overall vibe of Danganronpa was immaculate – the dating sim sections, the zany character interactions, the class trials … I had a blast, and if V3 had ended slightly better it could have even trumped the original Ace Attorney trilogy.

THIRD-BEST: SPINOFFS [8]

The spinoffs are a story in two parts in both cases – the first games in both duologies are fun but slightly lacking (especially Investigations 1), but the follow-ups were perfect.

Investigations 2 and Great Ace Attorney: Resolve were some of my most cherished gaming experiences ever, even rivalling the original trilogy for pure fun. If the first games were about a 6/10 and the seconds were 10/10, that averages to about an 8/10.

“WORST”: NEW TRILOGY [8]

I don’t feel comfortable calling the new trilogy the “worst” in the fun category, but they were definitely the least entertaining.

Apollo Justice is a bit iffy, but Dual Destinies and Spirit Of Justice were loads of fun to sit through, and I enjoyed my time with all of them. They weren’t perfect, but at least they were a laugh.

Final Scores

Let’s look at both the total score (out of a possible 90) as well as the average score:

BEST: SPINOFFS [77] [8.56]

It seems weird to say, but I do think the Ace Attorney spinoffs (especially the second games) are the highest quality storytelling we’ve seen in the series to date. A worthy winner.

SECOND-BEST: DANGANRONPA [76] [8.44]

It was close, but Danganronpa just misses out on the top spot. To be honest, I’m not surprised it ended up only being a point difference.

THIRD-BEST: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [75] [8.33]

There’s only a 2 point gap between first and third – they basically all came joint-first! Again, it doesn’t surprise me that the original trilogy and Danganronpa are so close, because I revere them both equally.

WORST: NEW TRILOGY [65] [7.22]

No surprises there, as the new trilogy was bottom of the barrel for nearly every category. A final average score of 7.22 is decent though, and nothing to scoff at.

My Personal Scores:

It’s all well and good making a power ranking to discern which series is best, but how do I actually feel?

1st: SPINOFFS [9.0]

Investigations 1 is about a 6/10 and Great Ace Attorney 1 is about an 8/10, but combined with the two 10/10 sequels I think the spinoffs are the best of them all. It’s a hard carry by the second games in the duologies though.

2nd: ORIGINAL TRILOGY [8.5]

There are definitely some imperfections here and there, but the Ace Attorney original trilogy holds such a special place in my heart. While part of me wishes it could have come first, I’m glad the recent spinoffs have taken the proverbial torch and run with it.

3rd: DANGANRONPA [8.0]

Originally I was going to give Danganronpa the same score as Ace Attorney, but since V3 was so controversial I decided to dock it a half point. I still absolutely bloody loved it though.

4th: NEW TRILOGY [7.5]

While not being my favourite games ever, I still had a good time with all three games in the recent trilogy – hopefully Ace Attorney 7 can be even better!

Aaaand that’s my list! You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:

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