'Ace Attorney 5' project leads discuss story elements, new characters, and the move to 3D

Phoenix Wright may have officially quit the lawyering business in the Ace Attorney game, but by the end of the game, there were certainly more than a few hints that he was coming back.

Phoenix Wright may have officially quit the lawyering business in the Ace Attorney game, but by the end of the game, there were certainly more than a few hints that he was coming back.

"I think players are wondering what happened to Phoenix afterward," said Capcom's Takeshi Yamazaki to Famitsu magazine, "and I think it's important that we depict what happened after Apollo Justice.

"The Phoenix you saw in that game was 33 years old, and this game takes place a year afterward he's back as a lawyer, and he brings a much more mature facade to his work. His design in the game tries to reflect this growth; he's got a vest on, he's unbuttoned his jacket, and overall he looks like he's a lot more comfortable up there."

Yamazaki is the story director on the new Ace Attorney 3DS game, the first details of which were announced in this week's Famitsu. He takes the place of Shu Takumi, chief writer for the series up to now. As producer Motohide Eshiro explained, Takumi is too busy right now leading up the Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton project.

Among the things Yamazaki and Eshiro discussed in their interview with Famitsu this week:

  • Phoenix's first case in the new Ace Attorney involves defending a sweet-looking little girl against accusations she set off a bomb that destroyed the courtroom where previous games have taken place. His first opposing prosecutor, the younger brother of Winston Payne: the punching bag that players have fought (and usually beaten soundly) in the first chapter of previous titles.

    "He's a little bit more villainous than his brother," Yamazaki said, "the sort of guy who isn't afraid of using dirty tactics. Sort of a 'dark Payne,' in other words. The theme of this story overall is 'dark days in law'. Phoenix was talking about this in Apollo Justice a bit, along the lines of 'Dark days are coming for law, and we have to do something to fix it.' Partly because of that, this game begins with a courtroom bombing, to sort of symbolize that."
  • Instead of airheaded New Age channeler Maya Fey, Phoenix is assisted in this game by a new girl, clad in yellow, that hasn't been named publicly yet. What happened to Maya?

    "Well, he she might be back at her home village for more training," Yamazaki laughed. "This new girl is certainly a key part of the story, but designing her was a pretty rough process. She looked almost alien-like at first, which was partly due to the fact that her background was a lot different than it is today. Yellow was always her theme color, though she really has a drive to win, so in that respect she's a fair bit different than Maya."
  • Any other characters from previous games set to appear? "Well, the world setting is the same as the other Ace Attorney games," Eshiro noted, "so without going into detail on whether anyone appears or doesn't appear, I will say that the story is set in a world where they all exist."
  • Perhaps the largest shift from previous Ace Attorney games is that this title features full 3D graphics, allowing for the courtroom to be portrayed from any camera angle. The characters are fully 3D, too, although Yamazaki took pains to state that they will retain their 2D "touch."

    "Part of the visual appeal of Ace Attorney stems from the fact that it's in 2D, after all," he explained. "We were limited in how many animation frames we could put in the first few games, so at first there were maybe only one or two variations on the 'Objection!' word balloon. That wound up giving the game this sense of speed and sharpness that we couldn't have gotten otherwise. To recreate that feel in 3D, we're deliberately messing with the pace, inserting pauses and skipping over other things. With 2D we played around with perspectives drawing Phoenix's hand larger than usual when he's pointing at someone and we're taking measures to recreate that sort of thing in 3D."
  • More details on the game, including Phoenix's assistant and a new gameplay system that gives him the ability to gauge witness's emotions in new ways, will be revealed at the Tokyo Game Show in a couple weeks.

    "The overall plot is pretty much set in stone," Eshiro said, "and it looks like it'll be about as long as previous games. It's not too long, and it's not too short, I don't think. We're going to have a demo version at TGS that should pretty well encapsulate all of the fun new stuff we're trying out it runs about 15 minutes, and I think it's really well put together."

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