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September 15, 2016

RE: Ace Attorney

Real talk: I have no idea what jury duty means.  And at this rate, I doubt I ever will.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not as if I’ve found a way to cheat the system and get out of every summons imaginable.  That’d require me to become some sort of ace hacker (or is it cracker?), and I get nervous just by changing settings in the Control Panel.  Here’s the thing, though: every time I end up being called, it leads to a fat load of nothing.  Like, I can think of other things I’d rather do with my time, but it’s not as if I’m opposed to doing my civic duty.  If I get called, then I’ll go.

And I have gone.  And I’ve done nothing.  The first time I actually made it to the court, I (along with everyone else) ended up getting sent back so the trial/case could reconvene at a later date.  Since that was on a Friday, it meant I’d have to return on Monday.  I did, of course, and took a seat in the courtroom -- only to be told that they guys had settled outside of court, and we were all relieved of duty.  I kind of wish they’d had the wherewithal to tell us that beforehand -- assuming that they’d already settled the matter -- but whatever.  At least I got $42 out of it.

Then in the next instance (last year, as it so happens), I got the call again.  So I was gearing up for jury duty; I’m pretty sure it’s not an experience worth getting hyped about, but I figured that I should at least see what it’s like.  “It may not be an Ace Attorney game, but at least I’ll get to see lawyers in action,” I told myself.  “It’ll be a learning experience.”  Except it wasn’t; they actually did call me that time, and explained in a recorded message that I’d basically done my duty without doing my duty.  Note that I was relieved, quite literally, the day before I was set to sit in.

And then I got my summons again recently.  It left me more than a little confused, though; supposedly you can opt out if you’ve served in the past 24 months, so maybe I had my exemption in place.  Or maybe I didn’t.  I’d been summoned, sure, but did it count if I actually didn’t do anything?  I couldn’t tell, and I couldn’t get in contact with someone to confirm it either way (the site alone was down for a while, and I had to get in through the proverbial back door).  So I figured I wouldn’t chance it; I’d go, conclusively prove my attendance, and gain a new life experience.

Too bad that didn’t pan out.  I ended up sitting in the hall outside the courtroom for three hours before one of the bailiffs said we were done.  Without even knowing what the case entailed.

Am I…am I lucky or unlucky?  I honestly don’t know.  It seems like my luck in general is either extremely good or extremely bad, but when it comes to jury duty I’m at a loss.  I kind of want to see what it’s like, even if I’m nothing more than a passive observer until it’s time for a verdict.  And I kind of want to see people who are trained in the law -- as well as people whose lives are at stake -- go through in front of a judge.  So maybe someday I won’t be denied that experience.  But today is not that day, and it won’t be that day for the next 24 months.  Or would it be 12(ish), given that I didn’t actually do anything again?

Ah, the hell with it.  At least I can live vicariously through the Ace Attorney games.

I’m honestly surprised that the franchise is still going.  That’s not an indictment of its quality, of course; I absolutely adore the games, the characters, the world, the mechanics, and the like.  But I’m an S-Class Nerd, so my opinions are a bit skewed.  Moreover, it’s a franchise owned by Capcom -- and as the Honest Trailer noted, the house that Mega Man built has burned a LOT of bridges vis a vis its stable of IPs.  The company that could have built a mascot fighter with nothing but its internal catalogue of characters is now struggling just to maintain its supposed pillars.  But of all the things they choose to keep going, it’s the adventures of a spiky-haired lawyer?  Really?  Capcom, you cray-cray.

So here we are in 2016, with a brand new installment in our midst.  Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice is here, and it continues the trend of the franchise looking pretty slick since its transition to 3D.  (You don’t know how many times I watched the trailer for The Great Ace Attorney just to see the characters in action.)  It’s gotten some pretty solid reviews, as well.  That’s a bit surprising, considering that the bulk of its gameplay is “hammer the A button to get through dialogue”.   Well, until you have to brute-force your way to a solution that’s only perceivable if you’re Professor X, but you get the idea.  Also, that’s what save scumming is for.

In any case, I’d say that Ace Attorney goes against the grain.  With stuff like Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture making cases for (and/or drawing ire as) “walking simulators”, there are people who want a lot of activity in their games.  We’ve been weaned on action and engagement for decades, and for some people -- depending on their age and gaming collection -- that might be all they’ve ever known.  But the fact that Mr. Wright and crew still stands strong only helps to prove how versatile games can be.  Like I’ve said, it’s not about what games should be.  It’s about what they can be.

To be fair, it’s not as if AA rewrites the book on gaming; visual novels have been a viable genre for years now, as have adventure games in various forms.  This one just happened to find a passionate and reliable audience in the west.  It probably helps that it’s thrived on handhelds -- which I’d imagine helped give it legs in Japan, especially in the face of dwindling console interest -- but whatever the case, the results speak for themselves.  AA has fans for a reason, and even if not everyone has given the games a chance, there’s still plenty of praiseworthy stuff in any one of its installments.

Well, I can only speak for myself here, so I’ll go into what makes the franchise whisper sweet nothings into my ear.  Even though I’m the sort to howl into the night about how video games need good stories, there’s more to it than that.  You need good characters.  You need balance.  You need self-awareness.  You need charisma.  You need style.  Lo and behold, the AA games have that -- and they’ve communicated that for ages now, even when they were using sprites and sounds better suited for a Game Boy Advance.

Now here comes the part where I expose myself as a high-caliber poser: there are a number of AA games that I haven’t played.  My direct experience with the franchise is with the second and third games -- Justice for All and Trials & Tribulations, respectively.  I did start watching an LP of Apollo Justice a long time ago, but petered out at the start of the third case (not because I hated the game, but it just slipped my mind).  And I DID watch the movie at one point; I thought it was super-solid, with some incredible tracks to its name. 

So I’m no supreme, ultimate overlord when it comes to the franchise.  BUT!  I know what I like, and what I like is a franchise that gives me an eclectic cast, gripping mysteries, and some genuinely tense conflicts -- conflicts that leave me on edge without a single punch thrown or a single bullet fired.  Then you get all these nice little touches like the character designs, dramatic poses (like desk slams and finger points), and the soundtracks.  Remixed or otherwise, AA’s songs are absolutely aces.  And now that they’ve migrated to the 3DS, they’ve only gotten stronger.

A while back, I made a list of my favorite video game characters -- and at the top of that list stood the one and only Phoenix Wright.  He’s by no means the strongest, he’s nowhere near the coolest, and I wonder how many of the ladies out there can get over his zigzagging Tekken-esque eyebrows.  But damn it, I think he’s the coolest.  He’s a hero who always tries to do the right thing -- to stay true to his ideals of law and justice (even if he has to bumble and bend the rules to do it).  Whether he’s using his logic and skills to break down foes, or he bluffs his way through to a conclusion, he’s as entertaining to watch as he is impressive.

In theory, at least. 

It’s been a long-ass time since I’ve played an AA game.  For whatever reason, I thought I’d never play through the games I had again because “I already finished them once, so I knew all the answers.”  So I traded them in as fodder for other games.  LOL WHAT AN IDIOT PLEB, GG ME.  Whatever the case, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got a super-rosy view of the franchise.  More to the point, I admit that I don’t really, truly understand why I like the games.  The preceding 1600 words suggest otherwise, but it’s true.  I played those games well before Cross-Up was even the faintest trace of an idea; writing for this blog has boosted my analytical skills to the point where I legitimately distrust any opinion on fiction I had prior to starting it up.

So were the old AA games genuinely good, or was I just too stupid to notice the obvious problems?  I don’t know.  It bugs me that I can’t come up with a clear answer, because I don’t want to sing praises about the franchise just because -- in the present day -- it’s basically as comforting as a warm blanket on a chilly Sunday morning.  Much like Phoenix Wright (and Apollo, and Athena as well), I need substantial evidence in order to prove my argument.  To decide if the franchise is truly innocent, or unforgivably guilty.  And I think there’s only one way to do that.

Someday -- maybe one day soon -- I’ll have to plow through Dual Destinies AND Spirit of Justice.

It’s not going to be next week or anything, though.  In the wake of Final Fantasy 15’s delay, I’m trying to double-time it through my backlog of games, the JRPGs in particular.  But every time I sit down with Xenoblade Chronicles X, I end up tacking on a few more hours to its already massive runtime.  I still love the game, of course, but it’s daunting to know that I’m 85+ hours in and I have no idea how close I am to the end, if at all.  An endless stream of flow-disrupting sidequests will do that.  In any case, I’m putting the 3DS installments of the AA series on the docket. 

I probably should’ve done that a long time ago, but I’m rectifying that mistake as soon as I’m able.  I kind of deserve it; in the wake of suffering through the Uncharted games, Final Fantasy Type-0, and more console dreck -- to the point where I spent at least eight months declaring that the Ps4 didn’t have a single good game to justify its existence -- I kind of need this.  Nay, I deserve this.  I know people tend to gravitate towards caustic criticism and/or negativity, but I’ve always preferred to write about things I like.  From what I can gather, I’ll like the two AA games a lot.  So it behooves me to step away from consoles for a little bit and nestle in with handhelds.

Just as well, though.  I‘ve been thinking about getting back into Pokémon with the release of Sun and Moon (especially if I can convince my brother to buy in, too).  Because if there’s one thing I need in my life, it’s a crippling addiction.

But we’ll cross that bridge and schedule interventions when we get there.  For now?  I’ve still got some other games to play and write about in the future.  Even so, that future is almost certainly going to involve a certain spiky-haired lawyer -- so look forward to that hotness.

So yeah, see you guys around.  Thanks for reading.  Now enjoy the fragrance of dark coffee.

Real talk: for the longest time I thought Godot’s name was pronounced “Goh-daht” instead of “Ga-dough”.  This is how much of an idiot I am.  

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