I’d given up on ever playing The Great Ace Attorney. The games were both released for the 3DS in Japan almost six years ago, and Capcom had shown no signs of wanting to localise them. In the meantime, we’d received two other 3DS Ace Attorney games, but neither of them was as strong as those that came before it. Capcom has finally decided to bring The Great Ace Attorney to the West from the team who brought us the first three games. The result is something extraordinary and a treat that Ace Attorney fans will no doubt adore.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles brings both games, titled Adventure and Resolve, respectively, together in a package with a few extras like downloadable cases included. They’re both games that were released for the Nintendo 3DS three to five years ago. Until now, they were only available officially in Japanese. But while both the games were released separately and several years apart previously, bringing them together for the English release makes the most sense as they are two volumes of one story.
Previous Ace Attorney games felt a bit like a villain-of-the-week situation, where each case was largely self-contained and never referred to again. There were some exceptions, of course, but almost all the games felt this way. Both Great Ace Attorney games, on the other hand, are intricately linked. There are rarely characters that you’ll only meet once, and it would be impossible to play many of the cases without playing the ones that came before it to fully understand them. The result is a consistently intriguing story that commands your attention, even if it is a little long.
Differing from the original Ace Attorney series, Great Ace Attorney takes place near the end of the 19th century, splitting its time between Meiji era Japan and Victorian era London. You play as Ryunosuke Naruhodo, a student at a local university who is an ancestor of Phoenix Wright from the original games. Following certain events, he heads from Japan to London to further his studies in law with his assistant Susato. Eventually, the duo meets and befriends the world-famous Herlock Sholmes, and they proceed to solve crimes together.
That wasn’t a typo either – while it’s clear that Herlock Sholmes is meant to be the world-famous Sherlock Holmes, the character that’s presented here is a much more whimsical and charming fellow than Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation. In fact, most of the characters in The Great Ace Attorney are charming, and that’s perhaps owing to why it’s such a compelling story. I’ve purposefully kept things vague to preserve the experience, but the fantastic characters and interwoven plots all contribute to making The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles one of the better Ace Attorney games.
The structure remains broadly similar to previous games – you will investigate and interrogate to collect evidence on a particular crime only to later defend your client in court. Perhaps the first series to bring visual novels popularity outside of Japan, the Ace Attorney games are linear. The only real point of gameplay requires you to present the right piece of evidence at the right juncture in a testimony. They’re simply structured, but the stories told are so compelling that it’s hard to fault the game for being so linear – even if games of more recent years like Aviary Attorney have had much more open-ended cases.
When you’re in court, witnesses will be called to the stand to testify. Each testimony is broken into smaller chunks where you can ask for further clarification or present a piece of evidence that seemingly contradicts what they’ll say. Doing so will often unveil further details about the case and (hopefully) allows you to acquit your client. As I said, it’s relatively simple, but it’s presented in such a garishly dramatic way that it is easily an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
However, some things are done a little bit differently in The Great Ace Attorney to keep things a bit fresh.
Previous games had you appealing to a judge and battling against a prosecutor. The Great Ace Attorney has you appealing to a jury this time too. A panel of citizens supposedly picked from the public; there are moments in each case where they’ll have seemingly made up their minds. During these moments, you’ll have to examine their reasons for their verdict and attempt to sway them the other way in your favour. The reasons these jurors behave the way they do are often played up for comedic value to the point where they shouldn’t even be jurors, given their lack of impartiality.
So what else can you do beyond pitting them against each other? At these points, Ryunosuke must interrogate each juror and use their statements against each other to sway them to change their vote. It is mechanically identical to the witness testimonies, but having such a wide array of characters on the jury, many of which have a wild conflict of interest, keeps things feeling fresh.
As alluded to in my preview earlier in the month, the other significant addition is the Logic and Reason Spectaculars. These take place during the investigation sequences and have Herlock Sholmes deducing something about somebody who is usually hiding something. Ryunosuke then swoops in and corrects any flaws in Herlock’s observation. They’re incredible and stylishly presented and add a bit of spice to the investigation sequences that previously lacked drama compared to the courtroom sequences.
These new additions to the formula and the already strong foundation established in previous games come together to create a remarkably well-paced experience. While it is essentially the most extended story in the franchise – spanning two whole games – The Great Ace Attorney is mainly enjoyable. I’ll admit that I found the last case of both games to drag a little bit towards the end. But the issues I’ve had with previous games, namely strange and circular logic, were nowhere near as prevalent here. Even more so, I was worried that this game being a port of a 3DS game, would age it poorly, but everything feels as tight and as polished as ever.
While some cases are a little shorter than other games, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles still feels like a complete experience. Both games will take you around sixty or so hours to complete, though if you’re someone who’s here just for the story, you can even switch the game to a mode that more or less plays itself. Some more minor cases, originally released as downloadable content, included from the get-go. All in all, it’s a well-rounded package that’s essentially got the range of two Ace Attorney games jammed into it.
From a visual standpoint, the presentation is top-notch. Like I mentioned previously, I had concerns that a 3DS game from five years ago would look dated. Thankfully that’s not the case. Like the last two Ace Attorney games, both games use fully modelled environments and characters rather than the sprites of earlier games. Every character is as animated as ever and very expressive, oozing that zany charisma that every Ace Attorney character has. Though I don’t feel any tracks ever got as adrenaline pumping as Cornered from the original games, the score is similarly dripping with personality.
All in all, The Great Ace Attorney is a worthy addition to the Ace Attorney series. While there are some minor pacing issues here and there, it’s well worth experiencing.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles brings together two volumes of one magnificent story that no Ace Attorney fan should miss. The characters are fantastically kooky, the plot is as compelling as ever, and the writing is the series at its funniest. While there are some minor pacing issues with some of the cases, it’s a fantastic package for fans both new and old.