5. The Fire Witch – Trial 2, Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton
Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton has its share of strong cases, and while I could have certainly made an argument for the final case, which sees Phoenix actually square off against Layton in the courtroom, I have to give it to Case 2. The stakes are incredibly high, and Phoenix has to decipher an entirely new set of rules regarding “magic” to find the truth, but each revelation and step closer to the truth is met with a perfectly orchestrated song that matches tension and atmosphere of the courtroom.
I could have gone without the whole “amnesia” thread, but the case quickly moves past that and sees Phoenix and Layton working together to overcome what seem like insurmountable odds. The ending is truly epic, and reaches heights that I’m not sure the title, while strong, ever manages to reattain.
Best moment: Phoenix relies on a magic tome, his own wits, and a little help from Professor Layton to identify the true witch. Also, anytime the song “Casting Magic” plays.
4. The Cosmic Turnabout and Turnabout for Tomorrow – Trials 4 and 5, Dual Destinies (AA5)
While this probably seems like cheating, Case 4 in Dual Destinies is actually more like a Part 1 to the final case. This case manages to tie in to every one of the main protagonists, and delves in to their histories, while still delivering plenty of dramatic tension.
This is the case that It’s also the only case in the game that involves Phoenix in the investigation and courtroom scenes, and they didn’t disappoint, even including a mock trial in a blown up courtroom where Miles Edgeworth returns again to assist his friend.
The entire game builds to Case 5, and the end result doesn’t disappoint. Typically in Phoenix Wright games, despite their great writing, the end is always fairly predictable, and you can usually finger the true culprit fairly early on in the case. That is not the case with Case 5, and while I’ll avoid spoilers, the true killer will shock you, and cast the entire story up to that point in a different light.
Case 5 combines everything that’s great about the series, wraps up the overarching thread of the dark age of law, and brings what might be the strongest overall Ace Attorney game to a dramatic, fitting end.
Best moment: The villain’s mask comes off, and the entire game gets flipped on its head.
3. Bridge to the Turnabout – Trial 5, Trials and Tribulations (AA3)
Trials and Tribulations finally gave me what I’ve always wanted — a recurring villain to serve as the central antagonist and cross wits with Phoenix Wright. Behind her saccharine facade, Dahlia Hawthorne is nothing less than pure evil, whose malice persists even after death.
That’s right–in order to have vengeance on Ms. Mia Fey, who put Dahlia away and gave her the death penalty, the hateful spirit of Dahlia seeks to murder Mia’s younger sister Maya. What follows is a dramatic case that leads to a notable series’ first–playing as Phoenix’s best friend/rival, Miles Edgeworth. Playing Miles as a defender was a long time coming for the series, and it managed to exceed my lofty expectations.
Between controlling Miles Edgeworth, heartbreaking character moments, and having one final showdown with the series’ most pronounced villain, Case 5 of Trials and Tribulations closes the first Phoenix Wright trilogy with a deserving bang.
Best moment: The player finally gets to defend as Miles Edgeworth.
What I love about this case is how quickly it raises the stakes of this world. ONE case removed from cutting his teeth in the courtroom, Phoenix’s mentor Mia Fey is murdered, and Phoenix has to defend her sister, Maya, from being wrongfully accused.
It’s around this point that the odds start being stacked against our rookie attorney. First, he has to go up against the “Demon Attorney” Miles Edgeworth, who has NEVER lost a case before. Then, as Phoenix continues to explore this rabbit hole, he uncovers multiple levels of corruption and conspiracy that had infiltrated the court system itself. Eventually, Phoenix is implicated as the killer, and has to defend himself in court!
Case 2 takes the epic level and turns it up to 11 right out of the gates, but it’s also iconic because of how it introduces multiple series’ mainstays, including Maya Fey, Gumshoe, and Miles Edgeworth. This case also might be the one that truly hooked me on this series, and that’s why it’s my second favorite.
Best moment: Good luck defending yourself from murder against an unbeatable prosecutor backed by a corrupt and powerful CEO.
1. Turnabout Trump – Trial 1, Apollo Justice (AA4)
The best characters in any story grow and develop over the course of their tale, and nothing exemplifies this more perfectly than the first case of Ace Attorney 4: Apollo Justice. Despite the addition of the titular attorney Apollo, this case is all about Phoenix Wright — namely, what a god damn badass he is.
While the case starts with Apollo defending Phoenix from murder, and about a dozen twists later, we discover the puppet master pulling the strings behind the scenes is none other than Phoenix Wright himself. Ten steps ahead of everyone else in the courtroom, Phoenix basically uses Apollo as a surrogate defender to apprehend the real killer, despite being seated on the witness’ bench the entire time.
With emotional weight, exciting moments, strong character development, sharp writing, and the bravery to demonstrate more than a few shades of gray in its portrayal of morality, Apollo’s first case ends up being a showcase for how far Phoenix has come as a lawyer and as a person (he’s still charmingly silly the whole time, and only serious when he needs to be). It’s also easily the number one best case in the series.
Best moment: Phoenix reveals his true intentions, and how the entire court is just part of his master plan. Hobo objection!