Earlier in the year, ONM spoke to Ace Attorney creator, Shu Takumi, to celebrate the arrival of the magnificent Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Takumi's spiky haired lawyer has long been one of our favourite heroes, bellowing his way through five tremendous games armed with little more than powerful lungs and an unwavering conviction.
With the E3 announcement of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, grouping the first three games on 3DS, what better time to revisit our chat. For those that are yet to play the games, we have grouped spoiler-y questions on the last page of the feature. You have been warned!
ONM: We've spoken before about the origins of a lawyer game. Once you had the idea of making the title about a lawyer, what was the process of devising Wright himself? Did he arrive fully formed, or was there a long gestation period?
Shu Takumi: I spent very little time devising the character of Phoenix Wright in advance of writing the story for the first game, almost no time at all, in fact. The original Ace Attorney was the first scenario document I'd ever written and I thought up Phoenix's dialogue more or less as I went along. The more I wrote, the more his personality developed.
As a first-time writer, I neither thought about developing characterisation before writing the story, nor had the capability to do so. I wrote without thinking too much about it, which means that the things Phoenix says are pretty much what I would say in those situations and his way of thinking is very close to mine.
You could say Phoenix Wright was Shu Takumi in all but name, although I must admit my passion and sense of justice aren't as strong as Phoenix's and I don't have a habit of shouting "Objection!" like he does.
ONM: Why did you decide to give Phoenix Wright a sidekick? We always felt it was a little unfair that lone prosecutors had to go up against a Wright/Maya tag-team.
ST: I came up with the idea of the partner character, Maya, because I thought that, rather than investigating alone, it would be more fun for the player to have someone with them from whom they could get advice.
As for this being unfair on the prosecution, Miles Edgeworth has his own cheerful partner in the form of Detective Gumshoe and if you think about how much useful help Maya and Gumshoe really provide, when it comes down to it, I think you'll agree they're about evenly matched.
ONM: Some people assume that because the story is linear, the game must be quite straightforward to make. Is that the case? If not, what are the biggest challenges you face?
ST: As a creator, I don't really like to comment on how difficult or otherwise my work is, but in terms of story, the Ace Attorney games are essentially classic mysteries. The appeal of these lies in revealing a variety of clues and hints about the story and then pulling those threads together in a surprising way at the end.
I think the best way to write an entertaining mystery and make an amazing climax at the end of each story is to have those threads pulled together into one conclusion, rather than multiple possibilities.
The biggest challenge with that is to make the gameplay work along with the story: you know you've succeeded when you can make the player feel like they have made their own choices and driven the story forwards themselves, even though it was essentially linear.