The Ace Attorney series of investigation/mystery games has a long history on Nintendo portable devices. Several of the games were released on the Nintendo DS and 3DS, and more recently the first three of those games were released as a collection on the Nintendo Switch. However, the two entries that carried the Great Ace Attorney moniker have long been exclusive to Japan. Luckily that has changed this year, as both games have been released as The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. Now fans of the series can experience the two titles in all of their judicial glory.
You assume the role of Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a student at the prestigious Imperial Yumei University in 1800s Japan. The country is on the verge of adopting a Western style of judicial system, and Ryunosuke’s friend Kazuma is a bright young lawyer eager to start his career in this new era. While Ryunosuke is an English student who has never studied law like his best friend, he is irresistibly drawn into this world of courtroom drama and surprisingly finds that he has a knack for discovering the truth. This kicks off a journey that takes him and his judicial assistant Susato across the ocean to London, a city rife with crime. It’s here that he’s able to nurture his natural talents and discover his true purpose in life: defending the innocent.
The Great Ace Attorney consists of two games: Adventures and Resolve, each containing five chapters. Both titles contain a singular overarching plot, so playing only the first entry will likely leave you with many questions and very few answers. The games take quite a while to pull back the curtain on the largest mysteries, but it’s well worth the wait for the plot’s satisfying culmination. A significant selling point of these games is that the protagonist, Ryunosuke, is the ancestor of Phoenix Wright, the main character of the Nintendo DS titles in the Ace Attorney series, so you’re able to see how the defense attorney lifestyle of his bloodline started. There are many parallels between those games and these ones, namely a similarity between the judicial assistant Susato and Wright’s companion Maya Fey. For this reason, you will feel right at home playing both games, as the cases and story feel familiar in tone.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles continues the style of gameplay the Ace Attorney series is known for: a mixture of text-heavy exposition (like a visual novel) and investigation sequences, with “battles” in the courtroom taking center stage. The investigation segments involve going to different locations and looking for clues or asking people questions that give you more information about the court case you’re involved in during that chapter of the story. This falls into line with what fans of the series are used to, but these titles also have a few features to set them apart, such as the inclusion of juries in the courtroom and occasional segments where you must logically deduce the truth of certain situations. These new gameplay features make what is already a fantastic entry in the series even better, as you will have to be on your toes to figure out deductions and interact with the jury.
One great thing about these games is that you’re able to play either with a controller or with the touch screen. This gives you options no matter where you are while playing. Another bit of accessibility in the games is the Story Mode option, which allows the game to be played on auto-pilot. Dialogue boxes not only scroll by themselves, but all choices, such as what evidence to present, are automatically made for you. Some will not need this feature, but it is no doubt a useful option for those who might get stuck or would enjoy the game more as a traditional visual novel.
When you’re not in the courtroom, you will be spending time hitting the pavement looking for clues and testimony to help you defend your client in court. There’s a menu that easily allows you to travel between the locations relevant to the current case. While at a certain location, you move a pointer around the screen to highlight objects of particular interest. Sometimes this merely elicits a comment from Naruhodo or his companions, while other times you’re able to find a vital clue that will help you in court when the time is right. These investigation sequences differ enough from how court cases are played that even if you don’t like one or the other, alternating between the two different types of gameplay should keep you engaged and interested in continuing through each case.
It wouldn’t be an Ace Attorney game without courtroom trials, and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles features plenty of cases to take part in. In these trials, you act as a defense attorney whose job is to prove that the defendant, your client, is innocent of the crime they’ve been charged with. Witnesses are called during the trial who you can cross-examine and focus on certain parts of their testimony to point out contradictions and present any evidence you’ve found to dispel any lies they tell. A jury of normal citizens is also present during these trials. The cases are all satisfying in how you uncover the truth and come to often unforeseen revelations in the course of the proceedings.
Though it is nothing new for this series, the trials in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles feature a particularly steep burden of proof. Every single step of the trial will require you to present some kind of evidence for any claim you make. Defendants always seem to be seen as guilty until proven innocent. What’s more, you also have to essentially build the prosecution’s case for them against whoever did actually commit the crime. I don’t profess to be an expert on the judicial process, but this doesn’t seem like how these trials should be taking place. Granted, this has always been the case in the series, but it has the potential to be annoying if you’re expecting these trials to be completely fair.
Up until the Great Ace Attorney games, court trials were almost always a duel between the defense and prosecution, with the judge being the sole decider of the case’s conclusion. However, these games introduce the inclusion of a six-person jury in court proceedings. At any point during the trial, jurors can lock-in their opinion on whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If all jurors rule not guilty, the trial is concluded. However, if all jurors vote for a guilty verdict, the defense attorney is able to partake in a summation examination in hopes that the opinion of enough jurors can be swayed. During these segments, all jurors are asked why they voted guilty, and it’s up to you to analyze each statement and pit them against one another to make the jurors reconsider whether there’s really enough evidence to convict your client. These are a fun addition to the usual formula of the series, and bring some novel gameplay to both titles.
Every now and then while investigating, you will encounter situations where something needs to be figured out or answered, but the truth is just out of reach. Enter Herlock Sholmes, a well-known private detective who’s always eager to use logic to deduce what’s really going on. However, his deductions are not always completely spot-on, and Naruhodo will need to step in and correct certain parts of his deductions to arrive at the truth. These sequences feature 3D scrolling through environments to find details that were missed in the initial deduction. They can be really entertaining to play through, and the use of 3D visuals to allow you to look all around the room you’re in to find the little detail that Sholmes missed is a great touch. The way all the lines are delivered by both Sholmes and Naruhodo make you feel like you’re in a classic detective story.
An extensive assortment of features is contained in the Special Contents menu, accessed from the game’s title screen. Here you can find options like a music player, concept art, a list of in-game achievements, and skits that take place between cases that feature characters from the game. There are also several promotional videos that were aired in Japan, such as a conversation between Naruhodo and Phoenix Wright. All of these are great additions to the duology of titles, and supplement the main game quite nicely.
Unlike many of the previous games in the series, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles contains 3D models and environments for much of the game, with 2D backgrounds appearing in investigation scenes. The graphics are noticeably more advanced than the NDS titles many are familiar with. These character models mean that a much wider range of reactions and movements can be conveyed. The environments seen during deduction sequences are particularly impressive too, as oftentimes you can see locations you’ve grown accustomed to from a new angle while exploring in the 3D space they feature. The character and concept art in the Special Features section also shows how much care and consideration went into the game’s art direction, which is apparent while reading the included notes from the developers under each entry. It’s a great inclusion since it’s a rare window into the creative process of game-making.
MUSIC & VOICE ACTING
The music in both Great Ace Attorney games is made up of orchestrated tracks that often use Japanese instruments befitting the 19th Century Japan setting. In addition, music that is played in Europe includes more classical instruments like the pipe organ and violin. In this way, every track complements the games’ settings effectively. All of the tracks can be heard whenever you want from the Instrumentals menu, and there are even notes from the composer on how each tracks was made. The overall “sound” of the game’s music and sound effects will be familiar to fans of the series, especially the sound of text scrolling. While there is voice acting in the game, you only hear it during court interjections or special scenes in the story.
Going back through all of the cases isn’t a bad idea once you’re done with both games. You’ll surely see certain scenes in a new light with knowledge of how each case ends. Accolades are another reason to play cases over again. These are the game’s version of achievements/trophies, and some can be a bit less-obvious if you aren’t usually thorough during investigations and conversations. The good news is almost every achievement has a description letting you know how to unlock it. These don’t technically have a concrete purpose, but they are a fun way to enjoy the game again. The videos in the Special Contents section are also a fantastic choice if you’re itching for more of Naruhodo and the other characters in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. The skits and promotional clips are entertaining and take quite awhile to watch altogether.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles acts as a worthy origin story to the Ace Attorney series. The feel of everything from the characters to the cases all fit right into what you would expect from this series. The crisp 3D graphics work well in the games, and the new deduction and jury aspects keep the gameplay fresh even for seasoned Ace Attorney veterans. The steampunk London setting is also novel and interesting. You might not appreciate how the burden of proof in the court cases is so one-sided, but the feeling of triumph you get when you’re able to piece every bit of evidence and testimony together makes all the frustration worthwhile. If you’ve ever felt like the world is an unfair place and wish you could do something to defend the weak, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a great game to give you that experience of not only being the underdog, but coming out on top over the worst elements of society.
Final Rating: 9/10.