With a new teaser trailer and several juicy bits of info from Famitsu magazine, the mystery surrounding the upcoming Ace Attorney prequel (Dai Gyakuten Saiban: The Adventures of Naruhodou Ryuunosuke) is finally beginning to clear. The game's story will take place in Japan's Meiji era (between 1868 and 1912) and is set to star Naruhodou Ryuunosuke, an ancestor of Phoenix Wright, as well as judicial assistant Susato Mikotoba. Series creator Shu Takumi told Famitsu that this is to be considered the start of a new series (known thus far as The Great Ace Attorney), and that the initial title will be "quite different" from the existing Ace Attorney games.
Of course, this directional change immediately made me wonder how well the series' faithful fans might receive it. It can be alienating when new games in a long running and popular series take a different approach. The perfect example is yet another Capcom staple: Resident Evil. When Resident Evil 4 adopted a whole new control system as well as an action oriented approach, many of the series' most die hard fans were completely turned off. The game was plenty successful of course, but it remains the source of much online fan bickering even now. Even a recent fan-made video that gave RE4 gameplay to Resident Evil 2 scenarios purely for fun drummed up its fair share of hate. The wounds of a perceived betrayal are slow to heal indeed.
The flip-side of this of course is the general sense of "meh" when franchises just do the same freaking thing over and over. Capcom has another prime example for us. Despite a devoted fanbase, the Street Fighter series can easily garner dismissive snickers given its convention of constantly releasing updates as new titles rather than simply moving on. Most mentions of the SFII, SFII Champion Edition, SFII Turbo, Super SFII, Super SFII Turbo progression have an air of "isn't that freaking silly?" about them.
Regardless, Capcom has stuck to this formula with each new SF series. The upcoming Ultra Street Fighter IV is the fifth version of SFIV. While the die-hard fans look forward to each update, the series is only opened up to more head-shakes, face palms, and apathy from the rest of the gaming crowd as more prefixes or suffixes are added to the same old game.
Of course, some franchises that once bored people with repetition can eventually become one of the most clamored for in time. I can't help but think about the Mega Man series in this case. (Gee. Another Capcom game. Who would have guessed?) While continual battles with the likes of Dr. Wily, Robot Masters, Sigma, and Mavericks eventually garnered "What, this again?" commentary in the past, the four year gap since Mega Man 10, cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3, and Capcom's perceived icy stance towards the franchise these days has many wishing the Blue Bomber would just get a new freaking game already! If the incredibly positive reaction towards Keiji Inafune's highly derivative Mighty No. 9 tells us anything, a new game with classic Mega Man design and gameplay sensibilities might be welcomed more warmly than some may have thought.
With all of this in mind, I'm incredibly curious to see the reactions of the Ace Attorney fanbase as the upcoming prequel develops. As someone that generally likes to see projects succeed, I hope that the game turns out to be something fans can get behind rather than go on to argue about for years. If it happens to turn out as memorable as past entries in the series on top of that, even better! I also hope that the fairly recent digital-only Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies release went over well enough in North America to see it localized. Whatever happens, I'll be keeping a close eye on future developments as they come!