Just when I thought the Ace Attorney stream had run dry, a brilliant idea for a list came into my head – what is the best and worst aspect of every Ace Attorney game?
I’ll try to be as objective and impartial as I can, but I can’t help it if my personal opinion rears its ugly head from time to time. Be wary of SPOILERS – even for the spinoff titles.
You can check out some of my related blog posts below:
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
BEST – The Villains
The first Ace Attorney game did a lot of things right – it set up the investigation / courtroom status quo that the rest of the series has copied since, and the lovable characters have become icons over time.
When I look back on this game, it’s the quality of the villains that stands out the most. Any game where you fight a CEO, a movie producer, a demon prosecutor and the chief of police is bound to be a wild ride – von Karma and Gant especially were two of the best antagonists in the whole series.
WORST – The Slow Start
Despite the overflowing praise I’ve just given it, it’s hard for me to recommend this game (and therefore the rest of the series) to a friend. Why? Because it gets off to such a slow start.
The first two (maybe three, if we’re pushing it) cases are very slow-paced and fail to represent the rest of the series. It’s only once we reach “Turnabout Goodbyes” that Ace Attorney’s true greatness can shine, but it’s a hard sell to convince someone to sludge through three cases to get there.
Justice For All
BEST – The Darker Tone
They went darker with the sequel, and I loved it. The magatama is a suitably creepy investigation tool, Kurain village is spine-tingling, and the final case can be genuinely terrifying at times.
I especially like how the soundtrack reflects the darker tones – especially in cases 2-2 and 2-4. Unfortunately, those are the only good cases in the whole game.
WORST – Cases 2-1 & 2-3
Cases 2-2 and 2-4 are sensational, but 2-1 and 2-3 fall flat. It’s not a great look when half of the cases in your game are bad.
“The Forgotten Turnabout” is far too mind-numbing as a tutorial, and “Turnabout Big Top” is the worst case in the series. They’re not egregious enough to stop the player from continuing, but they certainly detract from the overall experience.
Trials & Tribulations
BEST – The Story / Writing
Trials & Tribulations had a lot of work to do to resolve every plot thread across the trilogy, but somehow the writers managed to pull it off. The mysteries are great, Godot is an excellent prosecutor, and the final case “Bridge To The Turnabout” is the best case we’ve had.
Only Investigations 2 could rival this game for the accolade of “best-written”, and I’ll never get over how well they managed to tie all the loose ends.
WORST – The Side Characters
Not so much the villains that you take down in the courtroom, but I found the random witnesses and passers-by to be very annoying across almost every case.
“Recipe for Turnabout” is one of the worst offenders in that regard – pretty much every person you meet was begging to be punched in the face.
BEST – The Setup To The Mystery
Apollo Justice had the best introductory case in the entire series. The shocking reveal that Phoenix was disbarred and the mystery of the Gramaryes both hooked me considerably.
It all culminated in finding out that Kristoph Gavin – your mentor – was the true culprit … that’s the kind of twist that a final case would do, not a first case!
WORST – The Resolution
Despite the strong opening case, the rest of the cases fall off by a lot. “Turnabout Corner” and “Turnabout Serenade” both have their problems, but the final straw was the last case.
Ace Attorney is known for bombastic finales that leave you satisfied, yet “Turnabout Succession” failed to resolve the mystery for me. It’s not bad, and it doesn’t ruin the game per se, but it fell flat enough to make the entire game – and the opening case – worse in retrospect.
Also, why did they drop all these plot points moving forwards?!? Apollo’s true parents and the jury system need to make a return at some point.
BEST – The New Direction
Although it was a shame they dropped the Apollo / jury stuff, I was still happy with what they decided to do in Dual Destinies instead.
The dynamic of an older Phoenix mentoring Apollo and Athena is so fun to play, and the orchestral soundtrack is an upgrade and a half.
WORST – The Visual Style
Other than the fairly slow start, it’s the 3D sprites and general visual style that I have the most issue with.
Investigating crimes scenes and evidence in 3D was worth the upgrade, but something about the textures and sprites just seems off – especially after Spirit Of Justice made them a bit cleaner.
Spirit Of Justice
BEST – The Risk-Taking
It would have been easy to pump out another Dual Destinies, but I appreciate how the writers took some creative risks while making Spirit Of Justice.
We get a completely new country and legal system, the Divination Séance is interesting and unique, we solve our first suicide, and Apollo actually gets an engaging arc for once.
WORST – The Soundtrack
I know I said I was going to be as objective and impartial as possible, but this is easily my most subjective gripe on the list.
Spirit Of Justice’s soundtrack never really gripped me. The pursuit theme is my least favourite of them all, and the character themes aren’t that interesting. The only track I vaguely liked was the Divination Séance – it’s suitably creepy and unsettling.
Objectively, the boring prosecutor is probably what most people would point to first as a flaw.
Ace Attorney Investigations
BEST – Miles Edgeworth
In all honesty, there weren’t many positives I could think of for Investigations. The soundtrack was alright, and a few of the characters were memorable, but I think it was Miles Edgeworth himself that carried this game on his back.
His character is just as gloriously arrogant and snarky as you remember, and his approach to solving the mystery is a breath of fresh air. His pursuit theme “Lying Coldly” is one of the best in the series, too.
WORST – The Cases
There are a lot of things wrong with Investigations, so I think to best summarise it I’ll say that the cases were its weak point. So basically the whole game.
The only case that was marginally good was “Turnabout Reminiscence”, and otherwise the remaining four cases had some serious problems. The final case “Turnabout Ablaze” is the worst closing case in the series, and it’s not even close.
Ace Attorney Investigations 2: Prosecutor’s Path
BEST – It’s A Better Sequel On Every Level
The polar opposite of the first Investigations game, Investigations 2 does pretty much everything right. It’s the best written game in the series, with one of the most satisfying mysteries and resolutions.
It expands upon its predecessor in every way – the memorable characters, the intriguing cases, Edgeworth’s arc, the loathsome villains … it’s Ace Attorney perfection.
WORST – They Never Made A Follow-up!
Yeah … I struggled to find any glaring issues with this game.
Considering Investigations 2 came out in 2011 and was so well received, I’m baffled they never made a sequel. On top of that, it was never localised to Western audiences!
The Great Ace Attorney
BEST – The Jury System
The Great Ace Attorney did a lot of things that I love – the characters were some of the best in the series, and the soundtrack is absolutely stunning, but it’s the introduction of the jury system that I appreciated the most.
It felt like the culmination of everything that Ace Attorney had been building to, and it added another dimension to court proceedings that I adored. The main series should take note.
WORST – The Pacing
Even more so than the original game and Dual Destinies, The Great Ace Attorney has the slowest start of them all.
Case 1-1 adds nothing new, and 1-2 is pure investigation – who thought that would be a good idea? Once we reach 1-3 with the new jury system I’m a little more invested, but it was really only the final case “The Adventure of the Unspeakable Story” that blew my socks off. It was worth trudging through to get to the sequel, however.
The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve
BEST – The Plot / Writing
Just like Trials & Tribulations and Investigations 2 before it, Resolve managed to wrap up every plot thread so perfectly that I’m surprised the writing team haven’t won every award under the sun.
On top of that, the characters and soundtrack are still at an all-time high. Measure for measure, this may just be the most perfect Ace Attorney game we’ve ever had.
WORST – The Obvious Villains
Ace Attorney has always been more about the journey rather than the destination, and I’m not denying the fact that taking the culprits down was immensely satisfying, but I would’ve liked to be shocked on more occasions.
The true culprit was almost never in doubt – William Shamspeare and Enoch Drebber stuck out enough to make them suspicious, and Lord Stronghart is the most obviously evil guy the series has ever shown. The only exception to this was Judge Jigoku – if more culprits shocked me as much as him, Resolve may have become my favourite game in the series.
Aaand that’s my list! You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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