by Linda Fan, 10th Grade
Today, there is a huge diversity of video games, from Life is Strange, a time travel graphic adventure that explores the consequences of the “butterfly effect” to Undertale, an indie role-playing game that encourages pacifism. Yet video games were also amazing in the past. 15 years ago, Capcom, a Japanese studio, released a video game called: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, which eventually become a series. This game tells the tale of Phoenix Wright, an amateur defense attorney, who fights to defend his clients from being falsely convicted in murder trials. Following after his mentor, Mia Fey’s, footsteps, Wright learns to unveil the truth through “thinking outside the box”, pressuring the witness, contradictions, and sometimes blatant bluffing and stalling. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is my favorite video game because it’s an excellent critique of the Japanese courtroom, it’s humorous, and it has exciting and unpredictable plot lines.
To begin with, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is an exceptional satire of Japan’s judicial system. Japan, unlike the US, has a system of “guilty until proven innocent”. If one is accused of a crime and brought into Japan’s court, there is a 99% chance of conviction. The game shows this wonderfully subtly, from the design of the court system to the difference in treatment of the defense and the prosecution. It’s pretty obvious from the beginning that “justice” in the Ace Attorney courtrooms is unfair, weighed in the prosecutor’s favor. In the court system of Ace Attorney, the accused are “guilty until proven innocent”. As a result, a defense attorney must prove that his client is innocent beyond a doubt to save him. Ironically, the defense attorney must work like a prosecutor, pinning the murder on someone else. Furthermore, the defense must prove that beyond a doubt the other person is the murderer. Trials can last only three days maximum, a really short time limit for a defense attorney to find the person responsible. Worst of all, the judge, who sincerely wants “justice”, is biased and often sides with the prosecution in the beginning of the trials. For a defense attorney with these limitations such as Phoenix Wright, it is truly amazing to see him succeed.
Besides being an exceptional critique of the Japanese judicial system, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is also hilarious. To begin with, the characters’ names are all clever puns or wordplay. There are many examples: Phoenix Wright is “right”, Detective Dick Gumshoe’s name means “Detective Detective”, Lotta Hart has “lots of heart”, and Manfred Von Karma’s “karma” finally catches up to him for indirectly and directly causing the deaths of innocents. Furthermore, Phoenix Wright, the main protagonist of the game, is extremely sarcastic. For instance, he once sarcastically tells Maya to go down to the fire department to be sprayed with the hose to help her spirit medium training. After Maya actually takes his word, he thinks to himself, “Apparently, E.S.P. is no aid in detecting sarcasm”. Phoenix also makes a lot of puns in his internal monologue. For example, after the judge remarks how Phoenix made a “spirited defense”, Phoenix jokes to himself about how it is only “spirited” because he solved it with his mentor’s ghost. In addition, the game also supplies humorous anecdotes when the player is investigating or selecting “wrong” answers in court. To illustrate, if the player decides to examine a ladder in the game, Phoenix and his assistant Maya will argue over whether it’s a ladder or a stepladder. Furthermore, in the first trial, if the player identifies his mentor “Mia Fey” as the defendant, Mia is so ashamed of her student that she says she has to leave immediately. Above all these humorous moments, the best part of the game is the courtroom shenanigans, notably one of the most iconic moments of this game: cross-examine a parrot. This event leads to many amusing exchanges in the courtroom, such as the judge complaining that the “witness” is ignoring him to Phoenix scolding the parrot to testify properly instead of just saying “Hello”. Best of all, this ridiculous scene actually solves the case. For a video game about murder, Ace Attorney is remarkably light-hearted.
In addition to humor, Ace Attorney features murderers with incredible murder plots, circumstances and motivations. Phoenix Wright is logically an extremely difficult game. The “problems” and “solutions” complexity and difficulty also reflect the complex plot lines of the game, especially the murderer’s motivations, circumstances, and murder plot. As an illustration, “Turnabout Goodbyes”, the fourth case of the series, is one of the most complex and unpredictable. It features a complex web of revenge, accident, and just good old fashioned being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And at the end of this case, another develops with an even more complex web. Of course, Phoenix Wright unraveled the whole truth and the connections between the two cases. It’s amazing that he can!
Overall, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has earned its spot as my favorite video game because it is exceptionally satirical, hysterical, and incredible. This video showcases the more controversial views of the Japanese judicial system. It also has tons of humor, which balances its dark themes. Motivations, circumstances, and murder plots are unforeseeable and incredible. The Ace Attorney franchise truly puts the ace into this video game series. Video games, especially in this age, often get a poor reputation. People have painted a picture of video games as encouraging violence and wasting time. However, with some of the new modern games like Undertale, Life is Strange, and some old video games, like Ace Attorney that showcase story and characters rather than “senseless violence”, we can paint a brighter picture of this media. Perhaps in the future, great video games, like Ace Attorney, will be set on the high pedestal of art.