Masakazu Sugimori, Akemi Kimura, Noriyuki Iwadare, and Johan Sebastian Bach – with their powers combined, we have a varied three-part box set. The Gyakuten Saiban Sound Box, or Ace Attorney Sound Box, contains the WiiWare editions of the original trilogy. Whether these sound any different, I cannot discern, but they’re close enough to the DS versions that this convenient collection still exudes the series’ playful, pensive, and dramatic atmosphere. Though, one has to wonder: is the Ace Attorney series fit for box set release, or is this just objectionable content?
Fans of the series know what they’re getting. With so many different themes that denote memories of Herr Lawyer’s escapades in the courtroom, this soundtrack may be more about nostalgia than it is music. However, with undeniably intense, desk-slamming entries like “Pressing Pursuit ~ Cornered / Variation,” one cannot disregard all entries as gaming-only affairs. Though, the inclusion of filler tracks like “Jingle ~ It Can’t End Here” simply don’t belong on an iPod or CD for casual listening. Those especially attached to the series’ unique vibe may embrace these soundbites, but they’re certainly not for the typical audience, RPG fans or otherwise.
In fact, tracks like “Investigation ~ Opening 2001” are pure atmosphere, and not really toe-tapping tunes. In addition, not everyone enjoyed going through the motions of questioning characters; these tracks just beg to be skipped. At other times, backdrop tracks like “Victory! ~ The First Victory” are welcomed entries, since they not only contain a fuller sound, but remind us of triumph and welcome resolution to a sometimes grueling battle in the courtroom. Repetitive in nature, these tracks, while enjoyable, demand passive listening. I simply cannot imagine lying in my bed, hands behind head, staring at the ceiling while listening to one- to two-minute tracks like “Turnabout Revival – Prologue,” which is almost entirely a collection of sounds at a murder scene. I suppose if I were feeling especially wistful over the decline of the series, I might partake in such lounging, but that impulse has yet to grab me.
While mascot theme songs like “Taiho-kun ~ I Want To Protect You” inundate this sound box, not every track sounds like an ice cream truck driving past your house. For every thirty seconds of Ringtone, we have a Byronic cowboy theme like “Kyosuke Zaimon ~ Detective From The Wilderness” or smooth jazz number like “Godot ~ The Fragrance of Black Coffee,” reminding us that life can be like the dark abyss that is a hot cup of cafe noir.
The problem with a comprehensive collection of music like this is that the Phoenix Wright series, while definitely enhanced by the excellent music, isn’t for casual listening. First, we notice that the only tracks that surpass the three-minute mark are the ending themes for each game, with most falling somewhere between one and two minutes. While length doesn’t necessarily define quality, it certainly hints to style. These bite-size tracks remind us that the music is not only short and repetitive, but isn’t meant for independent listening as well. Before one can even get into the music, it’s over. Each Objection track might yield a speeding ticket or table-shakingly frantic typing, but they are best heard sparingly.
Second, the colorful cast of the Phoenix Wright series means that some character themes are just silly, and almost embarrassing to be caught listening to. I might have to move if I were ever caught listening to “Beauty Hermitage,” and not because of the track name. Did I absolutely love this character and laugh even harder because of the music? Absolutely, but here is why the sound box is not necessarily a worthwhile purchase.
Am I overjoyed to hear “Chinami Miyanagi ~ Distant Traces of Beauty?” Of course. In fact, I wouldn’t mind throwing this on a video game music playlist, but even this track only makes it to just over a minute before repeating. The Phoenix Wright series rests on laurels of innovation, strong characters, and exceptional pairing of music to story. Many have appropriately compared Ace Attorney to Professor Layton, and although the two spar to a draw in most regards, few can contest that the latter has superior music. While this box set contains phenomenal tunes, this is one instance in which the game makes the music.