Turnabout Sequel: A Collaboration Discussing the Future of Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2001. It introduced us to a courtroom in a dystopian future (the horrible year of 2016) in which police must accuse a suspect within 24 hours and the judge must declare a verdict 72 hours after that. In this twisted world where defendants are guilty until proven innocent, only the defense attorney Phoenix Wright stands between the common man and a bad conviction. In the seventeen years since that first outing, we’ve seen six main series titles as well as two games in the Investigations side series. Phoenix has interrogated animals, unraveled conspiracies, and awkwardly bluffed his way through cases in which all of the odds were stacked against him. The most recent game in the series was Spirit of Justice in 2016, and that game brings an ending to a story arc focused on corruption in the justice system. Yet while Spirit of Justice has an air of finality to it, Phoenix Wright is a popular character whose series is unlikely to end just because he liberated an entire country. But that begs the question: where do they go from here?

In considering this question, I determined that like the legendary Phoenix Wright I would need a powerful team of allies to help unravel the Case of the Uncertain Sequel (hire me, Capcom!). Sure, I can bluff and BS with the best of them, but to think of how this series could continue I would need to bring some real talent to the table. Luckily, two bloggers answered my cry for help: Jonez of NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog, a Belgian blogger who provides rock solid support to the game blogging community while also delivering excellent reviews; and Chris of Overthinker Y, a philosophical fellow who tackles the subject of gaming with curiosity and wit. Between the three of us we considered three possible directions for the seventh entry in the Ace Attorney franchise, and in this article we’ll each share the direction we imagined.

I’ll start us off by discussing what it would look like for the series to pick up right after the finale of Spirit of Justice. Then, Jonez will share his vision for a follow-up that sets Phoenix aside and instead focuses on other established characters of the Ace Attorney universe. Finally, Chris will imagine a world in which the series experiences a time jump and we see Phoenix in a new light via a new protagonist. After you’ve read all three possibilities, we encourage you to share your own thoughts in the comments of the article. Now that we know the sequence of events for this case, I’ll get us started with some opening remarks!

One final note: there will be some spoilers in this article, particularly for Spirit of Justice.

Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies Cover 2

POSSIBILITY ONE: A DIRECT SEQUEL (IAN’S CASE)

Spirit of Justice serves as a potential ending point for the Ace Attorney series as we know it. Apollo has struck out on his own in the land of Khura’in, and no new plot threads have been opened up for Athena. Yet while we might hope that the developers use this opportunity to do something daring, in reality perhaps the most likely outcome is for them to pick up right where Spirit of Justice left off. It’s not necessarily the outcome we want the most, but it may be the one we have to accept. So how could the next Ace Attorney continue with the same characters while still presenting fresh ideas?

I’ll start first with what I don’t expect them to do: I doubt highly that we will see Apollo Justice’s time in Khura’in. While focusing on the foreign kingdom made an interesting excursion for one title, my guess is that the story of Khura’in’s justice system is well and truly over. There aren’t any open threads there as the stories of Apollo, Nahyuta, and Rayfa have all come to an end. The country is liberated from Ga’ran’s control and really the only thing left to do is for Apollo and Nahyuta to work through the backlog of cases left behind by the corrupt regime. While there’s of course nothing stopping the writers from conceiving another story in Khura’in, I think a big draw of focusing on that region was to bring Maya Fey back into the picture in a way that connected to her spirituality. To stay there after she’s gone would be an odd choice.

This isn’t to say that Apollo won’t appear at all in the next game. Typically a few months of time pass between each consecutive title in the Ace Attorney franchise – perhaps the team might extend that to a year and have Apollo return to the states to start his own firm. Apollo could serve as a supporting character, no longer a member of the Wright Anything Agency but still offering advice and maybe getting roped into the final case of the game, similar to how they are attempting to keep Edgeworth relevant by always having him show up at the end of the game. In my view, though, I think the next Ace Attorney would be cleaner if they allow Apollo’s journey to continue off-screen and instead focus on the cast that remains in the States.

Athena Cykes.png

The law portion of the Wright Anything Agency currently consists of the titular Phoenix Wright and his youngest apprentice, Athena Cykes. The most straightforward choice for the next game would be to further develop Athena as an attorney. Apollo’s story was told over the course of three games, showing us his fledgling years as an attorney, his contributions to the undoing of the dark age of the law, and the nature of his childhood in the land of Khura’in. Athena’s backstory came to light in Dual Destinies but Spirit of Justice showed that she still has a lot to learn before she is ready to strike out on her own. She regularly played second fiddle to Apollo and when she did serve as the lead on a case, she did so only with the strong support of her frenemy (and probable love interest) Simon Blackquill. In my view, the obvious choice for the next Ace Attorney is to train Athena to stand on her own two feet, without the assistance of her mentor or her rival.

The final case of Spirit of Justice introduced an interesting new concept that I think could give them new ground to cover in a future title: civil cases. The Ace Attorney series has focused exclusively on criminal cases in the past, with only one or two of those cases ever straying from the topic of murder. In Spirit of Justice, we get to see Apollo and Phoenix go head-to-head as they take each other on in a civil trial. I don’t want to see that again for Athena, but it could be interesting to have her specialize in a different kind of law than her mentor. This is perhaps the best way to freshen up Ace Attorney without having a dramatic shift in setting or characters. And if you find yourself wondering how civil cases could be as dramatic as murder, consider the types of lawsuits that can be heard in civil court. Divorce proceedings, custody battles, accidents, evictions, discrimination – there’s tons of room for compelling villains and dramatic turnabouts in the civil court room without murder ever factoring into the equation. In particular, exploring these cases which are more likely to focus on family dynamics give Athena even more opportunity to sharpen her psychological skills.

An important part of every Ace Attorney title is the rival prosecutor, but in civil cases each side is represented by an attorney. This would open up the opportunity to introduce a rival agency for the Wright Anything Agency. Athena Cykes is currently young and inexperienced – she is passionate and believes in a restorative approach to law using therapy as a method of helping people. I think a good opponent for her could be a much older, more experienced defense attorney who is set firmly in his ways; a punitive man who sees law as a boy’s club and thinks that there is no place in the system for Athena’s “soft” approach. His clients could be corporations or rich individuals being sued by their victims, and he appeals to their authority while tearing down the credibility of his less connected, less resourced opposition. In a way, this is a great opportunity to flip the script – Athena could serve as the attorney to plaintiffs who are suing people in positions of power, putting her in a role closer to that of prosecution while still technically keeping her as a defense attorney. Being forced into this quasi-prosecution role would give Athena the opportunity to build her confidence and learn to stand against forces more powerful than herself.

I think this direction for the series has strong potential. Ace Attorney has an excellent established formula but to rest on that restricts the potential that the games could have – my hope is that Capcom will use the next game to do something daring with Athena Cykes, or to try one of the methods suggested by my fellow bloggers!

Ace Attorney Investigations Miles Edgeworth

POSSIBILITY TWO: A SIDE STORY (JONEZ’S CASE)

So, after Ace Attorney 6 – Spirit of Justice, the story had a good shakeup. But honestly, I’m under the impression that the planned storylines are wrapped up. There is no real loose end that can be covered in Ace Attorney 7. But is that really the truth? Ian from Adventure Rules took a look at the possibilities with Apollo and Athena, but there are a lot more characters in the series and I would love to take a look at them. Maybe it’s high time some other characters get some more time into the spotlight. Maybe it’s their time to shine in the new Ace Attorney games.

Note: I’m not going too in-depth to avoid character spoilers.

edgeworth and faraday

Miles Edgeworth and Kay Faraday

Ah yes, everybody’s favorite prosecutor in Ace Attorney. Well, almost everybody. If you only play the games of the main series, not a lot is revealed about Miles Edgeworth. You learn something big about his past, but that’s about it. You learn a lot more when you play both the Investigations spin-off games. While the 2nd one didn’t leave Japan, a translated version floats around on the internet.

Now, I feel that Miles Edgeworth is too much of a background character in the main series. I especially miss the interaction he had with Kay Faraday in the spin off games. If there is a character they should bring back, it’s Kay Faraday as a sort of assistant to Miles Edgeworth in the main series. That said, I quite enjoyed the gameplay of the spin off games as well.

I think it would be a great idea if in the upcoming games we get a mixture of both the spin off games and the main series. Since Apollo and Athena use different unique mechanics in the courtroom, Miles’ unique mechanic can be logic chess from the 2nd game or his logic gimmick from the first game.

How crazy would it be that you can choose whose side you will pick? Imagine that you pick Miles’ side and try to prove that somebody is guilty. And your decision has an impact on the final case, like who survives or dies… Man, the potential of that idea is so huge but would also have a ton of potential continuity issues, I think it’s quite possible that they won’t go with this idea.

Back to Kay Faraday. After the final case in the first spin off game, I felt that Kay’s character wasn’t fully explored yet. I could talk about the ending of the second spin off game but that would fully spoil the plot of that game. The only thing I’m going to say about that is that the game has such an open ending, it’s disappointing that they haven’t continued that story line.

Trucy Wright.png

Trucy Wright

After learning about Trucy’s past in Apollo Justice, I’m happy to see Trucy return in the future games in the series. Trucy is a pretty great character and I was so happy she got more screen time in Ace Attorney 5 and 6.

While we know the history of Trucy Wright and the events that took place to make her the “daughter” of Phoenix Wright, but I feel that she can be so much more. I feel that she can be used in the courtroom more like Maya.

I think it would be a great idea for those cases that present a locked room mystery. Trucy Wright is a magician after all and if there is something she knows a lot about is how to hide things or to make daring escapes. Her knowledge can also be used to prove how somebody can have hidden a murder weapon or made it disappear.

I feel that in most cases, she is used as comic relief character or a side character. She can be so much more. I really feel that her commentary during the rare investigation trips you take her on is funny and well written. If only we got more of those.

Ema Skye.png

Ema Skye

Ema Skye is one of my favorite characters in the Ace Attorney series. How she was introduced to how her character has been used in the continuation of the series is just amazing. Ema Skye is CSI. She uses a lot of different tools to find evidence in the crime scenes. Did you know, that she was going to be the lead character in the spin off games but since Miles Edgeworth was a far more popular character, she became a secondary character?

Something I feel that’s missing from a lot of the investigations in the Ace Attorney series is the actual police or detective work. In some rare cases with Ema, you can examine pieces of evidence more with her tools but that mechanic is so underused, it’s more a gimmick than a mechanic.

The investigations would be so much more interesting if you were able to dust for fingerprints or spray for blood. It would give the investigation sections a bit more depth instead of a “collect the needed items” hunt. It would add to the realism as well, since a good lawyer also takes a look at the evidence to find possible holes in the cases to defend their client.

Closing Statement

Now, I only gave three examples of characters that can introduce new and unique mechanics into the game. Personally, I think that the Ace Attorney formula can use a bit more depth. Some new mechanics or the return of some mechanics would help the series a great deal.

Besides that, I would love to see some characters get developed more. I enjoy the quirky Detective Gumshoe and I miss Franziska’s involvement in the series. Also, the Fey family can use a bit more development since their story line kinda never got further developed.

Apollo Justice Cover

POSSIBILITY THREE: A TIME SKIP (CHRIS’S CASE)

Now, I have to admit that while I’ve played all of the Ace Attorney games, and Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice within the last year, my knowledge of the plots and characters isn’t as encyclopaedic as Ian’s or Jonez’s. It’s partly because of that – and partly because I just think this might make sense in today’s gaming landscape – that I’m imagining a future for Ace Attorney which relies on the existing cast as little as possible!

A good modern example of the sort of thing I’m suggesting would be the Star Wars films. Like Star Wars, the Ace Attorney games have kind of divided themselves (though not as neatly) into sets of trilogies: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Trials and Tribulations, and Justice for All form one era of sorts, with Apollo Justice, Dual Destinies, and Spirit of Justice falling into place as the second. There are then also a few spin-off games, but those two sets of three form the main throughline of the series. Now, the time gap between the first and second Ace Attorney trilogies isn’t all that large – certainly not as large as it is between episodes three and four of Star Wars – but I think that now might be a good time for there to be something of a larger jump between Spirit of Justice and our hypothetical seventh game, which if the pattern continues is likely to be the first of a third ‘era’. Three is, after all, the magic number, so perhaps three sets of three would even be a good ambition for the series as a whole: perhaps ‘episode nine’ of Phoenix Wright’s story ought to be the last.

To make that happen, I think there would be worse moves than casting Ace Attorney’s third lot of outings into the future, towards Phoenix’s later years. After all – though, again, the time jump isn’t enormous – the first set focused on his start as a brand new defence attorney making his name as a prodigy; the second saw a more experienced Phoenix using his wisdom and years of practice to make a difference to the system and encourage a new set of protégés in Apollo and Athena; I think it would be fitting for the third to see Phoenix having come to the end of his career, semi-retired, and now existing as an almost legendary figure held in huge esteem by a new, younger defence attorney (who would act as the protagonist of AA7). Think of how Luke Skywalker is a pivotal, central figure to the plot of The Force Awakens, as are Han, Chewie, and Leia – but each of them has almost no direct impact on present and immediate events, which are instead entrusted to their spiritual and thematic successors. I think Phoenix spending a game almost entirely out of the limelight could be an effective way to set up the rest of this final trilogy.

So let’s map it out in a little more detail, shall we?

Ace Attorney Bombed Courtroom.png

I think, by the time of AA7, the so-called ‘dark age of the law’ is a distant memory. Phoenix (and company)’s exploits in bringing it to an end would be the stuff of every classroom, known by heart by young lawyers the world over – his techniques would be dissected and studied, so that you couldn’t go a day in a courtroom without hearing someone cry ‘Objection!’ before making some sort of audacious bluff and working furiously to prove their theory. Athena’s analytical psychology would also have become much more mainstream, and most law firms now have at least one analytical psychologist; the lie-detection skills of Apollo, who also became pretty famous by association with the Wright Anything Agency but never returned from Khura’in to resume practicing in the States, would also be attempted but not quite grasped by many investigators; Maya would be the matriarch of a new generation of Fey women kept on retainer by the courts to assist in investigations. Oh, and Trucy performed the greatest magic show of all time before quitting stage life to open a magic shop. Basically, all the cast we know and love from the first two Ace Attorney trilogies are now older, pretty much done with active practice, but held in extremely high regard by the up-and-coming law professionals of the day. They’d be covered extensively in every textbook, but one has to assume they’d also be celebrities, at least among the law community, and have moved away from the spotlight to a quieter life.

Ace Attorney 7 follows a young defence attorney on their first real case, much like Phoenix in the very first game. Cases one and two are fairly self-contained, but the court’s prosecutor is a student of Miles Edgeworth, who’s made the office reputable and fair; the victim in case three is… let’s say Larry Butz or perhaps Dick Gumshoe, someone we know from the previous games; case four is the typical not-really-connected-to-the-rest breather – but it goes unsolved. Just as it seems that the young defence attorney is about to lose, Edgeworth’s prosecutor is murdered. Case five is of course trying to solve that prosecutor’s murder, and the prosecutor in this trial is a reactionary, someone who sees this ‘new age’ – in which Phoenix is a hero and everyone emulates his style – as being based on charisma and ability to win over a crowd more than on the facts. This prosecutor thinks Edgeworth’s too soft because of his friendship, that the only way for a prosecutor to do their duty is to be ruthless – but never deceitful, always aggressively in the service of the truth. Our new protagonist is the accused in the murder, since they stood to lose the case if the old prosecutor continued.

Who should show up, coming out of retirement to defend both New Protagonist and this New Age of the Law? Why, distinguished older Phoenix Wright, of course.

And who should turn out to have been the killer, having returned from decades in another country – where trying to change the religion-driven system seemed to work at first but just didn’t stick, causing them to become jaded and lose faith in the law? Apollo Justice.

apollo justice bandaged

Why? I dunno! These stories are far too complicated to just work out this quickly.

I think the themes that the games could explore on this path could be super interesting, though. In this new era, the at-first-hidden weaknesses of Phoenix’s approach would become more apparent as the scale grew wider and the new style was tested by countless difficult cases. Apollo would represent distrust in the system as a whole, while the new wave of prosecutors would be sympathetic because they would be genuinely looking for hard truth among what they saw as stylistic flourishes and distractions on the part of the defence. Era one was Phoenix learning the system and excelling in it; in era two, he changed it – and we got to see some other systems. Era three explores the world Phoenix thought he wanted and challenges the legacy he made for himself, with all the faults he couldn’t have known it would have. Through games eight and nine, different aspects of Phoenix’s approach to law would be deconstructed, and in the end all sides would come together to create a new, as-fair-as-possible system of law. That would be Phoenix’s ultimate legacy.

That’s all I got. Except that the Judge has to be the identical son of the old Judge. If that doesn’t sell it to you, I don’t know what will.

CONCLUSION (IAN AGAIN)

The future of Ace Attorney is an open one with many possibilities. What I’ve learned through this journey – whether it be reading the well-constructed arguments of my companions Jonez and Chris or bluffing my way through my own theories – is that Ace Attorney still has lots of potential to grow and change. There are many ideas that haven’t yet been explored, or which have not been explored enough. I would be excited and compelled by any of the theories shared in today’s post, and that fact by itself has me hopeful that the Ace Attorney series still has a long and bright future ahead of it.

Before I turn things over one last time to NekoJonez, who wrote us an excellent set of questions for you (the reader) to consider, I want to encourage you again to give both of my collaborators a follow. Jonez and Chris are excellent writers and they are a major part of the foundation of this blogging community – if you’re missing out on their work, that’s a loss you’ll want to patch up quickly! With that said, I’ll hand it off once more to NekoJonez.

Who do you think should return to the series and why? Which loose ends would you like to see answered? Which mechanics should return? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below. And with that, we have said everything we wanted to say in this article. Thank you so much for reading it and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed writing it. We hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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