DISCLAIMER: This article will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for the first Ace Attorney game and mild spoilers for Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations. Please proceed with caution if you have not yet played these games. This editorial will not discuss Apollo Justice, Dual Destinies or the Ace Attorney Investigations titles.
In this week’s entry of the Building Character series, we’re going to take a look at my favorite character from the Ace Attorney series and the object of my unbridled fangirl affection: Miles Edgeworth. As a longtime fan of the series, I have seen many prosecutors come and go, but none have stuck with me quite like Edgeworth. It is this fact that has inspired me to write this article, so that I may take a look at what makes Miles Edgeworth such a compelling character.
When we first meet Edgeworth in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, he does not come off as a likable character. Set up as the villain of the series, he is Phoenix Wright’s main rival in court, and what a rival he is. Edgeworth is ruthless, and Phoenix must try not to buckle under his unrelenting attacks. Edgeworth takes great pride in his perfect win record and strikes fear into the hearts of defense attorneys everywhere with his undeniable wit and unmatched skill in the courtroom. He is notorious for being willing to do anything to maintain his perfect win record, and, unlike Phoenix, focuses only on victory and perfection instead of the search for the truth. On top of all this, it is clear that Edgeworth feels superior to everyone around him, and he constantly abuses his subordinates (such as poor Detective Gumshoe). He’s also quite the snob (just look at that frilly nonsense around his neck), and is constantly aloof and condescending. This surprises Phoenix; he and Edgeworth were friends when they were kids, and this Edgeworth is a far cry from the one he knew.
So does this guy have any redeeming qualities? The answer to that question, of course, is yes. It simply takes someone like Phoenix Wright to help us see the true Miles Edgeworth. As the game progresses and Edgeworth suffers not one but two defeats at the hands of greenhorn Phoenix Wright, we begin to see Edgeworth’s façade crumble. He lives for his perfect win record. It means everything to him, so what is he without it? Throughout the first two trials where Phoenix and Edgeworth face off, we begin to sense that there might be something more to this cold and ruthless prosecutor.
It’s in the fourth episode of the first game, “Turnabout Goodbyes”, that we really come to understand Edgeworth. When Edgeworth is accused of murder, he has no choice but to allow Phoenix to defend him. It is clear in this case that Edgeworth is extremely insecure and uncomfortable with the vulnerable situation in which he finds himself. He is someone very used to having a plan and being in control, and when these things are taken away we see the person behind the “Demon Prosecutor”, someone who is wrestling with his tragic past and struggling to understand what it really means to be a prosecutor and pursue justice.
The murder at hand in Turnabout Goodbyes quickly becomes intertwined with an incident from fifteen years ago known as the DL-6 incident. We discover that Miles’ father, Gregory Edgeworth, was a famous defense attorney whom Miles idolized. Miles wanted desperately to follow in his father’s footsteps, so much so that even at nine years old he would not allow an unjust verdict to be handed down in a classroom trial. His fellow classmate, who was none other than Phoenix Wright, was wrongly accused of stealing Edgeworth’s lunch money during gym class. Although the whole class believed Phoenix to be the culprit, Edgeworth objected, insisting that there was no proof that Phoenix was guilty. His defense, paired with that of Phoenix’s friend Larry Butz, freed Phoenix of suspicion and turned the trio into the best of friends. This was the Miles Edgeworth that Phoenix had remembered: a boy with a great desire to become a defense attorney, who wanted to stand up for those who needed defending. So how had this boy become the ruthless Demon Prosecutor desperate to put away criminals?
The answer to this question is made clear when the tragedy of Edgeworth’s past comes to light. His father was murdered in the DL-6 incident, leaving Miles orphaned and robbed of not only his only parent, but also his beloved role model. This instilled in Edgeworth a great hatred of criminals, which is why he now worked so hard to see all of them behind bars. He was taken in and mentored by the man who was now prosecuting him for murder, Manfred Von Karma. Von Karma instilled his obsession with perfection in Edgeworth, which created the ruthless prosecutor with a perfect record. Edgeworth put his heart and soul into his role as the Demon Prosecutor in order to bury the painful memories of his father’s murder and the idealistic boy he used to be. Try as he might to bury his pain, however, it still manifested itself in an intense fear of earthquakes and nightmares about his father’s murder. On top of this, we discover that Edgeworth believes himself to be responsible for the murder of his father, an awful truth he had been running from for the last fifteen years.
With the truth of Edgeworth’s past laid bare, the reason behind his actions becomes clear. And when he is forced to make himself vulnerable and allow Phoenix to defend him, we get to see that Miles Edgeworth is no “Demon Prosecutor”, but rather a man trying to find the best way to conquer his own demons. When Phoenix manages to clear Edgeworth of both the current murder and that of his father, Edgeworth is finally free to become the man he was meant to be.
As the series progresses we come to know Edgeworth for who he really is: a man who is extremely passionate about what he does, and who will not settle for vain and shallow answers about what it means to be a prosecutor. He is no longer satisfied with victory and perfection. Edgeworth wants to discover what right and wrong truly mean, and how he can best deliver justice in the courtroom. Edgeworth wrestles with these questions and ultimately disappears in his desperate search for answers. While most others would be happy just to have Edgeworth’s position and reputation, it simply isn’t enough for him. It’s difficult not to admire someone who is so devoted and passionate about what they do, as such individuals are few and far between. Unlike many others, Edgeworth is willing to reexamine his values to find the truth. In this way, Edgeworth goes from being Phoenix’s rival to becoming a powerful ally. Edgeworth discovers that as a prosecutor, he must work with the defense so that together they can find the truth.
We also see that despite his cold and aloof appearance, Miles Edgeworth cares deeply for those who are important to him. While he may have trouble expressing this as outwardly as Phoenix, Edgeworth nonetheless demonstrates his desperation to help those important to him. As such, he steps up to help Phoenix at several points throughout the series, the most significant being when he charts a private jet from Europe when he hears that Phoenix has been hospitalized, and agrees to stand in court as a defense attorney to defend someone Phoenix deeply cares about.
Ultimately, all of this is why I love Miles Edgeworth so much as a character. While many of the other prosecutors we encounter in the series are interesting and likable in their own way, they are, for the most part, fairly static. Edgeworth, on the other hand, is one of the most dynamic characters in the series. We get to see him grow and develop on a level that is matched by few other game characters. The game forces us to set aside our preconceived notions of Edgeworth as nothing more than a ruthless villain and frustrating opponent, and see him as a complex and passionate individual.