ranking every "ace attorney" pursuit theme

posted 4/29/2023, 7:12pm

i am being so very, very normal about ace attorney for the foreseeable future.

i also have written ~2k about the ace attorney pursuit themes.

against your viewing pleasure, here are my rankings of the pursuit themes in ace attorney games, best to worst. (if you want to listen along.)

1. ~ lying coldly (ace attorney: investigations) (aai)

i am biased. i readily admit this. however, i maintain that this is the most unique pursuit theme in ace attorney, bar none. pursuit ~ lying coldly is not a theme of turnabouts at the final hour, finally turning the tables in a situation that seems hopeless - this theme is checkmate. this theme is watching your opponent take the final step of this waltz you’ve constructed and watching them fall into the trap you’ve laid. this theme conveys a smug sense of got you better than most scores in films. and it suits the game - you’re prosecuting, this time! you know you’re cornering someone who deserves it! so it is, indeed, checkmate. additionally, heavy piano and violin melodies and motifs alongside well-placed violin stings ensure this pursuit theme sounds absolutely nothing like anything else in the series.

god i love this theme.

2. ~ cornered (phoenix wright: ace attorney) (aa1)

i cannot lie, i do feel as if this one and ~lying coldly could swap places; i rank this one slightly below lying coldly for the sole reason of the AAI pursuit themes are so unique. that being said, this is absolutely the best pursuit theme of the phoenix wright games and i will accept no criticism. you cannot tell me that those three synth notes followed by one of the most iconic ace attorney melodies in any game since isn’t THE epitome of a pursuit theme, turning the entire case on its head at the last possible second. you hear ba ba BA and you know you’re about to bring it home. maybe the most iconic variation of a pursuit theme possible. if you insist to me you don’t absolutely come alive when the variation hits as you present the damning evidence in turnabout goodbyes, you are a liar in cold blood. nothing more to say, no notes, this is the theme every theme afterwards had to live up to.

3. ~ wanting to find the truth (ace attorney investigations 2: prosecutor’s path) (aai2)

unsurprisingly, the other aai pursuit is up here - it’s just as unique as the first one. i do find it a bit less exciting and pulse-pounding than lying coldly, but it swaps the smug “checkmate.” aura for two things - the aura of finally figuring out the exact way the puzzle pieces fit together, and turning something that you knew you could win, you just needed one more thing into a sure victory. if lying coldly is checkmate, ~ cornered is a fourth ace on the flip, then ~ wanting to find the truth is drawing the exact card you need on the last turn you have. it’s seeing the line of knight to E4 and the check and path that a single capture spins.

additionally, one thing i’ve noticed? ~ wanting to find the truth borrows tempo and melody from ~ caught, which is… just thematically perfect. it maintains the unique flavor and sound of the miles edgeworth themes with violin stings, strings, and piano motifs - but it sounds much more like the defense attorney pursuit themes, and specifically sounding similar speed and build wise to ~ caught is just… ugh. thematically perfect. after all, T&T is the first game where you play as edgeworth, and it also serves as the first time he has to act as a defense attorney - how appropriate, then, that this theme plays during a crisis of faith in a chosen path, and all of the acting defense attorney and defense attorney assistant things you do in this game. this is also the game that contains “the sight of that man still shines brilliantly within my eyes…”, so i am loathe to suggest it’s a mere coincidence.

also, this pursuit theme has a fucking guitar solo in the middle of it. the prosecution rests his case, your honor.

4. ~ overtaken (apollo justice: ace attorney) (aa4)

i’d honestly imagine many people would argue in favor of this taking the spot of ~ cornered or ~ lying coldly. i don’t think it’s as unique as the aai themes, and ~ cornered is just so well-composed and iconic that i cannot in good consciousness place it any higher than fourth - but it well and truly deserves this spot. ~ overtaken is a high energy, heavy on synth-bass rhythms theme that perfectly encapsulates apollo justice’s irritable, determined and hot-blooded nature. if we consider the pursuit themes to be a turnaround of the situation, ~ overtaken is one of the smuggest - gotcha this time!

this is one of the highest energy pursuit themes since ~ cornered, to boot - which makes sense, with apollo justice being wright’s protege as well as the higher stakes and darker age of the law. plus, in a game that really heavily features the music motifs (guilty love in the courtroom, anyone?) it figures that a pursuit theme shared by both gavin and justice should blend their personal motifs into one very smug, very decisive turnabout.

special points for having an absolutely killer variation. hearing ~ overtaken kick in when klavier announces the jurist system is the most wonderful emotion on the planet. no notes. 10/10.

5. ~ caught (ace attorney: trials and tribulations) (aa3)

ugh, i wish i could rank this higher than where it is, but it has very steep competition. ~ caught is an incredibly memorable melody for the pursuit themes, trading the high tempo and heavy riffs of ~ cornered for a more subdued bounce between low and high melodies, retaining the iconic backing motif of ~ cornered. the similarities to ~ wanting to find the truth come out the most in the tempo - fast paced, higher pitched sections followed by slower paced, lower pitched sections and synth stings perfectly encapsulate the tone of this game. this is phoenix bringing down the house. this is the end of so many plotlines. this is…. finding the true culprit in bridge to the turnabout. this is the ending of a game, when you both reveal your cards after the final hit.

if you didn’t feel the raging surge of well-fought victory when the variation kicked in after presenting the final piece of evidence to the true culprit in bridge to the turnabout, you are a liar.

6. ~ cornered (english court) (professor layton vs phoenix wright: ace attorney)

this one is sort of cheating, but i am a sucker for a beautifuly arranged fully orchestrated version of ~ cornered. it’s… ugh. it’s delicious. that being said, it is also just a fully orchestral cover of ~ cornered, so it cannot go any higher than this.

but those violin notes. ugh. why did they put this version in a crossover game?

7. great pursuit ~ the resolve of ryuunosuke naruhodo (the great ace attorney 2) (dgs2)

i actually have not finished DGS yet, but my god. what a theme. it has a fucking overature before it as a variation? the violins? the build? the determination? this pursuit sounds as if ~ lying coldly and ~ overtaken decided to collaborate. the entire DGS ost sounds incredible, so maybe this isn’t a surprise, but. wow. what a good theme.

8. ~ the great turnabout (the great ace attorney) (dgs)

i am confident on placing them in this order, as while ~ the great turnabout definitely sounds like a unique, highly orchestral spin on a mixture of ~ cornered and ~ caught, great pursuit ~ the resolve is… my god. tough competition in the DGS pursuit themes, certainly.

9. ~ keep pressing on! (ace attorney: dual destinies) (aa5)

i’m going to be honest, i had to debate between this and ~ cornering together’s spot; ultimately, i think ~ keep pressing on! eeks out a few spaces above cornering together, because it so perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the entire wright anything agency. this pursuit theme effortlessly blends the high tempo, fast stings of ~ cornered with the deep bass rhythm of ~ overtaken, and introduces it’s own unique melody and heavy guitar riffs to represent the newcomer athena’s disposition incredibly well. also, electric guitar riffs? in a pursuit theme? it definitely is one of the more memorable melodies, but i have to admit that i don’t think i’d pick it over both DGS pursuit themes.

i do enjoy the swagger it carries to the courtroom in this game, though. perfect for the great return of phoenix wright and his unshakable confidence in the agency, because this theme starts to really build on the of course we got here! energy that apollo justice began.

10. ~ cornering together (ace attorney: spirit of justice) (aa6)

i’m not… hm. i think this theme suffers from being in spirit of justice, ultimately - this is a very good pursuit theme, and a better take on the lower pitch and slower tempo than the previous attempt. however, much like most of SoJ, i just… completely forgot about this theme existing until relistening to them all. i don’t know if it’s really memorable enough in the face of the rest of the pursuit themes, even though i think it’s objectively very good - ultimately, it’s lack of standing out (a symptom of the game as a whole, as i’d find you hard-pressed to find any individual who remembers anything from SoJ besides the wright-edgeworth investigation chapters and turnabout storyteller) causes it to lose a rank to ~ keep pressing on. i still think this is a rather good theme, but there’s just… too many good ones for “rather good” to rank any higher.

honestly, kind of a shame.

11. ~ casting magic (professor layton vs phoenix wright)

i’m going to be honest, the only reason this theme isn’t dead last is i would still prefer to listen to it over ~ questioned. but it is… not a good theme, saved particularly by the heavy violin featured as three of the main stings and notes. it also does incorporate some of the main melody of ~ overtaken, it just… doesn’t sound very good.

how was this in the same game as one of the best versions of ~ cornered?

12. ~ questioned (ace attorney: justice for all) (aa2)

oh, poor justice for all. you easily have the weakest pursuit theme, the slowest pursuit theme, and the lowest pitch pursuit theme. all this on top of a game considered the weakest in the trilogy, i wish i was not picking at low hanging fruit - unfortunately, i do just consider this the worst of the pursuit themes. thematically, it does make sense - this is the game where phoenix is questioned on his morals, his ideals, what does it mean to be a defense attorney? - but… even though it delivers on a nigh-constant sense of dread, as if you’re always one step behind, it’s just not a good pursuit theme. it almost sounds like a cross-examination variation.

the only time i really enjoy the effect of it is in farewell, my turnabout. it feels fitting that every time you turn the tables in that case, it feels more like raw desperation and anxiety than anything. unfortunately, if your pursuit theme only begins to sound alright during the final case of a game, it is not a strong pursuit theme - and the competition is steep.