Howdy, pardners. Since we're all excited about the Phoenix Wright series for justifiable reasons, now's a good time to look back at a bit of the previous games' music.
Though most Westerners became familiar with Phoenix Wright when Capcom released its Nintendo DS remake of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in 2005, Japan's aspiring video game lawyers were introduced to the Phoenix Wright / Gyakuten Saiban via the Game Boy Advance in 2001. The next two Gyakuten Saiban games were also first published on the Game Boy Advance.
As a consequence, the soundtracks for the first three Phoenix Wright games sound a little … tinny. This isn't the fault of Masakazu Sugimori (the composer for the original Phoenix Wright), Noriyuki Iwadare (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations) or Naoto Tanaka (Phoenix Wright: Justice for All). The Game Boy Advance's soundchip just has a tendency to make games sound malnourished.
That didn't stop the earliest Phoenix Wright games from producing some of video games' most iconic themes, mind you. Cornered belongs in a real court of law. The only reason we don't hear it in the background of each and every criminal case is because any defense lawyer who used it would wield too much power. The prosecution would fall apart, and the system would crumble.
But the theme we're celebrating today diverges slightly from Phoenix Wright's roots on the Game Boy Advance. It features in the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, albeit in "Rise From the Ashes," a fifth case exclusive to the Nintendo DS version of the game. The tune, officially titled "The Detective That Came From the Wild West," belongs to patrol officer Jake Marshall.
Jake's theme was composed by the aforementioned Naoto Tanaka, a veteran game music composer who's actually responsible for all the new tunes in Rise From the Ashes. Tanaka also composed the soundtracks for Mega Man X8, Bayonetta, and Bayonetta 2.
I mark Jake's theme as a standout for two reasons. First, Tanaka obviously had a lot of fun with it. It blends together double-handfuls of Wild West stereotypes, from steel strings to the world-famous warble from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. It's all quite seamless and pleasant to listen to, which is a good thing because Jake Marshall shows up a lot in Rise From the Ashes.
Which segues into the second reason why I'm so fond of Jake's theme: Its lonely vibe indicates the cowboy is hiding something painful (other than the fact he's not actually from Texas, but from Los Angeles). Jake's a little different from most of Phoenix's antagonists. He's stubborn, arrogant, and tougher to break than a wild prairie mustang -- but his lies aren't based on malice. He has his own very good reasons for not cooperating with Phoenix.
Jake's theme covers him up as much as his goofy poncho and hat, and that's obviously what Tanaka was going for when he cobbled together the cowboy's theme. After all, the gun-slingers of the wild frontier couldn't afford to let any emotion seep onto their faces. They'd shoot you for that in Texas.
[Special thanks: The Ace Attorney subreddit]
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