Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, known as Gyakuten Saiban (逆転裁判, Gyakuten Saiban? lit. "Turnabout Trial") in Japan, is a visual novel adventure video game developed and published by Capcom. It was originally released for the Game Boy Advance in 2001 in Japan, and has since been ported to multiple platforms. The Nintendo DS version, titled Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten in Japan, was released in 2005 in Japan and North America, and in 2006 in Europe, and includes an English language option. The game is the first entry in the Ace Attorney series, and has received several sequels and spin-offs.
The story follows Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney who attempts to get his clients declared "not guilty". Among other characters are Phoenix's boss, Mia Fey; his assistant and Mia's younger sister, Maya Fey; and rival prosecutor Miles Edgeworth. The player controls Phoenix through two types of sections: investigations and courtroom trials. During investigations, they gather information and evidence, and during trials, they cross-examine witnesses and answer questions from the judge, the prosecutor, and the witnesses. The story is split into five cases, the fifth being introduced in the Nintendo DS version to take advantage of gameplay elements using the handheld's touchscreen and not available in the original Game Boy Advance version.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was directed and written by Shu Takumi, development of the game was handled by a team of seven people over the course of ten months. While the original version of the game takes place in Japan, the localization is set in the United States. The game has been mostly positively received by critics, who have appreciated its premise, writing, characters, music and presentation. The game has been a commercial success both in Japan and internationally, with the North American release selling higher than expectations and being hard to find in stores shortly after release. Character and promotional art was done by Tatsurou Iwamoto.
The game was re-released as part of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD game for the 3DS in 2014.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Characters
- 3 Episodes
- 4 Story
- 5 Development
- 6 Release
- 7 Reception
- 8 Trivia
- 9 Gallery
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The player takes the role of Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney, and attempts to defend their clients in five cases. These cases are played in a specific order; after having finished cases, the player can re-play them in any order. Each case starts with an opening cinematic showing a murder; shortly thereafter, the player is given the job of defending the prime suspect of the case. The gameplay is split into two types of sections: investigations and courtroom trials.
During investigations, which usually take place before or in between trial sessions, the player gathers information and evidence by talking to characters such as their client, witnesses, and the police. The player is able to move around a cursor to examine various things in the environment. By using a menu, the player can move to different locations, examine evidence, and present evidence to other characters; by showing certain pieces of evidence to some witnesses, the player can get access to new information. In the game's fifth case, created for the DS version and used in all subsequent releases, the player is able to examine evidence more closely, rotating it to view it from all sides and zooming in or out on it using touchscreen controls; they are also able to move a cursor to investigate specific parts of the evidence. The fifth case also features forensics tests that the player can use at crime scenes to find clues: the player can spray luminol by tapping areas they want to examine on the touch screen, which makes the player able to see otherwise invisible blood stains; and they can touch the touch screen to apply aluminum flake powder in order to search for finger prints. After applying it, they can blow into the microphone to reveal the prints. Once the player has gathered enough evidence, the investigation section ends.
In the courtroom trials, the player aims to prove their clients' innocence. In order to do so, they cross-examine witnesses; during these cross-examinations, the player aims to find lies and inconsistencies in the witnesses' testimonies. They are able to go back and forth between the different statements in the testimony, and can press the witness for more details on a statement. When the player finds an inconsistency, they can present a piece of evidence that contradicts the statement. In the Nintendo DS version, the player can choose to press and present by using vocal commands, and in the Wii version, players have the option to present evidence by swinging the Wii Remote. At certain points, the player has to answer questions from the judge, the witnesses, or the prosecutor through a multiple-choice answer selection, or by presenting evidence that supports Phoenix's claims. On the screen, a number of exclamation marks are shown; if the player presents an incorrect piece of evidence, one of the exclamation marks disappear. If all disappear, the client is found guilty and the player must restart. When the player solves a case, they unlock a new one to play.
- Phoenix Wright
- Miles Edgeworth
- Dick Gumshoe
- Ema Skye
- Maya Fey
- Larry Butz
- Mia Fey
- Judge - The "Judge" refers to the character who presides (as judge) over most of the cases in the series.
- Marvin Grossberg - Grossberg, a rotund, mustached man, is a defense attorney and namesake of the Grossberg Criminal Defense law firm. Mia Fey once worked under him, supervising her under the trial of a younger Phoenix Wright, five years ago (although was more along the lines of a punching bag). Marvin is aware of the history of the Fey family and the events of the infamous "DL-6" case that ties several cases together, but is cautious about giving out that information to others.
- Winston Payne - Winston is a prosecutor that generally starts off with a strong case for the prosecution, but quickly can be demoralized when the defense attorney finds holes in the evidence. Payne is very smug, and he seems to enjoy mocking young attorneys, earning him the nickname the "Rookie Killer". He serves as the first prosecutor the player goes against in all four games. His name is a pun, "Winced in Pain".
- Manfred von Karma - is a meticulous, ruthless prosecutor who is known for having a perfect record of getting all guilty sentences in every case. This 'perfect record' was blemished when Miles' father Gregory discovered forged evidence- though the incident itself did not result in a Not-Guilty verdict, von Karma nevertheless nearly went insane. When Miles is accused of murder, it is later discovered that the case was set up by Manfred in order to exact revenge complete revenge against both Gregory and Miles- Gregory through murder, for tarnishing his reputation; and Miles through a guilty verdict, for accidentally shooting von Karma in the shoulder. Manfred has two daughters, one named Franziska, but the other daughter's name is unknown. Manfred also adopted Miles after Gregory's death, becoming his mentor.
- Lana Skye - the defendant in the "Rise from the Ashes" episode. She was the Chief Prosecutor at the time, but her case exposed her involvement in forging evidence during the SL-9 Incident, which resulted in severe penalties. She is Ema's older sister and was also Mia Fey's rival and friend.
Episode 1: The First Turnabout - is the first episode and follows Phoenix Wright's first case as a defense attorney. He defends his childhood friend Larry Butz in the murder of Cindy Stone.
Episode 2: Turnabout Sisters - this case marks the death of a major character, Mia Fey, as well as the first appearances of Maya Fey, Dick Gumshoe and Miles Edgeworth.
Episode 3: Turnabout Samurai - revolves around a murder that occurs during a production of the fictional television show "The Steel Samurai: Warrior of Neo Olde Tokyo".
Episode 4: Turnabout Goodbyes - is the fourth episode where it seems as though Miles Edgeworth has committed a murder. The episode also features Miles Edgeworth's mentor, Manfred von Karma, as the prosecutor.
Episode 5: Rise from the Ashes - was created exclusively for the Nintendo DS version of the game, and introduced the Skye sisters, Ema and Lana.
Phoenix Wright, a newly-hired defense attorney at the Fey and Co. law firm, agrees to represent his best friend Larry Butz, who has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Cindy Stone. With the help of his boss and mentor, Mia Fey, he proves that Frank Sahwit, the prosecution's star witness, is the real murderer.
Shortly thereafter, Mia is killed in her office, and her younger sister Maya is arrested after the police find her name on a note left by Mia. Phoenix takes her case, facing off against Miles Edgeworth, an equally-talented prosecutor. Phoenix manages to identify Redd White, a professional blackmailer, as the real killer, only to find himself charged with the killing instead. Representing himself, he exposes White in court and gets justice for Mia. His reputation established, Phoenix meets Maya in Mia's office and Maya offers to work as Wright's assistant.
Phoenix, now running Fey's firm as Wright and Co, takes on another case; this time defending Will Powers, the lead actor in a children's TV show called "Steel Samurai", against accusations that he killed his co-star, Jack Hammer. In a bizarre twist, it is revealed that Dee Vasquez, the show's producer, committed the murder in self-defense after Hammer tried to kill her and frame Powers for her death.
On Christmas Eve, Edgeworth is arrested for the murder of attorney Robert Hammond. He initially refuses Phoenix's help, but ultimately relents. Manfred Von Karma, Edgeworth's mentor, has himself appointed as a special prosecutor. After Phoenix learns that another man, Yanni Yogi, shot Hammond, he discovers that Von Karma provided him with the gun. Years earlier, Edgeworth's father, defense attorney Gregory Edgeworth, convinced a judge to penalize Von Karma for misconduct, ruining the latter's spotless record. Unable to deal with such a blemish on his legacy, Von Karma murdered Gregory in cold blood, leaving Edgeworth to believe himself responsible. Phoenix explains that Edgeworth motivated him to become an attorney: when a young Phoenix was accused of stealing money (a crime for which Larry was the true culprit), Edgeworth persuaded his teacher not to punish him. Following his father's murder, however, Edgeworth, motivated by a hatred of criminals, decided to become a prosecutor and Von Karma's pupil instead. After Von Karma suffers a breakdown in court and confesses to the cover-up, Edgeworth is set free. Nevertheless, he decides to rethink whether or not he should resume his previous duties. Meanwhile, Maya announces that she will be returning to her home village to finish her training as a spirit medium.
In a fifth and final case, (not present in the original Game Boy Advance release, but added for the DS and subsequent releases) Phoenix is hired by teenager Ema Skye to defend her sister Lana, the head of the prosecutor's office and former friendly rival to Mia, in a case where the body of a detective, Bruce Goodman, was found in the trunk of Edgeworth's car. Together with Ema, Phoenix traces the origins of the murder to an incident two years prior, in which a serial killer allegedly murdered Edgeworth's predecessor while trying to escape custody. Damon Gant, a senior police captain, is tricked into admitting that he framed Ema for the murder in order to manipulate Lana into doing his bidding. Though Lana is cleared of murder charges, she agrees to resign her post in order to face judgement for protecting Gant. With Ema being sent to Europe to continue training as a forensic investigator, Phoenix looks forward to continuing his career defending the innocent.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was developed by a team of seven people, and took ten months to make. It was directed by Shu Takumi and produced by Atsushi Inaba, with music by Masakazu Sugimori, character design by Kumiko Suekane, and art by Tatsuro Iwamoto.
In 2000, after Shu Takumi had finished his work on Dino Crisis 2, his boss at the time, Shinji Mikami, gave him six months to create any type of game he wanted to. Takumi had originally joined Capcom wanting to make mystery and adventure games, and felt that this was a big chance for him to make a mark as a creator. The idea for a lawyer fighting in a court of law came from a game proposal document Takumi wrote in the summer that year, as he felt certain that there weren't any video games based on courtrooms or lawyers at the time. Other major inspirations for the game are Perry Mason, A Aiichirou, and Edogawa Rampo's The Psychological Test. In addition to all the mystery novels Takumi used to read, he was also influenced by Japanese shōnen manga. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was designed to be simple, as Takumi wanted it to be easy enough for even his mother to play. The point of the game wasn’t about the law or "reality"; Takumi imagined a game where the point was to have fun solving puzzles and enjoy the excitement of calling witnesses out in their lies with evidence, and he also imagined the courtroom to be like a huge colosseum where the crowds above would loudly cheer on the verbal gladiators below.
At first, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was planned to be released for the Game Boy Color, but after the development team were shown the Game Boy Advance system's screen and footage of Mega Man Battle Network, Takumi felt that the handheld console would be perfect for the game. The game was originally going to be a detective game, with Phoenix Wright being a private investigator who found a body at the office of his client and got arrested; as the lawyer who was assigned to the case was useless, Phoenix took up his own defense. One staff member suggested that Phoenix should be a hamster; while this didn't happen, this early version of Phoenix did have a pet hamster. It was decided early during development to refer to the game as "Surviban: Attorney Detective Naruhodo-kun", with "surviban" being a portmanteau of "survival" and the Japanese word "saiban" (裁判, "court" or "trial"). Among other names considered were "Boogie-Woogie Innocence" and "Bingo Bengo", with "bingo" referring to answering correctly and "bengo" (弁護) being Japanese for legal representation. At one point, Takumi realized that finding and taking apart contradictions was not related to detective work, and felt that the main setting of the game should be courtrooms. The game was in danger of getting cancelled at one point, as two of the staff members decided to leave the company, but Takumi's division leader and Inaba got a member of the Resident Evil development team to help them part-time.
Due to lack of video game writing experience, Shu Takumi found the whole development very challenging. As there were no plans to make a sequel at the time, he spent all of his energy focused on creating a single, self-contained story. In writing the script, Takumi had wanted to make it something people could play in ten years’ time and still feel that it was as relevant then as when he wrote it. Therefore, he avoided things that would date it like popular slang phrases or building stories around current affairs, and instead, focused on stories that anyone can easily relate to and understand. Takumi felt that the best way to write a mystery with a good climax is to reveal various clues, and then pull them together into one conclusion, and not have multiple possible endings. He said that the biggest challenge with that was to make the gameplay and story work together; the goal was to make the player feel like they have driven the story forward themselves, with their own choices, even though the game is linear. When writing the episodes, Takumi ranked each after its importance: the first episode was the most important, to make sure that the player likes the game; the second episode was the second most important, to solidify the player's interest; and the finale was the third most important. In general, each scenario was finished before anything else was done; after this, characters were designed based on the scenarios, and then Takumi adjusted dialogue as needed to make sure that it fit the designs. At this point, it was also decided what scenes were going to have specific cut-in illustrations made for them; Takumi drew rough sketches of them, and also drew the storyboards for the episodes' openings, which consist of series of detailed drawings that show what is happening.
In Takumi's initial draft of the story, the second episode, "Turnabout Sisters", was the first episode of the game. The development team decided that it did not work well as something that would ease players into the game, because of its length among other factors. Because of this, Takumi wrote a shorter episode, "The First Turnabout", which was used as the game's first episode. Takumi wanted players to focus on the thrill of "nailing the culprit", especially for the first episode; because of this, the culprit of the first episode is shown in that episode's opening, as this was the most direct way Takumi could think of doing it. According to Takumi, it was a challenge to write the episode, as, in addition to keeping it short, he had to set up the world of Ace Attorney and the types of characters that players would meet. The third episode was written for the sake of the character Miles Edgeworth, and the theme of the fourth episode was "rekindling the relationship". In it, Takumi tried to portray an intensively strong friendship between Phoenix and Edgeworth; he did wonder if that was what people got from it, saying that some people interpreted the bond between Phoenix and Edgeworth as an "intensively passionate bond". Because of these two episodes, Takumi considered Edgeworth to in a way be the game's protagonist. The classroom trial in the game's fourth episode was based on real events: when Takumi was in second grade, he had found a 5 yen coin and put it in his pocket; his teacher accused him of stealing it from another student, and made him apologize to her.
When Takumi first presented the game’s concept to the higher ups in Capcom, he received a lot of negative comments, which he used as a way of helping himself when creating the characters. He wanted characters that sit on the line between "real" and "not real" – ordinary enough to exist in the real world while being just outlandish enough not to. Main characters like Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth were each given a unique and recognizable silhouette and color scheme. Takumi only spent little time on writing a backstory for Phoenix before writing the game's story, and instead made up dialogue and developed Phoenix's personality as he went along. Takumi said that Phoenix is Shu Takumi in everything but name, with dialogue similar to what Takumi would have said in each situation in the games; he attributed this to him being a first-time writer who did not think about developing characterization prior to writing the story. Takumi didn't write a backstory for Dick Gumshoe; instead, Gumshoe's character and personality just "fell into place" after Takumi decided that the character would end his sentences with "pal". Other aspects of the character came about organically as Takumi wrote the story; for instance, at one point Edgeworth says that he will cut Gumshoe's salary, which became part of Gumshoe's backstory. Takumi came up with the partner character Maya because he thought it would be more fun for players to have another character with them, giving them advice, than investigating on their own. Originally, she was going to be a lawyer-in-training, preparing to take the bar exam.
Takumi found the game's first defendant, Larry Butz, to be particularly difficult to write, and had to re-write him several times. Originally, Larry was going to be an "average Joe" type of character, who only appeared in the game's fourth episode, but after his inclusion in the first episode, Suekane and Iwamoto told Takumi to give the character "some oomph". Following this, Takumi wrote him as a "prickly tough-guy" who had the habit of telling people he was going to kill them. Some of the higher-ups at Capcom did not like this, so Takumi changed him into a character who laments his lot in life, saying "I'm going to die!" or that the situation is killing him.
The witnesses were meant to change dramatically over time, revealing their real colors the more players pursued them. April May, from the second episode, was the first of the witnesses the development team created. That drastic difference in tone was something the team wanted to really stress when they were designing these characters. Dee Vasquez, the culprit of the third episode, was originally going to be male, until Suekane pointed out that all villains in the game were male. The development team debated over what to do with the now female character; some staff members thought it would be odd to have a female character be the director of an action show, and some wondered what to do with the director role if she could not fill it. In the end, Takumi changed the scriptwriter character into a director, and made the culprit a "strong, glamorous, fashionable, and cool-headed" producer.
As it was less common at the time to use professional voice actors, the game's voice clips were provided by the development team: each staff member recorded every sample that was needed for the game, and then the best ones were used. Takumi used his privilege as a director to cast himself as Phoenix, however, while Edgeworth was voiced by Iwamoto, and von Karma by Sugimori.
Nintendo DS version
The game's fifth episode, "Rise from the Ashes", was not included in the original version of the game; it was created four years later, as part of the Nintendo DS version of the game. The fifth episode was produced by Minae Matsukawa, under supervision of Inaba and Mikami. New music pieces for "Rise from the Ashes" were composed by Naoto Tanaka. When writing the episode, Takumi wanted it to link up with Edgeworth's disappearance in the second game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney − Justice for All, so he thought about what would be the thing that would be the most damaging to Edgeworth's psyche. He decided on corruption and betrayal from within the prosecutor's office, despite the seriousness of the topic. The character Jake Marshall was created as a parallel to Godot, in an analogy between the Skye sisters and the Fey sisters. The idea to include the use of the Nintendo DS system's microphone came from American Capcom staff members; the Japanese staff did not like the idea of adding unnecessary features, but Takumi thought it was important to make the American audience happy, so it was included as an optional feature. Unlike this game, the DS ports of the second and third installments did not include any extra episodes or any DS-exclusive gameplay mechanics.
The localization of the game was outsourced to a company called Bowne Global, and was handled by writer Alexander O. Smith, who was not familiar with the Ace Attorney series prior to working on it, and editor Steve Anderson. While the Japanese version of the game takes place in Japan, the localized version is set in the United States. They would normally have left the setting vague while adapting cultural differences that the target audience would not understand, but because one of the episodes involves time zones, they had to specify where the game takes place, and chose the United States without thinking a lot about it. This became an issue in later games, where the Japanese setting was more obvious. All the voice roles in the localized version of the game were handled by localization staff; Takumi had wanted to do the English voice for Phoenix, but it was handled by Ben Judd.
Smith faced several problems related to the game's use of puns; in the Japanese version, each character has a name that relies on Japanese wordplay. While Smith and Anderson had a lot of freedom when it came to localizing the names of minor characters, they had to discuss the names of the main cast with Capcom. Smith came up with a list of first names and last names for Phoenix, with the first suggestion being "Roger Wright"; "Phoenix" was also on the list, but further down. Smith felt that "Wright" had to be the character's surname, because Phoenix's surname in the Japanese version – "Naruhodō", meaning "I see" or "I understand" – was used many times in the game's text as a joke. The reason for the suggested first name "Roger" was alliteration, and "Roger" being a good source of jokes. A staff member of the development team, however, thought that "Roger Wright" was too similar to "Roger Rabbit". Among other suggested first names were "Pierce", "Xavier", "Marcus", and "Zane". In the end, "Phoenix" was chosen due to how heroic it sounded.
As the game's dialogue consists of a lot of wordplay and misunderstandings, Smith would analyze scenes before writing them: he would see what the scenes were trying to accomplish, and where the beats in them were. After he had the structure of a scene in his head, he would write it; at times he was able to make use of the original Japanese dialogue, but most of the time he had to come up with new ideas himself. At several points, the English wordplay was inspired by the wordplay in the Japanese version. At some points, it was not possible to do wordplay in the same places as in the Japanese version, so Smith would change the structure of the scene slightly. At other points, Smith came up with a joke or funny line, and changed the scene to make the joke work. Around half of the jokes were rewritten based on the characters present in the scene, rather than being translations of the Japanese jokes.
The original version of the game was released for the Game Boy Advance in Japan on October 12, 2001. The Nintendo DS port, which was titled Gyakuten Saiban: Yomigaeru Gyakuten (逆転裁判 蘇る逆転, "Turnabout Trial: Revived Turnabout"), was released in Japan on September 15, 2005, and included a new episode and an English language option; the English option was a selling point in Japan, with the hope that Japanese people who were studying English would play the game. North American and European releases followed on October 11, 2005, and March 31, 2006, respectively. A PC port of the Game Boy Advance version, developed by a company called Daletto, was released in Japan in an episodic format, starting on March 18, 2008. Yomigaeru Gyakuten was later released on Wii via WiiWare in Japan on December 15, 2009, in North America on January 11, 2010, and in Europe on January 15, 2010. The fifth episode was released separately on WiiWare, on March 16, 2010, in Japan, in May 2010 in Europe, and on May 24, 2010, in North America.
An iOS version of Yomigaeru Gyakuten was released in Japan on December 21, 2009, and in the West on May 24, 2010.
A high-definition version of the first three Ace Attorney games, Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD, known in Japan as Gyakuten Saiban 123HD: Naruhodō Ryūichi (逆転裁判 123HD 〜成歩堂 龍一編〜, "Turnabout Trial 123HD: Ryūichi Naruhodō") was released for iOS and Android in Japan on February 7, 2012, and for iOS in the West on May 30, 2013. Another collection of the first three games, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, known in Japan as Gyakuten Saiban 123: Naruhodō Ryūichi Selection (逆転裁判123 成歩堂セレクション, "Turnabout Trial 123: Ryūichi Naruhodō Selection") was released for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan on April 17, 2014, in North America on December 9, 2014, and in Europe on December 11, 2014. The collection was later released for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Steam in 2019.
Most versions of the game have received "generally favorable reviews" according to the review aggregator Metacritic, with aggregate scores ranging from high 70s to low 80s out of 100; an exception is the Wii version, which holds the aggregate score of 67/100, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu praised the idea of making a game based around trials, which they found to be innovative, they also found it exhilarating and fun to uncover witnesses' lies. The game have been praised by critics for its story, presentation, characters and music, atleast one review said that the game revitalized the adventure game genre. One of the few complaints, which became common in later installments as well, however, was the game's linearity, as well as the trial-and-error method in some moments due to specific pieces of evidence, and how testimony statements sometimes need to be pressed in a specific order. The Wii, iOS and 3DS ports received mixed reviews.
- "Rise from the Ashes" is the only episode title in the mainline games that does not contain the word "Turnabout" in the localized versions. The episode's Japanese title, however, still has the word (Yomigaeru Gyakuten, 蘇る逆転, lit. Turnabout Rebirth).
- Unlike the other episodes of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, no episode selection picture is unlocked from beating "Rise from the Ashes" in the Nintendo DS or 3DS versions. However, one is unlocked in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD.
- Capcom Unity: Shu Takumi's Reflections on Ace Attorney.
- Capcom Unity: Shu Takumi's Trials and Tribulations
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