Operation Backlog Completion 2018
Apr 242012

Ace Attorney is a niche series. Many people have never heard of it (though main character Phoenix Wright may have made some waves when he appeared as a fighter in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3), and when someone is told about it, they frequently react with, “Why on Earth would I want to play a game about a lawyer?”


Believe it or not, almost everyone who has gotten beyond that point and picked the game up is blown away by it. Lawyers have never been this much fun!

The controls are simple, either pointing and clicking with the DS stylus, or using the directional pad to navigate around the screen. Each game is split into separate cases, each of which (with the exception of the first case, as it is always a tutorial) has investigation sections, in which you search for clues and evidence, and trial sections, in which you question witnesses, search for and point out contradictions, and solve the mystery. The fifth game in the series, the spin-off Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, is the exception, as it lacks trials but retains cases, confrontations, and much of the gameplay involved in trial sections.

The plots and the excellent localizations really draw the player in. In the first three games, you control defense attorney Phoenix Wright, in the fourth, defense attorney Apollo Justice, and in the fifth, prosecutor Miles Edgeworth. All of the games have stories that are exciting both in terms of the individual cases and the overarching plots, and humor is spread throughout. From ridiculous puns, to running jokes, to great lines, Ace Attorney is a much funnier series than one might imagine from the premise.

All of these things mean that the games have an enthusiastic and devoted fanbase. This fanbase was devastated when the news came out that the spin-off’s sequel, Ace Attorney Investigations 2, would not be localized. Many fans, therefore, would never get to play it. Since then, fans have created petitions, formed groups, and pleaded with Capcom to change their minds and let us buy this wonderful game. One such group is Operation: Objection! Based on the success of Operation Rainfall, Operation: Objection! hopes to succeed in getting Investigations 2 localized. As it currently stands, news on localization has been changed from “no” to “an open discussion point.” This is progress, but we aren’t there yet.

If you’ve never played the Ace Attorney series, give it a try. The five games released outside of Japan (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, and Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth) are all available for the Nintendo DS, and of course can be played on the 3DS as well, due to backwards compatibility. The first three games are also available as WiiWare. Finally, the first game is also available on iOS.

(Update: Since the time of this posting, the entire first trilogy was also released on iOS, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies was released on 3DS and iOS, and a crossover with Professor Layton came out.)

If you’re already a fan, spread the word! Make the fanbase grow, and let other fans know about the localization issue. Support the series, and let Capcom see that we will support Investigations 2 if–no, when–it is localized.

Update: Two years later, our efforts haven’t ceased.

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Apr 222012

My zombie serial, Sacreya’s Legacy, is now out!

Here’s a short sample:

Sacreya’s Legacy

Episode 1: The Airport

The designer of the airport must have had something against color. Everything was white, although the floor had been polished until it was almost reflective. Sitting alone in a block of white plastic chairs, I had worn all black and knew I stuck out like a sore thumb. The television in the corner was broadcasting the news of what was happening in Vogan Point, where the Sacreya Virus was out of control. The camera panned across shots of the city, showing abandoned houses and empty streets. They paused to center in on an open door that was hanging off its hinges; bloodstains covered the visible floor.

“The evacuations should be complete in another week or two,” the grim-faced reporter said. “The military has surrounded the city to prevent the virus from getting any further, and no one is permitted to leave without first being cleared by medical examiners.”

The sight of what was happening to my beloved city made me wish I were still capable of crying. Vogan Point would always be a golden city in my mind, due to both the brick and sandstone that it was built with and my happy memories of living there. I liked the city of Minstor, even if I had only been here a month, but it would always be a silver city to me–tarnished silver, when I was feeling particularly homesick. Still, I had gotten out just in time. If I had stayed in Vogan Point any longer, I would have gotten caught up in the outbreak. With that in mind, I reached up to make sure my black fedora was tilted enough to keep my face in shadows. I didn’t want to start a panic. While I was at it, I adjusted my gloves and lifted the collar of my trench coat.

I wasn’t supposed to be watching the news. I refocused my attention on the young woman standing against the far wall–and on the suitcase she held in one hand. Wearing a casual suit, with red hair swept away from her face and a smile for those who passed by, she looked for all the world like an innocent traveler. Under better circumstances, I might have written a poem about her.

The television drew my attention again, as the image of a familiar, white-haired man appeared in the corner. “And as the virus continues to devastate the city, everyone wants to know two things: Is Dr. Jared Sacreya, creator of a similar ‘zombie virus,’ responsible for this outbreak? And, more importantly…where is he?”

I closed my eyes so that I wouldn’t have to see the screen. Dr. Sacreya was dead. This reporter was better than most; nearly everyone else was vilifying the scientist as an evil madman. This one, at least, remembered our appearances on television and knew the two viruses should not be considered identical.

Although they’re too close for comfort.

“Just before the outbreak, Dr. Sacreya’s home was the site of an explosion that devastated that part of the city. We are still–” She cut off with a scream, and I opened my eyes to see the reporter fleeing a horde of reanimated monstrosities. A second later, the screen was filled with jerking images as her cameraman followed.

I turned my attention back to my quarry.

Quarry? You need to get more rest, Ben.

The thought worried me for a moment, but a quick evaluation of my mental faculties assured me that I was doing all right. The woman moved from her spot and began walking towards the customs desk. Her stride was casual and unconcerned; I felt my respect for her go up a notch. No one would have expected her to be capable of crime.

I stood with some difficulty, and then I made my way over to her. I went slowly, shuffling along, because running now would draw too much attention to myself. I was aware that I was dressed conspicuously, but better that than to be recognized as Benjamin Mason. When I was about a yard away from her, she noticed me. Her eyes narrowed, and then she turned and ran towards the doors with the suitcase. The customs agent opened his mouth, but I didn’t stay to listen. I broke into my shambling run and took off after her, heedless of all the people turning to stare at me. She burst out into the sunlight with me at her heels. I lunged for her, knocking the suitcase out of her hand. When it hit the ground, the mechanism linked to the secret compartment was sprung. The sides popped out, revealing the stolen painting hidden inside.

The young woman suddenly didn’t look so friendly. With a curse, she pulled out a gun and fired it at me. The bullet ripped through my chest, and I stumbled backwards. I hadn’t been expecting that; now I’d have to change my shirt. My cell phone started ringing at the same time, making the moment downright surreal.

“Nice try,” I said, giving her a hideous smile and tearing the gun from her hand. I ignored the phone and thanked God I didn’t have it set to play some happy tune.

“So it’s true,” she said. “You really can’t be killed.”

That wasn’t entirely accurate, but I wasn’t going to tell her that. I retrieved the suitcase, while pointing the gun at her. “Now, miss, why don’t we go down to the police station? I’m sure my friend Chief Colby will be quite happy to see you.”

Before we set out, I reached into my pocket to take a look at my phone. A brief message had been left, from a woman asking me to meet her at the Amaranth restaurant about a case. I was quite intrigued, as almost everything I had done in my new line of work had been at the behest of the police.

After all, few civilians were comfortable with hiring a zombie private investigator.

The rest of the story can be read in full at Fried Fiction, and don’t forget to check out the rest of my fiction.

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Apr 222012

Update: Since writing this original post, I have blogged about survival horror quite often. For more of my thoughts on the matter, check out my review of Anna, my discussion of Fatal Frame V, and my special Fatal Frame guest post.

To all fans who believe that one genre should not take over another, this is a call to action! To all fans who don’t understand, this is an explanation that will hopefully clarify many issues.

When it comes to the changes in the Resident Evil franchise, you already know that fans are heavily divided. There are those who embrace the changes, accept the action as a wonderful new turn for the series, and encourage you to keep going in that direction. Then there are the others—the ones who argue that the survival horror mechanics that made the original games so much fun are now completely lacking, and who ask instead for the series to return to its roots. You might think that this second group of fans is 1) small, 2) merely nostalgic, and/or 3) “purists” who only want survival horror games.

What Survival Horror Is

Before I address those three fallacies, I would like to discuss “survival horror” as a genre. Many people interpret the name literally, coming to the conclusion that to be a survival horror game, it must be a game in which you survive frightening things. However, as a genre, survival horror has traditionally included specific mechanics: a disturbing or frightening atmosphere, de-emphasized combat, a maze-like environment that encourages exploration, and puzzles. Other aspects such as fixed save points, fixed camera angles, and inventory management, are frequently used as well. Having one of the above is not enough. Therefore, the disturbing design of the Regeneradors or the visual horror of an Uroboros transformation does not make Resident Evil 4 or 5 survival horror games, even if paired with dark, confined, and scary environments.

Revelations, therefore, was not truly a return to survival horror, as fans were promised, although it was a step in the right direction. While some parts were action sections, others were close to being survival horror. It handled atmosphere fairly well, although the checkpoint system meant that any true suspense or fear from a gameplay perspective (versus a story perspective) was taken away—unlike in the classic games, there was very little chance that one could lose progress in Revelations. Combat was de-emphasized…most of the time. There was no reward for fighting enemies, and many could be avoided. While there were more sections that forced you to battle than the original games had, this is probably the point where Revelations came closest to truly “returning to series roots.” Both the idea of a maze-like environment and puzzles felt as though they had almost made it to a survival horror level. Instead of gradually unlocking new areas, backtracking and solving puzzles to continue, and needing to explore everywhere, Revelations provided a clear path to the plot, often marked on the map with a beacon. While there were a few times when a key could unlock multiple paths, more often than not that meant the obvious plot path and a room or two that contained items. That is hardly a maze. There was a handful of puzzles, including one that seemed thrown in as an attempt to say that it was truly like the classic games, but the whole effect was that the “survival horror” sections of Revelations were watered down, pale imitations of the classic games, designed in such a way that the player would never get lost or need to weigh their decisions carefully.

This is also why Resident Evil 6, a game that is notable for promising three scenarios with three separate gameplay styles, is also not going to be survival horror. The only one of the three scenarios that is even claiming to be there for the survival horror fans is Leon’s scenario, and everything about it so far shows that it will be packed with action, have a clear path to show players the way through the plot, and try to use a dark atmosphere and mobs of enemies for horror. Where are the puzzles? Where are the maze mechanics? Where is the suspense that will force to you pause and consider the risks and the rewards of continuing on? Horror it may be, but not survival horror.

Fans were stirred up when an interview was released saying that the future of Resident Evil was in action, and that the fanbase interested in classic survival horror was too small to warrant a game being made for them. It’s true that the genre does not have as many fans as “mainstream” genres do. That fanbase, however, is still a significant number of people being alienated and left behind.

Some of these fans have already stopped supporting the series. They want survival horror games, not action games with horror elements and the faces they remember from their beloved series. Some fans have continued to support it, accepting the genre shift as a change for the better or the inevitable. And some fans who truly miss survival horror will continue to buy the games because they have deluded themselves into thinking that the survival horror mechanics will be there.

Enough time has passed now that many of them, however, will take a stand. Even many who like the new games will take a step back, look at the truth of the issue, and realize that something needs to be done. That “something” will be not supporting the change—not giving a company money for games that have gone so far from their roots.

Now Versus Then

A frequently used argument in favor of the genre shift is that the series needed to evolve. It needed to progress. It needed to keep up with the times.

Resident Evil could have done any of those things and remained a survival horror series. Instead, it changed genres. Survival horror games are not broken shooters. They aren’t action games that went wrong somewhere along the way because of limited technology. Changing one genre into another and calling it “progress” implies that there was something about the first genre that was bad, primitive, or archaic. As such, another common argument is that the old Resident Evil games are inaccessible to the modern gamer–that it is purely nostalgia that causes old fans of series to miss that style; if those games came out now, they would never be able to enjoy them.

That is nonsense, and I am living proof of that. I became a fan of Resident Evil a little over a year ago. After some skepticism, as I thought the premise of the series was vaguely “zombies, shoot,” I started to learn more about it. I became entranced by the story. I devoured gameplay videos. At last, I bought the remake of the first Resident Evil, played it, and loved it. It was not “inaccessible.” The challenges presented by the need to backtrack, solve puzzles, manage the inventory, conserve ammunition, and, terrifyingly, conserve saves, delighted me. It was fun. It was fascinating. It was a style of gaming I could find in many old games, but very few new ones.

I quickly set about buying the other classic Resident Evil games. Thinking back to the gameplay videos I had seen, my first inclination was to buy Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5, and the upcoming Resident Evil 6, as well. After all, the style of gameplay looked fun, if radically different from the other games in the series.

That, of course, is the strongest argument of all used by fans of the genre shift. “If the game is fun, play it. Don’t concern yourself with whether it’s the same genre or not.” That’s what I thought, and so I almost supported the change as well, until I realized that the true problem is not action being better or worse than survival horror. The true problem is action replacing survival horror.

What We Truly Want

That brings me to my third point. The fans pleading for the return of survival horror are not against action games. We don’t want all action games to become survival horror games or even, necessarily, for Capcom to stop producing action Resident Evil games. What we truly want is variety. To us, good variety among games includes survival horror.

Right now, Capcom is making no attempts to provide survival horror except with half-hearted, watered down compromises like Revelations. As new games continue to come out, I will have many choices for when I want to play an action game. Those choices narrow considerably when I want to play a survival horror game. Is classic survival horror that much to ask for?

If both were provided, if the action games weren’t replacing the survival horror games, I would probably support both. As it is, Capcom has lost my Resident Evil sales for all the new games.

This is a call to action for other fans to do the same—refuse to support this genre change until we get survival horror back! Repost this! Spread the word! Contact Capcom if you can! And let people know what the true problem here is!

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