Ace Attorney is one off – if not the – best videogame series I’ve ever played, and a lot of that it down to the jaw-dropping moments littered throughout.
I’m not going to look at twists today (as that’s a separate list), but I thought I’d pick my 10 favourite and least favourite moments from the series. This will obviously be very subjective, and there will be huge SPOILERS for every game. You have been warned!
Before we begin, you can check out some of my related blog posts below:
10 (WORST) – Mia Ex Machina (Multiple Cases)
The spirit channelling aspect of Ace Attorney has always been strange, but I kinda dig it. It gives the series a unique, surreal tone that no others share, so I can give the concept itself a pass. It’s the execution that sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.
The first time Mia saves you in court from beyond the grave is kinda cool, but then it happens another half dozen times after that. It diminishes Phoenix’s contributions to court, and also makes the player feel less useful as a result.
I also want to mention the Sholmes Ex Machina from the final case of Great Ace Attorney Chronicles – it was nowhere near as intrusive or insulting, but the same sort of “Sit back while I save the day!” plot beat returned.
10 (BEST) – Von Karma Returns (AAI2-3)
The third case of Investigations 2 was already phenomenal, but then the demon prosecutor himself graced us with his presence.
He was just as arrogant and evil as I remembered him, and his battle of wits with Gregory Edgeworth was fan service done right. The fact this case was the one that preceded DL6 makes it even more bittersweet.
9 – It’s Just Investigations (DGS1-2)
You’d be hard-pressed to find any Ace Attorney fan who prefers the investigation segments over the courtroom battles, so I’m amazed they decided to do an entire case of it.
Sholmes hard-carries the second case of Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, and the dances of deduction that he takes you on keep this entry from dropping lower on my list.
9 – Maya Gets Kidnapped (2-4)
So much of “Farewell My Turnabout” is fantastic, but it’s Maya’s kidnapping that provides the shocking catalyst of everything to come.
Shelly de Killer is an amazing, skin-crawling antagonist, and the little screen time he has is used to great effect. Both the investigations and trials move at break-neck pace once Maya’s life is on the line, and it’s this single plot decision that made 2-4 a top 3 case.
8 – Cross-Examining A Parrot (1-4)
Much like with the spirit channelling, I don’t necessarily have anything wrong with cross-examining a parrot. It’s just about as goofy as you’d expect, and if anything the series has gone on to do much wackier things.
It’s the wider repercussions in pop culture that I hate the most – most fans and non fans point to this as a definitive Ace Attorney moment, and I think that does the rest of the amazing moments on this list a huge disservice.
8 – Witnesses Trade Evidence During Court (DGS1-5)
I never hear anyone else talking about this moment from “The Adventure of the Unspeakable Story”, but it blew my mind when Gregson was revealed to be swapping evidence around on the witness stand.
Those moments where you have to catch a witness out without being prompted left me really paranoid for the rest of the trial, as I felt that things were going on above-board that I could never understand.
7 – They Show Us The Killer (1-2, 5-2 … and most first cases)
The first three of my “bad” moments are just minor gripes at best, but now we get to the faux-pas that really make my blood boil.
Something that Ace Attorney does that I always hate is when they show us the killer in the opening case, but I can forgive that as they’re meant to be tutorials for new players.
What I can’t forgive, however, is them showing us the second case killers in the original game and Dual Destinies! What’s the point of playing a mystery game with no mystery?
7 – Shamspeare Wakes Up (DGS2-2)
It’s rare for something completely left-field and unexpected to happen in a series that has spanned two decades, but Shamspeare waking up sent me into hysterics.
The man we thought was the victim was still alive, and his little soliloquy (with Gregson’s help) followed by his immediate collapse is one of the funniest Ace Attorney moments.
6 – The Videos (1-5 & 4-3)
The blue badger video from “Rise from the Ashes” has gone down in infamy as one of Ace Attorney’s worst court moments, so I’m flabbergasted they did it again for “Turnabout Serenade”.
It’s just so infuriating going through the same video evidence a dozen times, and it makes replaying those two cases next to impossible.
6 – Kazuma’s Revival (DGS2-3)
Usually these types of amnesiac / friend back from the dead plots are cheap and poorly-written, but Kazuma’s return in “The Adventure of the Great Departed Soul” was executed flawlessly.
They don’t linger on the mystery masked man twist for too long, and the scene where the memories return due to The Professor’s identity being revealed was perfect timing to amplify the story’s tension.
5 – Terry Fawles’ Love Interest (3-4)
Not the most obvious selection on this list, but when you look at the age of Dahlia Hawthorne when she was dating Terry Fawles it becomes a little problematic.
I’m not against having a defendant with questionable morals, but the game doesn’t do enough to condemn his affection for a minor. You could argue, then, that what happened next was completely deserved …
5 – Terry Fawles’ Suicide (3-4)
The first case of Trials & Tribulations hinted that Mia’s first courtroom experience didn’t go so well, but it turned out it ended in tragedy.
Terry Fawles’ suicide because of Dahlia’s manipulation is gut-wrenching, and it cements Dahlia as one of the most despicable Ace Attorney villains we’ve seen.
4 – Oldbag & Blue Badger Returns (AAI-3)
I don’t hate Investigations’ third case as much as most fans, but even I have to admit that Oldbag and the Blue Badgers started to get on my nerves.
This can kind of act as the spot for both Oldbag and Larry constantly returning – it’s hardly ever funny when they turn up, but apparently the Japanese really love this recurring joke so it’s bound to happen again and again.
4 – The Phantom Testifies (5-5)
The twist that Bobby Fulbright was The Phantom definitely deserves to be in my “Top 10 Ace Attorney Twists” list in the near future, but it was his cross-examination that really stood out to me.
Specifically, the sections with the Mood Matrix are absolutely spine-tingling. I’d heard across Dual Destinies that The Phantom had no emotions, but to actually see the Mood Matrix act so strangely made my skin crawl.
3 – Furio Tigre Impersonates Phoenix (3-3)
The fact that Furio Tigre could impersonate Phoenix in court with no repercussions is meant to be a jab at how useless the legal system is, but it’s a joke that goes too far.
The man looks and sounds nothing like Phoenix, so it makes everyone involved seem brain-dead. I’m all for Ace Attorney silliness, but this was way too much.
3 – Sholmes And Mikotoba Solve A Case (DGS2-5)
My mind was already blown when Mikotoba was revealed to be Sholmes’s legendary partner, but it’s hard to describe the giddiness I felt when I finally got to see the pair in action.
Their dance of deduction is, in my opinion, the highlight of the entire Great Ace Attorney duology. It was so good, in fact, that I’m desperate for a Sholmes / Mikotoba Investigations game!
2 – Phoenix Gets Amnesia (2-1)
“The Lost Turnabout” is considered one of the worst cases for a reason – not only is it a simple tutorial case, but it insults the player’s intelligence.
Giving Phoenix amnesia is such a cheap way of justifying the tutorial, and it miraculously gets cured by the end so it was completely pointless. Luckily, the writers learned from their mistake and never tried to pull a stunt like this again. Apart from the couple of other amnesia plotlines, of course.
2 – Godot’s Tears (3-5)
The best moment in my favourite game in the series, finally pinning the crime on Godot was one of my most euphoric gaming experiences.
His tears were already sad enough, but the fact he “cries when it’s all over” made the whole thing so bittersweet. The most emotional moment in the series, and a perfect conclusion to the original trilogy.
It’s possible that they aren’t tears at all, and it’s just blood leaking from his gaping eye wound, but that doesn’t sound as poetic.
1 – The Bust Flies Off With The Cape (2-3)
… Or, to be more specific, the entirety of “Turnabout Big Top”.
The characters are all annoying, the murder motivation is weak as heck, the monkey is awful, but it’s the cape catching on the bust that makes me sick to my stomach.
Of all the fluky contrivances the writers have come up with, of all the stupid moments in the series that made me want to tear my hair out, this was easily the worst. It’s a terrible case, and no one can convince me otherwise.
1 – Cornering Von Karma (1-4)
The moment that made me fall in love with the series, “Turnabout Goodbyes” is when Ace Attorney went from a charming visual novel game to an outright masterpiece.
Von Karma is such a formidable foe, and his final confrontation (accompanied by “Pursuit: Cornered”, of course) is the most blood-pumping finale in any Ace Attorney case.
I still get goosebumps thinking about it – I know it came early in the series, but no other moment has made me feel like an unstoppable lawyer quite like this.
Aaand that’s my list! You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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