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Month: March 2010

PAX East 2010, Part One: Of Panels and Pokewalkers

One quick note before I begin: I’m looking for PAX East cosplay pics on deviantART. If you see (or have added) any over there, please post a reply with a link or links; thanks.

Now, on with the post, which is rather long, even though it’s just the first part. Co-starring my partner in crime; some of you may know him by his old FFVII Citadel handle, Cyrus Dogstar.

Non-QTEs, Less Linear JRPGs, and Other Stuff

Beat Devil May Cry 4 last week. Not the best game in the series, but certainly had its high points. All the hallmarks were there: bishies, hot chicks, gothic interiors, death metal songs that play during battles, and occasional violations of the 180° rule when moving from place to place. Unlike the others, Dante is not playable for much of the game. Instead, the player takes the role of Nero, a young man with similar fashion sense and slightly less campiness than Mr. Sparda. He also has a glowing arm, which can be used to grab far-off enemies and unleash brutal attacks on them. These attacks vary depending on the enemy, reminding me of Quick Time Events, though not in the traditional sense. As such, Nero is a fun character to play. Dante controls much the same as always, and is also tougher to control compared to Nero, due to the lack of Glowing Hand.

Although <i>Rune Factory Frontier</i> is mad addictive, <b>this</b> is what I'll be playing today!
Although Rune Factory Frontier is mad addictive, this is what I'll be playing today!

As for Rune Factory Frontier, I’m still plugging away at it, and passed the 100-hour mark this weekend. All that has been ever said about JRPGs and linearity doesn’t quite apply to the Rune Factory series. Yes, there is a single storyline and a set progression in terms of unlockable areas, and no, you can’t fully customize your hero character, but everything else is wide open. There’s tons of things to do—farming, fishing, crafting, cooking, and much more—and like any good Harvest Moon, there’s also a wide range of girls to hit on, and eventually, marry. It’s rich and immersive in a way that JRPGs traditionally aren’t, and despite the glaring flaws, I’m as hooked on Frontier as I was with its DS brethren. Can’t wait for Rune Factory 3‘s localization (please let this happen!).

Apart from games themselves, I’m getting a little weary of CAG’s forums again and am ready to take another hiatus from them, largely due to the fact that there’s hardly any humor in them. This seems to be a problem with many gaming forums, where games are Serious Business and there’s little to no room for levity. Perhaps this also explains why Shimrra won Best CAG Blog in this year’s Cheapy Awards, even though his regular Daily HaHa posts are mainly just images ganked from the likes of 4chan. Humor is in very short supply amongst gamers, it seems.

Anyway, looking forward to PAX East at the end of this week, and have been going over my options for what to see and do. Meanwhile, I will be playing Cave Story. On my Wii.

Best gaming week ever? It’s looking that way.

Special Stage: Cracked‘s gaming articles are funny, but also tend to contain nuggets of truth. Thanks to my husband for linking me to “5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted”, which is one of the latest, and chock-full of said nuggets.

Turnabout Spinoff

Though it may seem otherwise, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (referred to as AAI from here on in) is not an easy game to pigeonhole. It could be considered as either a spinoff of the main Ace Attorney series or a full entry in its own right. It is the first and only Ace Attorney to feature both a prosecutor as the main character and a heavy emphasis on crime scene investigation. However, it’s as lengthy and as well written as many of its predecessors, and represents an evolution of, rather than a complete break from, the core Ace Attorney formula.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth - Edgeworth's OfficeSpinoff or not, there’s no denying that this is a different sort of Ace Attorney. Set sometime after the events of the third game (Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations), it stars Miles Edgeworth, a savvy public prosecutor who’s both friend and foil to defense attorney Wright. It opens in Edgeworth’s office, where there’s been a murder, and the cases that follow only get bigger and messier from there. The goal of the game is to find the culprits for these cases by analyzing evidence and other information gathered throughout the course of the investigation. Typical for the series, AAI is funny and well-told, and while the plot can be predictable at times, in general, it is solid, anime-flavored drama. However, the localization suffers in spots from awkward grammar and typographical errors. It is far from the worst game localization I’ve ever seen, but it could’ve greatly benefited from an extra round of editing and polish.

While convoluted murder cases are a hallmark of Ace Attorney, how they are handled is what truly sets AAI apart. Previous games took place entirely from a first-person point of view for the investigation phases, and only showed the main character during trials. In AAI, Edgeworth is represented onscreen nearly all the time. When he’s not in his typical 1/4 front portrait view, he’s a sprite on the top screen of the DS, and can be made to walk or run around his environment. This comes at the expense of the freedom to move between several different locations, as Ace Attorney‘s defense lawyers did, but is realistic within the context of the story, particularly when dealing with partner characters—no more running back to the office just to speak with your assistant! Other new features include the “Logic” command, where Edgeworth pieces together things he has noticed in order to explain something within the scene, and a device that recreates crime scenes, AAI‘s subtle, and suitable, upgrade from the previous games’ magical MacGuffins.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth - Picking apart Agent Lang's testimonyWhat else is different? The post-investigation phase in an Ace Attorney game typically involves a courtroom showdown, but not in AAI. Edgeworth still takes testimony and presses both witnesses and suspects, sure, but all of this action takes place right on the scene, and as such, is very tightly integrated with the investigation phases.

If all this sounds like a radical departure from the old formula, it’s one that fans need not worry about, as there’s much that hasn’t changed. The basic interface, for one, as well as the fact that the entire game (except for saving functions) can be played with just the touchscreen if one prefers. Speaking of controls, the ability to shout “Objection!” using the microphone has returned. Also handled in a familiar way are the first-person crime scene examinations, where a specific area can be searched for evidence; likewise, the basic process of interviewing witnesses and presenting evidence to them is the same as it’s always been. The visuals and music are stylistically consistent with the rest of the series, though the majority of the reused art assets—such as the portrait views for Edgeworth—have been given a much-needed facelift.

One “feature” that has been in the series all along—and is also present in AAI—is the methodical process that pervades throughout the cases, and the testimonies in particular. Often, it’s not all that difficult to figure out just what is going on at certain points in the story, but jumping too far ahead in one’s conclusions can have dire consequences, and the correct answers can be rather obtuse. Perhaps it is because I’ve played the previous games and am used to the Ace Attorney thinking process, but I encountered such stumbling blocks far less in AAI. That, along with the lack of real make-or-break, nail-biting moments, has made for what’s possibly the easiest Ace Attorney yet.

While we’re on the subject of familiarity: as mentioned before, there are many throwbacks to earlier titles in the series. From the appearance of beloved characters like police detective Dick Gumshoe, to tiny, Easter egg-like details, there’s much here that will put a smile on any Ace Attorney fan’s face. However, this has come at the expense of introducing more new characters to the canon; while there are some, the amount of them feels insufficient when compared to the earlier games. This heavy reliance on familiar elements, while not bad in and of itself, is the most spinoff-like aspect of AAI, and weakens its case for being a good starting point for newcomers.

So, is AAI just a spinoff, or a true Ace Attorney game? The verdict points to somewhere squarely in between. It’s a great adventure game, with a lot of excellent ideas that I’d like to see put to use in future Ace Attorneys, but it also relies heavily on the past, and has a localization that isn’t quite up to par with those of its predecessors. If you’re a fan, especially an Edgeworth fan, you’ll probably love it. AAI is a fan’s game, and while I don’t doubt that newcomers to Ace Attorney can and will enjoy it, one gets the sense that they’re not really who it was made for.