Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney


With Turnabout Trial 3, Shu Takumi felt the grand finale effectively tied up all the loose ends, giving the protagonist a proper sendoff. Despite this, he and the rest Capcom took note of the fanbase it had garnered over the years and felt compelled to make a standalone sequel. They became especially motivated once the original game had been released in the West under the name Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, stunning everyone when it became a sleeper hit. By then, the Game Boy Advance had been succeeded by Nintendo’s next console: the DS. Its novel dual screen gameplay allowed the console to achieve a level of commercial success that continued the company’s dominance in the handheld market.

Taking advantage of the new technology, some staff members proposed for the game to be rendered in 3D as a way of making a big impact on the DS. Eventually, they settled on a 2D presentation akin to the original trilogy. Nonetheless, some 3D elements remain in the final product, being the first installment in the series to feature videos created using motion-capture. Such were the lengths Mr. Takumi and his team went to make this game that they visited real courts to study the legal process. The fruit of their labor was released in April of 2007 under the name Turnabout Trial 4.

As the series had been as much of a success in the West as it was in its native homeland, localization was already underway by August of that year. Alexander O. Smith, who helped write the English localization, returned for this installment as well. After twenty-two meetings between Capcom’s American and Japanese divisions, they finally had a new name for the protagonist – one fitting for an attorney who fights to keep his innocent clients from receiving a guilty verdict: Apollo Justice. From here, they decided to name the game after him in a similar manner to his predecessor. Thus, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney was released in North America, Europe, and then Australia in 2008. Does this fourth installment succeed in elevating an already impressive canon to a new level?

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A Question for the Readers #4: Third Time’s the Charm?

With the last question, I asked you all to name an instance in which you felt a work you used to enjoy soured like old milk. This time, we will turn the question on its head and discuss which works have aged like fine wine.

Say you’ve bought into the hype surrounding a work and when you decide to see what all the fuss is about, you walk away from the experience disappointed. “How could so many esteemed critics give it such high praise?” you may ask yourself. Nonetheless, you have this inexplicable desire to try it out again. This time, you walk away slightly more impressed. Over time, you realize the critics were right all along and you find yourself praising it alongside them – a complete reversal from your original stance. Maybe you weren’t mature enough when you tried it out for the first time. Perhaps it takes multiple playthroughs/viewings/listens to fully appreciate. Either way, I’m confident we’ve all had this happen to us at least once.

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Responding to My Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination

Well, for the second month in a row, I’m proud to announce that I’ve been nominated with another one of these blogger awards. I had a lot of fun doing the last one, so I’ll be happy to do this one as well. This time, I was nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award by Athena from AmbiGaming, who runs a very well-thought out blog delving into the themes of her favorite games, asking hard-hitting questions few others in the gaming sphere have the courage to ask.

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Shadow of the Colossus


Though Ico became a critical favorite when it was released in 2001, it failed to become a bestseller. Only 700,000 copies were sold worldwide by the end of the decade. Fumito Ueda, the game’s lead designer, speculated that his “design by subtraction” ethos may have hurt its commercial success. In the early 2000s, games were typically promoted through still images rather than with gameplay footage. An uninitiated person would take one look at screenshots of Ico and see a game without a heads-up display, being led to wrongly believe that it was either incomplete or overly simplistic. Not helping matters was Ico being released in the face of fierce competition such as Halo, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Grand Theft Auto III. It wouldn’t be until much later that Ico received attention from the gaming sphere for being one of the first mainstream console releases to use the medium as an artistic expression rather than just to entertain.

Nonetheless, Mr. Ueda didn’t let this setback deter him and, along with thirty-four other staff members, began developing a new game in 2002. With the tentative title Nico, a portmanteau of Next and Ico, this team set out to create a sequel to their debut title. An early technology demo for their project surfaced in 2003 at the DICE Summit, an annual multi-day gathering of video game executives which is held in Las Vegas, Nevada. This clip depicted a group of masked boys with horns on their heads riding horses. Together, they were able to fell a gigantic, intimidating foe. Mr. Ueda later explained that it was easier to reuse the character models of their previous work’s title character until they had fully established the world they were about to create. Indeed, the biggest turning point for this new game’s development cycle came about from their decision to sever any overt connections with Ico. As Mr. Ueda judged that the ending of Ico was too final, he felt it unnecessary to produce a sequel.

Though Nico appeared on internal schedules for upcoming Sony releases, no official announcement was made. It wasn’t until late 2004 that a new title dubbed Wander and the Colossus emerged. The particularly astute observed several similarities to the concept presented at the DICE Summit, but gone were any connections to Ico. This was the game Mr. Ueda and his team had been working on, and a year later in October of 2005, it would see the light of day. Sony noticeably put far more effort into promoting this team’s sophomore effort than they did with Ico, advertising it in gaming publications, on television, and on the internet in what was one of the industry’s earliest viral marketing campaigns. It was even featured in the 2007 American comedy-drama film Reign Over Me. Adam Sandler, who became a fan when it was demoed to him, requested it to be put in a scene involving his character playing games to cope with the loss of his family. The scene in question wherein he played through it alongside Don Cheadle wasn’t scripted – they were fully immersed into the experience.

As a result of this publicity, Wander and the Colossus was a commercial success, domestically selling over 100,000 copies in its first week alone. Nearly 80% of the first Japanese shipment was sold within two days. While Ico fell into obscurity overseas, it didn’t take long for Western fans to embrace this game where it was renamed Shadow of the Colossus. Like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus deeply resonated with critics, who would praise it for giving the medium much needed artistic credence. Did this game five years in the making live up to its grand fanfare upon release?

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A Question for the Readers #3: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

Whether we play a game, read a book, listen to music, or watch a film, forming an opinion of it is inevitable. Even the standby of “I don’t much of an opinion on it” is itself an opinion, paradoxically enough. Most of the time, where we stand when it comes to assessing a work begins to form once the credits roll, the final word is read, or the closing track fades out. The positive and negative feelings we are left with form the basis of our opinions.

However, as time goes on, it’s not uncommon for our opinions to change. Sometimes, we’ll begin to think highly of something we once dismissed while in other cases, opinions of things we used to like will begin to sour. For the purposes of this question, we will be focusing on the latter scenario.

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The members of Free Radical Design proved that they were the talent behind the famous Nintendo 64 adaptation of Goldeneye when they released TimeSplitters 2 in 2002. Considered a major improvement over the original, it’s often considered one of the greatest games of the sixth console generation. As it drew to a close, Sony, the company that dominated the generation with its PlayStation 2 console, hit a stumbling block upon launching the PlayStation 3. Though lauded as a versatile piece of hardware with the ability to play Blu-Ray discs, there was one major aspect holding it back: it had very few games to speak of upon launch. Indeed, the best games available for it in 2006 could also be played on the PC or the Xbox 360, making it difficult to justify paying $599 USD for it.

Nonetheless, Free Radical Design decided to take advantage of the new hardware offered by both Sony and Microsoft to demonstrate their continued relevance in this new generation. Their new project, Haze, was unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) of 2006. Notably, they elected not to purchase a game engine, instead choosing to create their own. The idea behind this decision was to have more freedom when implementing gameplay features. Haze was billed as a third-person shooter, but halfway through development, the game’s publisher, Ubisoft requested for it to be changed. They wanted Haze to be a first-person shooter to compete with other bestselling action titles such as Call of Duty and Halo.

Haze was slated to be released in the summer of 2007 whereupon it would see a simultaneous release on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the PC. The release date was then quickly pushed back to that year’s winter. After much speculation, it was eventually announced at Sony’s 2007 E3 press conference that Haze would be a PlayStation 3 exclusive. As even one year later, the console had a notable lack of exclusives, a game made by the people behind Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and TimeSpitters 2 seemed like the perfect solution to Sony’s conundrum.

The game garnered a lot of attention from the press prior to its release. In the wake of the dual release of Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, some of the most anticipated games in the medium’s history, Free Radical Design had their work cut out for them. In October of 2007, Ubisoft announced that the nu metal band Korn had written and recorded a song inspired by the upcoming game also entitled “Haze”. Some outlets went as far as calling it a “Halo killer”. Sadly, the final product didn’t come close to making a dent in Bungie’s venerable franchise. Indeed, the only thing the game killed was Free Radical Design themselves, as its poor performance received ensured the company’s demise. In a spectacularly ill-advised move, Free Radical Design employees Rob Yescombe and David Doak boasted that making a game like Halo was “child’s play” and their other projects were to use the Haze engine. Once Haze failed, the bottom fell out, and the studio shut down in December of 2008. How does the final game Free Radical Design developed fare in hindsight?

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