PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
July 27, 2021
The Ace Attorney Series, as illustrious as it is, has been going through a bit of a dry spell… especially here in the West. In the past eight years, the only game we’ve gotten is Pheonix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice in 2016. Not so in Japan: they got The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and then The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve just a few years later. These spinoffs, starring Pheonix Wright’s ancestor Ryunosuke Naruhodo, turn back the clock to the turn of the 20th century, where a cultural revolution is taking place in Japan. For reasons never fully explained, these games were never released outside Japan… until now. Finally, we have both games in one tight package in The Great Ace Attorney: Chronicles. And by god, it was worth the wait.
Ryunosuke Naruhodo is a Japanese student who is thrust into the world of Japan’s changing legal system when he is forced to defend himself in court. Soon after, he follows his best friend Kazuma Aogi to Great Britain, where he encounters the famous detective Herlock Sholmes and his assistant Iris.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles bundles in both The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and its sequel The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve at less than full price, which is a great deal for two shining examples of the series. The overarching plot spans over both games, so it’s a bundle that just makes sense. The price is quite reasonable too, being less than 50 AUD for 2 full-length games of such quality.
Both games follow the tried-and-true formula that most Ace Attorney titles do: Naruhodo is a young lawyer thrust into one dramatic mystery after another, defending the accused from prosecution and revealing the true culprit in the process. The gameplay is instantly familiar: chapters are separated into investigation segments, where Naruhodo visits various locations to interview witnesses and find evidence. During trial, Naruhodo turns the courtroom into an uproar as he uses what he’s found to prove the witness on the stand is lying. This is all very standard for the Ace Attorney series, but it’s been fine-tuned to be one of the best examples of both mechanics.
Investigation segments, which are generally considered to be not as fun as the trial parts, are improved by making moving around the various locations easier. Naruhodo’s sensible and likable assistant, Susato, will point you in the direction of where you should go next, which eliminates a lot of the guesswork that plagued the earlier games in the series. As always though, the shining jewel in the game is the trial segments. The Great Ace Attorney has spiced up trials by introducing the grand jury, a collection of six Londoners who decide the fate of your defendant. It’s thrilling at the beginning, but begins to wear thin by the end of the game.
Jurors serve primarily as a peanut gallery. They pepper in comments and opinions every so often, and are certainly amusing enough. If all six jurors decide to vote guilty, Naruhodo conducts a ‘Summation Examination’ which is like a cross-examination of the jury itself. It’s fun to pit the words of the jurors against each other, but it adds more in the way of epic drama than it does gameplay. And the tendency to re-use jurors for multiple cases – or have previous witnesses become jurors – makes it seem like they were trying to cut corners with character design.
The prosecutor, the vampirically dressed Barok Van Zieks, shows the usual disdain towards the defence while revealing a deeper character that slowly unravels over the course of both games. He is appropriately dramatic and immediately likeable, even if he is not overly different to the prosecutors that have come before.
Similarly, the rest of the cast are likeable and easily carry both games in Chronicles. The friendship between Naruhodo, Susato, and Kazuma is both heartwarming and engaging, Herlock Sholmes’ antics often teeter on the precipice between endearing and annoying, but some character development in the late chapters of Adventures and all throughout Resolve land him firmly in the endearing category. His ‘Logic and Reasoning Spectaluar’, in which Naruhodo must redirect the detective towards the right clues, is a fun break from the main investigation, making use of the 3D scenes and dramatic camera movements to make everything feel as dramatic as possible. The visuals in these segments really stand out, and I can’t help but be amazed at how far the series has come from the GBA days.
Chronicles is the best-looking game in the Ace Attorney series to date, and it’s not just because of the higher resolution. The Great Ace Attorney looked better on the 3DS than Spirit of Justice, which came out one year later. More work has been done to make the game look its best: backgrounds are more detailed, characters are more animated, and the visual flair of the UI is nicer. The fact up to 3 characters can appear onscreen at once makes dialogue flow better during investigations, and the character models smoothly transition from three-quarter view to front view whenever it turns to a single character. It’s the most seamless experience I’ve had playing an Ace Attorney game. Putting it all on console is just giving it the justice it deserves.
Adventures is a solid addition to the Ace Attorney series, and its only drawback is that it just isn’t as crazy and memorable as some other games in the series. Its cases, while most of them interesting, just don’t have that wow factor, leaving its final trial feeling like it should have been trial 3: like there’s still more to be said. Little did I know, that’s because it was saving everything it had for its sequel.
Saving the best for last
The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve turns the dial up to 11 right at the start and doesn’t let up the whole time, making for one of the most thrilling games in the series ever. Everything that was set up in the first game comes crashing back, including a few plot threads I didn’t even realise were being set up. The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve plays identically to the first game, but it does better on the plot, which was really all Adventures was missing.
The games have great fun with the historical setting. It uses the inherently dramatic political and cultural climate to enhance the story in multiple ways. The Meiji-era Japanese characters and Victorian-era British characters are all charmingly over the top, and there are plenty of references to the way people of the time period lived and the things they believed. At times it even feels like an educational game of some kind – the game will go out of its way to bring up the technology and societal habits of the day.
One case involves a gimmick surrounding stereoscopic photographs, going so far as to make the player cross their eyes at two images side-by-side as if doing a Magic Eye puzzle. It makes for a real “oh snap!” moment when you can spot the secret within the photograph using your own eyes. Unfortunately, it’s a gimmick that doesn’t really work unless it’s being played on a handheld device, meaning it’s ingenious on the 3DS and Switch, but not so amazing on consoles or PC. Capcom seems to have been aware of this, as the gameplay around this mechanic has been changed so that the secrets in the photos are spelled out to the player – as I’ve seen from fan translations of the game, the player was originally required to figure it out themselves.
“It’s a crime that The Great Ace Attorney and its sequel took so long to come to the West.”
Finishing both games left me satisfied in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s that feeling you get when a well-built and exciting mystery draws to a close, and all lingering story threads have been wrapped up in a neat little bow.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles includes a Story Mode, which can be toggled on and off with the press of a button. It’s especially an auto-play function where the game will carry on without your input. During dialogue, it functions as a simple auto-advance of the text, but if you turn the mode on during some segment that includes gameplay, the mode will actually present the correct answer for you, instantly transforming the game into pure visual novel. It’s obvious that the mode is intended for those who just want to experience the story, but it also serves as a quick way to get past a particularly tough puzzle. In the original trilogy, getting stuck meant a tedious procession of trying every combination possible of evidence or witness. Now, it’s a simple press of a button.
- Best looking Ace Attorney game ever
- Some of the most exciting cases in Ace Attorney history
- Two great games for less than full price
- Story Mode is great for getting past tough puzzles
- Jury characters are a little overused
It’s a crime that The Great Ace Attorney and its sequel took so long to come to the West. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles bundles in two of the best games in the franchise to date, its improved graphical fidelity setting a new bar for the series. Chronicles doesn’t add much in the way of extra content, but it’s hard to improve on something that was already so good. The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve is the crowning Jewel in this particular bundle, but even Adventures is a must-play for any Ace Attorney fan.