Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & Tribulations

The Ace Attorney series has grown to become one of the most popular franchises for the Nintendo GameBoy Advance and DS systems. This series is set apart from others because it is quite famously not a conventional game. Rather, it is an interactive novel, one of a growing army of media-defying products for the Nintendo DS and other systems. In this latest installation, a lot of the mysteries surrounding Phoenix Wright and his friends are brought to a close, as he finally uncovers truths from the past.

The Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright is a fairly standard Japanese character. Though in the US localization of this game, he is an American, Phoenix is still a relative rookie. He is unsure of himself, awkward around women, but holds the innate talents and instincts necessary to achieve victory every time.

When we see Phoenix in this, third installation of his series, we see him both as a college student, flakey and dopey as ever, and as a man in his mid-20’s, living down that reputation and building a new one as an excellent defense attorney. This transition hallmarks that the entire series has been a coming of age tale for Wright, as he has dealt with friends he made as a kid (Miles Edgeworth and Larry Butz) and people he has met as an adult (Maya Fey and Godot). The way Wright relates to these characters is one of the best ways to determine his growth as a character. His internal dialogues are often rooted in logic and in the case at hand and very rarely have anything to do with internal character determinants. In this way, the Ace Attorney series is a much more apt translation of procedural crime drama than standard drama.

The Interactive Visual Novel

We’ve previously written about other interactive novels, Cing’s Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Dusk was a period piece, steeped in noir and darkness. Ace Attorney has its dark sides. It frequently deals with murder. The tone, however, is much lighter and more accessible. This is conveyed through more two-dimensional caricature players and foils who populate Phoenix’s world. In this particular game, characters are frequently dense and stereotyped. This peppers the game with humor, and doesn’t really distract from the narrative. In Hotel Dusk, the darkness set a distinct tone, and came out in characters ranging from a lonely old woman to a lost, frightened child.

This series adds to the growing wave of similar titles on mainstream video game consoles. Sympathetic games have existed since the very first text-based adventures on PC (Apple, Commodore, and MS-DOS), but not until now has a major following supported the genre. This demonstrates the power and broad appeal of the visual interactive novel. These are more than novelty games, they are now a real, marketable genre which will continue to grow and develop alongside older forms of video games, and media in general.

Phoenix Wright: Gay Hero

The Internet has been replete with fan art and fiction alluding to a homosexual affair between title character Phoenix Wright and his boyhood friend and arch nemesis Miles Edgeworth ever since the first game came out, no pun intended. Other references and material in all three games also point to the possibility that Wright is gay. In Hotel Dusk, a lot of the noir and similar situations pointed to Kyle Hyde’s sexuality being something other than heterosexual. We famously pointed that out, and famously got a lot of response to it.

There is no noir in Ace Attorney. That being said, we could list off endless little clues to suggest this. Most notably, Wright’s internal narration stating he wanted to “hug” information out of Miles Edgeworth. That type of dialogue is highly suspect, especially for a soliloquy. However, the vast majority of the other pieces of evidence are coincidental. As with Hotel Dusk, the most likely answer is that it is a combination of mistranslation between Japanese and Western socializations, and the situation therein. Ace Attorney is no romance novel. A budding romantic interlude between Phoenix and a girl would just stall the action. In fact, in the first vignette from this title, Wright is depicted as a college student, neck deep in puppy love for a girl.

Even with all of that being true, it remains that the game and its writers seem to have left the possibility for Phoenix to be a homosexual wide open. It is entirely possible, and perhaps that is more social progress than if they had made it outwardly true. In this case, his sexuality has become incidental to the story, letting it hit the player however it may. Wright shares a closeness with Edgeworth which is important to him whether it is platonic or not, and a similar closeness with Maya Fey, as well. It doesn’t matter whether he is or he isn’t. But since it cannot be safely assumed either way, it leaves this narrative open to varying interpretation.

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