‘Ace Attorney’ Developers Say Phoenix Wright Was Always Meant to Step Down
A new super lawyer’s in town.
Sixteen years ago, Ace Attorney fans experienced a shock when the fourth game didn’t star the iconic Phoenix Wright, but an ambitious new lawyer named Apollo Justice. In a brilliant twist, the first case of the game had the player defending Phoenix himself, and in many ways, Apollo Justice felt like a “passing of the torch” moment between the two protagonists.
“I think that Apollo Justice's introduction allowed a new narrative to be told within the Ace Attorney series,” Kenichi Hashimoto, producer of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy, tells Inverse, “While Phoenix assumes the role of Apollo's mentor, he himself transforms into a more competent ‘super’ lawyer who takes on challenging court cases and emerges victorious.”
Capcom’s upcoming Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy combines three different games in one set: Apollo Justice, Dual Destinies, and Spirit of Justice. All three games heavily revolve around Apollo himself, even after Phoenix comes back into the picture. In that way, this trilogy feels like it encapsulates a different era of Ace Attorney, one that some fans may not have had the chance to experience when it originally released.
Ahead of the trilogy’s release in January 2024, Inverse had the chance to talk to Hashimoto and series translator Janet Tsu about managing fans’ expectations, what’s unique to the new collection, and the strange charms of Apollo Justice.
Could you explain why you consider these three games the “Apollo Justice Trilogy,” even though Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice bring Phoenix back? Is there a significance to calling this a trilogy?
Janet Hsu: The fourth game was always meant to be the beginning of a new protagonist's story. While the main character of the previous trilogy is in these games, we felt that these three titles together tell the story of Apollo Justice — he's the one who goes through the most growth and change, after all. Sure, Phoenix is back, but he is the mentor character whose character arc is pretty much finished by the end of Trials and Tribulations.
Therefore, it made sense for us to name this trilogy after the character that is truly at the center of these three games' overarching story, even if his character growth is narratively structured in an unconventional way. Perhaps it's the way the title is structured in English, but in Japan, there is less of a disconnect since the games are simply numbered 4, 5, and 6. If we in the West didn't have either Phoenix Wright or Apollo Justice in the game titles, the idea of this being Apollo's trilogy wouldn't seem so odd.
Fans were initially hesitant to see a new protagonist instead of Phoenix. Do you think the change to Apollo was important for the series?
Hashimoto: Apollo's story of growth as a lawyer in the Dark Age of the Law becomes a main focal point in this trilogy, and his personal growth impacts the growth of characters around him like Phoenix, Athena, and Trucy. This, in turn, adds another layer of charm and appeal to each of the games in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy.
What were some challenges you faced in developing this new version of Ace Attorney?
Kenichi Hashimoto: We wanted to create a collection that would satisfy both longtime fans and first-time Ace Attorney players. In order to provide both with a comfortable gameplay experience, we made adjustments to graphic fidelity and in-game systems, as well as incorporated the means to freely select specific episodes to play from the game selection screen. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy also includes an array of additional features such as the Orchestra Hall, Animation Studio, and Art Library.
Spirit of Justice is a bit different from the rest of the Ace Attorney games, with its new setting embracing more of a mystical or supernatural feel. All these years later how do you think it fits
Hashimoto: The Ace Attorney series has incorporated "spirit mediums" and supernatural elements since its first mainline entry. In Spirit of Justice, the series expands upon these topics with deeper narrative contents, so the game's setting doesn't feel especially out place or strange.
Any fun anecdotes you can share about the experience and craft behind working on these games?
Hashimoto: One fun fact is that we didn't use any of the original sound-related data from Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, including all of the background music tracks. All of the sound effects in the game were completely remade while referencing past data, and we're using unreleased audio data for the background music.
What do you think the future of the Ace Attorney series looks like? Would you like to see Apollo Justice be a part of that?
Hashimoto: Apollo Justice is a charming and intriguing character, so I would like to see him flourish in the future of the series. Whether or not that will become a reality is still undetermined.