The Ace Attorney series is one that fans hold very close to their heart, with the adventures of everyone’s favourite defence attorney Phoenix Wright proving be to be some of the most memorable across the Nintendo DS and 3DS family. They offer something that genuinely feels a bit different, with the cross of courtroom battling and investigative elements bringing together a gameplay experience that’s quite unlike anything else out there. And hey, it made a real star out of Phoenix Wright, who even went on to become a playable character in the Marvel vs Capcom series. You don’t get more iconic than that, right? The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is the latest release in the series, though it might be familiar to some. It’s actually a collection of two titles that hit the Nintendo 3DS in Japan between 2015 and 2017, though this is their Western debut. It’s always a treat when sought-after titles finally get an English release, with these two certainly proving to be a pair that gamers were eager to play.
It adds an interesting twist to the formula too, with players not taking on the role of Phoenix Wright, but rather one of his ancestors in the 19th century. That change of setting and timeline don’t make the courtroom and investigative antics any less enthralling though, whilst some new features add more intriguing elements of excitement to the experience.
Check out a gallery of screenshots for the game down below:
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles’ story tells of Ryunosuke Naruhodo, an ancestor of Phoenix Wright who is studying to become a defence attorney. Things take a bit of a sour turn at the start of the game though, with Ryunosuke actually finding himself in court for a crime he didn’t commit. What are the chances, right? Thankfully, his buddy Kazuma Asogi is on hand to help defend him in court and, when cleared, he finds his life taking an unexpected turn when he joins Kazuma on a trip to London.
It’s here that he works with the likes of Herlock Sholmes (who offers a very interesting take on the famous detective with a similar name), Herlock’s right-hand woman Iris Wilson, and his own trusty companion Susato Mikotoba, as they look to unravel all sorts of peculiar investigations and fight for the truth in the court of law.
It’s the sort of plotline that fans of the series will be quite familiar with, with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles bringing with it plenty of quirky twists and turns across the ten cases it offers. It blends the two games together into one bulky experience too, with events and characters often crossing over between entries. It does a good job of disguising the fact that this is collection of two games though, with the story flowing naturally throughout.
“Things take a bit of a sour turn at the start of the game though, with Ryunosuke actually finding himself in court for a crime he didn’t commit. What are the chances, right?”
It also brings with it a colourful cast of characters that feel brilliant to interact with and learn more about. The investigations you become a part of are often of the bizarre variety and entertaining in their own right, but they’re strengthened by just how eccentric the cast actually is. I loved encountering each new character that the game introduced, whilst seeing them show up in later cases down the line was always a pleasant surprise. Add to that the fact that the writing of the game also happens to be excellent, and it becomes very easy to immerse yourself fully in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles’ weird but wonderful world.
It’s a good job that it’s so well written considering that a lot of your time with the game will be simply spent reading. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is very much like a visual novel, with lots and lots of text to read through and no voice acting to add cinematic effect. That’s not a bad thing (and is par for the course for the series), but it’s worth bearing in mind if you go in expecting a game that’s all about action-packed investigations and courtroom showdowns. It’s all engrossing stuff and brings with it plenty of twists and turns though, so it’s easy to get hooked in.
“The investigations you become a part of are often of the bizarre variety and entertaining in their own right, but they’re strengthened by just how eccentric the cast actually is.”
Gameplay-wise, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles offers much of what players would have seen before across the series. You’ll take part in investigations to unravel clues, speak to witnesses to gather vital pieces of evidence, and you’ll then take this information to the court to defend your client. It’s a tried and tested formula that players would’ve already done as Phoenix Wright, so it’s easy to grasp the basic gameplay loop of the game. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily an easy game and there were more than a few occasions where I found myself stumped looking for evidence or knowing who to talk to, but it’s not especially complicated. It’s fun though, with the investigative elements really making players feel like they’re bona fide sleuths.
The investigation phase actually brings with it an all-new mechanic thanks to the introduction of the infamous Herlock Sholmes. Known as the ‘Dance of Deduction’, these instances see Herlock make one of his grand observations about a crime scene, interpreting events in his own way to come to his own conclusion. It’s ingenious really… or it would be if he was correct. See, whilst Herlock is often on the right path, there are vital details missing that the player has to piece together to uncover the full truth. It makes for a series of clever moments where the player has to figure out what part of the deduction Herlock has incorrect in order to progress. I loved each instance of this in-game, with each one capturing the silliness of the series whilst also introducing a satisfying investigative element to the action.
“You’ll take part in investigations to unravel clues, speak to witnesses to gather vital pieces of evidence, and you’ll then take this information to the court to defend your client.”
The courtroom sequences have introduced a new mechanic too, with six jurors now having a direct influence on the flow of a trial. Known as the ‘Summation Examination’, sequences will kick in where the jurors will decide that Ryunosuke’s defendant is guilty midway through the trial. Pretty unfair, right? Players are tasked with taking the jury’s statements on board and finding contradictions between them, with some statements clearly displaying misinformation. When found, this will spring a sense of doubt into the jury, allowing Ryunosuke to sway their opinion and keep the trial active. Much like the Dance of Deduction, it brings a fun little twist to the formula that keeps players on their toes, with some clever thinking required in order to keep the jury on your side.
It all comes together to make for an experience that belongs in the Ace Attorney series, but that also introduces enough new ideas to feel like an evolution to the formula. I already loved the investigation and courtroom sequences anyway, with the gathering of evidence and cross-examinations always making for a lot of fun. Having the Dance of Deduction and Summation Examinations involved too just made them all the more enjoyable, with each bringing plenty of memorable moments during my time playing The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. Believe me, it offers one of the finest experiences that I’ve had as a defence attorney in a video game.
“Players are tasked with taking the jury’s statements on board and finding contradictions between them, with some statements clearly displaying misinformation. When found, this will spring a sense of doubt into the jury, allowing Ryunosuke to sway their opinion and keep the trial active.”
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is packed to the brim with content, with it easily taking over forty hours to see everything that it has to offer – even IF you’re a speed reader. Whilst I’ll admit that a couple of cases did drag out a little longer than they needed to, I was engrossed enough with the story that I never grew bored when playing. Those who want to learn more about the world can even indulge in the optional Escapades, which offer a glimpse into events that take place between cases. There’s just a whole lot to take in overall, with the meaty package certainly offering plenty of hours’ worth of content.
I can’t end this review without mentioning the presentation, which looks fantastic throughout. The character designs are great and fit their personalities perfectly, there’s a sense of grandeur to the 19th century setting and the sights you see, whilst the amount detail found within the world brings each one to life. There’s so much to see across the world of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles and it’s all presented beautifully. I definitely preferred it over the more traditional 2D style of the previous games, with the 3D character models having a lot more life to them.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles offers an exciting evolution to the traditional formula, with this courtroom drama offering plenty of fun across its meaty story. Players can expect to spend over forty hours unravelling each case, but that time will fly by thanks to how well written the characters are, how enjoyable gathering evidence is, and how exciting the courtroom showdowns can be. The new features are just the cherry on top, with the Dance of Deduction and Summation Examination offering some of the game’s finest moments.
Whilst I have no doubt that the game won’t be for everyone thanks to the sheer amount of reading involved, fans of the series are sure to love this new venture into the life of being an ‘Ace Attorney’.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC