The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Platform: Reviewed on PS4 (also available on Nintendo Switch and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 27/07/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
I’m in the courtroom, cross-examining a witness for a trial that’s been developing for the past few hours. I raise an objection, as I finally get to present the piece of evidence that’s been on my mind for a while. Its significance ultimately becoming crystal clear. It’s moments like this that are part of what makes The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles such a brilliant and rewarding experience.
Originally, the two games that make up this collection were only released in Japan for the 3DS and mobile devices. Fast-forward some years, and they have finally received a worldwide release for everyone to enjoy. Like its predecessors, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles offers many episodes of courtroom conundrums as you investigate and gather evidence to solve the case. Does the game provide a compelling adventure, or are there too many objections that hold it back? Keep reading to find out.
Crime and Mystery
Acting as a prequel, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles takes place in Victorian London around 1900, as well as Japan. You play as Ryunosuke Narahodo, a student at the Imperial Yumei University and ancestor of Phoenix Wright. After being accused of murder and defending himself in court with his friend, Kazuma Asogi, helping, the true story begins. Our protagonist sets off to Britain, however, when tragedy strikes on the voyage, Ryunosuke is left to pick up the pieces and train to be a defence lawyer with judicial assistant, Susato Mikotoba, at his side.
What these two games do better than other Ace Attorney titles, is the excellent storytelling. While others in the series do have story elements in the background, it’s much more prevalent here. It starts out fairly slow and subtle, but there are always bits of narrative and mystery happening that develop the main plot. This becomes more apparent towards the end of the first game and continuing into the second. However, the mostly self-contained stories in each episode further highlight the memorable writing. These cases you solve are so outlandish at times and bursting with ingenuity, that it never becomes a dull affair. A seemingly straightforward case spirals into so much more, and it’s up to you to uncover the truth, however far from its initial assumption.
I love the way that the overarching plot is weaved so well with the events in each case. This more organic approach to storytelling is what sets the narrative apart from the rest of the series. With the two so linked, it provides a sense of cohesion, compared to being just a series of standalone episodes. As a result, I became so much more invested in the adventure. All the different mysteries and plot threads converge in such a spectacular fashion in the very last episode. It’s an emotional finale that’s utterly satisfying. I was even able to guess a few of the resolutions from the various clues up to that point.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles continues the pattern of having characters that are memorable, larger-than-life, and hilarious to say the least. Ryunosuke and Susato are great partners that play off one another really well. Herlock Sholmes is simply iconic. He might seem to just be a comical spoof of the beloved, fictional detective, but he also shows he’s much more than that throughout the course of the two games. He’s cunning and genuinely smart deep down while displaying a level of nuance I wasn’t expecting. This extends to the likes of Baron van Zieks, a prosecutor with the sinister pseudonym, ‘The Reaper of the Bailey.’ Beginning as the dastardly rival in the courtroom, he becomes more intriguing and layered the more we learn of his backstory and as the adventure continues.
The majority of the secondary characters you meet are just brilliant through and through. Their personalities and designs speak volumes, bringing a degree of charm that’s greatly appreciated. From a detective that’s so obsessed with fish and chips, that he has some in his grasp 24/7, to a dangerous woman with a swan on her head, who flies off mid-trial. It’s a significant strength that makes the world and narrative truly shine. I became so attached to these individuals, that the conclusion of events after almost 50 hours really stuck with me.
When beginning these games, I really wasn’t expecting the historical aspect to be so apparent. It certainly uses a good amount of creative liberties in regards to the accuracy, but my inner historian loved this extra aspect, nonetheless. Seeing the lingering effects of the obscure window tax in London, even playing a role in a case, is a thoughtful addition. Relations between the British Empire and Japan are a key theme throughout the games. This extends to notions of racial superiority from the British towards the Japanese.
A lot of people you meet are openly suspicious, rude, or condescending to Japanese visitors. While it never goes too far, it does enough to add an extra layer to the narrative and world-building of the time period. It highlights the issues of the time without making it too much of a focus or taking away from the narrative and tone. There are lots of little historical bits here and there, and it’s a great decision.
The time you spend in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is split into two aspects, investigation and trial. The gameplay is point and click in nature. During the investigation sections, you move between different static locations and interact with the surroundings. Moving the cursor around, and clicking on highlighted parts can not only provide clues and new evidence in the case but also contextual tidbits about the area or characters. It also allows for some good banter between Ryunosuke, Susato, and others.
You can also converse with characters at the scene about certain topics, sometimes needing to present certain evidence to open up new avenues of inquiry. It can sometimes be a bit obscure to know that you need to present a piece of evidence, resulting in just choosing anything until it sticks. However, what’s improved over previous games, is that the scene selection screen provides hints about whether you need to investigate or ask a character more in a given location. This helps speed up pacing so you’re not just searching the wrong location in vain.
Elementary, My Dear Watson
A new addition to investigations is when Sholmes carries out his own deductions at the scene. These are always off the mark and require Ryunosuke to correct them. This has you follow along with the deduction, and at key moments, examine the scene in 3D to select a new object to correct Sholmes’ initial idea. These do provide a nice change of pace and are often quite hilarious to see how different the truth is. On the other hand, they are really easy to complete, often requiring just a slight change in camera angle to find the correct answer. Furthermore, they also drag on for a while, requiring you to sit through the deductions twice, once for the original and again for when you correct it.
As you play a defence attorney, it makes sense that you’ll spend a lot of time in trials. It’s also here where The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles comes into its own with engaging and smart gameplay. The bulk of this will be spent listening to witness testimonies and then cross-examining them to find inconsistencies. You can press the witnesses on their statements to glean more information – whether important or just for extra clarification and fun comments – to progress the trial. A new feature is that multiple people can testify at once, allowing you to press the other witnesses if they react strangely to what was said. It adds a new dimension to cross-examination, even if it’s a bit superficial.
Presenting evidence is the key component to showing errors in the testimonies. It’s here that your grasp of the different pieces of evidence at your disposal becomes important. Closer inspection of evidence is often required, where you’ll need to manipulate it in various ways to find hidden/extra clues. The game does an excellent job of making the player feel smart. There are so many times you’ll get that eureka moment when an odd statement makes you immediately realise you have some evidence to counter it. As mentioned earlier, there will also be times when something about a piece of evidence seems off, but it won’t come into play until much later. The design here really excels.
Another new aspect is that jurors are now part of trials and you regularly engage with them directly. At certain points, they will unanimously declare the defendant’s guilt, but that’s not the end. You must then try to convince them otherwise by pitting their reasoning against one another when they contradict. Even though it does end up playing out similarly to witness cross-examination, I really liked this addition.
Music and Visuals
The visuals are fairly simplistic in design, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t appealing. The 2D backgrounds contain plenty of detail to get lost in, from cluttered, residential rooms, to the foggy, London streets. The 3D models are incredibly effective at bringing the many, colourful characters to life. They might not be as technically impressive compared to other modern releases, but they work for the style of the game and still look great.
The music is another highlight, and it really adds to the overall experience. When trials aren’t going your way, tense melodies emphasise the situation. The musical and graphical style is so enjoyable. If you’re like me and love the Professor Layton games, then you’ll appreciate what’s here.
It’s worth mentioning the extra content available to players. By going into the special contents section in the main menu, there are some more things to experience. Alternate outfits for the main characters are available, although strangely, these are only useable in the second game. There are also escapades, which are roughly 10 minute extra scenes that provide some more interactions between characters and background context. Alongside a few others, these small bits of content are a nice bonus for players.
If it isn’t clear, I love The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. The narrative is thoroughly compelling, even if some of the episodes drag on for a bit too long. The many characters complement this perfectly, and they make each episode a joy to play. That feeling of accomplishment you get when successfully presenting the right piece of evidence, never gets old. Every aspect works together to provide a superb and unique adventure, topped off with a thrilling and satisfying conclusion. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is an unforgettable experience and the pinnacle of the series so far.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can buy The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles on the PlayStation Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.