Operation Backlog Completion 2024
May 312024

It’s the final day of Celebrating All Things Mysterious 2024 (and your last chance to participate in the contest).

Last year, we closed out the month by talking about Ace Attorney Investigations 2, so why not end the event with Ace Attorney again?

Earlier this year, Capcom finally brought Apollo Justice, Dual Destinies, and Spirit of Justice (the 4th, 5th, and 6th mainline games) to modern platforms as the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy, which even got a physical release for the Switch in North America. Since Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice were digital-only here before, it’s great to finally have them in physical form.

While I ultimately decided against playing through all three games again, I did spend some time with the Apollo Justice Trilogy nevertheless.

I love that these newer collections include concept art and similar bonuses. Looking through the concept art is always fun, especially when you get to see earlier character designs.

It also includes an extensive soundtrack selection (all the songs from the three games, minus the ones that only play for a few seconds, plus some additional tracks as well), and you can set a song to play in the background while you look through other parts of the gallery.

Then there’s the Animation Studio, which might be the best bonus feature I’ve ever seen.

The Animation Studio lets you pick any background, character, pose/animation, and voice clip (ex. “Objection!”) to create your own scenes. It’s restricted based on game, so no taking a character exclusive to one game and putting them in a background from a different game, but it still has a ton of options. One annoying part is that some poses/animations are exclusive to the courtroom, so if you select that option while on a different background, it automatically changes to the courtroom. I’d have preferred it if courtroom-specific options only showed up on the list while you had a courtroom background set, or if it asked first.

Still, after a bit of fiddling, I managed to make some fun what-if scenes with Blackquill, since he’s one of my favorite prosecutors. I like to think he’s there to see the bird.

and a scene with my least favorite prosecutor, to imagine what could have been (out-of-court encounters with Nahyuta might have done wonders for him).

Playing around with the Animation Studio makes me wish The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles had this feature, because I’d go crazy if I could make my own Great Ace Attorney scenes.

Anyway, another nice feature added to the Apollo Justice Trilogy is that you can not only select which game to play, but even a specific section of a specific case. I revisited some of my favorite moments from the trilogy this way, and it reminded me just how much I love this series.

The Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy is a fantastic collection of the later three Ace Attorney games, with some really nice bonus features, and a perfect collection to end Celebrating All Things Mysterious 2024 with. So let me know your thoughts on the Apollo Justice Trilogy, and join me in hoping that this is the year a new Ace Attorney game will finally be announced!

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May 292024

A couple months ago, I saw the physical Switch copy of Mato Anomalies was on sale for such a good price that I decided to take a chance on it despite its mixed reviews.

Mato Anomalies is a turn-based RPG about a private detective named Doe who is called upon to investigate a mysterious substance being sold on the black market.

His investigation, however, leads him into an alternate dimension, where he comes under attack by monsters. A mysterious man named Gram saves him and says it’s his mission to destroy those monsters. Since Doe’s case appears to be linked to them, the two form a reluctant partnership.

That sets up the core gameplay of Mato Anomalies. You’ll explore the futuristic, cyberpunk city as Doe, with some areas being full 3D environments to explore (including cats and dogs you can pet) while others are 2D backgrounds used just for storytelling purposes. Once the main quest or a side quest reveals the presence of supernatural involvement, you head into the dungeon and play as Gram and other party members who join you along the way.

Dungeons are fairly straightforward, with occasional simple puzzles and side paths to follow to find items. Combat can be tough and required me to think about strategy instead of just attacking. Health is a shared pool, while other stats are individual, which took a little getting used to. Each party member has two different weapon types, as well as a skill tree, so there’s decent room for customization.

And if you really like the combat, there are also random dungeons to explore for extra rewards, as well as a challenge area for tougher battles.

While this gives Gram the bulk of the gameplay, Doe actually has a unique gameplay mechanic as well. Certain quests will require you to get information from a character’s mind, at which point Doe can perform a Mind/Hack.

Mind/Hack is a card game in which you must pick a deck, each of which has unique properties, and use it to defeat your opponent. I found it difficult at first, but it was a lot of fun once I got used to it. However, it feels somewhat underutilized. There’s no actual deckbuilding, and side quests lead to dungeons far more often than Mind/Hack sequences, so it feels almost like an afterthought.

At a glance, Mato Anomalies looks impressive for a game from a small team. However, the Switch version at least suffers from major performance issues. I came to expect a slight delay any time I opened a menu or talked to an NPC, and the game crashed frequently enough that I learned to save as often as possible.

I also have to admit I had trouble following the story. This is partly because the game throws a ton of terminology at you, and it’s not always clear if it’s something new to the characters or if they already know what it means. The plot is also somewhat… esoteric. It has a high concept story it wants to tell, and so while the moment-to-moment beats might be clear enough, it’s difficult to keep a good grasp on the overarching mystery.

(Speaking of which, I felt like the “detective” aspect of the story was increasingly diminished as the stakes got higher, but I was committed to playing it for mystery month by that point.)

Despite my confusion about what exactly was going on, it has some genuinely great moments and cool ideas, especially near the end. The party members are likeable, and each has some good personal scenes that you can see if you talk to them in the city, as well.

Update: Sadly, the final boss has such a difficulty spike that I put completing the game on hold, at least for the time being.

Mato Anomalies is not a game for everyone. It’s not especially polished, it has some frustrating parts, and it’s easy to get lost in the story. At the same time, it’s much better than I expected for the bargain bin price I found it for. This is one of those games where it left me interested to see what the developer might do with a similar game in the future.

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May 272024

Last time, we talked about the remake of the first Famicom Detective Club game, The Missing Heir.

Now let’s continue on and talk about the second.

Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind is actually a prequel, and they’re set up so that you can play them in either order. (If you play one, you can carry over the name you used for the protagonist to the other, too.) I went with release order and played The Missing Heir first, but I can see how playing the prequel first might increase the tension at times. It’s up to you.

From the beginning, The Girl Who Stands Behind is the creepier of the two games. While The Missing Heir had slight hints of potentially supernatural occurrences, they’re much stronger in its prequel.

The case begins with the discovery of a murdered high school girl, and it isn’t long before you learn that before her death, she was investigating the school’s urban legend about a ghost that will appear standing behind you. With that as your one lead, you begin digging deeper into the origins of the legend and what the victim might have learned about it.

For the most part, the gameplay is identical to that of the first game. You’ll still be picking commands from the menu, inspecting backgrounds for clues, and running through a list of dialogue options and other actions to figure out how to progress. Progression didn’t feel quite as opaque in this one, although there were still a few times when I was stumped until I found the action I needed to try or re-try to make things happen.

Sadly, there aren’t any parts where you have to type your answer. Instead, there are a couple parts where you’re asked questions and have to choose the correct answer from a list.

The story was interesting, and I loved the creepier tone, although it lacked some of the excitement of The Missing Heir’s story. It also didn’t feel quite as tight, with more loose ends and aspects that should have been explored in more detail, plus the odd choice to add ambiguity right at the very end.

Click for The Girl Who Stands Behind spoilers
The implication at the very end that the girl died from being hit by the car and therefore might have been a ghost after all when she was seen at the window was interesting… but if they wanted to take it in that direction, I think they should have explored the supernatural aspect a bit more thoroughly so it felt earned.

I also feel like we should have learned the connection between Hibino and Urabe during the investigation, instead of just having it told to us at the end.

But while I’d say I enjoyed The Missing Heir more overall, The Girl Who Stands Behind was still a good mystery with a lot of excellent points. If you like one of the Famicom Detective Club remakes, you’ll probably like the other.

Now, when can we have a third Famicom Detective Club game…?

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