First of all, I would like to firmly establish with my readers that I am a huge fan of Ace Attorney as a franchise. The game was one of those titles that I found in a bargain bin back in 2008 with the Nintendo DS, when Trials and Tribulations had just come out. I remember being very intrigued with the story line and the fact that for the first time ever, a video game did not require serious effort to be put into it. Here we are, seven years later, with news of a sixth Ace Attorney title on the rise, and I’m not incredibly interested in it like I was for the previous titles.
Let’s face it — the series has had its high and low points. I like to pretend that Justice For All didn’t exist in the continuity of the story because its first cases were a slog in terms of events actually happening, with the decent pick up occurring in the final case. Furthermore, Franziska von Karma was a pretty painful prosecutor to put up with for several cases, despite receiving some decent development in the conclusion of the final case. Its high points were with Trials and Tribulations, which felt like the quintessential conclusion to Phoenix Wright’s character arc. Everything after that just feels like a side spin-off at this point to milk the franchise. As good as Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney was, it felt like a cheap way to get Phoenix Wright back into the fold as a main character, because as most fans know, there was a period of time in which Phoenix was stripped of his attorney’s badge for falsifying evidence. We had some serious headway with the development of the Jurist System in Apollo Justice, but after that game it’s never mentioned again. The premise of the Jurist System was huge in the story line, and after that it just disappears and life in the courthouse goes back to its roots and the ever mentioned “Dark Age of the Law.” I really wished that Capcom stuck to its decision to banish Phoenix from practicing law because the coming out of retirement thing feels poorly written, not to mention the entire cast of friends seem to have been completely dropped, despite having Phoenix aid them in their endeavors on past cases.
With the Dark Age of the Law, we come now to visit Ace Attorney Dual Destinies on the Nintendo 3DS, where Phoenix has his attorney’s badge back. It is explained later in the story that he regained it because Miles Edgeworth pulled some strings as the Chief Prosecutor. I couldn’t like the game as much as I did some of the previous entries; even Justice For All did a lot better. They seem to have given Trucy Wright, Phoenix’s daughter, an even lower stature than a side character and more of a cameo. The game was riddled with some plot holes that felt inconclusive, and I couldn’t get attached to the new side character that they introduced in Athena Sykes. The game was filled with a poor translation and grammar errors. Keeping events of the title firmly grounded in Los Angeles, despite the fact that the location is clearly foreign, is one of the other major kinks. Even though Capcom mentioned that they did so to try and get Western audiences engaged in the jokes and the humor, it just doesn’t cut it anymore. As much as I love this web comic, it perfectly describes the predicament that Western audiences face in the play through.
Capcom has been dropping the ball pretty hard with their western audiences, and it’s turning one of my favorite franchises into a cheaply written drama that should have ended Phoenix’s story at Trials and Tribulations. As exciting as the idea of Ace Attorney 6 is, I can’t help but feel a bit dismayed, even though I like the fact that it may touch more on the fates of some of the original cast (Maya Fey, hopefully Pearl Fey as well) as it appears the title heads to Kurain Village, a land of spirit mediums whose justice system is administered by women. I definitely do have a bit of interest in that justice system, and based on trailers it seems interesting. It may just end up flopping like its predecessor, as Dual Destinies was poorly received in terms of sales and Western fans only received it in digital form before it went on sale for iOS at a cheaper price. Considering the excitement for Ace Attorney 6, we can only hope for the best here in America, but I’m not getting my hopes up too high. Given the glaring grammatical errors that I couldn’t just overlook and the plot holes that the title had, it really became a shadow of its former self. Series creator Shu Takumi has gone on record and has mentioned how he wished to end the franchise at the third title in order to prevent the stagnation of the franchise.
“I felt that Phoenix’s story had been told, and that the series should not continue. Knowing when to end a story is very important and I wanted to avoid dragging it out and having it become a shadow of its former self.”
And yet the series has fallen relatively flat with the fifth title that just does not do the original trilogy justice. Even with the fact that Takumi was not fully involved with Dual Destinies, the series can’t just keep going on like this until it completely flops. On the other hand, he did have a big hand in creating Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, a thoroughly charming 3DS game. While I don’t mind Phoenix appearing in potential spin offs, I do mind that they’re continuing to spotlight him as the main character in their core story. The storyline felt conclusive after Trials and Tribulations; why not close the main story from there and focus on the incredibly vast cast of characters, like Detective Gumshoe, or maybe on the events that had Miles Edgeworth become a Chief Prosecutor? They have the means to take the franchise in a better direction, but Phoenix sadly has to go or be taken out of the spotlight.
Which leads to the final point — is there a time when game developers need to know when to let something go, or should they continue to develop a series until it has a major flop? The game had its logical end. Is it better to end the main storyline to prevent further stagnation? The series needs to leave with its head held high, and maybe it could bring games like Ghost Trick back into the fold.