Rumor Killers: Phoenix Wright on the Wii, A New Smash TV, and Instruments by Dhani?


Phoenix Wright heading to the Wii?

It looks like those pesky age-ratings boards, in their never-ending and legally required quest to slap arbitrary age ratings on every game ever made, have inadvertently announced another upcoming title: Phoenix Wright – Ace Attorney for the Wii. But this time the ESRB, recently responsible for leaking the existence of Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery and Castlevania: ReBirth, amongst others, aren’t the ones who let the cat out of the bag; the blame lies at the red-blood-hating feet of Germany’s age-rating association Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle, or USK. Don’t worry – I can’t pronounce it, either.

I don’t profess to be able to sprache sie Deutsches, but the listing on the USK website clearly states the system for the upcoming 2010 presumed lawyer-em-up, Phoenix Wright – Ace Attorney, to be the Nintendo Wii. It also claims the genre to be something called “klassisches Adventure,” whatever that could possibly mean.

The Phoenix Wright series, for those that haven’t been acquainted, is a delightful little romp through life as a defence attorney in some kind of anime version of Japan. It splits itself into two distinct gameplay sections: scrubbing crime scenes for clues and then courtroom battles with the prosecution team. The whole thing is outlandishly over-the-top, right down to the overblown screams of “Hold It!” and close-up shots of everyone’s eyes during tense moments.

The real question, if you ask me, is whether the rumour pertains to a new title or a jazzed-up Wii version of the original DS game, which was coincidentally also called Phoenix Wright – Ace Attorney. My money – due to the original’s enduring popularity – is on the latter, although if that were the case it would be the fifth platform the game had graced: the original 2001 Japanese GBA version, titled Gyakuten Saiban, has been ported to the PC and mobile platforms alongside the recognisable DS version.

Capcom, of course, are keeping it schtum. Still, it’s a credible rumour: there’s an established precedent of Japanese developers fiddling their DS wotsits – take a quick peek at the Wii ports of Cooking Mama or Trauma Center. Whether or not it would work on the DS is another question: I love the Phoenix Wright games more than 50 Cent loves getting his hands on crystal skulls, but a lot of the time I tend to use the DS’s suspend feature to play in sporadic, intermittent bouts.

The deal-sweetener for me, though, is that aforementioned PC port, which featured redrawn high-definition art. That would look tip-top on the Wii. And the script is already done. It’s just a simple port job, really, and it would certainly make Capcom some money. I’d buy it, at least.

Martin’s Verdict: No objections from me. True.

A New Smash TV in the Cards?

Smash TV programmer Mark Turmell went into detail on the Retrogaming podcast this week about the perennially complicated situation of reviving the cult top-down arcade murder-a-thon. A 3D revival, he revealed, had actually made it to the programming stages – only for the whole project to be tragically cast asunder in the Midway collapse.

But – this is the good news – Turmell also spoke about how the game’s rights were acquired by Warner Bros in the takeover, and that the suits in charge of the money piles were interested in bringing the game back.

Now is about as perfect a time as anybody is ever going to get to revive Smash TV. The reality of the tattered, credit crunched economies of the Western world makes the game’s subject matter – competing in a violent gladiatorial arena to win fantastic prizes to facilitate society’s endless cycle of acquisition – particularly appealing.

Other than a rather brilliant atmosphere, Smash TV excelled in its top-down shooting mayhem. On the home consoles (the SNES one, at least) it was played by using the D-Pad to steer your character and then the A, B, X and Y buttons to shoot in a particular direction. It was chaos, and I remember it being quite impossible. And ace.

I’d love to see Smash TV get re-imagined for the current consoles – this generation has seen the twin-stick shooter rise to dizzying heights, with gorgeous arcade nuggets like Super Stardust HD and Geometry Wars 2 becoming staple additions to every discerning gamer’s hard drive. These games, with the top-down perspective, crisp graphics, and immediately accessible, no-nonsense gameplay are basically channelling Smash TV’s dormant spirit. It’s practically begging to be made.

There’s a version of the original on XBLA at the moment, of course, but a HD re-imagining of the series – delivered with the competence of fellow reboots Pac-Man CE or Space Invaders Extreme – could easily make it a star of Microsoft’s inevitable 2010 Summer of Arcade. Somebody just needs to give the business suits a whiff of the kind of money it could rake in.

Sadly, Turmell also makes it clear that he wouldn’t be attached to this potential new project. That’s a shame, but okay, just so long as they don’t make it a 3D, third-person action adventure and try and work a story in. The last thing in the world we need is another Bomberman: Act Zero.

Martin’s Verdict: Has to be true.

Dhani Harrison Working on another Set of Rock Band Instruments?

Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Dhani “Son of George” Harrison managed to slip in the news he was working with Harmonix to make the peripherals for Rock Band 3 “more real.”

Hang on – more real? That doesn’t sound much like the current ones, and all their clunky, plingy, plastic glory, which means the whole thing feels suspiciously like they’re desperate to sell punters another set of fake instrument controllers. How many plastic guitars does the average house have now, I wonder? I’m sporting five, and I’m not even fanatical about the games. They’ll have to create some kind of plastic guitar rack at this rate, although I couldn’t afford it because I seem to be spending all my money on new plastic instruments.

I’d say it’s likely that Dhani might be helping Harmonix with a bit of casual R&D, but implementing a radically different controller sounds like a risky move. As Dhani puts it in the article, “I’m working on ’Rock Band 3’ and making the controllers more real so people can actually learn how to play music while playing the game.” What can he possibly do – give it strings? And how would that possibly work with the voluminous swathes of Rock Band content already in existence? It doesn’t add up.

It all seems a bit unfeasible, when you think about it. While The Beatles: Rock Band trumped Guitar Hero 5 in the US, the tables were turned dramatically in the UK – it’s clear the business model is in need of evaluating. Back in the UK, Activision’s Band Hero failed to make the Top 40 in its first week of release. And Rock Band, despite being totally awesome, is currently failing to turn in a profit.

And, besides, these games aren’t popular because they’re fastidiously aping actual instrument playing. No, they’re famous because they conjure up a delightful illusion of competence while dazzling you with hypnotic notes. Learning to play a guitar is hard work; that’s why I don’t do it.

Martin’s Verdict: False.

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