This page covers the first three games: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations.
Take moments specific to Apollo Justice, the Investigations series, or Dual Destinies to those pages, please.
Mia's first Big Damn Heroes moment when she comes back from the dead and drives her own killer into a Motive Rant, thus saving Phoenix from a false conviction.
When you cross-examine a witness who you know is the real murderer, after you've already forced him to alter his testimony several times, making him very nervous, you can press him when he talks about the way the victim moved before being killed. This results in this dialogue:
Phoenix: What did you do then?
Redd White: I chased after her, of course. ...Wait, I didn't mean that!
The best part? This does not get him convicted, making this moment completely optional, not required to complete the case.
That entire case warrants a mention, as it is the first real case. It's wonderfully designed to give you a great pang of satisfaction when you put all the puzzles together and lay down the law.
The first time that you manage to make the unflappable, scarily competent prosecutor Edgeworth lose his cool (and you see his "seething fury" sprite for the first time) definitely feels satisfying.
Mia coming back from the dead for the first time. This leads the court into a recess, and Phoenix asks her what to do... and then she says "You've already won". She updates one of your pieces of evidence, and there is something strangely tensely satisfactory about coming back into court and knowing exactly what to do. It goes from hopeless to triumphant so quickly that it's truly fantastic, and seeing the reactions of the prosecution and the witness as you make the point none of them knew about...just. Awesome.
What you do to get Redd White to confess. You read off a list of famous people, who are implied to be all the people Redd blackmailed over the years, and threaten to hand the list over to the press unless he confesses. That's right, you just won the case by blackmailing a man who built his entire career on blackmail.
There's a lot from the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series to choose from, but one of the best is when Edgeworth raises an objection to a trial that he's won just because he's ultimately more interested in finding the real criminal, and he still suspects the witness on the stand did it (she did). More than once. Including to point out a glaring hole in the testimony that everyone else somehow managed to miss.
When determining the motive. The Smug Snake witness declares that there's no motive for her to kill Hammer. At which point Phoenix presents the evidence, and he and Edgeworth team up to kick the witness's ass.
Of all people, Larry Butz's Just in Time save during the trial.
Note, however, that von Karma probably had planned for that as well. He actually retrained said parrot and he was about to bring up the death of Gregory Edgeworth anyway, parrot or no parrot.
While Phoenix himself doesn't really have a specific moment, stop and think about what he accomplished at the end of the fourth trial. Against a prosecutor who not only never lost, but had only ever received one penalty throughout the forty years of his legal career, Phoenix gets an acquittal... for a crime which his client confessed to, singlehandedly handing Von Karma his only defeat and derailing 15 years of planning. That's why we call him Ace Attorney.
Also, defeating Von Karma by pulling out a METAL DETECTOR, running it over his body, then bringing up the ballistics marking that Von Karma himself taught Phoenix about? PRICELESS!
Don't forget to take into consideration the fact that getting von Karma guilty led to solving a case that had gone unsolved for almost fifteen years. Yes, that's right, an attorney with less than a year of experience under his belt solves a case that went without any progress for so long. Or the fact that he solves this case on the LAST DAY it is able to be opened up for investigation. As in a single day later would have been too late.
Related to the above, Gregory Edgeworth gets a Moment of Awesome in the backstory for being the first person to ever get Manfred von Karma penalized during a trial, destroying his perfect and to that point unblemished record.
Edgeworth realizing the bloodcurling scream he heard fifteen years ago - and every night since then - was Von Karma's.
Right after Edgeworth confesses to killing his father and they all sit out in the lobby...
Maya: "...? Nick? What are you doing?"
Phoenix: "Huh? Oh... I was just reading through the court record once more. I'm getting my case ready."
Maya: "Your case... for what?"
Phoenix: "Huh? Isn't it obvious? I'm going to prove that Miles Edgeworth is innocent."
And then, a little later:
Phoenix: "I'm sorry, Edgeworth. But I don't believe your 'nightmare.' It's just a dream. It's not real. The truth is right here in this court record. In any case, tighten your belts. The real fight is just beginning. I'll prove you're innocent. Trust me."
When the noose starts to tighten around von Karma's neck.
Judge: I permit the use of the metal detector. Mr. von Karma, you WILL submit yourself to testing!
Edgeworth's trial for murder is a BIG Moment of Awesome for the Judge, of all people: Phoenix points out two facts that give his argument weight, but prosecutor Manfred von Karma dismisses them both as coincidences with no weight in the case. The Judge then answers that Prosecutor von Karma has a point, a coincidence should not be admissible as evidence... However, he retorts "Two coincidences at the same time seems more like a pattern to me", and he allows Phoenix to continue his line of questioning. It's even more awesome when you realize that von Karma was, for all intents and purposes, running the whole trial, having intimidated the Judge into silence to the point where he even started trying to overrule objections on his own, to which the Judge only protests meekly. This moment marks the point where the Judge decides that he's had enough of von Karma's crap and takes the law back into his own hands.
Edgeworth gets another Moment of Awesome when he, as a child, defended Phoenix in regards to him stealing money. It's pretty awesome to see Edgeworth side with the person that everyone else in the classroom is against, which could have very well ended with him sharing unfair persecution along with Phoenix. Instead, he successfully stands up to an entire classroom including his teacher and gets them to back down. He had more bravery as a kid than some people do for their entire lives. What makes this even more awesome is that he was the victim in that case. It was his money that was stolen, and yet he defended a kid whom everyone else, including the teacher had accused of the theft. One could say this foreshadows his (eventual) future as a man dedicated to pursuing the truth, no matter the cost, as his actions in Justice for All and beyond can attest to.
Maya taking the taser attack to try and let Phoenix get away with the evidence. It doesn't work, but she still manages to get the evidence needed to close the case.
Maya gets Phoenix out of von Karma's trap, by convincing the Judge to hold her in contempt of court instead.
On the first day of her trial, Lana Skye gives Phoenix some "advice"; a defense attorney should never trust their clients. Phoenix sets her straight:
Phoenix: Ms. Skye, you... You remind me a lot of Mia. But there is one decisive difference between you and her.
Lana: And that is?
Phoenix: You're not a defense attorney.
Gant's Epic Stare Of Death. It pierces the soul.
When Edgeworth explains the King of Prosecutors trophy. "Cross Examination ~ Moderate" plays while he's explaining, until a contradiction appears in the story. Phoenix actually objects to it, and "Pursuit ~ Cornered" starts playing. Awesome.
Edgeworth usually deals with his witnesses via Politeness Judo, particularly when going in for the kill, which makes it all the more epic when he tells the Chief of Police to simply sit there "and let the noose tighten around your neck."
Made even better by an Edgeworth line before that. Gant tells Edgeworth to be a good little boy and shut his mouth. Edgeworth shuts him down, allowing the case to move forward without Lana's forced confession.
Then, of course, there's this, when Lana is blackmailed by Gant and tries to end the trial prematurely:
Lana: "Mr. Edgeworth. I am exercising my right to self-representation. I don't think...
Edgeworth: "I don't care what you think."
Gant's Villainous Breakdown. When the guy is flinging lightning, you can't argue with that. His other breakdown scene (the mad clapping) is also probably one of the more memorable breakdowns of the series to boot.
Speaking of Gant, the way Phoenix catches him is some impressive stuff - first turning his "insurance" piece of fake evidence against him, then highlighting the evidence law he was trying to use against Phoenix to deliver the final blow. Hoist by His Own Petard indeed.
The finale. The true culprit, Police Chief Damon Gant, was pretty much built up to be all but untouchable by the time he takes the stand, starting it off by immediately saying that he can refuse to testify at any point. Not to mention that Lana Skye, right up until recently, was still vehemently taking the blame for the murder because Damon Gant openly threatened to put Ema away for murder, while he was still on the witness stand. Throughout the trial (which has Phoenix and Edgeworth teaming up to take him down, which is already a Moment Of Awesome in and of itself,) the culprit has pretty much turned into a Devil in Plain Sight, constantly mocking you while the stakes keep getting higher, until not only is Lana at risk of getting convicted for murder, but Ema is at risk of going to prison for accidentally killing Neil Marshall, not to mention that Phoenix could not only lose his job, but get sued by the culprit himself and possibly even face jail time over the lengths he's gone to get him convicted. And that's not even counting all the numerous traps he's set throughout the entire case, including one near the very end of that will instantly end the game if you fall for it. Needless to say, when the culprit finally falls into one of his traps and allows Phoenix and Edgeworth to move in and seal the deal, it's one of the most satisfying moments of the series.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All
Even after losing his memory, Phoenix's lawyer instincts are as strong as ever, leaping in with an "Objection!" and a pointed finger before he even realises what he's doing. As Phoenix himself says, "What a rush!"
Phoenix kicking down the door in Kurain Village to save Maya. "Send the bill to Wright and Co.!" Especially when you think how much that door probably cost and how often Phoenix has money issues, it doubles as a Heartwarming Moment. Even the Judge concurs that how Wright blasted the door must've been badass.
Pearl shows up at the court for the first time. She lived a two hour's train ride worth from the court and she didn't walk her way to the court then. She ran.
The ending of the case when Franziska whips Phoenix into unconsciousness after losing against him. Poor guy never heard that verdict.
It's a minor moment, but Phoenix managing to intimidate the judge (something usually reserved for the prosecution and particularly intimidating witnesses) with the determined look on his face is pretty badass.
At one point, Phoenix sums up how the murder happened in court, to circus music, with every twist in the tale accompanied by a crash of cymbals. It's a fantastic effect, and thoroughly impressive.
The way Phoenix perfectly sums up and clarifies the sneaking suspicion you've been having about an incident that happened in the circus. It's the phrase that finally ties the bond between a harmless prank and a fatal accident. Two words: "Lions sneeze."
Another small moment, but rather badass: the end of case. Throughout the trial, Franziska has been needling (and whipping) Phoenix while proclaiming her own superiority, and when he finally wins, she grudgingly bites out that he "beat [her] again!" Even after all the abuse he's suffered, though, Phoenix doesn't rub it in her face; he just stands there with his expression unreadable. He's not just an ally of justice, he's a graceful victor, too!
Edgeworth gets another Moment of Awesome as he makes his triumphant return. At the end of the case, he delivers a "World of Cardboard" Speech about the true role of a prosecutor - not to get a "Guilty" every time, but to uncover the whole and complete truth - and the long, hard journey he made to discover that.
And Matt Engarde has pretty much the best Obfuscating Stupidity revelation ever. The revelation of the scar, the evil grin, the complete personality change? Typical... but once he somehow pulls the glass of cognac out of Hammer Space, while in police custody, for the sole purpose of swirling it evilly... you know you're seeing something special.
Matt:"Hold on a sec. I'm gonna consult myself, okay?"
Matt:"How do you do...Mr. Lawyer? I'm Matt Engarde."
"To the gentleman who spoke just now...excuse me, but would you care to die?" Shelly de Killer to the Judge if you press one of the statements in his testimony.
Everything that witness says straddles the line between Awesome and Funny (in a Crosses the Line Twice way), as you're talking to an assassin with quite a skillset via radio. The true awesome comes when he announces to the court that he has terminated his contract with his client.
Not to mention that she was shot in the shoulder the previous day. And when she's reminded of this, she says, condescendingly, that such a trifling matter certainly won't stop her from doing her job.
The fact that Phoenix even inquires about her condition is probably this as well, as it suggests that despite her ... feelings ... toward him, he still bears her no ill will.
Phoenix is panicking because the judge is trying to end the day's trial and begin another investigation, but De Killer is holding Maya hostage on the condition that he get Engarde found innocent on the first day. When Udgey asks why he's upset, since it means his client has another day to live, Nick blurts out "If I don't get the verdict... then Maya..." Edgeworth immediately catches on that something weird is happening; cue OBJECTION! to keep the witness on the stand because he can tell Phoenix is a) desperate and b) on the wrong track, leaving Mia wondering exactlywhose side he's on.
When Edgeworth suddenly shows up to take Franziska's place as prosecutor:
Edgeworth: Due to the circumstances, I will be taking over the prosecution. While I did not investigate, I have read over the notes and am familiar with the details. The prosecution is ready...naturally.
The end of the case, when Nick shows de Killer that Engarde was a backstabbing bastard, he points out that he basically reversed the tables on Engarde'sMorton's Fork situation by stating that either Matt gets a guilty verdict & goes to jail, or he claims himself innocent & get murdered by a professional assassin on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. The sheer feeling of pure schadenfreude one gets when that bastard finally gets what he deserves is sweet as honey. The execution is also cool as hell, no matter what you do - at the very end, you are asked by the Judge if the defense pleas guilty or innocent and Phoenix either fully abuses the moral high ground he now has and changes the plea to guilty or maintains the plea of innocence in the smuggest way possible. Whatever you choose, you'll rub it in Engarde's face.
Edgeworth announcing that a witness-turned-suspect (Matt Engarde) has been arrested and is being questioned by von Karma... more precisely, he states that said witness is receiving "a full-course meal of whip leather." Badass.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations
Mia daring Dahlia to take one of Phoenix's ( poisoned) Coldkiller X pills at the end (to paraphrase: "If you're right about the medicine not being poisoned, then why don't you take a dose?") has to be on here, if only for Dollie's reaction. In addition to the Glowing Eyes of Doom she starts screaming like a madwoman. And then, just as suddenly, she returns to her "normal" self, butterflies surrounding her, and announces that it's time for her to talk to "the men in blue." And then when Payne receives the same offer and loses his hair and is reduced to the pathetic shell of a man we see in the first two games.
Judge finally explaining why he always gives both the defense and the prosecution so many chances.
Judge: I know the existence of this umbrella seems trivial... But as long as the smallest doubt remains, I cannot render final judgement!
Ron points out that he can't be convicted as Mask DeMasque, even though he actually IS the infamous thief, because he had ALREADY been given a Not Guilty verdict for that particular crime, referencing a law that had only been mentioned a bit earlier in the day. One has to wonder if he's Obfuscating Stupidity.
Speaking of Tigre, how you defeat him in the end. Phoenix presents the victim's ear medicine, passing it off as potassium cyanide. Tigre shoots down this point, and points out the real container of the potassium cyanide. Then the whole courtroom goes silent, for a very good reason: this is supposed to be his first time seeing the real container. By pointing out what it is, he's unwittingly implicated himself as the murderer.
The way Godot effectively shuts up Furio Tigre when he's brought into court while the Judge and Maya were cowering under their desks and Phoenix was about wet his pants. "You're caught in a snare... the relentless snare of the law." *takes a gulp of coffee* "And I'm the one that hauled you in!" Phoenix's reaction sums it up:
Phoenix: (T... Too cool...)
Another one for the Judge. Phoenix has just proven that Furio Tigre had posed as him during the phony trial. The Judge then has a moment of realization:
Judge: So it was you... The Phoenix Wright who put up the most disreputable, shabby defense I had ever seen!
What makes this a moment of awesome is that right afterwards, the Theme Music Powerup usually reserved for Phoenix starts playing.
Phoenix and Mia get a joint Moment, when, up against a Big Bad who's been reduced to a ghost possessing Maya's body, they verbally brutalize her so effectively that the combined Hannibal Lecturebanishes her soul to Hell.
Even Pearl, a nine-year old girl, gets one of these when she verbally blasts Franziska, telling her: "You're nothing but a little girl without your whip!" (amongst other strong words). Franziska is actually rendered speechless.
The last evidence-presenting part:
Godot: "You'll never be half the lawyer that Mia was! Isn't that right, Trite...?"
(Mia's "ghost" appears behind Phoenix.)
Godot: (Wh-What was that just now? Mia? It-it can't be! You're living on...through him!?)
And the music at that moment! It's "Pursuit ~ Cornered", sure, but after two whole games of hearing new versions, you get to have the first one, the iconic one, in all its former glory. Nothing says "Oh it is ON now!" more than this.
Phoenix's line to the fake Iris: "no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to hide the truth from a true defense attorney!"
Near the start, Phoenix nearly loses his life trying to cross a burning bridge to get to Maya, who he fears is trapped with a murderer. Ironically, it turns out he's right -twice- but she's not actually in any danger. Nevertheless... He know how dangerous it is (borderline suicidal) but tries anyway- he is frantic with worry about her and the thought of NOT doing it simply doesn't occur to him:
Larry: D-Don't be stupid! The bridge is nothing but a burning wreck right now! Phoenix: Listen to me! There's been a murder! Here! At Hazakura Temple! Larry: Wha-Whaaaaat!? Phoenix: The murderer might have fled across the bridge! I have to make sure Maya is safe! Larry: B-B-But... Phoenix: Please! Call the police! I've got to go! ...Get outta my way, Larry!
Incredibly enough, even the Judge himself has his moment in which, right after Phoenix pointed out how the Judge was rather calm and collected even after witnessing a severe case of spirit possession (and exorcism by epic speech, see above), the Judge's reply displayed an insight of wisdom never before seen on him:
Judge: Well, to be frank, my younger brother is quite judgmental... He often criticizes me for not studying hard enough. That's why I made a concerted effort to study up on the Kurain Channeling Technique. I've seen quite a few things in my many years on the bench. And in all that time, I've finally learned this one thing: Each case is different, and takes place in its own world, if you will. In order to fully understand that world... First we have to immerse ourselves in it completely. And that's where... My brother and I used to differ.
Franziska von Karma gets one: Edgeworth stands ready in the defense's position, but the prosecution is absent. Just before the Judge can declare an instant win for the defense, once again there's the familiar * CRACK!* , and Franzy makes her very awesome entrance for the first time in the entire game. Say what you will about her, but she knows how to make an entrance.
A moment of awesome that is the result of another, from Edgeworth. The mad connections he has. Not only is he able to pose as a defense attorney despite all logic being against it, (1-5 reveals that Phoenix's badge has an ID number in order to prevent exactly this sort of thing) but he's able to select a specific prosecutor AND judge for the trial.
The tail end. The music cue in particular, with the callback to the case 7 years prior.
She may be a despicable excuse for a human being, but, you've got to admit, Dahlia Hawthorne's entrance was pretty badass.
Godot: When talking to a beautiful lady, always ask for her name and occupation. That's one of my rules.
And also when she gives her "The Plan" testimony section, instead of regular testimony music, Dahlia's own theme plays instead for a spine-chillingly awesome effect.
Another one for Godot: When he first meets Franziska, he is able to successfully brush her off. She even gets so intimidated that she can't even bring herself to whip him, so she whips Phoenix instead. He's pretty much the only exception to the 'men who meet Franziska get whipped' rule in the series. Sure his words may have been a bit...harsh... but for Franziska, it's the closest thing she gets to any kind of reprimand.
When the Judge states his disbelief that Dalia Hawthorne is the murderer, since she is dead, Godot delivers this line (not sure about the exact words)
Godot: Death has no meaning in this courtroom! Did you forget that I, myself, am back from the dead?
The feeling you get when everything suddenly clicks together and you realize just where Maya has been all this time, and how Dahlia isn't going to like the answer one bit.
The first cases you played through, no matter which game. The incredible satisfaction of taking down the witnesses lies one by one, driving him/her slowly mad until they explode with fury, and winning. When you were not spotting lies in the testimonies, you were extremely cautious and afraid of receiving a penalty, and while the games are not time based, you felt a damn high pressure yourself as everything depended on you.
Gumshoe gets one in all three games - usually even two! Let's tally - bursting in to save you from being lynched by Vasquez's mob (1-3), finding Yanni Yogi no matter what it takes (1-4), letting you investigate Gant's office even knowing he'll lose his job (1-5), chasing De Killer to save Maya (2-4) and then, in the same case, stealing the evidence(!!) to save her, saving you from Tigre and bring in a crucial piece of evidence (3-3), fixing the bridge (3-5)... It's almost too many for one character. For the many Big Damn Heroes this guy brings, where is his raise? It (allegedly) comes in AAI2. Edgeworth tells him to look forwards to his next paycheck; there has been a... substantial increase.