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Dai Gyakuten Saiban – thoughts

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Capcom tries new things for the Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) series, with an entirely new setting and characters. The end result brings something similar to the Layton vs. Phoenix Wright crossover, since we’re now in England in a time period where familiar technology in the main series hasn’t even been invented yet.

The story takes place in the Meiji period, which marks the era where Japan transitions from being an isolationist nation to opening foreign relationships with the West. In particular, the political relations between Japan and Great Britain play an important role in the setting of the game, so I wish the localization team good luck should they decide to bring this over. You can’t exactly pass this one off as America.

This game places an even stronger emphasis on being a series with continuity, being the setup for a greater journey and ending on a cliffhanger. There’s an overarching plot regarding Naruhodo’s best friend that gets no resolution in this game, and there is most certainly something lurking in the background that wouldn’t show itself until later games, if they are to be made. Unlike Edgeworth, who had his backstory revealed in the same game he was introduced in (so, the very first game), the rival prosecutor here is shrouded in mystery up until the very end, where the game promises that his background will be revealed later on should there be a sequel. Basically, this game is about as conclusive as the first chapter of a new arc in Kiseki. It seems like quite a few people are dissatisfied with things not concluding in one game, but I don’t really mind them making this with a series in mind, provided that the upcoming games get better.

…Which brings me to my next point. Frankly, the writing for the trials need work. Without things like fingerprint and DNA analysis (heck, modern technology in general), it seems like the team is lost on how to write their murders and trials. The cases are probably the weakest in the series, with even the final case being extremely underwhelming. Ever since the third Ace Attorney, they’ve tried going for having connections between several cases so that the final case becomes a more exciting climax due to prior build up. It generally worked, but even that structure fell on its face in the final case in Dai GyakuSai since the case itself was boring. The climax was severely lacking. That goes for most of the cases, with extremely underwhelming mysteries and characters missing crucial details that are right in their face. I guess it’s reasonable for the series to have a slow start, but what is shown here is not very promising.

The stage of the story being set in England actually brings forth some interesting twists to the traditional court found in Gyakuten Saiban. For example, every trial is also judged by a jury of randomly selected civilians, who are much more susceptible to appeals to emotion and ethics/morals rather than hard, cold evidence. When all six jury members vote Guilty, there’s a new element to the gameplay where you get the chance to listen to each of their conclusions and use them against each other to reveal contradictions.

The cases, while not being particularly good, also do new things for the series. You get to witness, first-hand, a not guilty verdict given due to the lack of decisive evidence, falsifying evidence and lying in court that actually went uncaught until later, and a case where you don’t actually go to court at all. Of course, GyakuSai 5 has it beat in both novelty and quality.

The main character themselves are a pretty likable bunch, and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of them. However, unsurprisingly for the setting, a lot of English people sure like to make racist judgments about our Japanese protagonist. The level of racism may be accurate considering the time period, but it sure gets annoying from the player’s point of view. I also wonder how they’re going to localize that.

One of the main draws of this being set in Europe is the appearance of an ikemen Sherlock Holmes (who also bring in yet another plot thread unsolved in this game). He brings along a new gameplay element where he makes a deduction that is somewhat close to the truth in direction, but ridiculously off when it comes to the minor details. Your job is to fix them by replacing keywords that are wrong, while seeing Naruhodo and Holmes make cool poses.

As far as the graphics and music go, they are great and I have zero complaints. The soundtrack is consistently good, best in the series even, and the character models are also very well animated. Despite the lacking specs of the 3DS, the game has good optimization and the animations are better and smoother than a lot of Vita games that try to do the same thing despite the advantage in hardware. I guess this is what happens when you have a big company that actually knows how to properly use the power of the hardware they work with.

As it stands now, it’s hard to tell how the new series will turn out. Dai Gyakuten Saiban is probably the weakest Gyakuten Saiban so far, but I’m willing to give the writing team the benefit of doubt. There are a lot of unresolved plot threads, so the sequels have potential to be good. Please, Capcom, you got me interested with that cliffhanger so you better deliver while I still have hope.

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Author: awesomecurry

A future engineering failure who likes RPGs and visual novels. At first, I swore that I would only ever like eroge for the stories and not the ero, but a pure person easily corrupts...

4 thoughts on “Dai Gyakuten Saiban – thoughts

  1. I think that both Shu Takumi and Takeshi Yamazaki have very different approaches to how they write/handle their games. Takeshi, who was the writer for Miles Edgeworth games and Dual Destinies, tend to place a strong emphasis on crimes that rely heavily on mechanical tricks with clues to connect with one another in variable and interesting ways. If you value deduction with good logic chains, the games written by Takeshi are very entertaining.

    Shu Takumi, on the other hand, writes better and more memorable characters than Takeshi. What he did with the plotline regarding Phoenix/Godot in Trials and Tribuations still remains as one of my all-time-favorite backstories in the ace attorney series. My main criticism with Dai Gyakuten itself is the fact that it threw way too many unresolved plotlines at you with absolutely no intention of addressing them in this game. I do know that this game is set up to be at least a trilogy, but just compare to how this is handled to the original Phoenix Wright trilogy.

    Phoenix Wright’s story took all three games to have its story told completely. Shu Takumi handled the original game a lot better by releasing small amount of information and intrigue at a time with each case. It all finally came to a head in the conclusion of the third game, but it was always done in such a manner that each game could be viewed as a standalone (concluding satisfactorily with each last case).

    And this is where I believe Dai Gyakuten loses quite a few points with its scenario planning.

    • Good points. While nothing beats the charisma of the original trilogy’s characters and dialogue, I did have more fun with Takeshi’s games as an actual mystery. Dai Gyakuten was clearly more character-driven than mystery-driven, and you can tell due to what they do with the Naruhodo/Asougi/Susato thread, which I really liked. I don’t mind them building up to something more ‘epic’ with the first game, but the original trilogy did it in a way that made each game a satisfying product with a good climax + conclusion, and certainly did not need a cliffhanger at the end to get you interested in a sequel.

      • Disclaimer: I have not played Dai Gyakuten Saiban. I have played every other game in the series, including AAI2 (fan-translation).

        I would say there’s a difference between the original trilogy and Dai Gyakuten Saiban. When the first game was released, Takumi had no idea if it would be remotely successful, so it was written as a standalone game with some loose ends that could then be tied together later. This game is (apparently) written as the start of a trilogy from the very beginning. I don’t have a problem with this, assuming the next games live up to the hype.

        “but it was always done in such a manner that each game could be viewed as a standalone (concluding satisfactorily with each last case).”
        Really? Even the second game? Where every case was completely unrelated and the cliffhanger ending of Case 2 was never addressed again?

        If it’s true that the mysteries in Dai Gyakuten Saiban are a let-down, that’s a much bigger issue for me. I really enjoy the mysteries Takeshi writes, but I feel like his character development and pacing is often hit-and-miss. I loved AAI2 (and enjoyed much of AAI, mainly the final case), but AA5 was a spectacular disappointment to me (again, mainly the final case).

        Perhaps they should invite Takeshi to assist with the mysteries while letting Takumi have control over the characters and plot direction.

      • I don’t think his comment is complaining about unrelated cases, since “filler” cases are pretty much standalone and don’t bring in new mysteries that are to be solved later. Many of the complaints (from others) are due to how Dai Gyakuten doesn’t feel satisfying as a single game due to introducing a bunch of mysteries that aren’t solved in the game, and basically giving the player the feeling that they’ve hardly scratched the surface of, well, anything. I don’t really mind this too much, since I’m hoping the next game will be good, but the cases themselves are weak. Certainly much less interesting than what AAI and AA5 have to offer (haven’t played AAI2 yet, but will probably do it soon since it seems to be well-regarded).

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