Hell, where do I even start with this? Let me try from the beginning. Okay, so: Ace Attorney. You know, I only got into this series in mid-2012, and in two short years after that, I was hooked onto the paralegal adventures of Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice like Rick James on coke. Sure, there were cases that could die in a fire, but there were also brilliant stories of tragedy tinted with pop culture references, absolutely genius localisation, and memorable music. And how memorable indeed – music created for each circumstance, musical cues for a shock reveal, and expertly crafted themes to accompany each and every character. With this edition of Hey, Listen!, I’m going to be cutting back on, as Malcolm Tucker would describe, the “violent sexual imagery” in my writing, and talk about the pieces from both a musical point of view, as well as an interpretation of the music itself.
Pursuit ~ Cornered (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney)
The Ace Attorney series prides itself on being able to showcase the true gravity of a situation through music alone, and there is no other theme that can portray this any better than when you’ve got the guilty party on the ropes. In the very first case of the maiden title in the series, we see rookie defence attorney Phoenix Wright prosecute a man whom we are aware is guilty of murder. But as lies beget more lies, you slowly deconstruct the witness’ argument and push them on the brink of confession, and with one piece of decisive evidence, the courtroom is brought to a sudden halt as you triumphantly raise your finger to the defendant and boldly exclaim “Objection!” Then, just as you’ve built enough momentum against your target, a fast-paced beat kicks in with striking notes; a dominant melody takes its place and asserts itself as the accompaniment to your devastating argument, and the iconic theme is now in full swing. The dialogue sees your opponent attempt to counter your claims, but you’re defiant until the end. The theme is as relentless as Wright is within the courtroom, and not before long, the witness physically breaks down, accepts their sentence and concedes defeat.
Dahlia Hawthorne ~ Distant Traces of Beauty (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations)
It’s quite rare to come across a villain that we truly hate nowadays; not because we just think that they are terrible characters, but because their deeds are so diabolical that we feel nothing for them but seething rage. Dahlia Hawthorne of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations is a perfect example of this: she is a seemingly innocent, ravishing and darling young lady, complete with butterflies to accompany her. In truth, she’s a scheming mantis who will get her own way no matter what – even if it means committing multiple murders. Her theme is tranquil and doesn’t really lean towards a major or a minor key; it’s a neutral melody that represents a personality that cannot be read at a first glance – it is deceptive, and portrays how she is able to lure many lost men into her tangled web of love, lies and death. Her lust for greed sees her murder three innocent victims and the attempted murder of two, but she soon meets her ultimate demise as she is finally convicted by Mia Fey, and her shroud of innocence is soon burnt to nothing, along with her butterflies.
This is possibly one of the more eerie pieces within the Ace Attorney library, primarily because Phoenix Wright must make use of the power of a spirit medium to delve deep into the darker recesses within the minds of both his clients and possible suspects in order to, quite literally, unlock the truth. The piece follows a standard minor to major progression with a melody that mimics in both A minor and G major, but the underlying notes that form the backbone of the theme maintain a neutral stance. Over the course of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All, and in all main games beyond that, Psyche Locks play an enormous part in acquiring key information to solving a case, and the repeated melody keeps the player going until the final lock is broken. Veterans of the series will forever remember this theme when questioning Matt Engarde, in what would soon be revealed as a colossal turn of events, drastically changing the course of the trial, and putting Phoenix in a position he never thought he’d find himself in.
Godot ~ The Fragrance of Dark Coffee (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations)
“Blacker than a moonless night, hotter and more bitter than hell itself… that is coffee.” Never was there a man more fixated on revenge and coffee as the white-haired enigma that is Godot. Shrouded in mystery thanks to the large metallic visor covering his eyes, Godot appears as a rookie prosecutor, but exudes the personality of a hardened veteran with his sharp wit and cryptic poetry. As he introduces himself in the court of law for the first time, a saxophone rises from the pin drop silence, and a slow shuffle follows suit; a cup of steaming black coffee slides into the prosecutor’s hand as he grins and takes a sip – the glorious jazz number changes keys, but ever so subtly; the sultry saxophone compliments the smooth attitude of the beatnik lawyer, until it ends and allows the solo piano to echo the melody, before repeating. However, for such a suave jazz piece, and despite the 17 cups of coffee he chugs during a standard trial, Godot is far from being at ease, for he harbours a mysterious grudge against Phoenix Wright. Throughout the game, his actions and words resonate that of one Gray Fox from the Metal Gear series: an old acquaintance returning to do battle; learning to atone for his own mistakes, and finally accepting his destiny as a true prisoner of fate – but it’s a sacrifice made for justice, and for the future.