Ace Attorney: Justice for All – 2002 Developer Interview
Long before it was re-released on the DS in the west, Ace Attorney (or Gyakuten Saiban) was a critical hit in Japan on the GBA. These two interviews go over the influences of the series and the differences between the first and second games. The second interview between Hideo Kojima and Shinji Mikami is more lighthearted, and features Kojima’s effusive praise for the series.
Atsushi Inaba – Producer
Shu Takumi – Director
Inaba: The previous Gyakuten Saiban game received a lot of critical praise, but I can’t say it was a commercial success. As such, we were stuck at the planning stage for Gyakuten Saiban 2, not knowing whether we’d be allowed to make it or not. But Mikami really wanted us to make a sequel, so we went around trying to persuade various people at Capcom.
Takumi: I was really happy when they told us to make it. However, when they told me “Takumi, you decide what kind of game it will be”, then for a moment, I thought maybe this wasn’t going to work. I wanted to make Gyakuten Saiban into a series, but the final case of the last game concluded everything so neatly, I honestly thought it would be difficult to top that.
Plus, everyone on the team last time contributed their ideas, and that was a big part of the game’s success; even if we tried, I wasn’t sure we could replicate that. I was a little intimidated. (laughs) But ultimately making a sequel was the right choice, definitely.
Inaba: Given the limitations, I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish in the first game, but I did have some regrets over a few things that didn’t turn out as we wanted. So I figured this time I would take a big gamble and see if I couldn’t link up both the first game and the sequel together. Just because you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, doesn’t mean the game will turn out to be low-quality. And I think the many people who praised the first Gyakuten Saiban is proof of that. In that sense, the success of the first game was a huge tailwind, propelling us along.
Takumi: With the first Gyakuten Saiban, I feel like I exceeded my expections… or rather, that I reached them. Looking back on the first game, we used the best parts of all the brand new ideas we had… we really worked it up into something nice, I think. As for the presentation of the story and the technical side, however, I’m proud to say we set a much higher standard for ourselves with the sequel. Also, games are supposed to be entertainment, and I think the root of this series is the enjoyment one gets in investigating and solving a mystery. We’ve really given that aspect of the design our all.
Regarding the mysteries, there’s Edogawa Ranpo’s short story “The Psychological Test”, in which the perfect crime unravels due to the criminal’s contradictory testimony. It had a big impact on me, and was a big influence on the game. I also read many other things, including Shinichi Hoshi’s stories. I feel like all my life I’ve been pursuing that element of surprise and unexpectedness.
Inaba: I also love Shinichi Hoshi, I’ve read a lot of his works. He has a short story called “Key”, and I won’t spoil the ending here, but its really great. It will warm your heart.
Takumi: I have an especially hard time writing depressing endings. This is entertainment, so I want to do something refreshing, that makes you feel “ah, that was great” afterwards. That’s really my central theme when I develop a game.
In the first Gyakuten Saiban, I was writing the scenarios while we were developing the game, so I naturally put a limit on the amount of writing I did. But with the sequel, I had to write all the scenarios before we started the development, and as a result I got pretty absorbed in the writing. To that extent, I may have written a bit too much.
Inaba: I remember saying to you, “It’s getting long, isn’t it?” and you replied, “It has to be!” It seems like you had no intention of editing it down to begin with. (laughs)
Takumi: Hmm, maybe I did make it a little long?
Inaba: It’s not a “little”–it’s VERY long! (laughs) Especially the final case. But it’s all interesting, so it’s ok. (laughs)
Takumi: When we were developing the first game, everyone on the team told me “We want you to make the episodes be connected.” When I tried it, everyone liked it. So I knew I needed to do that again for the sequel, but after I wrote the final case, it was really difficult making all the cases consistent. It was tough, but I’m confident with how it turned out. The truth is, the sequel has twice the content in the scenarios as the first game. We used a new compression technology, but even then we pushed the capacity to the limit.
Inaba: I think it worked out to a good volume of content. Any longer though and it would have been too long. (laughs)
Takumi: Right now I’m slowly working out the structure for Gyakuten Saiban 3, but I’m completely out of ideas. (laughs) I wrote the first game with a real passion, and when I was done writing it, nothing was left. I hope the sequel can stand shoulder to shoulder with the first game, but having just finished the development, I have to say I don’t know where things will go from here. I’m a little worried that doing another sequel will destroy my health…
Inaba: And with each sequel your legend grows… (laughs)
Takumi: If we do make another game, honestly, I’m afraid to even look back at Gyakuten Saiban 2. When we were working on this game, and I looked back at the first Gyakuten Saiban, it felt like “damn, we worked this hard on it?” I felt a ton of pressure.
Inaba: I think it’s natural that with the first game in a series, you don’t have to think about what’s “next”, but can just expend all your effort on that one game. You took the same stance for the sequel actually, expending all your effort until nothing was left. That’s a good thing, I think.
Takumi: Yeah, you can’t hold back. If you don’t put everything you’ve got into what you’re working on, the product won’t turn out well. Besides, why think about the future when you might die tomorrow. (laughs)
Inaba: Yes, what will be will be. (laughs)
It seems like a lot of people cleared the first Gyakuten Saiban in one go, but I’m hoping they take their time with the sequel and really suck out all the marrow. I hope they appreciate the vast amount of content. I think players will be fully satisfied when they finish the game.
Takumi: People have different ways of having fun, but I think the best way to enjoy this game is to go into it without knowing anything, or having anyone spoil it for you. It’s fine to begin with this game… though it will probably make you want to play the first game. (laughs)
Ace Attorney series – 2002 Developer Interview
with Shinji Mikami and Hideo Kojima
Mikami: Since the last game, my role has been to take a look the ideas sent to me by our director, Shu Takumi, and try to consider them from the perspective of a player. I then offer feedback, like rewrite this scenario one more time, or change the music, and so on. I also came up with the game’s title, Gyakuten Saiban. I played the sequel too.
Kojima: Did the gameplay system change in the sequel?
Mikami: There were no drastic changes, but the investigative parts from the last game were kind of weak, so to heighten the player’s sense of tension we added the new Pscyhe Lock system. The scenarios have also doubled in terms of content. And there’s new characters too. If you play Gyakuten Saiban 2, you’re sure to want to play the first one!
Kojima: You’re a good salesman, Mikami. (laughs)
Mikami: It’s all true though! But I didn’t tell our director, Shu Takumi, to make it that way. Normally when creating a sequel, you make it so the player will want to buy the first game too, by tying the games together somehow. I never said anything like that to Takumi with Gyakuten Saiban 2. Takumi just had a lot of love for the first game and did an amazing job of connecting them. So it doesn’t feel forced. It’s made so you’ll naturally be curious about what happened in the prequel.
Kojima: I saw the first Gyakuten Saiban at a game show, and after playing it for a bit I was hooked before I knew it. The first case was short and you got familiar with the gameplay system right away; the tempo was good, and the characters stood out. I liked the way the gameplay and characters were linked together too. Recently there’s been a lot of games with very convoluted systems, where the threshhold to entry is placed so high. I like how Gyakuten Saiban proudly defends the idea that it is a game, and it isn’t overcomplicated. For example, with a character like the Steel Samurai, if a character like that appeared in a novel, you’d immediately think he’s a moron, but because this is a game, we allow it, and we’re able to enjoy the humor. I also really liked the way music was used in the game.
Mikami: I love the Steel Samurai’s theme. Pokopopobonpopon~! I love that part. (laughs)
Kojima: The whole game is really well-done. I did have some complaints, but the story itself is really great for a game.
Mikami: I see. By the way, what were some of your complaints?
Kojima: Whether it’s a 2D game or a 3D game, I always try to create a believable world for that game. Even the text of a game can contribute to that world feeling alive, I think. Having text prepared for every place you investigate, and having that text change depending on the circumstances, I think really helps create the illusion that you are “in” that world. That’s something I’d like to see in the next Gyakuten Saiban game. Of course, I don’t want you to change the style you’ve got going now.
Mikami: I’ll tell the director to do that for Gyakuten Saiban 3, then. (laughs)
Kojima: What?! You’ve already decided you’re releasing a third game?!
Mikami: No, not yet–only if this one sells. (laughs)
Kojima: If you’re so inclined, why don’t you let my team at Konami make it. (laughs) Speaking of which, remember how I tried to poach some of your staff after the first game came out?
Mikami: Yeah, you asked me and the two directors to come to Konami. (laughs)
Kojima: How many cases are there in the new game, by the way?
Mikami: It’s the same as the first game, four cases. But there’s much more content, so if the first game took about 12 hours to complete, then this one should take 20-30.
Kojima: Will the old caretaker with the snot bubble be making another appearance? I was like, you old coot, are you even listening!?!! (laughs)
Mikami: Hmm, I wonder? (laughs) Every character has a lot of individuality though. This time there’s a woman who appears in the court brandishing a whip. She’s my #1 recommendation. (laughs) There’s one thing she does that’s very unique, it’s a must-see. It will no doubt appear outrageous… in real life court would immediately be suspended if a stunt like that happened.
These are the kinds of things you can do because it’s a game, of course. The people who write these scenarios can’t be too prudish or easily offended by trivial things. I always assign people with a sense of humor to these scenarios. That’s why they’re so funny. (laughs) We’re also very insistent about making the puzzles a key part of the game.
Kojima: I think that’s a good thing. What you’re describing reminds me a lot of my process with Snatcher, a work that lies somewhere between a mystery and a game. It’s pretty easy, but I think it succeeded in making players feel like they were solving a mystery themselves. I think Gyakuten Saiban got the balance right there. Also, there’s only three voice actors, but I really liked the voices. I end up playing just because I want to hear them. You know, Gyakuten Saiban was the only game I played and cleared this year. And it looks like the sequel will be the second. (laughs)
Mikami: Right, but of course no one would ever say “KURAE!” in a courtroom. (laughs) Kurae! I want to try saying it in a meeting sometime. (laughs) 1
Kojima: If you couldn’t make Gyakuten Saiban for the GBA, would you consider making it for another system?
Mikami: I would, of course. But I was attracted to the GBA from the start. I thought it was a really great gaming device, and fell in love with it right away. I didn’t want to do CG on the GBA, which I still think looks bad. Instead, I think the way we’ve handled the graphics in Gyakuten Saiban is fresh and new. The GBA is also an easier device to develop for than some other systems.
Kojima: I see. Actually, I’ve been thinking that I want to make something new for the GBA, too. It might sound weird to hear coming from me, but the truth is, I really want to do an “arthouse” Metal Gear, that feels like a B-movie you might see in a small theatre. It would be seen (or played) by those who want to see it. I wish I could just devote myself to making the worlds I want to make, and people who liked them would pay as they pleased. But, you know, I’m half-businessman, so I can’t be saying these things, now can I? (laughs) But I’d like to something more small-form and intimate, where the game design really stands out. That’s why I’m planning a GBA game right now.
Mikami: Why did you choose the GBA?
Kojima: The features of the GBA matched my vision for what I wanted to create.
Mikami: Well, if you play Gyakuten Saiban 2 and use it for inspiration, it will surely be a good game. (laughs)
Kojima: I can really feel the passion of the creators in Gyakuten Saiban. It’s a high quality game, so I’m sure it will sell well. (laughs) I tell everyone overseas how great Gyakuten Saiban is too. Though I don’t know how well it would do over there. After I explain it’s a courtroom game, I have to pronounce the name for them… “Gya-ku-ten Sai-ba-n!” (laughs) I hope you make a third game too, because I want to play it, and I want more people to play this series.
Mikami: To me, Gyakuten Saiban is the result of a lifetime of gaming experience, of all the original games I’ve seen and thought, “ah, this is a good game.” In this world where there are aren’t that many high quality games, I feel I can recommend Gyakuten Saiban with pride! We didn’t use celebrities or other sales gimmicks; it’s a work that shows our determination as developers. Capcom has released over 70 games in its long history, and I would put Gyakuten Saiban 2 in the top 10. If this doesn’t sell, its going to be a blow to the morale of a great many developers. (laughs)
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A very casual way of saying TAKE THAT!↩