This is a repost from my Tumblr blog from 2016. I intend to clean up these posts.
Forgive me if I may start with a sort of controversial statement here: The Gyakuten Saiban games, or Ace Attorney for the Japanifornians, are pretty great games. In fact, I would probably put the series as one of my favorite franchises in video games. Ever since taking a chance with Justice for All back on the DS, Shu Takumi’s take on being a lawyer in some very strange and harrowing cases has stolen my heart. The series hasn’t disappointed me yet…Aside from the games that won’t be coming out in the west.
The series has been a solid run of drama, humor, charm and character, with stories and mysteries that have surprised me for years. The first trilogy has been a success on the Nintendo DS and was considered one of the must-have games to own for the system. For a lot of people, it was their first introduction into the world of visual novels and even adventure games. Since then it’s had a few sequels here and there, a few HD rereleases, and even ended up on the Wii at some point.
Since originally making this post, the original trilogy is intending to go to PC for the first time early 2019, as well as ports to the PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch! If you haven’t gotten a chance to try them out, I implore you to give them a go. The trilogy will no doubt be insanely cheap for the amount of content inside.
It’s a series that’s been around since the Game Boy Advance days in Japan, and with that you have a lot of ground that’s already been covered. A lot of varied opinions about it, a lot of interviews, a lot of theory, and all that. However, I wanted to talk about an aspect of the game that has been one of my absolute favorite aspects over the past few years, and that is its character design.
So first off, a bit of a disclaimer.
I am, by all accounts, a pretty mediocre artist. One of the things that I struggle with constantly, aside from a solid foundation for drawing in general, is character design, which also happens to be one of the biggest things I need to learn. Funny thing, that.
A lot of what I’m going to talk about is probably going to either seem rudimentary or incredibly obvious. If you’re going to go into this expecting me to have definitive answers, then I’m probably not going to be able to give them. I am here as a fan making posts about a concept of this series I adore and hope to gleam something out of thinking about it in-depth along with common character design rules.I hope that my learning about design while going through the series is something that will be good content to read!
I yearn to create characters with a look that is both striking and fun to draw while also being designed with simplicity when needed. While I know that will be something that comes with practice, I also know that nothing’s better for practice than study.
And what better thing to study than something you love?
I will warn you beforehand, there will be some spoilers on many games in the series, from the oldest to the newest, as some design aspects involve personality and possibly criminal intent, but I’ll be sure to mark them as such.
I’ll probably be referring to characters by the English version whenever I can, solely because that’s how I always see them. I hope that this isn’t a huge problem!
I intend on playing through the series again and possibly touching on games I haven’t had the chance of playing before. Since making this post in 2016, I have played through Spirit of Justice and I’ve seen that Dai Gyakuten Saiban has had good progress in a fan-translation to accompany Ace Attorney Investigations 2’s fandub.
Finally, a lot of the images I end up using will probably be sourced from Court Records. They’re a fantastic Ace Attorney fansite that has been my favorite spot for AA content for years. If I end up finding images in other locations, I’ll try to source as I can. Otherwise, assume I found them on there
If you have any recommendations for me as I go along, let me know! As far as spur-of-the-moment projects go, this is one of my more daunting ones. Ever since making the first post back in 2016, I got feedback that I intend to work with and I hope I can gleam even more from it. I hope I can keep up with this project with a more consistent rate. It helped me realize a few things to focus on and it’s always good to get a refresher. In the end, I’m going in this to learn something, and I hope my learning something will help you learn, too!
Or at the very least, you can read the ramblings of someone who really loves a lawyer game and understand why I love it
Thanks for reading! I’ll update this with links as I go along!
This is a repost from my Tumblr blog, which I like enough to bring here.
It’s really difficult for me to admit that I’m an artist of any capacity. A lot of times, I consider that sort of term to be dedicated only to the working artist. You know, the ones who actually get paid for their work. The ones who end up creating things for everyone. The ones I admire greatly, to the point that I consider them to be living on Mt. Olympus while I’m stuck at a temple waiting for a chariot up a very steep road.
The place I work at now is a place where I
don’t get to really create for myself. I create for other people. When
I’m done there, I seldom get to make things for myself at home. There is
an effort, of course, when I’m able to do so, but it’s hard to be that
focused after toiling a retail job for 7 hours a day. You end up taking
the opportunity to decompress and that ends up becoming an 8-hour
decompress and you need to go to bed. That’s how it is for an adult, I
guess. Don’t recommend growing up.
And that “9-5 Job, Now Do
Nothing For Hours” mindset is something I need to work on, to be sure.
In my mind, I see myself as someone who needs to be able to do something. I can’t make art to decompress, because art is supposed to be something important.
I toil and toil, thinking about the process I need to decide on doing.
“How do I become an artist like my favorite artists?” “What is the
correct methods of learning it?”
How do I climb the mountain and join the greats?
In my monthly stint of introspection, I was watching a friend play Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
To this day, it may still be my favorite game. Watching it again brings
back a lot of genuinely good memories, both inside and outside of the
game. The charm that filled the game’s varied and interesting world and
cast has still yet to be matched for my personal tastes. And for years,
it was the game I played whenever I needed a good pick-me-up.
him play it for the first time and getting to hear the same sort of
reactions I had to it 14 years ago ended up bringing an…odd memory
back to me. And it involves this image.
Perhaps not this specific image in particular – the internet could have phased out that one- but something similar to it.
back in 2004 I was just getting in on the whole Internet thing. This
was back when people used what was called an “internet forum”. This was a
place where people can post their thoughts on a wide range of topics,
such as: “How do you jump in Metroid?”, “This game sucks”, and “Do you
think Kingdom Hearts 2 will be on Gamecube?”.
I was part of
one forum for a good part of my teenage life. I started at around
January of 2004, in fact. I suppose I consider that a turning point in
my life if I remember it to that degree.
I was fairly active in that forum. And as I began to make my posts, I began to notice something. At the bottom of every post was what you called a signature.
They were a cute little way to signify that you were the one who was
making the post. It was one of the small creative outlets this
particular forum had given users, though you still needed it to be both
45-ish pixels tall and kept at a low file size to help those with 56k
Typing that out makes me feel really old.
were people who were making these small images underneath their posts
and the cool, hip guy I was as a teenager was like “OH BOY I WANNA DO
THAT TOO!”. Of course, in order to create this sort of stuff I had to
Back then, I found a pirated copy of Paint Shop Pro 7. It worked decently enough for me, but as I was a young lad with strong moral values – I didn’t even curse until well into my later teens, the frickin’ twit
– I felt extremely guilty doing this. So for my birthday that year, I
ended up getting a legit copy of Paint Shop Pro 8. It was at that point,
I suppose, that my desire to create stuff was ignited. I was thrown
into the wide world of graphic design, making sigs for myself and
I eventually upgraded to Photoshop 7 – after throwing away all of those moral values and growing the confidence to say the F!!!-word – walking even further into this new world for me. I started making signatures for people in flashier ways, abused lens flare to the point of blinding half of Nintendo fanboys, and even dabbled in creating wallpapers for people to use. This was back when 1024×768 was the norm, if you can believe that
I talk about this because when my friend was playing TTYD, I decided to look up art of some characters again, and found Vivian – one of the party members in the game – once more. Only, this time, in a way higher fidelity than I had 14 years ago.
In general, I’d consider TTYD as the game that first got me
encroaching into graphic design. This was not due to the game’s art,
which is still fantastic, but because of so many people suddenly wanting
signatures of their favorite new party members in that restrictive 48
I would get private messages in the forum asking for
sigs with Mario, Goombella, Koops, Yoshi, Vivian, Bobbery, the X-Nauts,
Bowser, Peach…Rawk Hawk a few times…even had Zess T. the cook in
there. It was wild.
So imagine my surprise going through Google
Image Search for a post about Vivian and finding an image of her that
was extremely close to the kind of art I had to work with back then. I
worked for a long time trying to figure out how to deal with the blur of
the pisspoor scan with its low resolution and JPEG artifacts. Back
then, finding official art was pretty difficult alone, and official art
that actually looked like it was scanned with proper care? You were
basically stuck with what you had and needed to figure out how to hide
it. The people who could find clean concept art became our dealer
providing the good shit while we provided our services to others.
you just worked with what you had. This was problem solving. Back then,
you didn’t have access to as many tutorials as you do now. You
absolutely didn’t have as much access to tablets. Those were from Wacom
only and they were expensive. So you were essentially on your own, only
getting help from the occasional artist who decided to make small
tutorials on the forum.
Thankfully most of the people for
signature requests were also teenagers as well, who just thought you
were amazing for doing this for them.
I suppose all this reminiscing got me thinking about that mountain again. The paths up the mountain are long but they’re rarely ever getting longer or shorter, just easier to traverse. Nowadays, tablets are so much easier to acquire and art programs have gotten a lot more manageable. Art you want to look at or study or even use for your small projects are readily available, with services that makes buying personalized art easy and supporting artists even easier.
The knowledge about art
programs and processes is nigh-infinite at this point. You can get a
young artist’s commentary about their own virtues of art in a single
tweet at lunch and get an experienced artist’s commentary at dinner. You
can get atelier-level art lessons for free on Youtube.
Almost anything you want to learn is feasible now. Climbing the mountain is easier than ever.
naturally, with my inferiority complex in full swing, I always have to
ask myself why I haven’t started climbing the mountain yet. Why haven’t I
just started the trek up the mountain pass already towards becoming a
And the answer is, I am.
It’s just at my pace.
When I was a kid playing make-believe with others in the playground, I was making steps. Throughout all my teenage years of making signatures for people, making wallpapers for others, and even making a properly-awful sprite comic, I was making steps. When I was getting people stealing my sketchbook and making marks over my drawing of a Sonic character at lunch in high school, I was still making steps. When I was being critiqued by people for my skills in ways I felt were unfair or spiteful, I was still making steps. Every time I open Photoshop or SAI and stare at a blank canvas and will myself into making a mark on there, I’m still making a step.
Every step further from the start point, which is far and away from where I am now.
In my mind, I still can’t help but feel like where I should be is as some sort of master of art, but it’s really not fair to me. In hindsight, if I had drawn something every single day with intent, I could be a technical genius with knowledge of all the principles of design lodged firmly in my mind. It sounds amazing, but that’s not something I did.
Considering “what could have been” ignores what I am now. I am someone with knowledge in these various programs for over 14 years. I’ve dabbled in multiple projects, some in my own design. I can consider those things invariably shit, but the stuff I did there was stuff I did on my own terms, which I learned from. I wrote fanfics, did signatures for people, made wallpapers and webcomics, designed websites, did roleplaying, made a storyline based on friends’ characters in an MMO, and played tabletop games creating characters that became some of my favorite creations in my lifetime.
I would never want to trade that away for some sort of technical skill level-up. I’ve made too many great friends because of all of this. I am who I am because of how I’ve gotten here.
how to create is all about taking the opportunities as they come along.
Even this post is, essentially, me seeing one image online after a game
session with friends and getting a nostalgia blast for something
completely unrelated to the game itself.
The act of creating is simply doing. If you do, you create. If you create, you create art.
If you create art, you are an artist.
Don’t let your inner thoughts dissuade you from that fact, ever.