The Tenth Turnabout

In October 2001, the first game in one of my favourite series of all time was released on the Gameboy Advance in Japan. 逆転裁判 – Gyakuten Saiban (Turnabout Trial) – followed the story of rookie defense lawyer Naruhodō Ryūichi as he navigated his way through several cases, defending his clients in court and usually finding the real culprit in the process. More games followed and the Japanese folk got to see more drama both in and out of the courtroom.

In 2005 the games were ported to DS and translated for the Western world. Titled ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’, the game generated enough interest (and sales!) to warrant localisations of the following games in the series. Phoenix had three games in total where he was the leading Ace Attorney before the younger Apollo Justice took over. Some years later, one of the popular characters, Miles Edgeworth, got his own spin-off in the form of ‘Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth’. You see things more from the prosecutorial side, even though you participate in pre-trial investigations rather than courtroom battles.

The games are unusual ones, following the visual novel/text-based game format with ‘logic’ puzzles thrown in. There are usually two ‘stages’ to each case: the attorney investigates after being called to defend a client, then uses evidence found to prove their client not guilty, usually by throwing it in someone’s face to prove contradictions in their testimony against the client. The courtroom battles give rise to the speech bubbles that the series is well-known for.

What I love about the game (most games, actually) are its stories and characters. Each game has an overarching storyline that comes together in the last case. In Phoenix’s games, there is a massive storyline connecting all three games with events in the earlier games having a direct impact on the final case of the third game. The cases are entertaining and the characters are very lovable with colourful personalities. Phoenix is joined by his cheerful assistant/spirit-medium-in-training Maya Fey and they face off against icy prosecutor Miles Edgeworth and whip-happy prosecutor Fransizka Von Karma. Our very own Fran cosplayed as Franziska once and yours truly froze in Maya Fey’s thin acolyte robes.

What’s also great about these games is the localisation. With a game this text-heavy, the writing needs to be tight but so does the translation. Bar one or two grammar errors in the earlier games, the translations are spot-on, especially culturally. Sal Manella, a nerdy director, speaks in L337 and references “over 9000!”, Phoenix at one point yells “HE COULDN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” and in court, when a particularly lovely female witness has charmed all the males, a disgruntled Mia thinks to herself, “Well, we know whose milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…” Also, in some parts, the translation is really laugh-out-loud funny. Referring to old lady Wendy Oldbag, Maya says, “Old Windbag sure has balls! Or… well, you know what I mean.” Upon finding out that he might have female admirers, Edgeworth expresses his disbelief: “D-Do I really inspire this sort of frothing desire from the female masses?” He clearly doesn’t know about his fangirls.

The Ace Attorney scene, ten years later, is still going strong. Coming up soon is a Professor Layton / Phoenix Wright crossover game, combining puzzle-solving and courtroom drama. Also in Japan, a Gyakuten Saiban movie is due for release in 2012 – seeing these beloved characters in live action is enough to make any fangirl (including me) squeal incoherently.


We love you, Ace Attorney! Happy Anniversary! And finally, to close this tribute post, Phoenix Wright is one of the characters in Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom. Maya?!






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