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Why Apollo Justice Might Be the Best Ace Lawyer Game

Apollo Justice and Pal

Can you imagine celebrating your 20th birthday and someone comes up to you and tells you that your nervous little friend / mentee is way more interesting than you? Well, it’s Ace Attorney’s 20th birthday, and it isn’t Exactly What I do (and I’ll explain why in a moment) I have to say: As the person who has played all of the Ace Attorney games (except the fan translation of Investigations 2), I firmly believe that Apollo Justice is one of the best, though most people generally rank it below almost all other games.

First, let me assure you, I love Phoenix Wright. In fact, one of the main reasons I adore Apollo Justice is there by Phoenix Wright.

This image was commissioned as part of Ace Attorney's 10th birthday
This image was commissioned as part of Ace Attorney’s 10th birthday

At this point we’ve gone through three games with Nick, either as a chaotic junior lawyer who keeps forgetting the names of his clients, or as a relatively self-confident Edgeworth disruptor who accidentally stumbles in and then solves various colds that go back well before the start of his career. At the beginning of Apollo Justice there is no Nick to be seen – instead we get a time jump of seven years and meet this disheveled weirdo who likes back alley gambling and bad piano playing.

And that garbage man turns out to be the same spiky-haired lawyer we all know and love. What a fantastic twist to start the story: turning everything you know about the games upside down. It’s a clever way of signaling that Apollo Justice – and the games from that point onwards – aren’t going to be afraid to play with convention and undermine what people expect.

I miss Papa Wright
I miss Papa Wright

And of course, this sturdy version of Phoenix Wright in the style of Ace Attorney has not only fallen out of favor and disfellowshipped, but is on trial for murder as well. Okay, this isn’t really a Subversion – this is Ace Attorney Storywriting 101.

But I have to make a little confession here: I like the unkempt phoenix. He is cute. In fact, around the time of Apollo Justice, the Ace Attorney series really began to make its characters extremely bad boy attractive to the existence of piano Gavin.

You might think this isn’t really relevant to why Apollo Justice is one of my favorites, but it absolutely is – Ace Attorney has always been incredibly popular with its female audience, and every now and then a game will actually realize this, and the Artists tend to draw through the lens of the female gaze. We have enough beefy guys who don’t know how to talk about their feelings; I want more well dressed guys who read books.

How can a stamp make you cry?  Play Apollo Justice and find out
How can a stamp make you cry? Play Apollo Justice and find out

I promise I won’t just love the game for the guys. Apollo Justice introduces a new magatama-style mechanic in the form of Apollo’s magical bracelet that tightens when someone is lying – which you have to prove by pointing out their nervous tic as if that would pass in court. It’s silly, yes, but Ace Attorney has never really shied away from the ridiculous: remember the witness who was a parrot? Or all the times you’ve gotten to call literal ghosts on the stand? How about the fact that your murdered mentor keeps dwelling on the body of her living sister to keep an eye on you? Exactly.

In addition to the magical bracelet, Apollo Justice also introduces a full live recorded concert that you must browse through to answer the questions surrounding a crime, a family of magicians surrounded by mysteries and tragedies, and a case where it that’s what it’s about Time travel. The fans are, of course, divided by these gimmicks – and the lack of Phoenix as the protagonist – but I loved them all, and the time travel case in particular remains one of my favorites to this day because it messes up a seven-year narrative into a string of shocking ones Twists.

I was madly in love with Lamiroir too.  Maybe that helped
I was crazy also in love with Lamiroir. Maybe that helped

I think the best (and sometimes confusing) cases are the ones that imply the cast itself – I don’t necessarily mean, “Oh no, Maya was accused of murder again,” but the ones that outline the characters’ backstories. When you find out about Edgeworth’s father (and the trauma that ensued), Mia and Maya’s mother, Dahlia’s betrayal of almost everyone, and the childhood shared by Larry Butz, Phoenix Wright, and Mile Edgeworth, it will flesh out the people you will meet again and again what makes them more than just your rivals and assistants.

Apollo Justice goes one step further, with every single case closely linked to the weird and enigmatic Phoenix Gramarye family and their release, Phoenix’s mysterious child Trucy, and Apollo Justice himself. Though previous Ace Attorney games have occasionally tried backstory, we’ve never really got to know Phoenix that deep, other than being friends with people as a kid and getting really dirty when he’s not a lawyer. Apollo Justice, on the other hand, has a secret family, a more secret family, and a series of question marks about its existence to the right from the beginning.

Sure, Mia's death was sad, but we barely knew her.  But Papa Phoenix?  I CRY.
Sure, Mia’s death was sad, but we barely knew her. But Papa Phoenix? I CRY.

I may not be able to convince everyone that Apollo Justice is Ace Attorney’s best game – and that’s fine. The best thing about the Ace Attorney series is that none of the games are missteps and every one is one someoneS. Honey – but Apollo is getting a lot of flak, and I don’t necessarily think he deserves it. His debut game was a preliminary step in a new direction for Ace Attorney that defined many of the newer games. particularly Spirit of Justice and Phoenix and his friends couldn’t be where they are today without Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.


Make sure to check out our user-generated ranking of Ace Attorney games, especially if you agree with me – poor Apollo is lagging behind.

But tell me: why do you love / hate Apollo Justice? Did I manage to convince you with my opinion about the game? Let me know in the comments!

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