It’s hard to imagine, given the sheer ecstasy with which Ace Attorney fans responded to the news that both Great Ace Attorney games would release in the West, but neither of them are believed to have sold particularly well in Japan. Anyone can tell from the numerous reused assets and lack of anime cutscenes that the second game had a significantly smaller budget, no doubt a result of the first game’s sales. And it apparently sold even less than the first game too (thanks NintendoEverything). A sequel isn’t entirely necessary considering the story of Ryunosuke Naruhodo wrapped up cleanly with no lingering plot threads. But if there were any intentions to continue this sub-series, they were likely abandoned once the sales figures came in.
However, the Great Ace Attorney Chronicles compilation has undoubtedly renewed interest, primarily because Western fans could actually play it themselves (legitimately) after being denied for six years. There are no official sales figures for any of the platforms it released on, but it’s undeniably resonated well with fans (just look up the amount of fan art and memes yourself) and it’s a critical darling, with the Nintendo Switch version holding an average score of 87 on Metacritic. It’s one of the few games reviewed on TechRaptor to receive a perfect score (and that's a short list, too).
The stories of Ryunosuke, Susato, Sholmes, and everyone else may have ended, but now it feels too soon to say goodbye to this setting and its cast despite it technically wrapping up four years ago. Fortunately, Capcom is likely very aware that fans would love to see a new Great Ace Attorney game. Shortly after the compilation’s release, Capcom asked for fan opinions on pretty much every aspect of it with a survey.
The survey has since closed, and only Capcom is privy to the responses. But Capcom probably wouldn’t have even bothered publishing it in the first place if it wasn’t at least considering releasing a follow-up. There’s obviously no guarantee or hard confirmation, but there must be internal discussions within Capcom about making another Ace Attorney. But rather than simply make a Great Ace Attorney 3, Capcom has everything it needs to give the prequel series its own Ace Attorney Investigations spin-off.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles.
What Was Ace Attorney Investigations Again?
In 2010 (2009 in Japan), Capcom released Ace Attorney Investigations, which put players in control of Miles Edgeworth (the rival prosecutor from the original Phoenix Wright games), with a sequel following it in 2011. Instead of taking place primarily in the courtrooms, Investigations had players freely explore crime scenes to gather evidence and testimony, as opposed to the far simpler point-and-click gameplay of the main series.
Admittedly, the Investigation games weren’t exactly best-sellers. The first game sold well in Japan but dismally in the West, and the second game never came to the West at all, with its chances at getting a localization nowadays extremely unlikely. From a sales perspective, Capcom has little reason to give the Investigations model another try.
But, counterpoint, another Investigations game could make the perfect companion piece to Ace Attorney 7. There’s no official announcement, but a big Capcom leak in November mentioned an Ace Attorney 7. That same leak also included The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, so the odds of its existence being legit are likely. Since any mainline sequel would assuredly retain the classic Ace Attorney gameplay, a change of pace with an Investigations game could help assuage any risk of burnout, assuming these games release within a year or so of each other. In Japan, the first Great Ace Attorney, Spirit of Justice (the sixth mainline entry), and Great Ace Attorney 2 released one year after another, and all of them fundamentally play very similarly.
Plus, if Capcom took a risk on bringing Great Ace Attorney to the West, could it not be willing to do something similar with Investigations? Not to mention how Great Ace Attorney’s ending opens itself up perfectly to the idea. As stated earlier, Ryunosuke’s story ended. While Capcom could theoretically give him new cases to take and new mysteries to solve, they wouldn’t necessarily enhance his character, at least not in any meaningful ways. There’s no need for him to return. But Great Ace Attorney, whether unintentionally or not, did establish someone who would be perfect to take up the role of lead protagonist: Gina Lestrade.
Inspector Lestrade: Ace Investigator
After Ryunosuke successfully proves her innocent of murder at the end of the first Great Ace Attorney, Gina makes efforts to turn her life around in the sequel, leaving behind her pickpocket ways to become Inspector Gregson’s apprentice. As a detective-in-training, a former thief, and a young woman in a profession dominated by men during the early 20th century, she’s already an underdog (a prerequisite for most Ace Attorney leads) and a much better fit for the Investigations concept than Edgeworth ever was.
Her character also has more opportunities for growth. Taking the lead role would mean opportunities for her to be the one to solve crimes, honing her own skills so that she can truly become a good detective in her own right, not to mention living up to the standard set by her since deceased mentor and idol. Ryunosuke is an established ace attorney by the end of the duology, whereas Gina has only really begun her journey.
Some might argue that, if anyone should take the lead in an Investigations spin-off, it should be Herlock Sholmes himself. But this incarnation of the beloved literary character isn’t really meant for the starring role, simply because he’s too clever. The games may feature a mechanic all about correcting his own deductions, but not only is it implied he makes mistakes on purpose, there are numerous instances of him being the most intelligent person in the room and is sometimes five steps ahead of everyone else. Sholmes is best suited for support, and he and his sidekick/adopted daughter Iris can easily step in as Gina’s own companions who help guide her and assist with investigations.
Ryunosuke’s best friend/rival Kazuma Asogi also has main character potential and, much like Edgeworth, is enough of a fan favorite to warrant giving him his own game. A popularity poll published in 2015 after the original release of the first game revealed he was the most popular character in the game, even though he only really appeared in the first case and was considered dead from the second case onwards. By comparison, poor Gina came in 10th place, losing out to the rest of the main cast and even real-world author Sosuke Natsume and his pet cat, which severely hurts her chances of being cast in the starring role (the cat came 7th in case anyone was wondering).
We Have the Technology
It’s worth acknowledging that, while the Investigations games didn’t sell well, both of them released for the original Nintendo DS. The series was originally confined to handhelds but has since made the jump to modern platforms, including PC, meaning a new Investigations game wouldn’t face the same limitations as its predecessors. Imagine a fully 3D Ace Attorney game, one that can offer more interesting ways to investigate crime scenes and a more dynamic presentation.
The series has always done a good job at making legal proceedings seem far more epic than they actually are, and the jump to 3D character models has allowed the recent games to push the envelope a bit further and offer fun, visually engaging set pieces, such as Sholmes’ Logic and Reasoning Spectaculars that see him spinning and jiving all around the scene as he makes his bold deductions. Presentation can go a long way in elevating a game and attracting new players; how many people picked up Persona 5, for example, just because of its visual style and aesthetics? If Capcom is willing to put in the work, it could make an Investigations game on par with the Ace Attorney Trilogy, which remains the best-selling game in the series (although it does have the advantage of being three games in one).
But the series as a whole, despite its dedicated fan base, isn’t as financially lucrative compared to some of Capcom’s other IPs. The aforementioned trilogy compilation is the only entry in the series to break the one million sales mark, and the series has collectively pushed at least 8.2 million units in its lifetime according to Capcom. Compared to the likes of Monster Hunter and Resident Evil, which have achieved 75 million and 117 million lifetime sales respectively, Capcom arguably has little reason to pump a sizable budget into any future Ace Attorney games or take a substantial risk on the series.
The odds of Capcom going through with a Great Ace Attorney Investigations spin-off are admittedly slim, and the odds of Gina being the main character even more so. But as long as fans took the opportunity to express their love for the series in the survey (the results of which will no doubt remain a mystery to the public) and continue to do so online, Ace Attorney should have a bright, if maybe inconsistent, future ahead of it.