It’s been years since the last Ace Attorney game came out stateside, and the wait is finally over with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles—a great bundle that’s easily one of the best values of the year.
What Is It?
The Ace Attorney series got its start in the United States when Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney came out on the DS in 2005. For those unfamiliar, it’s an interactive graphic novel court series that puts players in the shoes of a defense lawyer. The series is built on two phases, the investigation phase and the courtroom phase, and it’s up to you as the lawyer to uncover the truth to every case by presenting evidence and pointing out flaws in the testimony of various witnesses.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is actually a port of the two Great Ace Attorney (The Great Ace Attorney and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve) games that came out on the 3DS in 2015 and 2017. Mostly taking place in 19th century Great Britain with a new cast of characters, these games never made it stateside until now, and while there are some noticeable grammatical errors here and there, the series has retained the excellent writing and humor that’s made it a hit with fans for years.
Why Should I Care?
As mentioned, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles consists of two games, each with five different episodes. You play as the energetic and Japanese Ryunoskue Naruhodo, an implied descendant of Phoenix Wright, who becomes a defense attorney at the advice of his best friend, Kazuma.
Because the game takes place in a previous century at a time when both Japan and Great Britain established a new peace treaty, cases play out a little differently than they did in previous games. Forensic science is nowhere close to what it is today, so factors such as fingerprinting are not present in the numerous cases you’ll be cracking. Of course, since the game is scripted, there’s often only one path through the story, and you’ll have to do your best using comprehension, common sense and your own deduction based on the facts in the game to move forward.
Speaking of deduction and common sense, most of the evidence you’ll obtain over the course of the game will need to be closely examined to move the story forward. A lot of items in the game can be seen from a 3D perspective, allowing you to make note of every little detail you see. Whether it’s blood on the back of a sign, or a strange imprint on a bar of soap, or even a snippet from a newspaper you’d think otherwise useless—the fact that this many pieces of the court record are at your disposal adds to the game’s involvement and challenge, as it’s the closest thing to modern forensics the series will give you.
Aside from the more simplistic take on forensics, another big difference between the Great Ace Attorney games and the rest of the series is the fact that you’ll be dealing with a grand jury in each of your cases in Great Britain. Unlike the Japanese court, or what you’ve seen in previous games, the judge can’t make a ruling until there’s a majority agreement among the jury, whom you’ll have to convince to get an acquittal for your clients. That said, instead of just pressing and presenting evidence to challenge the testimonies put forth by witnesses, you’ll also be doing the same thing to specific members of the jury in order to get them to make their minds up in your favor. Again, all of these are scripted and there’s only one way through them, but they do result in several hilarious exchanges as well as some of the best music in the game.
It’s all this that make The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles every bit as as charming as all of its predecessors are. Aside from just an HD facelift, the game’s feature all of the piercing sound effects that help immerse you into the interactive novel’s world, and the excellent dialog really made me fall in love with each of the game’s characters.
From Ryunosuke himself to his judicial assistant Susato Minato, to the french fry shoving Inspector Gregson, and even Castlevania vampire-looking Barok van Zieks—the prosecutor you’ll be facing in almost every case in the game—the exuberance of each character and their designs really jump out of the screen, and probably none of them do so nearly as eye-rolling-ly as the great detective, Herlock Sholmes — yes, there’s a detective in the game named Herlock Sholmes.
Sholmes is somebody you’ll come across in the second episode of the first game, and every episode after he’ll also come with his own gameplay nuance — Herlock Sholmes’ Logic & Reasoning Spectacular. Often done in a room littered with evidence, Sholmes will look at the room and make a deduction as to what happened that are always wildly wrong, and it’s up to Ryunosuke to correct them by looking at the highlighted text and replacing it with other suspicious objects or situations in the room. Like a court case, if you make a mistake, you’ll be penalized and if you make too many mistakes, you get a game over. Thankfully, all of these deduction phases are extremely easy as it’s just a matter of floating your cursor around the screen and seeing what fits the situation, and you can always do the trial-and-error approach in these games by save-scumming when it comes to a point where you really can’t figure something out.
That brings us to probably the most accessible gameplay feature in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles—Story Mode. When you have a Story Mode activated, you can just watch the game go on autodrive. So if you have no interest in doing the hard work of making deductions and presenting the right evidence, you can just sit there and watch. If you’re only interested in the story (and it’s a good one), that’s an option, but this has to be noted, if you wanted to unlock all the game’s achievements, you should pass on it. If at anytime a puzzle is solved using Story Mode, you won’t get any accolade or achievement credit for the episode, which is unfortunate because these episodes can last anywhere between three and eight hours depending on how far you get. You have the option of starting an episode at various parts of the episode, but you only get accolade credit by beating it from start to finish.
Now, this also has to be said: because the game’s story took place a long time ago, there’s no shortage of dialog (mainly from the game’s main prosecutor) that’ll come off as casual racism. Remember, back then, Great Britain was at the top of the legal world while Japan was considered a slowly developing island country. As I kept playing, I admittedly did feel some discomfort seeing the British belittle the Japanese protagonists so much, but again—this is not only how it was, but it’s part of the experience. As you get through the game, you’ll learn a lot about why Naruhodo and company are treated this way, and while the reasoning behind such dialog is up for debate, I can understand it.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
If you have a liking for the Ace Attorney series or even interactive visual novels in general, then you’ll feel right at home with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. With two games, each one spanning five long cases each, this bundle will take over 70 hours to finish, making this $40 package easily one of the best deals of the year. The game also features some extra content to give you a greater feel for its superb cast, so I simply can’t recommend these games enough. As an Ace Attorney fan, I really appreciated the different routes it took with its case flows as it wasn’t always the typical investigation-trial-investigation-trial–in fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the episodes did not even have a court case involved, so it truly was a breath of fresh air.
On the other hand, if visual novels and reading aren’t your thing, this definitely isn’t going to change your mind.