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Phoenix Wright is one of the protagonists of the Ace Attorney series. Ace Attorney is a visual novel game where you play as a defense attorney, such as Phoenix Wright himself. You must defend your clients with evidence in court and clear them of any charges, usually murder. As a defense attorney, you believe in your clients to the bitter end, and you will do anything it takes to earn that “Not Guilty” verdict. To find the evidence you need, you talk to the witnesses and examine various objects during the investigation segments of the game, which take place out of the courtroom. In the courtroom, you also need to cross examine witness’s testimonies and shout “Objection!” at any flaws or lies you find in their testimonies. There is also an assistant that helps you throughout the games, as well as prosecutors that try to outwit you in any way they can. The premise of the Ace Attorney series as a whole is very unique across videogames in general.
Phoenix’s first game, Phoenix Wright Ace: Attorney, debuted in Japan only as a GameBoy Advance title in 2001. Two sequels, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, also released in Japan for the GameBoy Advance in 2002 and 2004 respectively. These games were later ported onto the Nintendo DS in 2006 and 2007, which were localized worldwide. However, the fourth game in the series, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, nixed Phoenix Wright as the playable defense attorney character. Instead, you play as the titular Apollo Justice instead. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, released on the DS in 2008, takes place seven years after the events of Trials and Tribulations, and Phoenix was disbarred shortly after the events of Trials and Tribulations. However, he regained his badge after the events of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, as he was one of the playable defense attorneys in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies for the 3DS, which released in 2013. The events of Dual Destinies take place one year after the events of Apollo Justice.
While there are other playable defense attorneys in the series, like Apollo Justice as mentioned above, why is Phoenix Wright the one that’s being highlighted in this article? It’s because Phoenix Wright is, more or less, the posterboy for the series. He is featured in every main Ace Attorney game along with most of its spin-offs, he is the most recognizable character in the series, and he was the defense attorney who squared off against Professor Layton in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, a spin-off crossover game that focuses on the Professor Layton and Ace Attorney series. In comparison, Apollo Justice is only featured in two games in the series, he is playable in less cases in Dual Destinies than Phoenix Wright is, and he simply isn’t as well-known compared to Phoenix. While there are other possible playable characters that could represent the Ace Attorney series, Phoenix is the most logical choice.
Reasons for Inclusion:
As you can see in the character background segment, all of Phoenix’s games were on Nintendo consoles. The first three games were also ported to WiiWare, then eventually remastered on the 3DS in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy. The only times when the Ace Attorney series released on non-Nintendo platforms were on mobile platforms. On iOS, the first game was released by itself, then got succeeded by Ace Attorney Trilogy HD along with the rerelease of Dual Destinies. Ace Attorney Trilogy was also released on Android platforms in Japan only. With all of the Ace Attorney games being available on Nintendo platforms, this shows that the Ace Attorney series is mostly loyal towards them. People who play Super Smash Bros. but have never played an Ace Attorney game before would have easy access to the series, plus some existing Nintendo fans may be fans of Phoenix Wright already and would love to see him join Smash. Plus, visual novels are a genre that is not represented in Smash, and Phoenix could be a good choice for representing it.
Smash would also not mark the first time Phoenix Wright would enter a fighting game. That honor goes to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which I will be referring to as UMvC3 from here on out. In UMvC3, characters from both Capcom and Marvel duke it out, with three characters being used on one player’s team. Phoenix is among the most unique playable characters in the game. He primarily fights by throwing around papers, sneezing, and even shouting out “Objection!”. Phoenix is also unique in that he has three “modes”; Investigation mode, Trial mode, and Turnabout mode, in that order. When you find certain evidence during a fight, you can progress to the next mode under various circumstances. Phoenix Wright’s moveset in Smash does not need to be a carbon copy of his UMvC3 moveset, but UMvC3 proves that he can work in a fighting game environment, and it shows that he has the potential for a fun and unique moveset. It’s also worth noting that Phoenix Wright was considered for the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 due to his popularity, but he wasn’t added in until the Ultimate version released.
Another thing that goes in his favor is his relevance. The Ace Attorney series has had semi-regular releases since its debut in 2001. Phoenix Wright was recently the star of Dual Destinies, and a major character in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Ace Attorney 6 for the 3DS is also on the horizon, which will feature Phoenix Wright as a playable character. Plus, he has an upcoming anime based on the first two games in the series. In Japan, he even had theme park attractions, a live action movie, and an upcoming pachinko machine! All of this shows that the Ace Attorney series has a presence, especially in Japan, and Phoenix Wright will definitely be on our minds for the foreseeable future.
Reasons for Exclusion:
With everything I said above, you would think that the Ace Attorney franchise is a success all around. However, sales are still highly important for any game or game series’ life span. The first Ace Attorney game on the DS was one of the highest selling games in the series worldwide, with almost 1 million sales. Regardless, the sales for the series started to decline outside of Japan, and the total worldwide sales for all of the games across the series is only around 3.9 million. Later games in the series, like Dual Destinies and Ace Attorney Trilogy, were released as digital only outside of Japan. Some games in the series never left Japan too, like Gyakuten Kenji 2 and Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken.
This makes the Ace Attorney franchise something of a cult-following, as it lacks the worldwide popularity and sales of some other well-known Capcom franchises, like Resident Evil and Monster Hunter. This could be used against Ace Attorney, due to the fact that there are more popular franchises from Capcom that could be featured in Smash. Plus, Mega Man and Street Fighter are both already featured in Smash for 3DS/ Wii U, and they are arguably Capcom’s two most important IPs. Capcom may not want to have a third series from them be represented in Smash, or Sakurai may feel like Mega Man and Ryu are the only characters from Capcom that he wants to feature in Smash.
As I mentioned earlier, Phoenix Wright himself has something of a cult-following among international audiences. As a result, he has his fans but is ultimately not a well-known character. People may not care about Phoenix Wright’s possible inclusion and would rather see a different third party character instead of him, or just a different character in general. He’s not even in the top 50 on Source Gaming’s very own “Perception of Smash DLC in Japan, Redux” article. This is notable because his series is more popular in Japan compared to other countries. If Phoenix joins the next Smash game, then fan demand may not be a major driving influence for his inclusion, due to a lack of noticeable support for him. There are some other factors that could go against him, like the fact that his games revolve around murder cases and him being “another anime character”, but those arguments are moot in the long run and have a minimal amount of impact on his potential inclusion for Smash. Bayonetta is from an even more mature game with darker themes than the Ace Attorney series, and she managed to join the battle in Smash for 3DS/ Wii U, so anything is possible.
What is Smash Bros. without music? Here are a few tracks you can look forward to if Phoenix Wright makes it in.
Thanks for reading my guest article! I’m Handy Man, a high level Smash 4 Charizard player from Chicago who has recently moved out to SoCal. My dream is to be in the video game industry in some capacity, and I am currently studying in various classes to make that dream a reality. I am also a big video game collector, and I love everything about Nintendo. If you like what you see here, follow @Handy_Man_Can on Twitter!
Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)