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- In Defense of Phoenix Wright
- Hello. Long time no see. This post is the fifth in a line of speculation posts by yours truly. Similar to my Definitive Case for Lloyd, in this post I will be arguing for Phoenix Wright's inclusion as one of the Fighter Pass characters. While he's already a popular speculation pick, I feel the need to stand up for him in light of speculation trending more towards other Capcom franchises. Let's jump into the argument:
- As always, I'll check my bias at the door. I've played through the first Phoenix Wright game and a bit of the second, but I don't possess any serious attachment to the series. I don't really have much bias to check; this is really just speculation for speculation's sake. I wanted to do something like this for my scrapped RTC In-depth series and in an unannounced Capcom character argument essay, but I digress. I guess you could say that this has been a long time coming.
- I will acknowledge that this post is somwhat of a counterargument to @Scoliosis Jones' Smash Ultimate Newcomers: Capcom post, wherein I believe he undersells the Ace Attorney franchise and its chances to be included in Smash. Before this post gets taken down for flaming or harassment, I'd like to make it known that I respect both Jones and his writing. In writing this post I intend not to take down or criticize his post so much as it is to add discourse to the discussion on Capcom characters in the Fighters Pass. As such, this is the only place I'll be referencing his article. I debated not including this mention at all, but I always like to talk about my inspirations in writing so I decided to do so.
- [SPOILER="Why a Capcom Character?"]
- I think the better question is "Why not a Capcom Character?"
- Relations between Capcom and Nintendo have been great since the NES era (outside of a stint during the N64-Gamecube Era where they favored Playstation). The entire Mega Man series outside of 9, X4-X8, Legends (though Legends 1 was ported to N64), and some spin-offs either released first or are exclusive to Nintendo systems. Street Fighter was there to support both the 3DS and the Switch in their launch windows. Up until Monster Hunter World, all of the major Monster Hunter releases, Tri, 3 Ultimate, and 4, were on Nintendo systems. Resident Evil, while never as prominent, showed up exclusively on the 3DS in the form of Resident Evil Revelations and The Mercenaries 3D (I’m purposefully refraining to mention the Gamecube “exclusivity” of Resident Evil 4 as a positive given the controversy of it and the Capcom Five, which actually worsened relations between Nintendo and Capcom), and is in the middle of a veritable renaissance with Nintendo, with the remake of the original, Resident Evil 0, 4, 5, 6, Revelations, and Revelations 2 all being available on the Nintendo Switch. This isn’t mentioning other notable Capcom releases on Nintendo systems (such as Okami for the Wii, which I believe was considered the best version before the Nintendo Switch release), which would fill up the bulk of this essay if included. Nintendo has even trusted Capcom to handle the development of major editions to the Legend of Zelda franchise in the past, such as the Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Minish Cap, and Four Swords GBA games. This is notable since, prior to the modern age, Nintendo never gave their IPs to anyone besides a trusted few. For Capcom to be included among these shows the strong trust shared between the two companies.
- When it comes to Smash, Capcom has the most representation for a third party company in Smash Bros., having three of their series represented. Within that, they have three characters (2 unique, 1 echo), 3 assist trophies, 2 stages, and a boss character. While one might argue Sega has more representation since they have 3 unique characters and 3 stages, I believe the fact that Capcom has a boss character that prominently appears in the World of Light campaign is better. Moreover, Sega has 3 unique characters and 3 stages with DLC. Discussing base game, Capcom clearly has more, and with DLC (which we're assuming) Capcom would again have the most representation.
- Capcom characters and series always seem to be entangled with others in some way. The Capcom vs. series of games has been ongoing since 1996's X-Men vs. Street Fighter, and has seen Capcom characters facing off against characters from Marvel, SNK, and Tatsunoko among other companies. Namco x Capcom and its successor, the Project X Zone series, saw Capcom characters appearing alongside Namco and Namco, Sega, and Nintendo characters respectively. Street Fighter X Tekken was a result of Capcom and Namco's previous work on collaborations like Namco x Capcom, and saw characters from the popular series Street Fighter and Tekken face off against one another. Phoenix Wright notably faced off against/worked alongside Professor Layton in Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, which brought the two popular DS puzzle series together. I could go on and on about Capcom characters appearing in crossovers or collaborations (Dante in Shin Megami Tensei 3: Noctune, Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2, and Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale among others comes to mind), but I think I've sufficiently proven by now that Capcom has a known history of collaboration, and would certainly not hesitate to work with Nintendo on a Fighters Pass character for Smash.
- Furthering the point of Capcom and collaboration, Sakurai has stated in the past how easy it was to work with Capcom in regards to Mega Man. In an interview with Polygon, he stated:
- "We approached Capcom with the idea and they were very favorable and open to it...The approval process, in terms of how we're representing Mega Man, was actually really smooth and went really quickly."
- Sakurai often talks about how difficult it is to integrate third party characters into Smash given the many parties involved, yet Capcom seems to be an exception in this regard. Using Mega Man as a microcosm for Capcom’s stance on working with Sakurai and the Smash Bros. team, we can see how open and easy to work with they are. Mega Man shows up in the most amount of CG trailers for a third party character, appearing in his own, Bowser Jr.’s, and Ridley’s as recent as 2018, and he is the only third party veteran to appear in a CG trailer. What is notable about Mega Man showing up in Ridley’s trailer is that Sakurai had to write the script for the trailer and Capcom had to approve the use of Mega Man in it, wherein he and Mario essentially die (they even joked about it on the US Mega Man Twitter). For Capcom to allow Sakurai and his team such freedom as recent as Ultimate shows a level of trust not necessarily given to them by other third parties. If obtaining the approval to kill off Mega Man is as easy as it is to negotiate with them for the inclusion of Capcom characters in Smash, then including a Capcom character as a part of the Fighters Pass would be a strategic decision to generate a large amount of hype while minimizing any challenges with negotiations and oversight during development.
- While it may or may not be a point in favor of a Capcom character, Capcom does have a precedent for Smash DLC, being Ryu in Sm4sh. Therefore, they've already gone through DLC negotiations with Nintendo in the past; it would be easier for Nintendo to approach them given their past business history compared to a company they haven't worked with in the past. The only other third party who have a similar precedent are Sega and Square Enix, with Bayonetta and Cloud in Sm4sh. It just so happens that Sega and Square Enix both have characters in the Fighters Pass, being Joker and Hero respectively. This may just be me seeing a pattern where one doesn’t exist, and I ask that you take this with a grain of salt. However, it is worth mentioning nonetheless.
- Adding a Capcom character would be an effective way to generate a large amount of hype without a lot of risk or challenge on the part of Nintendo. So, with the question of “Why a Capcom Character” answered, we now shift to:
- [SPOILER="Why Phoenix Wright?"]
- I refrained from mentioning Phoenix Wright when discussing prevalent titles on Nintendo systems since it made more sense to discuss it here. Ace Attorney is the closest Capcom property to Nintendo since the original Mega Man series with the NES and SNES, with every game in the series debuting prominently on a Nintendo handheld. While association with Nintendo isn’t as strong a reason for a character’s inclusion as it was during the Brawl or Sm4sh days, it certainly doesn’t hurt for any prospective character to have strong ties to Nintendo in some way. Even Joker and Cloud can have their inclusions justified via their connections to the Shin Megami Tensei and Final Fantasy series respectively, both of which have a strong history with Nintendo.
- Besides having a strong tie to Nintendo systems, I would argue that Ace Attorney is Capcom’s most accessible franchise due to the number of ports it has received (While some might claim that later ports of the series detract from the series’ ties with Nintendo, the earlier ports probably helped draw people towards Nintendo consoles before other games in the series were ported to other platforms). The entire main series is available on 3DS, iOS, and Android* (*in Japan only), the later games in the series, 4-6, are available on Android internationally, and the first three games are available on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC, with the most recent ports also receiving language patches for the French, German, Korean, and Chinese (both traditional and simplified language). The Ace Attorney franchise has a very large potential audience, and Capcom has a lot to gain by including Phoenix Wright in Smash given that Smash is known to have an advertising effect for the franchises included. Compared to series like Monster Hunter or Resident Evil where the series is housed primarily on or scattered across other consoles that a consumer may or may not have, pretty much anyone has the entire Phoenix Wright series available for them to purchase and play at any time between PC, console, handhelds, and smartphones. There is a large potential for profit via Phoenix Wright’s inclusion, and even considering just the bottom line his inclusion is justified.
- Given the Ace Attorney series’ strong ties to Nintendo, it’s not hard to believe that Phoenix Wright is a moderately popular pick for Smash Bros. speculation. While never as prominent as other speculation picks, Phoenix’s popularity has seen a surge in light of Mega Man and Ryu’s inclusions. This is most apparent during the ballot era, wherein Phoenix’s fanbase among others rallied together to vote for him. While I’m not one to cite fan polls, I do believe that the Reddit Randomized Smash Ultimate Poll, wherein Phoenix Wright placed 8th with a total of 8,398 votes, is trustworthy enough given the large amount of votes it received. This means that we can apply the Law of Large Numbers and say that it’s closer to the results of the real ballot than other fan polls (albeit, the “over 50,000+ votes by 20,000 unique participants” pales in comparison to the 1.8 million votes the official ballot received). What’s notable about the Reddit Randomized Smash Ultimate Poll is the influence of outside voters. Poll organizer SmashUltimateTourny had this to say:
- The characters with the most brigaders were Sora (more than half his voters came from non-reddit referrers) and Phoenix Wright (a third of his voters came from non-reddit referrers).
- What’s notable is that not only were core Smash Bros. fans voting for him, but also fans from outside of the core fanbase. I believe that a strong part of Phoenix Wright’s appeal is his capability to appeal to both core and casual fans. I’ve already laid out the Ace Attorney’s strong ties to Nintendo, which leads core fans to support him, but it’s also worth noting the large appeal of the DS and games like Ace Attorney to the casual fanbase. Puzzle and logic games such as Ace Attorney and Professor Layton were popular among casual fans due to their small, bite sized puzzles. This still holds true, and with the aforementioned accessibility of the series, I would say that there is a strong casual fanbase that would be interested in Phoenix’s inclusion dating back to the GBA/DS era. I’ve previously spoken about the power of the silent majority compared to the “Smash Bubble” (refer to The Case for Minecraft Steve and the "Smash Bubble" Effect Section: “What is the ‘Smash Bubble?’”), but I believe that Phoenix has a strong enough presence in both to justify the claim that including him would appeal to both core and casual fans, giving Phoenix’s inclusion a universal appeal to it.
- While Sakurai certainly hasn’t written about Ace Attorney as much as he wrote about Persona 5, he actually did notably write about it in a 2005 Famitsu column, wherein he describes the enjoyment he and others go out of video presentation using the game’s layout at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show, which encapsulates the name of the article “Games That Make Me Want to Watch.” At the very least this shows that the Ace Attorney series is on Sakurai’s radar, and has been for over a decade now. I would be quite surprised if Sakurai weren’t acquainted with the series given its popularity in Japan.
- No good defense is truly complete without addressing the common arguments against what you’re defending. Therefore, I’d like to go over the common arguments against Phoenix Wright’s inclusion and counter them accordingly.
- To start, I’d like to address a common critique of Phoenix Wright, being the difficulty it would take to come up with a moveset for him. It’s not all too difficult to come up with a moveset for Phoenix Wright. One can look to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and see how he was faithfully adapted there, or consider the fact that Sakurai and his team have come up with movesets for:
- A pilot who was never shown fighting at the time of moveset conception (Fox)
- A racer who was never shown except on the character select screen for his game (Captain Falcon)
- A scattered collection of portable game players (Mr. Game & Watch)
- A literal children’s toy whose only function was to pick up and spin tops (R.O.B.)
- Multiple characters whose games weren’t even released at the time of moveset conception (Roy, Lucas, Greninja, Incineroar)
- Multiple noncombatants (Villager, Miis, Isabelle)
- A fitness trainer (Wii Fit Trainer)
- And a Dog that laughs at you (Duck Hunt Dog) among other characters
- The only time characters are turned down on the basis of moveset is when faithful representation of the character is incompatible with the format Smash Bros., such as in the case of Heihachi where (presumably) adapting the movement/controls of Tekken conflicted with the movement and controls of Smash Bros. Sakurai has previously adapted similar noncombatants to Smash, so I have no doubt he could adapt Phoenix Wright.
- Another common argument leveraged against Phoenix Wright and the Ace Attorney series is a lack of relevance compared to other Capcom franchises. I believe that sentiment comes from a lack of understanding. The Ace Attorney franchise is a multimedia franchise that spans games, manga, an anime series (the second season of which received a simuldub from Funimation), drama cds, soundtracks, memorabilia, a series of stage plays, and a feature-length film. The series is still active despite what some think, with the Ace Attorney Trilogy being brought to consoles and PCs last February and a Nazo Tomo Cafe promotion currently ongoing until December. There is also the potential of a new reveal at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show, given that is where Ace Attorney information is typically revealed. A new reveal would bring the series into the limelight that some think it isn’t already in.
- Alongside a lack of relevance, I sometimes see a lack of sales compared to other Capcom franchises used to justify other characters over Phoenix. To respond to that, I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine:
- [SPOILER=”Say Hello”]It's a picture of Banjo & Kazooie[/SPOILER]
- In a period of speculation marked by a wave of cynicism and belief that the Fighters Pass would be full of sheer promotional picks, Banjo & Kazooie’s inclusion was a breath of fresh air; proof that Nintendo was listening to the fans even just a little. Banjo is proof of Nintendo’s goals with Smash Bros. DLC. In their 2019 Investor’s Meeting, when discussing Smash Ultimate, it was stated that:
- With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we asked 'How could we reach not only fans of the Super Smash Bros. series, but also those who had never played it before?'[/QUOTE]
- Nintendo wants to reach both core fans of Smash Bros. while also bringing in new fans. Inclusions such as Joker and Hero are warranted to draw in new fans, but Nintendo seems to want to balance these characters with appeals to the core fanbase such as Banjo & Kazooie. As previously established, Phoenix Wright would both appeal to core fans and draw in new fans due to the large collective install base of the franchise spread over a large amount of platforms over the years.
- Phoenix Wright is in an odd place when it comes to speculation. On one hand, he seems to be a popular pick for third parties in general, but on the other hand, he seems to also be overlooked in favor of other Capcom characters. I believe that the Ace Attorney franchise is popular enough within the core Smash Bros./Nintendo fanbase and has a large enough casual following to justify Phoenix Wright’s inclusion as a member of the Fighters pass. Overall, Phoenix Wright is definitely not a character you want to sleep on.
- The defense rests its case.
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