Two of the top men at Capcom responsible for making interactive murder investigations funny know which fake lawyer they'd hire and why their games should only be on handhelds. They also talked about their new game.
"Young Mia Fey," Motohide Eshiro was telling me through a translator without hesitation last week at the Capcom media suite of the Tokyo Game Show. "You've got to go with young Mia Fey."
The director of Ace Attorney Investigations declared that one of the more attractive attorneys in the game's series would be the video game lawyer he would want want to defend him, if he even got in trouble with the law.
Eshiro's colleague, Ace Attorney Investigations producer Takeshi Yamazaki, who sat beside him during out interview (and is pictured at left up top), was flustered.
"That's not fair!" he said through a translator. "How could you steal that example with me? I can't think of anyone i trust... All the other characters are a little shaky. you never know if they're going to go with the right answer or present the right thing. I'm not sure I could put my life in their hands."
That's the comedic truth of Ace Attorney Investigations and the series from which it has been spun-off, the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney line of lawyer games released, in the US, all on the Nintendo DS. The games are about murders and the court cases that root out the wrongdoers. But they're played for jokes. And the attorneys never seem quite competent enough to win their cases except by luck and determination. Players go along for the ride, tapping through the text-heavy games to argue the cases and present key evidence.
Eshiro and Yamazaki assured me that their new game, which stars series favourite attorney Miles Edgeworth and moves the action from the courtroom to crime scenes, will be as funny as the previous games. It will also be as screwball, featuring such developer favourite supporting characters as Kay Faraday, the—Yamazaki's words—"spunky teenager who is always giving Edgeworth a hard time" and Interpol agent Shi-Long Lang who—Eshiro's words—is "a bit of a punk" and often strikes martial arts poses.
In Tokyo, the two developers showed me an example of a case, an Eshiro favourite set in a luxury jumbo jet. Edgeworth discovers a man murdered in an elevator. The twist in the new game is that players get a full view of the crime scene and can directly control Edgeworth, so they can move him through the murder location and piece together the evidence to solve the crimes.
The game gives Edgeworth access to forensic crime-solving tools, which got me wondering if it would tap into the camera functionality of the DSi. It does not, and Eshiro isn't sure that a photo-taking system would benefit the series. "It would feel kind of weird if you took a picture and it got brought into the game, because you have such an Anime style game," he said. "It's a very 2D sprite-oriented game. To suddenly have a 3D object in that world, it's kind of a strange disconnect in terms of the atmosphere."
The little bit I saw of the game looked like it would be true to the series' traditions: Lots of colorful characters, lots of talking, lots of jokes, lots of tapping around for clues and contradictions. With so many games released using this formula and with so many fans following them, I was struck that a console version of an Ace Attorney game has yet to be made.
It sounds like the team not only has no plans for a console Ace Attorney adventure, but doesn't think it would work. "The games have always been sort of a portable game," Eshiro said. "Even if we were to change the game and make it suitable for other systems, then perhaps the game would feel too far removed that people wouldn't think it is an Ace Attorney game anymore."
The developers said their focus for the series will remain "exclusively on the DS".
Yamazaki keeps getting ideas for cases, from what he sees on TV and what he reads in mangas. And he and his colleague seem to be having fun. So expect more Ace Attorney games, more weirdo characters you'd never want to have defend you in real life, and more games you can play on the go.