(Apologies that it has been so long since my last post. Now that things look to have generally evened out a bit more in my own life, I shall resume posting and try to maintain my Monday through Friday schedule. Once again, my apologies for the delay.)
Inspiration can come from anywhere. That is something which I feel can sometimes be forgotten when people make a demand for original content. It is not easy to simply come up with an idea out of whole cloth. Sometimes, it can be a new angle in viewing something or perhaps the right mixture of concepts that sparks a grand new idea. Whatever the case may be, taking the familiar or existing and bringing a whole new view can be that avenue for original content. The subject of today’s blog is a video game, one that showcases such a mixture of components. One element is that of the work of J. J. Grandville, a 19th century French caricaturist known for his lithographs depicting figures with human bodies and animal heads. Another component is the musical catalogue of Camille Saint-Saens, a 19th century French composer perhaps best remembered for his musical suite The Carnival of the Animals. Last but not least, there is the Ace Attorney franchise from Capcom, a visual novel series where you play as a defense attorney fighting to prove the innocence of his clients. Together, these disparate elements have been mixed together for one indie video game, a strong and peculiar little entry known as Aviary Attorney.
The year is 1848. The location is Paris, France. In a world of anthropomorphic animals, two individuals trying to make their way in the world are Jayjay Falcon and his assistant Sparrowson. Jayjay Falcon works as a defense attorney though finds himself struggling to get clients, while Sparrowson tags along with rather snarky comments as the events unfold. One day, he receives a rather well paying case: Dame Caterline, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, is accused of murder. Eager for his first new client in months, Jayjay takes on the case. Taking on this case proves to be the first step in Jayjay’s path in life, as he finds himself pulled into other puzzling cases. It also pulls him into the paths of such figures as Justice Volerti, a member of the Paris police force obsessed with catching the Viridian Killer, and Severin Cocorico, a prosecution attorney who is also a rival of Jayjay Falcon. Now, Jayjay stands his ground and seeks to prove that justice can prevail, even if social unrest suggests something big and dangerous is on the horizon.
First off, the gameplay works well. For those familiar with the Ace Attorney franchise, you will be entering familiar waters. Gameplay consists of moving between locations, interrogating individuals and suspects along with investigating various locales for potential evidence. Eventually, you will move onto the trial. During these portions of the game, you will have to cross-examine the witness and find contradictions in their testimonies, along with using the right evidence to prove them wrong. The gameplay is familiar, but the changes with it add some good spice to make it stand out. For one, time moves forward as you move between locations for your investigations. It is entirely possible that you may arrive to the court date lacking a key piece of evidence specifically because your time had been used up elsewhere. Thus, it is important how you use your time in handling the investigation portion. Also, your choices do affect the narrative. It is not as if all choices simply lead down one path. Sometimes the effects may be small, but sometimes the choices can have far-ranging consequences. In fact, the game offers multiple endings depending upon the choices you have made. This helps to add a sense of urgency to the proceedings, to give your actions and time real weight to them. Of course, the game’s inspiration rests not only in how it tweaks a familiar gameplay formula.
As mentioned in the start of this post, two major influences in the game are artist J. J. Grandville and composer Camille Saint-Saens. J. J. Grandville’s artwork is not simply an inspiration for the game, it is in fact used prominently. All of the characters come from Grandville’s original artwork, enhanced by clever writing that offers strong personalities to go with the whimsical drawings. Likewise, Saint-Saens’ music is used well to add to the mood of the game, oftentimes using pieces from The Carnival of the Animals as leitmotifs for the creatures which piece is based around. However, both are influences on the game not only because of their individual works, but also because of the time they came from. Paris in the mid-19th century was a time of growth, but also of strife. Paris grew in size and the upper classes prospered, but its lower classes suffered and discontent brewed. The working classes took to the streets time and again, while the establishment would fight to silence them. In short, Paris was a powder keg. It’s a fascinating setting, one still remembered from the novels of authors like Victor Hugo and gripping from the social conflict at play that can resonate today. This is what makes Aviary Attorney an inspired game. It brings together a setting, artwork, and music of another time, mixes it with a modern style of gameplay, all towards the work of a plot whose issues of justice and social conflicts feeling relatable in our world. To take such separate elements, from humanoid animal characters to a game about the law, and bring them together in a deft and inventive idea is a real example of originality at play.
The seeds of originality can come from many places. Sometimes it might be from components you wouldn’t expect. Such is the case of Aviary Attorney, which brings together visual novel gameplay, 19th century lithographs, classical music compositions, and a gripping historical setting to tell an engaging narrative. If you want to give the game a try for yourself, Aviary Attorney is available on Steam.