Ace Attorney’s Forgotten Game Shows the Weird Place of Fan Localizations Within Fandom

After six years, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles got an official localization in 2021. It was well received – Eurogamer gave it a recommendation – and sold half a million copies. By all accounts, it was a success, and it eventually lined up releases for the Ace Attorney franchise inside and outside of Japan. Except one game.

Ace Attorney Investigations 2 is a bizarre oddity in an already bizarre series. The original Investigations game is a spin-off featuring Miles Edgeworth, a fan favorite from the original trilogy. It places its emotional arc at its center, finding itself much more character-driven than the main games. The sequel, released in 2011, follows suit, rehashing some areas but extending the thematic resonance in others. It is also the only one of the 11 Ace Attorney games that has not been officially localized.

Investigations 2 is playable in English thanks to a fan localization released in 2015, four years after the game was released. It’s an excellent localization, and combined with the quality of the game itself, it’s very popular among those who enjoy had played. But not a lot. Its lack of an official release in the West has put it in a strange position. Even though the series continues to grow in popularity and spin-offs like The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles get their deserved success, Investigations 2 remains in the shadows.

Even Capcom itself seems to be treating the game like a forgotten child. In December 2021, he released artwork for the series’ 20th anniversary, which was dominated by classic characters from the original trilogy and new characters (for western audiences) from the Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. But every other game has appeared with at least one or two key characters. All other games except Investigations 2. A few days later, Capcom apparently admitted its mistake and quietly reissued itthis time including Sebastian Debeste, a key AAI2 character, hidden in the top left corner.

It’s hard to find a video, but here’s one of the Ace Attorney Investigations 2 walkthroughs.

When The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles was about to come out, I was excited. But I couldn’t help but think of Investigations 2. Both entries had once been in the same position, only available through fan localization. But they were suddenly very different. Fan locators for The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles had seen their work superseded by an official release. The Investigations 2 fan locators, on the other hand, were now an anomaly: the only group of people who had made a game of the series available to non-Japanese fans, and who remained the only way to play it in English. . .

I wanted to tell them about it. But localization came out seven years ago, a lifetime on the internet. Everyone seemed to have evolved. They had mostly coordinated on the GBATemp forum and left the final patch with two contact methods for feedback. The first was a link. Broken. The second was an email address. No answers.

I scoured the credited names, which were almost all online pseudonyms, for anyone who might still be active under them. Almost no one was. Most had last logged into the forum months or years ago. My only ray of hope was the project manager, Auryn, who had been active a few weeks before. I created a forum account, posted five messages to unlock direct messaging, and contacted him on June 30, 2021. “Hope to write an article about Ace Attorney Investigations 2 and the fan translation you’ve been working on Would you be interested in answering a few questions?”

Auryn didn’t answer. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is out. I wrote two articles about it, mentioning Ace Attorney Investigations 2 in both, as a sort of inside joke for myself, and in hopes that maybe a fan or two of the series would consider picking up the fan translation and to complete the collection. The media cycle continued. In some ways, me too. (I’ve written about other things; I’ve moved across the country.) In other respects, I haven’t. (I started an Ace Attorney proofreading podcast which is, at the time of this writing, about to arrive at the Investigations games, and I’ve never been so excited in my life.)

Re-released artwork of all notable Ace Attorney characters, this time featuring AAI2’s Sebastian Debeste, hidden in the top left corner.

Then, in February 2022, Auryn wrote back to me. “Well, it’s been a while since the translation but of course…carry on.”

We chatted slowly for four months. He was very forgiving with my questions, although he didn’t log into the forum much and politely refused to talk to me in any other way. At nearly 50, he says he doesn’t remember how he got to work on localizations. “Did I come across a fan translation and [get] curious how they did it? Or was I trying to watch how the games were programmed?”

He remembers, however, the first time he managed to get a game to display its own text. “The first time I saw my ‘translation’ (no more than a few words) on screen was when I changed something on a SNES rom – one of the Mickey Mouse games. [I remember] how surprised I was how easy it was and how happy I was that it worked.”

He quickly realized that not everything is so easy, however. When he discovered the Ace Attorney community, he had played several of the games and enjoyed them enough to be curious when he saw the Investigations 2 location attempts. But, at least from Auryn’s perspective , the project was in trouble. These kinds of projects require linguistic and cultural knowledge, certainly, but also a lot of technical expertise, which Auryn thought she lacked at the time. For example, Investigations 2 was compressed, and fans didn’t have a tool to uncompress it to edit the text, and recompress it when finished.

He created English graphics for the project, thinking it would motivate the community as they continued their work. But as he explained the problems he saw from his technical perspective, and new people joined in, intrigued by his graphics, he eventually slipped into the position of project manager. “I had a broad knowledge of different aspects: NDS graphics, programming, languages ​​in real life,” he says. “And maybe I was a little stubborn.”

Eventually, the team that had gathered around the project had solved many technical issues, fighting over 9000 files in the uncompressed game and fixing issues like allowing three lines of text in dialogs to fit account for English’s less efficient use of space. compared to Japanese. But they were missing something quite crucial.

“[There was] no one to really translate Japanese text,” Auryn says. And not just translating, but localizing. All media requires consideration of context beyond just literal word-for-word translation when languages ​​are changed, but Ace Attorney has a very specific way of doing it, as well as a comedic sense that relies on puns, all of which should be recreated to keep up with the rest of the series.

The project is slowing down considerably. “There were a lot of people who promised to help and never delivered,” Auryn says. Although he enjoyed being part of the community, he found the issues of getting the English text frustrating, as well as the requests from foreigners. “The first three years, a lot of people were saying that we’re wrong, that we’re too slow and that we’ll never finish it. It was sad to see those comments, especially thinking about the free time we had to get there. where we were. . People didn’t like it.”

Many things Auryn and the team were working on at that time were, he says, “experimental.” The Ace Attorney series not only has Japanese words in the text boxes, but also in the animations, which Auryn had to realign by hand frame by frame. They were also trying to incorporate community suggestions, such as opening polls to choose character names, which were to incorporate a lot of those previously mentioned puns. See, for example, the arrogant Sebastian Debeste, whose Japanese name is Yumihiko Ichiyanagi. The kanji for Ichiyanagi can also be read as “first class”, a nickname he uses in-game, which in English becomes “the best”.

“If it’s really the only one that’s never been officially released, that makes me even prouder.”

After three years, the team released a partial fix. This had the double effect of proving that they were really progressing and of attracting attention. The latter brought more people on board, especially those who could punch through the text. For most of that time, Auryn worked in a background role, posting news to the community but not working on the game itself unless a big problem arose.

The final patch was released in February 2015. Auryn could be around 80,000 downloads, although there are more from rehosted links. That’s a lot, but maybe a fifth of the amount The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles sold in a year. The marketing, the fact that it’s official, the buzz; a combination of factors still makes fan localized games a secondary consideration for most people. Even as a, say, “dedicated” Ace Attorney fan, I still never played The Great Ace Attorney fan localizations that had been around for years before they were officially released.

It seems unlikely that Investigations 2 will get an official release outside of Japan. This is not, in itself, a big loss. The care and passion that has gone into fan localization means it is still playable and enjoyable for English speakers. But without that layer of legitimization, Investigations 2 will likely remain the franchise’s least played game. He will remain in an eerie twilight, loved by many who sought him out, but forgotten by most. A community-specific cult classic.

The team working on Investigations 2 has dispersed, leaving almost everyone unreachable. Auryn is no longer working on localizations. “Posts like yours and posts on YouTube about partial translations I have there asking where they can find the translated game make me think at least once a week that I want to translate something else,” says- he. “But I don’t have the patience anymore.”

Finally, I ask him the question that sent me down this rabbit hole almost a year ago. What was it like to be part of the team that localized the only game in the series that didn’t have its own official localization?

“I’m going to shock you here,” he said. Auryn didn’t know that was the case. He hadn’t followed Ace Attorney at all. He never even played Investigations 2 to the end. “If it’s really the only one that’s never been officially released, that makes me even prouder.”

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Raymond I. Langston