The Ace Attorney Series Has a Terrible Name

Phoenix Wright facepalm

I adore the Ace Attorney series. I’ve played through the original trilogy multiple times, and count Trials and Tribulations as one of my all-time favorites. My ringtone is “The Fragrance of Dark Coffee.” I don’t think I could love Phoenix and his friends any more.

But Ace Attorney is a terrible name for the series.

For starters, Phoenix Wright isn’t an ace attorney. Yes, he has a near-perfect record, but that’s due to luck, police incompetence, and his legion of superpowered friends. The odds are always stacked against him, and that’s a big part of what makes the games appealing.

Secondly, the series has already had the most perfect name imaginable. In Japan, the series is called Gyakuten Saiban, which translates to “Turnabout Trial.” It’s super fun to say — seriously, just try it — but it’s also an elegant summation of how the series plays. You spend most of your trials on the losing side, and you have to find that one piece of evidence that will allow you to turn things around.

What makes this so maddening is that the Ace Attorney games are otherwise a textbook example of localization done right. They took games that were deeply Japanese and worked in western humor in a natural way. Most games would feel like they were trying too hard if they threw in a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reference, but Justice For All did it with aplomb.

ace attorney fresh prince

But that name is a travesty. It feels like the title of a goofy Phoenix Wright rip-off, not the name of a legitimate series. It doesn’t have anything going for it outside of alliteration, and the original title is superior in every way.

Five games and several spin-offs in, it’s probably too late to make any changes. Still, I can’t help but think of what might have been. I love the Ace Attorney series, but Turnabout Trial is the kind of name I would have worn on a t-shirt.

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