Prepare for a trip to the past as the Ace Attorney series journeys over from Japan to the rest of the world. And who will be our counsel in this judicial hearing? Why no other than the ancestor of famous attorney, Phoenix Wright.
The The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a combination of two games that first released in 2015 for the 3DS but remained a Japan exclusive release until now. These were The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures which released in 2015 and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve in 2017.
It follows a new character who’s distantly related to Phoenix Wright but is actually a complete newcomer to the court of law, only being introduced to it through an unfortunate series of events that pinned a murder on him.
Ryunosuke Naruhodo, Susato Mikotoba, and Kazuma Asogi form our group of core characters who partner with each other to prove Ryunosoke’s innocence and prove Kazuma’s capacity as a budding lawyer seeking to learn abroad in England.
Set in late 19th century Japan and England, each title features five murder-mystery episodes filled with all the drama, laughs, twists, and “turnabouts” you’ve come to expect from the legally labyrinthine legacy of Ace Attorney. Join Ryunosuke Naruhodo, ancestor of series mainstay Phoenix Wright, as he attempts to uncover the secrets behind an international criminal conspiracy and solve a hauntingly baffling cold case, while tackling a series of tricky trials along the way. Dozens of hours of attorney action awaits you!
Ace Attorney Chronicles follows a new character related to our familiar protagonist, Phoenix Wright. Ryunosuke Naruhodo is in fact an ancestor of the modern day lawyer and is led to represent himself in court for the murder of an English professor.
We’re dropped right in the middle of the story and the stakes are high already. Most of the story is represented in visual novel form with dynamic character poses and reactions as events unfold.
What you’ll learn soon about these cases is that the characters will be sticking around for a lot more than just one chapter which on the positive side, helps develop them more but on the downside, feels a bit oddly convenient that they’re involved in each case that occurs. Especially as you travel to different locales and happen to find them there.
Much of the story takes places during a hearing or an investigation which take place in specific historical settings which has players accounting for the limitations of knowledge and technology at the time. These small details are well explained by other characters to the often clueless Ryunosuke who slows build confidence over time as a lawyer in his own right.
This is the first time I have played any of the Ace Attorney games and what surprised me is the amount of dialogue and its fantastic music.
It’s very much a visual novel with 5 chapters in each game that continue the story of Ryunosuke in different settings and hijinx that he finds himself in. The music does a great job of complimenting the scenes and is definitely a great soundtrack to have on in the background even by itself.
As someone new to the series I expected a lot more court room action than what we got and variety of cases. But as far as I could tell, this more long term narrative structure made this game a stand out from the series.
The stories are all related in someway to the close of the Victorian era as Japan begins to connect with the rest of the world which brings along the good and the bad. Xenophobia is a recurring theme and barrier that Ryunosuke faces when breaking down assumptions from witnesses to prove them wrong and defend the innocent.
It also deals with sexist practices such as the courts of Japan barring women from being legal counsel in court using Susato Mikotoba, a judicial assistant and sister of Ryunosuke Naruhodo’s close friend.
The time period has no shortage of political entanglements that our characters find themselves caught up in which gets deeper with each case and shows the dangerous journey that they must take to achieve justice. Which plays into the overarching narrative of Chronicles.
Chronicles does a nice job handling this with the presentation and satisfying reactions that characters show as they are exposed for their contradictions or misleading testimony. The exaggerated presentation with the 3D models may look odd at first but you learn to appreciate how these quirks bring life to the characters and show how their stories fall apart under pressure.
While the story and characters were all quite captivating and fit the 19th century aesthetic quite well, my fondness for them was clouded by the execution of certain gameplay moments throughout the narrative.
The core gameplay mechanic is questioning and pressing witnesses for information by using statements against them or uncover new evidence over the course of the trial. This makes sense for the most part as you often uncover evidence and revisit past statements to show its validity.
There isn’t a skip dialogue option or fast forward option which really wore me down as I learned early on that sometimes you have to “Press” a witness more for the same statement multiple times as you unlock more evidence. But in cases where that wasn’t actually how to proceed, you would have to wait throughout the whole dialogue again.
This is even more noticeable with the pacing. Story elements and questions that are brought up in the first case are not even resolved until the second game in this bundle. Luckily for Switch players, you don’t have to wait for that to come out like original players of the game had to do when the games originally launched.
I did appreciate the accessibility options allowing me to modify the story dialogue because the flashing screen at dramatic moments was definitely bothering me after just a few minutes in the game. So it was nice to be able to turn that off even in the middle of the dialogue.
The best part for me was the Herlock Sholmes Dance of Deduction segments which are team ups between our featured lawyer and newly introduced detective, Herlock Sholmes(changed in the overseas release due to legal reasons). They humanize the sometimes absurdly astute detective that can solve cases with few clues and undermine the mystery behind the many curious moments of the narrative.
But with the Dance of Deduction, your role as Ryunoske is to guide Herlock on the right path with small corrections that fill in the gaps and assumptions made from his observations. These sequences involve rotating the camera around and zooming in on certain clues to see what Herlock might have overlooked from this angle. These were a fun way to appreciate the 3D models and settings that you’re teased with during the dialogue.
Though I did have a gripe with the user interface at one point. I could not understand why there investigation segments that were completely missing a possibly button that would reveal the clue. There was a scene where I could use my cursor to hover over an item or person and choose to present them as the contradicting evidence.
But to actually interact with the specific piece of evidence, you have to press another separate button that isn’t prompted at all on the screen. This means even though I knew what the correct answer, I ended up wasting attempts because I couldn’t access the correct item in the room.
And this is when I realized how some of the innate mechanics of the 3DS were not immediately visible when playing on the Switch. The touchscreen is actually crucial is making the experience feel natural in handheld but it’s not obvious until I noticed details like this and more.
If you want to just enjoy the story, there is an option to put on story mode which will even go through the correct choices when you get to interactive parts of the games. But this does mean you lose out on achievements if you let the game do these actions for you. You can however, fast forward by holding down the right side of the screen if you’re playing in handheld mode which seems like a left over detail from the 3DS version.
There are just a few moments that like that which felt a little un-intuitive with the rest of the game’s quality.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a great compilation of two visual novels that present two parts of the once divided story into a neat package. The sequel feels like a natural second half of the first game with it’s continued story and characters that maintain their characterization over this period of time.
Even though the two stories are together now, it’s still frustrating that there’s so much time and secret dangling by the writers. It would be fine if these revelations weren’t teased through out the game. There’s a few quality of life choices that would be nice to have but don’t ruin the game by not being present.
I will say that you must be a fan of these visual novel types of games or the Ace Attorney series already to fully appreciate how this game is presented because there’s a lot to take in which it’s duo-logy packed into this bundle. But with that said, it did a great of drawing me in even as someone who typically doesn’t play through games in this genre.
It’s hard to argue that for a retail price of $40.00, it’s definitely a worthy deal.
A review code for The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles was provided by Capcom for the purpose of this review.