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 Phoenix Wright ancestor Naruhodou Ryuunosuke, as well as judicial assistant Susato Mikotoba. Franchise creator Shu Takumi told Famitsu that this will kick off 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 franchise take a different approach. The perfect example is yet another Capcom staple: Resident Evil. When Resident Evil 4 adopted a new action-oriented style, a large chunk of the existing fanbase felt alienated. The game was a financial success, but it remains the source of much online bickering even now. A recent fan-made video that gave RE4-style gameplay to Resident Evil 2 scenarios purely for fun even managed to drum up backlash. The wounds of a perceived betrayal are slow to heal indeed.
The flip-side is a general sense of "meh" when franchises just do the same freaking thing over and over, and Capcom has another prime example for us! Despite a devoted fanbase, the Street Fighter series can easily garner dismissive snickers given its convention of merely making minor additions to the current game and putting it out as a new release. 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 sequel. The upcoming Ultra Street Fighter IV is the fifth iteration of the current installment. Unfortunately, the series is opened up to even more head-shakes, face-palms, and general apathy as prefixes and suffixes are continually tacked on.
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 in general have left 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 go over like gangbusters.
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 actually get behind. If it happens to turn out as memorable as past entries in the series on top of that, well that's even better! Whatever happens, I'll be keeping a close eye on future developments as they come!