This week had me return to the theaters after a no show the previous weekend. It’s pretty obvious which film I chose to see, as it’s the one many other people in this sphere likely saw as well.
In 2009, the Ace Attorney franchise received its first spinoff title in the form of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. Fans rejoiced at the prospect of an entire game starring the fan favorite Miles Edgeworth, and it consequently fared well both with them and critics. In response to this positive reception, the game’s producer, Motohide Eshiro, revealed that he had contacted Minae Matsukawa. Ms. Matsukawa was notable for having served as the producer for the DS port of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney along with its distant sequel, Apollo Justice. The reason for Mr. Eshiro to have contacted her was straightforward enough; he offered his services in developing a new Ace Attorney game. This project would officially begin in September of 2009, and the developers went to a “training camp” of sorts to talk about the game for an entire day for the purpose of outlining it.
Revealed in an issue of Famitsu with the name Turnabout Prosecutor 2 in September of 2010, this new game promised to see the return of Miles Edgeworth, Dick Gumshoe and Kay Faraday. Screenshots revealed the existence of a new gameplay mechanic with a prominent chess motif. In addition to revealing a few new characters, the article insisted that the game would focus more on Edgeworth himself than on other characters or past events. It went on to state that the creators wished to reveal a more human, conflicted side to him never before seen. It was around this time that the official website for the game launched.
Mr. Eshiro once again served as the producer of this game while Takeshi Yamazaki directed and wrote the scenario, sharing the latter duty with Yuki Nakamura. Ace Attorney Investigations was notable for having a development cycle that lasted much longer than those of its predecessors in the core series. Much of this can be attributed to the new gameplay mechanics necessitating Mr. Eshiro and his team to develop them from scratch. The development of its sequel ended up taking far less time due to already having a solid foundation on which they could create content. They had even gone as far as spending five days and four nights in a place dubbed the Capcom Manor to work on the game. The inspiration for this decidedly unorthodox method of brainstorming was inspired by the filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. The esteemed director would gather writers in a hotel room to conceive scripts for his films. At the manor, they systematically discussed the plot, formulated the new gameplay system, finalized the direction, and created sketches for a majority of the cast.
At the Tokyo Game Show convention of 2010, three new characters were officially revealed and named. A trailer showing gameplay footage of Turnabout Trial 2 revealed that many elements from its predecessor such as mentally connecting the facts of the case and utilizing the Little Thief to recreate the crime scene would make a return for this installment as well. In addition, a playable demo of the first episode, “Turnabout Target” was made available at the event. In November, the official website revealed the game’s box art and its slated release date: February 3, 2011. The day came to pass and the game was released to a positive reception.
It didn’t take long for Western fans to speculate the game’s localization plans. In what was a doubtlessly disappointing move for countless overseas fans, Ace Attorney Investigations only ever saw an English translation. Capcom then proceeded to up the ante from this controversial decision by opting not to localize Turnabout Prosecutor 2 at all. Why they decided to limit the game to its domestic market isn’t certain. Christian Svensson, the Senior Vice-President of Capcom’s USA branch at the time said that the decision was made due to estimated returns being unlikely to cover localization costs. Meanwhile, Mr. Eshiro claimed that it was due to a scheduling issue; the staff who worked on this game had disbanded, moving to different teams after finishing it. Around this time, Capcom had been under fire for many controversial business decisions. The list of grievances include releasing multiple titles with on-disc downloadable content, canceling the highly desired sequel to Mega Man Legends, and proceeding to give up on the long-running series entirely once its creator, Keiji Inafune, left in 2010.
To Capcom’s credit, they had many internal discussions on how to address this issue. Mr. Svensson said there might be potential to release the game as a downloadable digital title, thus reducing manufacturing costs. Talks about whether how they could localize this game continued into the next year. However, in 2012, Capcom announced that the core series was to, at long last, receive a sequel. This proved to be a mixed blessing, for Capcom quickly assured fans that it would be localized, but in doing so, all plans to bring Turnabout Prosecutor 2 to the West were effectively stopped.
Fortunately, all hope was not lost. Users on the Ace Attorney fan site Court-Records banded together to create a fan translation. This was not a task to be undertaken by amateurs, and to separate the wheat from the chaff, people had to submit applications, which in turn required the community’s approval in order for them to be on the team. Alexa Ray Corriea writing for Polygon described this approach as uncommon, for most fan translations allow anyone to contribute. It was similar to the Mother 3 translation led by Clyde “Tomato” Mandelin in that it’s clear the people involved wanted the translation to be as professional of a product as possible. The translation was released in an episodic format. In the autumn of 2013, a beta patch translating the first two episodes was released. Nearing the end of the following winter, work on the third episode was complete. In June of 2014, the game was at last fully translated into English, unofficially dubbed Prosecutor’s Path. There have been many instances throughout history of quality games failing to leave Japan. Was this a game worth of the fans’ immeasurable excitement?
As nothing released in theaters this past weekend really captured my interest (and the few that did failed to see a release where I live), I didn’t get to see many films the past week. Nonetheless, I can say what few I did see were interesting to say the least.
With the last question I proposed about a month ago, we discussed the times in which we got into a work long after its release date. As I said at in that post, the phrase “You had to be there” exists for a reason. Sometimes what made a work so special at the time is difficult to appreciate even just a few years later. Avatar may have been quite the spectacle when it was released, but as time marched on and the only way to watch it was in one’s living room on a smaller screen, people began judging it on the merits of its storytelling. The result? The film that grossed over two billion dollars in the box office left almost no impact on pop culture, demonstrating its lack of staying power. Not helping matters was the release of films such as Blade Runner 2049 that could easy match or surpass Avatar in terms of visuals in addition to providing a lot more substance.
This time, we will be discussing a similar, yet distinct topic. Getting into works late is inevitable whether it’s because one slipped past our radars, we were indifferent at the time, or the work in question was made before we were born. As discussed previously, that can be to our detriment. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes we don’t get into a work until after years or even decades of hearing critics and fans alike raving about it. Out of curiosity, we finally decide to see what the fuss is about only to start praising the work ourselves when all is said and done.
The golden age of arcade games helped solidify the medium, and it didn’t take long for the creators to begin experimenting. During that time, the only way to play a video game was to visit an arcade and insert coins into a cabinet. Because of this, the idea of being able to easily port one around on one’s person was particularly enticing. One of the earliest attempts at creating a handheld experience came in the form of Nintendo’s Game & Watch product line. This idea resulted from its creator, Gunpei Yokoi, observing a bored businessman on the Shinkansen playing around with his LCD calculator in 1977. The first few models sold under the Game & Watch trademark sold millions of units, effectively inventing a secondary market within the industry.
Though the subsequent success of their Famicom console cemented their status as one of the big players in the home gaming market, Nintendo wasn’t done experimenting with handhelds. As the eighties drew to a close, Research & Development 1, the team led by Mr. Yokoi, worked on a product to succeed their Game & Watch line: the Game Boy. However, this product had one important distinction from what came before. Still images were printed onto the LCD screen of a Game & Watch unit akin to how numbers are displayed on a basic calculator. This allowed the creators to get around strict memory limitations by not having to animate sprites. This wasn’t going to be the case with the Game Boy. It was to be a true 8-bit console, making full use of interchangeable cartridges – just like the Famicom. The only drawback is that it would lack color.
Part of what allowed the Famicom, or the Nintendo Entertainment System as it would be dubbed overseas, to enjoy the success it had was thanks to a little game called Super Mario Bros. It became a phenomenon upon release in 1985, not only pushing the sales of more units, but also revitalizing the American gaming market after its debilitating crash in 1983. Partially because it often came bundled with the console itself in package deals, the game went on to sell over forty-million copies. Overnight, Mario became one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time, so it was only natural that he should star in one of the Game Boy’s launch titles as well.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who created Super Mario Bros., left development of this new Mario title in the hands of Gunpei Yokoi’s team. Appropriately, the one who invented the Game Boy, Satoru Okada, would serve as its director. It was planned as the console’s premier title until Dutch gaming publisher Henk Rogers brought the highly popular Tetris to Nintendo of America’s attention. From there, he convinced branch founder Minoru Arakawa that the game would help Nintendo reach the largest audience. The company then agreed to bundle Tetris with every Game Boy purchase.
April 24, 1989 marked the domestic release of the Game Boy. The entire stock, which consisted of 300,000 units sold out within two weeks. It then proceeded to sell 40,000 units on its very first day when it launched in North America a few months later. Despite Nintendo electing to make Tetris the showcase title, the finished Mario installment, Super Mario Land, was among the handheld console’s launch titles. That it wasn’t bundled with the Game Boy did nothing to deter fans, for it managed to sell over eighteen-million copies, eclipsing figures of the series’ previous installment, Super Mario Bros. 3. Does it hold up to the same degree as its generation-defining predecessors?
Anyone who has followed my site this year will know that I began doing monthly updates at the end of each one. Partially inspired by the various blog tags I’ve been doing, I ended up talking about films I had been watching during these updates – first starting with ones I saw in theaters before expanding that to ones I watched at home as well. I enjoyed regaling readers with stories of what I’ve been watching, but I eventually realized that cramming them all into the monthly updates made for an unfocused post. Therefore, I decided to start yet another new feature on this site that I will call Reel Life. Here, I will talk about the films I’ve seen. I can’t say I’m as good at parsing films as I am games, so this is less of a set of formal reviews and more of me talking about whatever happened to catch my interest during the past week. Once I’ve finished with my piece, I’ll say whether or not I can recommend the film in question or if I have mixed feelings about it.
Hope you find something worth watching!
The impact of the 1993 PC game Doom was such that it led to a swath of imitators. Though they would become known as first-person shooters, these kinds of games were often referred to as Doom clones. One title to emerge from the scene was LucasArts’s Star Wars: Dark Forces. Originally released in 1995, it was a commercial success, selling over 300,000 units and enjoying fairly positive reviews. The developers named the custom engine on which the game was built Jedi after the franchise’s heroic faction. The game stood out from Doom by having no limitations on the Z-axis. Levels in the older game only existed on the X-Y plane, meaning areas could not overlap vertically – even if floor and ceiling heights varied.
Shortly before the debut of Dark Force, LucasArts began work on another game in 1994. The team wished to create a multimedia side story to the films entitled Shadows of the Empire, setting it between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – a time period that had not been explored in any Star Wars novel. The idea was to create something that could be considered a film without actually making one. The video game adaption of this project was to be released on Nintendo’s upcoming Nintendo 64 console. This decision was made because, though LucasArts enjoyed a lot of success in the PC circuit with classic adventure game such as Maniac Mansion, they felt they missed opportunities for extra revenue by ignoring the console market for so long. Therefore, by being an early adopter for Nintendo’s newest console, they could make a lot of money in this venture while also getting more people interested in it, forming a mutually beneficial partnership. In order to give themselves more creative control over the story and the gameplay, they decided against using any of central characters from the film. Instead, they elected to cast a minor character from the Expanded Universe in the lead role.
The development cycle for this game proved to be an interesting experience as the team was allowed access to the hardware months ahead of its launch. A prototype Nintendo 64 was not yet available when work began, so the developers used a Silicon Graphic Onyx visualization system. Eighteen months later, a nearly complete sample of the Nintendo 64 was given to LucasArts. Thankfully, two developers in particular had extensive experience with the SGI platform and prototyped the game using the Performer 3D API. This allowed the team to port their coding to the Nintendo 64 hardware in only three days. They were even given a prototype controller with which to test the game. It was actually a modified SNES controller with an analog stick and Z-trigger designed by Konami. To ensure complete secrecy, the LucasArts team signed a strict nondisclosure agreement, disallowing them from speaking to anyone about the hardware or the project. Furthermore, the controller prototype was concealed in a cardboard box that they could place their hands into, but prevented them from removing it.
Though the development cycle wasn’t plagued with any major setbacks, it ended up taking its toll on the team. According to the game’s director, Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, some team members were regularly working 100-hour weeks for the better part of a year. Compounding the pressure was the fact that they had to release their game shortly after the console’s launch. To make matters worse, when the game was demonstrated at the 1996 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the audience’s reactions were mixed. In response, LucasArts canceled their original plan to have their work coincide with the Nintendo 64’s launch so they could take extra time to polish the gameplay. Despite this, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was postponed a mere three months later, finally seeing the light of day in December of 1996. After the Nintendo 64 debuted with Super Mario 64 being one of its launch titles, the 3D craze of the mid-nineties had begun in earnest. The idea of a real three-dimensional Star Wars game was truly exciting for both old and new fans at the time. It was one of the console’s first big third-party successes, and played a role in the 3D revolution’s continued momentum. Can it claim to have held up as well as its pioneering contemporaries?